Taking Pictures of Lightning is Not That Hard

So you'd really like to take cool pictures of lightning, but think it's probably beyond your capabilities ...

Well guess what?

It's really not that hard.

See that picture up above? I took it last night, and most of my Facebook friends really seem to like it. They are seriously impressed with my mad photography skills.

Funny thing ...

That picture was not planned. I'd hoped to get some thunderstorm pictures earlier in the evening, but after the sun went down I pretty much gave up and put the camera away ... until I heard the thunder.

I quickly grabbed my camera, and turned the dial to manual. I set it at F11 and a 15 second exposure. Changed the focus to manual, and attempted (in the dark) to focus on the distant horizon. I then looked around the yard for a place to put the camera down. I settled on the edge of the trampoline, with a hula hoop under the front of my lens to prop up the angle a bit.

I then sat down behind the camera and pressed the shutter release every 15 seconds for about 5 minutes or so.

Out of the 18 pictures I took, this bolt just happened to show up in one of the frames.

I downloaded it to my computer, and spent literally about 8 minutes in Aperture "cleaning it up" (changed the white balance, sharpened, added some contrast and viginette, and cloned out some of the dust spots that inevitably show up when I shoot the sky at F11 with my 8 year old camera).

As is wont to happen with many photographers, I'm not nearly as impressed with this particular image as some of my friends are.

If I wanted to capture a really "good" lightning pictures, I would have planned a little better:

  • Dragged out my tripod and remote shutter release

  • Scouted out a location with something more interesting in the foreground than my neighbor's houses

  • Focused the lens to infinity before it got dark

  • Done some test shots to try to figure out exactly which aperture/shutter speed settings would really work best

  • Stayed outside a lot longer than 5 minutes ... even if I already had some "good" captures

  • Spent a LOT more time doing post processing.

But you know what? None of that was really my point. I'm of the opinion that provided you have a camera with manual setting, and you've read enough of the instruction book to be able to change the aperture and shutter speed, there's no reason YOU shouldn't be able to capture a picture at least as good as the one in this post the next time a thunderstorm rolls through your neck of the woods.

Keep havin FuN!

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