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Guide To Photographing a Lightning Strike

Guide To Photographing a Lightning Strike

This photo was taken in December 2014 with a Canon 5D MkIII and Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM.
Camera Settings: f/4.0, 30 seconds and ISO 500

Photographing lightning can be very dangerous but very simple and requires little skill. The easiest way to photograph a lightning strike is to set the camera to a long exposure on a tripod and take repeated shots as apposed to using a specialised trigger method.

I set my camera up on a tripod and aimed it where there would most likely be a lightning strike. I composed the scene keeping in mind the all the rules of composition. I set my camera to a 30 second exposure time and adjusted the ISO and aperture to make the scene a stop or two darker than what the camera’s light meter measured. This is because of the lighting increasing the brightness of the scene once it strikes. I used a remote release to take the photos

In the 30 seconds there is a good chance of a lightning strike. If the lightning strikes the camera will capture it. Taking repeated 30 second shots will lead to eventually capturing a stunning lightning strike.

Focus and White Balance

The camera needs to be set to manual focus and the focus should be set to infinity. See the linked article for a discussion on infinity focus.

The white balance set to auto white balance (AWB) will usually give a accurate enough white balance. It is preferable to shoot in RAW and then adjust the white balance in post production. 

Conclusion

Lightning is very dangerous and could cause death. Do not take any chances. Lightning does not strike the same place in exactly the same way so each photo will be unique. With that in mind it is possible to take multiple shots and composite then together in Photoshop. This could create an impressive shot.

 

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