Al's Photography Blog

Al's Photography Blog
Folly Beach, South Carolina

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rainy Lightning

It's been a few weeks since I've posted a lightning photo, so here's another one, taken through a sheet of rain. As with almost all my lightning shots, this was taken from my yard. If you're interested in how I get my lightning shots, read the end of the post.
And that's my Skywatch Friday entry for the week.

I often get questions on how I get my lightning shots. It has nothing to do with good equipment or timing - here's how you do it.

1. Most importantly, stay safe. Most of the time, the lightning is in the distance for my photos, but a telephoto lens or cropping make it seem much closer. Remember, lightning kills, something we're reminded of literally every year where I live.

2. Live in a place that gets lots of thunderstorms. It's typical for us to get 40 or more days with thunderstorms a year, and a good year can have 60 or more days. Some of these days will have several thunderstorms. Preferably a good view helps - we have views on three sides of our house. This is the most difficult part of the whole process!

3. Timing has nothing to do with it - unless you're superhuman, you can't react quickly enough to lightning to capture it. Once it's flashed and you've reacted, it's already gone. You'll be taking long exposures and hoping for lightning in the capture; the one above was a 20-second exposure. If your camera has a bulb setting (i.e. one that allows you to press the remote once to start the exposure and again to end it, without presetting the length), use this, as you'll usually want to end it after a good flash, and you can't predict how long this will be. I find that using ISO 100 and an aperture within a couple of stops of 8, something between 15 and 60 seconds usually gives me a good result depending on the ambient light and the closeness of the lightning bolt, but you'll have to experiment. This is assuming night-time photography; during the daytime, you'll almost certainly need a neutral density filter to darken the photo and allow you to take long exposures, or lots of luck. (I had both when I captured lightning hitting a nearby tree.)

4. Because you're taking such long exposures you'll need a tripod. Mine is a cheap tripod, but it works fine. If you're on a tripod and your camera works with a cordless remote, that's worth getting - the remote for my old Nikon D40X costs less than eating one meal out with my wife.

5. Take the photos on the highest-quality mode, since you'll be cropping almost all of them. I use the free program GIMP to crop (and also sometimes sharpen them too).

Good luck! And remember the first item, stay safe.

35 comments:

  1. Awesome capture!! You do get the best lightning shots I've ever seen, Al! And thanks for the information. We rarely see lightning here in the northwest, just as we rarely hear thunder -- in spite of all of our rain!! Hope your week is going well!

    Sylvia

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  2. Great photo, Al. Congratulations.

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  3. That is an amazing photo. What a dark and stormy night! That bolt of lightening must have been huge! Great information, thanks for sharing about how you do this.

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  4. I do miss the Colorado thunderstorms. Sigh. But I don't miss having to drive in the snow - which I hear you are having to do today!!!
    Stay safe and warm, Al! Can't wait to see pics of the snow!

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  5. WOW Al what a beautiful capture!
    Greetings from Holland,
    Anna

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  6. Cool capture! And thanks for the tips.

    Happy sky watching.

    Skywatch

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  7. Great shot, thanks for sharing.

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  8. Beautiful photo and a wonderful how-to explanation. I was at the Grand Canyon during a storm and you could hear people all around who were trying (and failing) to capture the lightning. Lots of sighs and "darns!"

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  9. Hello Al,
    Drama indeed.Interesting, but this sounds too difficult for me to attempt. I'll just enjoy yours.

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  10. Such a wonderful tips and fantastic shot.

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  11. Love the lightning! Well, I like it in your photo. I'm not super fond of it when it happens over my head. :))

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  12. The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. Happy TGIF! Hoping you can visit my skywatch post.

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  13. Fabulous capture...love it. Thanks so much for the info. Hope you have a great weekend.

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  14. Simply amazing!! I love lightning shots, but have never taken any...

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  15. that's a fabulous shot. the one and only time I was able to capture lightening was when I was vacationing in New Mexico. it was happenstance, as you say. good job. happy SWF to you.

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  16. Spectacular shot Al - one might almost say "striking" (but I'm glad it didn't strike you!).
    Many thanks for all the useful tips. Have a great weekend.

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  17. thanks for the tips, that is a super shot.

    Gill in Canada

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  18. Spectacular! And I love reading how you do it.

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  19. Fantastic! And thank you for the tip!

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  20. Awesome! I love this kind of shots.

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  21. It is an amazing lightning shot and a great capture. You are good! Happy skywatching!

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  22. Woow, great shot. Thats bad weather :0) You've done a great job capture this :0)

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  23. You're clearly a pro with these slow exposure shots. I've yet to experiment with the process. Super lightning shot, Al.

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  24. A wonderful shot Al! When I lived back east great thunderstorms were a very common occurance during the hot humid summer months, so much so that they were scary because of their intensity. As much as I admire those who take such beautiful photos I have no desire to try.
    Fortunately out here on Haida Gwaii there is no such thing as thunder storms and lightening.
    Thanks for sharing and for stopping by...
    Smiles

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  25. Your lightning shots are always phenomenal, thanks for sharing both your photos and your tips!

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  26. A wonderful photo and what a reminder that the night sky is interesting too!

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  27. What a pity I lack one of the pre-requisites to lightning shots . . . we seldom get decent electrical storms. Guess I'll just have to enjoy your shots.

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  28. Many of your posts I've lost, I can see now.. But I'm watching your different posts now..

    Wonderful pictures, I first have to say - again! :))

    So many good tips you've given by taking pictures of the lightening.. in the day light, right? 100 ISO.. long exposure and highest quality mode..

    Sure I'll try this.. when it comes next time.. Your lightening pictures are so amazing! I have a lot to learn!! :))

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  29. Spectacular, Al! Thank you for this link. Focusing on the night sky seems to be my biggest challenge.

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  30. That is awesome!
    Thank you for the good tips.

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  31. I read your advice carefully in this area but there are not many lightning as yours.
    The picture is superb. Amazing.

    · hugs

    · CR · & · LMA ·

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