Living in central Texas, we get some pretty amazing storms. As I was driving home tonight, there was a very strong storm with near continuous lighting. Of course as soon as I stopped the car and got the camera setup, it eased up, but I still got a few interesting shots before the storm (and rain) started to close in.

If you want to try to take these types of shots yourself, you need to set the camera on a tripod or another rock steady platform, use a low ISO setting (I used 200), set the aperture to about f11 or so, and the shutterspeed on bulb or a very long exposure – about 15 seconds worked for me, but you’ll need to experiment with the first few shots. Since you never know when the lighting will strike, the trick is to have the shutter open and hope the lighting goes off while you are recording. This is why you want to use a low ISO setting and relatively small aperture to give you such a long exposure – it increases your odds of capturing the strike. Even so, I took about 30 images and got only 3 decent shots of strikes. If you can, you should set your focus to manual and use the hyperfocal distance for your aperture or set the focus to infinity. If you don’t have manual focus control, then you’ll want to focus on the most distance object you can (probably something like a streetlamp far away since everything else will be dark).

The advantage of using bulb, which keeps the shutter open as long as you press the shutter release, is that you can make some adjustments on the fly. I was next to a road where cars kept coming along every couple of minutes. By placing my hand completlely over the lens just before the cars came by, then removing it and adding that time onto the shutter speed, I was able to get a consistent exposure, but avoid any light from the cars.

What about the cool sky color? Try playing around with your white balance settings (ideally afterwards on a computer). Tungsten will generally give you a very nice blue effect, flourescent will make it magenta, daylight/cloudy or similar will be more orange.

Have fun!

One thought on “Great lighting storm

  • Azeltir

    Amazing. Everyone here loves the pictures. Did it rain much back over there? I don't think we got any rain here, but the thunder was beautiful.

    Ben

    Reply

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