How to shoot lightning?

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How to shoot lightning?

Thunder storms offer their own unique challenges, but you can start by predicting when a lightning strike will occur. Lightning happens when the atmosphere is unstable – this is when warm air exists beneath much colder air. If the conditions are right and hail is produced, this picks up a charge as it moves through the cloud, which is attracted to the earth’s surface. The rapid expansion and heating of air caused by lightning produces the accompanying loud clap of thunder. To increase your success rate, Mark advocates investing in the right kit. ‘Mother Nature, and her effect on equipment, create a testing environment for the photographer,’ he says. ‘Reliance on robust and hardy camera equipment allows you to concentrate on the subject. Water, dust, vibration, rapid temperature changes and portability come as standard and the right equipment is paramount. Historically, I have used the Olympus E DSLR system, which offers weather sealing and dustproof qualities. I recently switched from the DSLRs to the more portable micro four thirds camera, the OM-D E-M5.’ Although you’ll be able to take some great photos with just your camera setup, there are a few optional extras you might like to think about. ‘For lightning photography, I use an accessory called a Lightning Trigger,’ says Mark. ‘It is a lightning/flash-activated shutter release with the ability to photograph lightning easily during the day or at night. It is about the same size as a mobile phone and sits on top of the camera. The trigger will increase lightning captures tenfold so it is well worth the investment.’ Of course, lightning can be captured without the aid of a trigger. Good lightning images will only be feasible during nighttime storms, when long exposures can be used, so you will need a tripod for low light stability. ‘I tend to keep the aperture pretty wide (f/2-5.6) depending on lens and exposure times, for anything from a few seconds up to 30 secs,’ explains Mark. ‘There is naturally a lot of luck in capturing a good cloud-to-ground bolt. A useful tip is to keep the camera pointing in one direction and take numerous exposures. If a number of bolts are recorded, then simple post-processing (stacking) can reflect a multiple-bolt shot. ‘When shooting lightning I normally use two cameras: one primed with a wide angle lens (to capture the entire storm structure), and the other closer in on a part of the storm cloud (to capture more detail of the lightning bolt).’

Weather Studios Shooting Secrets

A useful tool for shooting lightning during daylight hours is a neutral density filter. This will allow you to reduce the amount of light entering the camera without introducing any other optical affects. As such, they are used to get longer exposures, which greatly improves your chances of catching a strike while the shutter is open.

At night, focusing and exposing successfully on a strike that is yet to happen will always be challenging and can result in many out-of-focus shots. Set the focus to infinity and use a smaller aperture to increase the depth of field. As soon as you capture a strike, however small, preview the image to ensure that the focus is good, so that when the bigger strike happens you can be confident that it will be in focus.

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Photography Workshop: How to shoot lightning?
How to shoot lightning?
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