We were on the way home from Sparta last night and the clouds to the South were magnificent! As it got darker and they got closer we discovered that there was some cloud-to-ground lightning going on and since I just happened to have my camera and tripod handy…
Let me tell you, capturing lightning on a still camera is difficult at best. I took a few hundred shots and only two captured lightning bolts effectively. Two. Good thing I wasn’t shooting with film. I’d be broke and disappointed right about now.
What I learned:
1. Make sure that you’re shooting at night so that you can leave the shutter open for as long as possible. (Use a tripod, of course!)
2. Eliminate foreground light as much as possible. I love the WZZM weather ball, but having a giant blue blob of light to one side in the photo was a bit distracting.
3. Shoot a storm that is a ways away on the horizon. Not only will the photos be more dramatic, standing on a hill with a metal tripod in front of you is an open invitation for disaster. If you’re not under the storm you’ll eliminate the risk of getting zapped yourself. It’s also much easier to cover a wide swath of the sky from a distance, increasing your chances of capturing bolts and the way they light up the clouds around them.
4. Set the ISO to something slow for less grain in the clouds. I used ISO 400 for these shots and it worked well.
5. Have fun with it!