Capturing Lightning

A lightning strike during a summer storm on June 30, 2012. (Photo taken in Plains, Montana).

Lightning is a very unpredictable, powerful, amazing, and dangerous force of nature.  Capturing lightning has been one of my interests ever since I picked up a camera at the age of thirteen.  I have often read magazines or saw postcards with amazing photographs of lightning.  When I was shooting film I had tried many times to capture this amazing and natural light show, with no success.  Often I would get film negatives and slides back that were either over or under exposed.

Using a digital SLR I captured the image above during an intense summer lightning storm on June 30, 2012.  I had been outside around 10:30 p.m. and watched the storm moving up the valley from the west.  Setting up my camera on an a tripod under a tree and adjusting the settings in the hopes of capturing a lightning strike.  I moved the area of focus three times before I had captured this image.  I adjusted the camera (Canon Rebel XS) to manual settings; manual (bulb), f22, the ISO was set to 400, and the lens was at 47mm (18-55mm IS lens).  I locked open the shutter for 51 seconds using a shutter cable release.  I was very fortunate that lightning struck within the frame here, as it had been striking in various places just before this image was created.  I packed up the camera and tripod quickly after this image and went inside, as the thunder clap happened on the count of three (meaning the lightning was within three miles).  Ten minutes later the rain and lightning was right overhead and very intense.

Use caution when trying to capture images of storms and lightning.  The summer storms often move quickly and create dangerous conditions; higher speed winds, intense rain, and the rapid lightning strikes.

Do you prefer to capture calm nature and scenic landscapes?  Or do you also enjoy the thrill and excitement of nature’s power during storms?  Which type of image do you prefer to view and capture?  Do you have the camera and settings to capture the images?

More exciting tips, techniques, and images will be coming in the months ahead.



About Douglas Wilks Photography

I am an advanced photographer who lives in western Montana. I create a variety of strong images using a DSLR, computer, and digital software. I am available for hire for full time, part time, or projects. Most of my images are of landscapes, still life, and events. I am always looking to improve my skills, network of friends and professionals, and portfolio. I look forward to creating new friends, contacts, and others who are interested in photography.
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