Advice on taking better lightning photography?

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Mar 7, 2015
45
24
11
21
Aberdeen, Maryland
Hey guys. I was recently digging through older photography that I have taken, and I found the picture I tried to take for the first time of lightning.


I actually cringe at this attempt. I don't even think I caught lightning, just the flash of it. :( (I used my mobile phone to take this picture of it.) So maybe the phone's camera speed is just too slow?

In the future I would like to get better shots of lightning, not the flash part of it. XD Anyone have advice?
 
Sep 7, 2013
625
448
21
Strasburg, CO
My method:

1: Use a DSLR with a remote trigger, wired or wireless (I use wireless).
2: Be patient.
3: Fiddle with your settings until you find what you like. I started off shooting ISO800 / F8 for a long time and had great success...after doing some reading, I found a lot of people were using lower F-stop and lower ISO. So I tried that, and it worked, but I still find myself moving all around the settings on the camera depending on conditions. There's no real set formula for catching lightning. The real key is good equipment with a decent variety of settings. Phones aren't made for this.
4: Use long exposure, but don't go crazy. Depending on ambient light, I stick with sub 60 second exposures. More often than not, if on a good storm, exposures range from a couple seconds to maybe 15 seconds.
5: If you can, preset your lens(es) to infinity and don't move them...trying to find a focus at night stinks unless the moon is out. (tip: use the moon to find focus at night. ;) )
 

Jeff Duda

Resident meteorological expert
Staff member
Oct 7, 2008
3,260
1,967
21
Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
I actually cringe at this attempt. I don't even think I caught lightning, just the flash of it. :( (I used my mobile phone to take this picture of it.) So maybe the phone's camera speed is just too slow?
Granted, cell phone cameras are improving dramatically, but I would say you'll never be able to take a decent lightning picture with a phone camera. Get yourself a DSLR. You need to be able to take extended exposures. I suppose with a lightning trigger (do they even make those for phones?) you could get away with exposures of 1" or less. I personally don't have a trigger, so when I shoot lightning I either use the "bulb" setting (indefinite exposure time) or a pre-set exposure time of anywhere between a few seconds up to 15 or 20 seconds depending on cloud formations and movement.

Let's assume now you have your DSLR. Best settings to use on it:
-Lowest ISO possible (on my D40, that's 200, but better cameras have 100 or less). This reduces "noise" or "graininess" in the photo and makes it look nicer. It also helps avoid overexposure in the case of longer exposures or light-polluted exposures.
-Set focus to infinity, manually if necessary. The kit lens on my D40 does not have an auto-infinity setting, so I have to do it by hand. The best way is to find a distant spot of light (don't use something fuzzy like city lights) and focus on it. Zoom in to do the focus, then zoom back out. Also, very important: every so often, check and re-adjust the focus, as subtle environmental changes (or just your hand on the camera) may cause the focus to drift. Nothing ruins a really good full-frame shot of a CG like bad focus. I've had plenty ruined that way.
-Be patient, and just keep shooting. You'll end up with a ton of blank or empty photos with no lightning in them. Fine. In the digital age, you just delete all those afterward. It's not like you waste film anymore. As long as you keep shooting, you're almost guaranteed to eventually land some good ones. There's definitely some luck involved, but your chances go up the more shots you take.
 

Brecky Bihary

Enthusiast
May 8, 2015
4
3
1
54
Mount Vernon, WA
exstreamexposure.com
Hi Rachel, I have not yet taken any photos of lightning but my gopro has caught a few nice strikes. All I can say is do not waste your $50-$100 on a no name piece of junk! I have been looking at the Lightning Trigger for about 2 years now and I just spoke with Mike Olbinski and he likes his.(http://store.lightningtrigger.com/index.aspx) Rich Davis is the creator of it and it sounds like the one and only to buy. Good luck.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rachel Donoghue
Sep 7, 2013
625
448
21
Strasburg, CO
Also...don't worry about proximity to the storm...some of my best shots are taken at pretty extreme distance (thus wifey giving me grief for running out the door to go shoot a storm many miles away).

This was from last night. Taken from about 70 miles away using a zoom lens,

Nikon D5100
f/4
ISO-800
3.7sec exposure

17JUN15-0001-ST.jpg 17JUN15-0001-ST-DISTANCE.jpg
 
Yes. Sadly I must agree a DSLR is the way to go. A film camera will work fine, either 35mm or 2.25", but at $1.50 per click on medium format film, that can pay for a DSLR real fast.

I have a Canon Rebel T5, new with kit lens it's $400. Used for $300. Love it. (Don't tell my Bronica!)

On 90% of sparks I'll shoot ISO100, and wish it had an ISO25. On distant sparks or 'dim' anvil crawlers, I'd go to 400-800ISO. But DSLRs seem more sensitive to low light, so I like the ISO100. The F-stop I have at F5.6. Most all the time. If the sparks are close and bright, perhaps an F8 will do. If going for the broadcast antenna at 300 yds, perhaps an F11. ;)

Bulb setting is really helpful, and so a remote trigger needed. This is where the shutter is just open for as long as you choose. 10sec to 4 min, but I've found DSLR will wash the sky out on long exposures. About 60 seconds if any town lights is max. Also for safety, as you can be inside your Faraday Cage and still shoot. Also one can try a 'reaction time shot'. Where you just set the exposure for a nice picture without the lightning. Dial it in on manual. Usually leaving it at F5.6 and adjusting the exposure time to get it looking good. Then you have to be real quick. No it's not impossible. Lightning can last from near instant single stroke, which you'll never catch except by accident, to as long as 1.5-2 seconds! Even a drunk person can catch these. And often they're real cool shots.

63008e5fdfc4665ab8bc5b8e3a7d77b2.jpg

A tripod is a must. A sturdy one.

And lastly. On reaction time shots. If your exposure is 1/60th sec or faster, it's quite possible to take the picture in between return strokes. You'll think you nailed it. You had fast reactions. You heard the mirror flap right during the bolt! But... nothing. The individual return strokes are very fast. Like < 1 millisec? So you really need an exposure of 1/30th sec or longer. Even if you have to push the fstop up.
 
Jan 18, 2015
232
60
11
Tucson, AZ
I've had good luck using my galaxy s4 recording video and taking a still frame afterwards. Not as good as a dslr but better than trying to take pictures with your phone

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rachel Donoghue
Sep 7, 2013
625
448
21
Strasburg, CO
One other item to note...once you catch lightning, it's like crack...you won't be able to stop. I'm not even sure how many shots I have of lightning...well into the tens of thousands I'm sure...my wife calls herself a lightning widow this time of year because I'll go after damn near anything thats producing...or may produce. Hell...I have a pic from either last year or the year before that I shot from just east of metro Denver..the storm was located in the Kearney, NE area IIRC...wasn't a great pic, or even good for that matter, but it had a visible bolt in it, so I called it a win...wife called me a loon.

And as others have mentioned...safety is also key. Tornadoes are usually slow moving, and at least usually visible threats, but a bolt can drop you dead in your tracks from 20 miles away from the storm under a clear sky.

So be careful, have fun, play with ALL the settings on your camera, use a tripod, and fire away!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rachel Donoghue
Mar 7, 2015
45
24
11
21
Aberdeen, Maryland
My method:

1: Use a DSLR with a remote trigger, wired or wireless (I use wireless).
2: Be patient.
3: Fiddle with your settings until you find what you like. I started off shooting ISO800 / F8 for a long time and had great success...after doing some reading, I found a lot of people were using lower F-stop and lower ISO. So I tried that, and it worked, but I still find myself moving all around the settings on the camera depending on conditions. There's no real set formula for catching lightning. The real key is good equipment with a decent variety of settings. Phones aren't made for this.
4: Use long exposure, but don't go crazy. Depending on ambient light, I stick with sub 60 second exposures. More often than not, if on a good storm, exposures range from a couple seconds to maybe 15 seconds.
5: If you can, preset your lens(es) to infinity and don't move them...trying to find a focus at night stinks unless the moon is out. (tip: use the moon to find focus at night. ;) )
Thank you very much for the advice. Where would I find a trigger for the Camera?

Granted, cell phone cameras are improving dramatically, but I would say you'll never be able to take a decent lightning picture with a phone camera. Get yourself a DSLR. You need to be able to take extended exposures. I suppose with a lightning trigger (do they even make those for phones?) you could get away with exposures of 1" or less. I personally don't have a trigger, so when I shoot lightning I either use the "bulb" setting (indefinite exposure time) or a pre-set exposure time of anywhere between a few seconds up to 15 or 20 seconds depending on cloud formations and movement.

Let's assume now you have your DSLR. Best settings to use on it:
-Lowest ISO possible (on my D40, that's 200, but better cameras have 100 or less). This reduces "noise" or "graininess" in the photo and makes it look nicer. It also helps avoid overexposure in the case of longer exposures or light-polluted exposures.
-Set focus to infinity, manually if necessary. The kit lens on my D40 does not have an auto-infinity setting, so I have to do it by hand. The best way is to find a distant spot of light (don't use something fuzzy like city lights) and focus on it. Zoom in to do the focus, then zoom back out. Also, very important: every so often, check and re-adjust the focus, as subtle environmental changes (or just your hand on the camera) may cause the focus to drift. Nothing ruins a really good full-frame shot of a CG like bad focus. I've had plenty ruined that way.
-Be patient, and just keep shooting. You'll end up with a ton of blank or empty photos with no lightning in them. Fine. In the digital age, you just delete all those afterward. It's not like you waste film anymore. As long as you keep shooting, you're almost guaranteed to eventually land some good ones. There's definitely some luck involved, but your chances go up the more shots you take.
Thank you. After alot of thought, I can't be bothered to use a phone anymore to try and capture lightning, it is just not going to work. I have decided to take your advice and get a DSLR camera. Either a Canon or Nikon, but I prefer getting a Canon DSLR if I can find one. I just need to remain paitent. I am going to have my hit and misses. ^^

Hi Rachel, I have not yet taken any photos of lightning but my gopro has caught a few nice strikes. All I can say is do not waste your $50-$100 on a no name piece of junk! I have been looking at the Lightning Trigger for about 2 years now and I just spoke with Mike Olbinski and he likes his.(http://store.lightningtrigger.com/index.aspx) Rich Davis is the creator of it and it sounds like the one and only to buy. Good luck.
Thank you for sharing the link with me. I will definitely give it a look. :)

Also...don't worry about proximity to the storm...some of my best shots are taken at pretty extreme distance (thus wifey giving me grief for running out the door to go shoot a storm many miles away).

This was from last night. Taken from about 70 miles away using a zoom lens,

Nikon D5100
f/4
ISO-800
3.7sec exposure

View attachment 8673 View attachment 8674
Thank you for the advice. My goal is to shoot from a distance at first, since It will be my first time trying to get a good shot of lightning.

Yes. Sadly I must agree a DSLR is the way to go. A film camera will work fine, either 35mm or 2.25", but at $1.50 per click on medium format film, that can pay for a DSLR real fast.

I have a Canon Rebel T5, new with kit lens it's $400. Used for $300. Love it. (Don't tell my Bronica!)

On 90% of sparks I'll shoot ISO100, and wish it had an ISO25. On distant sparks or 'dim' anvil crawlers, I'd go to 400-800ISO. But DSLRs seem more sensitive to low light, so I like the ISO100. The F-stop I have at F5.6. Most all the time. If the sparks are close and bright, perhaps an F8 will do. If going for the broadcast antenna at 300 yds, perhaps an F11. ;)

Bulb setting is really helpful, and so a remote trigger needed. This is where the shutter is just open for as long as you choose. 10sec to 4 min, but I've found DSLR will wash the sky out on long exposures. About 60 seconds if any town lights is max. Also for safety, as you can be inside your Faraday Cage and still shoot. Also one can try a 'reaction time shot'. Where you just set the exposure for a nice picture without the lightning. Dial it in on manual. Usually leaving it at F5.6 and adjusting the exposure time to get it looking good. Then you have to be real quick. No it's not impossible. Lightning can last from near instant single stroke, which you'll never catch except by accident, to as long as 1.5-2 seconds! Even a drunk person can catch these. And often they're real cool shots.



A tripod is a must. A sturdy one.

And lastly. On reaction time shots. If your exposure is 1/60th sec or faster, it's quite possible to take the picture in between return strokes. You'll think you nailed it. You had fast reactions. You heard the mirror flap right during the bolt! But... nothing. The individual return strokes are very fast. Like < 1 millisec? So you really need an exposure of 1/30th sec or longer. Even if you have to push the fstop up.
Thank you so much for the advice. I probably would be able to find a tripod somewhere for a decent price along with a trigger. Safety will also be the main key for me, so definitely will try to be in a safe spot.

I've had good luck using my galaxy s4 recording video and taking a still frame afterwards. Not as good as a dslr but better than trying to take pictures with your phone

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
Thank you, I have decided to go with a DSLR camera.

One other item to note...once you catch lightning, it's like crack...you won't be able to stop. I'm not even sure how many shots I have of lightning...well into the tens of thousands I'm sure...my wife calls herself a lightning widow this time of year because I'll go after damn near anything thats producing...or may produce. Hell...I have a pic from either last year or the year before that I shot from just east of metro Denver..the storm was located in the Kearney, NE area IIRC...wasn't a great pic, or even good for that matter, but it had a visible bolt in it, so I called it a win...wife called me a loon.

And as others have mentioned...safety is also key. Tornadoes are usually slow moving, and at least usually visible threats, but a bolt can drop you dead in your tracks from 20 miles away from the storm under a clear sky.

So be careful, have fun, play with ALL the settings on your camera, use a tripod, and fire away!
Thank you. Ha-ha. XD I'm sure it will be that way for me, not just with lightning, but with every severe weather shot that I take.

Thank you. Safety will be the main thing with me, as lightning is more unpredictable then Tornadoes. I will try my best.
 

Darren Lo

EF0
Feb 25, 2012
38
60
11
Thank you very much for the advice. Where would I find a trigger for the Camera?
You should be able to find a basic wired shutter release for a few bucks (e.g. here; just make sure to get one that's compatible with the camera you end up with. The price goes up if you want a wireless one. Either way, shooting nighttime lightning is pretty easy once you have a tripod -- just set focus to infinity, dial in suitable exposure settings, shoot a bunch, delete all the duds.

Catching lightning before sunset is much harder because you can't shoot long exposures without either blowing out the ambient exposure or stopping down so far that the lightning doesn't show up. In these conditions you'd probably want a dedicated lightning trigger, but they can be expensive and finicky.
 
Mar 30, 2008
1,228
976
21
Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
You can get cheap wired and wireless shutter releases on Amazon. Along with a nice long cord for your wired one. Along with extra batteries for wireless. You will want extra batteries if you get a wireless shutter release.

You really do need good equipment. Unfortunately if it's even the least bit windy the cheap $30 walmart tripods are not going to do so well when shooting lightning. Good tripods can be expensive but they really set the foundation.

A DSLR is a necessity too as you've read. Any modern camera body and kit lens is really good enough to shoot lightning. Obviously you can do better/more artsy stuff with more money, but start off cheap. T2i is still a very capable camera and quite inexpensive anymore.

Good luck!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Rachel Donoghue
Sep 7, 2013
625
448
21
Strasburg, CO
Rachel - I'm a Nikon guy...I use their wireless shutter release. I also bought a cheapo Chinese knockoff for like $10 on Amazon. Never changed the batteries yet and it's been at least three seasons.

Check out BH Photo...they have decent prices on equipment, but even more useful customer reviews. Very helpful when picking out gear.

As for a tripod...just remember...it's holding up a very expensive and somewhat fragile piece of equipment...so don't cheap out. Theres a good thread in the equipment sub forum about tripods.
 
Mar 7, 2015
45
24
11
21
Aberdeen, Maryland
You should be able to find a basic wired shutter release for a few bucks (e.g. here; just make sure to get one that's compatible with the camera you end up with. The price goes up if you want a wireless one. Either way, shooting nighttime lightning is pretty easy once you have a tripod -- just set focus to infinity, dial in suitable exposure settings, shoot a bunch, delete all the duds.

Catching lightning before sunset is much harder because you can't shoot long exposures without either blowing out the ambient exposure or stopping down so far that the lightning doesn't show up. In these conditions you'd probably want a dedicated lightning trigger, but they can be expensive and finicky.
Thanks for the link. :) As I start off, I might just try to take pictures of lightning at night.

You can get cheap wired and wireless shutter releases on Amazon. Along with a nice long cord for your wired one. Along with extra batteries for wireless. You will want extra batteries if you get a wireless shutter release.

You really do need good equipment. Unfortunately if it's even the least bit windy the cheap $30 walmart tripods are not going to do so well when shooting lightning. Good tripods can be expensive but they really set the foundation.

A DSLR is a necessity too as you've read. Any modern camera body and kit lens is really good enough to shoot lightning. Obviously you can do better/more artsy stuff with more money, but start off cheap. T2i is still a very capable camera and quite inexpensive anymore.

Good luck!
Thank you! Both sound nice, but I might go just for the wireless one. (Definitely will always make sure that I have extra batteries at all times.)

I will make sure that I get a sturdy and good quality tripod. Would'nt want my DSLR camera or anything else to break. I want to start off with a cheaper camera anyway, since I can only put so much into it. (Still want to get a decent one.)

Thank you. :)

Rachel - I'm a Nikon guy...I use their wireless shutter release. I also bought a cheapo Chinese knockoff for like $10 on Amazon. Never changed the batteries yet and it's been at least three seasons.

Check out BH Photo...they have decent prices on equipment, but even more useful customer reviews. Very helpful when picking out gear.

As for a tripod...just remember...it's holding up a very expensive and somewhat fragile piece of equipment...so don't cheap out. Theres a good thread in the equipment sub forum about tripods.
My dad actually owns a Nikon DSLR camera, which I have experimented with. It is a very nice camera, but far as cameras go, I might try using a Canon and see how that camera works out for me.

I have checked out the site and it seems to be a reliable place to get equipment.

I plan on getting a good quality and sturdy one, as I don't want anything to happen with my DSLR and my other equipment. I plan on looking at the thread.
 
I just wanted to clarify the difference between a Lightning Trigger and a Remote. The Lightning Trigger will see the lightning and fire the camera for you. This is really only needed in "Storm Dark" settings or at dusk, unless you put on a lot of ND filters. If fairly bright out, 1/60th sec exposure of faster, it will be real real hard to photo a spark at all. So really the "Triggers" will just replace the method of "reaction time" shots. But will most likely work a lot better, unless you have cat reflexes. :) The other alternative when shooting in low light, but not "no light", is just to shoot a LOT of pics. One after another. If the exposure is down to the 1/2 of a second, with camera cycle time, you might have something like a 50% chance of catching it. That is, you're shooting a pic half the time.

The ND Filters, Neutral Density, cut light out without changing color. So you can use a slower exposure. This would be a somewhat rare occurrence that it's so bright out you're faster than 1/30sec, but still not "full sun" so you can actually see the lightning. Of course they're also good for nature shots to make water go blurry. :)

Remote controls are just that. They don't sense the lightning, they just let you fire the camera remotely. I have a ShutterBoss that'll cost ya $100, and I think for just firing the camera, one at a lot less $s will do quite nicely. Oh, ya. Rechargeable batts are a must on the ShutterBoss. Two sets actually. Unless rich or you hate the planet.
 
Of course, you could download iLightningCam for iOS! ;) It's actually not bad for if you're ever in a storm without your camera for whatever reason.

As all the excellent replies have said above you do need to spend some cash to get decent results - however, I've taken many decent lightning pics just using a reasonable non-DSLR camera - just one which has manual options (i.e. shutter speed/ISO/etc). I now use a Sony RX10 which is a bridge-style camera, along with a shutter release. It's done very well thus far, and although the results cannot match a DSLR ultimately (due to the smaller sensor size, etc) it does very well for an all-in-one. The RX10 II has just come out now, too, and along with 4K video, it has a 1000 fps video function, which would be very interesting for slow-speed lightning work!
 
Mar 15, 2004
1,048
53
11
Tucson, Aridzona
www.flickr.com
Your image isn't showing, so I'll take your word that it sucks! o_O

IMO, DSLR is the way to go. Even an ancient 6MP body will produce better (much better) images than a pad or cell phone ever could.
A decent lightning kit can be had around $200, less if you're on a tight budget.

Grab an 'obsolete' camera off KEH Megapickles don't matter all that much. Look for a sweet-spot compromise that fits your budget.
https://www.keh.com/search/list?n=128&category[]=Bodies&sort_by=priceMax-asc

And add a lens or two. FWIW, I've had good results with old Olympus/Zuiko manual focus lenses that cost $20 and up. I have a 28mm/3.5, 50mm/1.8
Manual focus lenses are great, there is no difficulty trying to focus in the dark, no hunting as the camera's AF tries to lock onto some distant light - simply turn the focus ring all the way 'till it stops. You're ready to shoot! I have a few AF lenses, but avoid using the bleeping things whenever possible - it's SO east to wind up just a hair out of focus and ruin an entire run of frames.

A $15 adapter couples my 'mighty' Rebel XT (8 MP!) camera to the lenses. There are MANY inexpensive, fully usable combinations of lens + camera.

Throw in a tripod of some sort. You can make do with a well built micro-pod provided you have a good surface to rest it on.
A more traditional full size unit will be more convenient, but will naturally cost a bit more. Get something sturdy, not a 'K-Mart special' junker.

IMO, an electronic trigger is largely useless (and actually counter-productive) unless you absolutely must catch day time bolts. Once the sun sets, shutter speeds generally become long enough to allow simply 'machine gunning' with the shutter help in continuous 'Rambo' mode by a $15 cable+switch. (Something resembling https://www.keh.com/213612/canon-eo...eos-1-1n-rs-a2-a2e-t90-grip-gr-20-620-630-650 )

Most of https://www.flickr.com/photos/19806236@N00/sets/72157622800084513 were shot with the kit mentioned, a modest (disposable) Rebel XT mated to old Oly glass.
 
Last edited:
Mar 7, 2015
45
24
11
21
Aberdeen, Maryland
I just wanted to clarify the difference between a Lightning Trigger and a Remote. The Lightning Trigger will see the lightning and fire the camera for you. This is really only needed in "Storm Dark" settings or at dusk, unless you put on a lot of ND filters. If fairly bright out, 1/60th sec exposure of faster, it will be real real hard to photo a spark at all. So really the "Triggers" will just replace the method of "reaction time" shots. But will most likely work a lot better, unless you have cat reflexes. :) The other alternative when shooting in low light, but not "no light", is just to shoot a LOT of pics. One after another. If the exposure is down to the 1/2 of a second, with camera cycle time, you might have something like a 50% chance of catching it. That is, you're shooting a pic half the time.

The ND Filters, Neutral Density, cut light out without changing color. So you can use a slower exposure. This would be a somewhat rare occurrence that it's so bright out you're faster than 1/30sec, but still not "full sun" so you can actually see the lightning. Of course they're also good for nature shots to make water go blurry. :)

Remote controls are just that. They don't sense the lightning, they just let you fire the camera remotely. I have a ShutterBoss that'll cost ya $100, and I think for just firing the camera, one at a lot less $s will do quite nicely. Oh, ya. Rechargeable batts are a must on the ShutterBoss. Two sets actually. Unless rich or you hate the planet.
Thanks for the heads up. :) I will try out both and see what happens. I'll be sure to always have alot of extra batteries. ^^

Of course, you could download iLightningCam for iOS! ;) It's actually not bad for if you're ever in a storm without your camera for whatever reason.

As all the excellent replies have said above you do need to spend some cash to get decent results - however, I've taken many decent lightning pics just using a reasonable non-DSLR camera - just one which has manual options (i.e. shutter speed/ISO/etc). I now use a Sony RX10 which is a bridge-style camera, along with a shutter release. It's done very well thus far, and although the results cannot match a DSLR ultimately (due to the smaller sensor size, etc) it does very well for an all-in-one. The RX10 II has just come out now, too, and along with 4K video, it has a 1000 fps video function, which would be very interesting for slow-speed lightning work!
Thank you. :) That is interesting to know. I have decided to go along and get a Canon DSLR camera, but if there was ever a situation where I was out on a storm and didn't have my DSLR camera with me, I will definitely heed your advice.

I always wanted to try high framerate lightning video..my LG-G3 has 120fps, but I keep forgetting to try it.
I've also been wanting to catch lightning in slow speed. Maybe someday.

Your image isn't showing, so I'll take your word that it sucks! o_O

IMO, DSLR is the way to go. Even an ancient 6MP body will produce better (much better) images than a pad or cell phone ever could.
A decent lightning kit can be had around $200, less if you're on a tight budget.

Grab an 'obsolete' camera off KEH Megapickles don't matter all that much. Look for a sweet-spot compromise that fits your budget.
https://www.keh.com/search/list?n=128&category[]=Bodies&sort_by=priceMax-asc

And add a lens or two. FWIW, I've had good results with old Olympus/Zuiko manual focus lenses that cost $20 and up. I have a 28mm/3.5, 50mm/1.8
Manual focus lenses are great, there is no difficulty trying to focus in the dark, no hunting as the camera's AF tries to lock onto some distant light - simply turn the focus ring all the way 'till it stops. You're ready to shoot! I have a few AF lenses, but avoid using the bleeping things whenever possible - it's SO east to wind up just a hair out of focus and ruin an entire run of frames.

A $15 adapter couples my 'mighty' Rebel XT (8 MP!) camera to the lenses. There are MANY inexpensive, fully usable combinations of lens + camera.

Throw in a tripod of some sort. You can make do with a well built micro-pod provided you have a good surface to rest it on.
A more traditional full size unit will be more convenient, but will naturally cost a bit more. Get something sturdy, not a 'K-Mart special' junker.

IMO, an electronic trigger is largely useless (and actually counter-productive) unless you absolutely must catch day time bolts. Once the sun sets, shutter speeds generally become long enough to allow simply 'machine gunning' with the shutter help in continuous 'Rambo' mode by a $15 cable+switch. (Something resembling https://www.keh.com/213612/canon-eo...eos-1-1n-rs-a2-a2e-t90-grip-gr-20-620-630-650 )

Most of https://www.flickr.com/photos/19806236@N00/sets/72157622800084513 were shot with the kit mentioned, a modest (disposable) Rebel XT mated to old Oly glass.
Ha-ha! XD It's alright. It really does suck. o_O

Thank you very much for the advice. I greatly appreciate it. :) I am already saving up for a Canon DSLR camera and the other supplies that need to go with it. Thanks for mentioning the lightning kit. I will definitely have to get it at some point.
 
May 18, 2012
292
151
11
Gaines, MI
This is a great thread! I've wanted to ask about this for some time as I've struggled taking lightning shots. I have a good DSLR (Canon t4i), decent tripod (MeFOTO) and a wired trigger. I'm still learning my settings and set up, so the ones mentioned will be a huge help. Thanks gang!!
 
Sep 7, 2013
625
448
21
Strasburg, CO
Well...I was out last night...and while I got some decent shots, I got a ton of crap shots...so that's typical of shooting bolts.

I was thinking about this thread as I ran from F2.8 thru F8.0 and ISO100 up to ISO1600. There's really no set way to shoot lightning. Having to constantly adjust settings and focus is just part of the game. Sort of the challenge.

Yet I'll still go out, again and again, to capture the thing that only me and my camera will ever see, from that spot, at that time.

Love it.

My wife thinks I'm a loon, but I'm happy in a field in the middle of nowhere, at night, shooting electricity.
 
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Mar 7, 2015
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Aberdeen, Maryland
Well...I was out last night...and while I got some decent shots, I got a ton of crap shots...so that's typical of shooting bolts.

I was thinking about this thread as I ran from F2.8 thru F8.0 and ISO100 up to ISO1600. There's really no set way to shoot lightning. Having to constantly adjust settings and focus is just part of the game. Sort of the challenge.

Yet I'll still go out, again and again, to capture the thing that only me and my camera will ever see, from that spot, at that time.

Love it.

My wife thinks I'm a loon, but I'm happy in a field in the middle of nowhere, at night, shooting electricity.
Practice makes perfect as they always say. That's what I'll just have to do. That is interesting... I guess there is just many different methods and settings to catch lighting shots. :)