Advice on taking better lightning photography?

Feb 20, 2005
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Lincoln, NE
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A couple years ago at the Weatherfest event in Lincoln, I offered some tips/advice on how to get better lightning photographs. Below is a link to the video of my presentation.

From Storms to Sunsets: The Science and Art of My Photography
Lightning portion of the talk begins at 23:45
 
Mar 7, 2015
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Aberdeen, Maryland
A couple years ago at the Weatherfest event in Lincoln, I offered some tips/advice on how to get better lightning photographs. Below is a link to the video of my presentation.

From Storms to Sunsets: The Science and Art of My Photography
Lightning portion of the talk begins at 23:45
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I will definitely give it a watch.
 
Mar 15, 2004
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Tucson, Aridzona
www.flickr.com
Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial with us. ^^ This will be very helpful.
Dan's guide is just about spot-on, IMO. He's one of the few that seems to 'get' the aperture vs. lightning brightness/distance concept. All I'd add is the notion of scouting favorable vantage points ahead of time. Then, when the storms arrive from a given direction, you'll know right where to go!
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
Very good point on scouting Greg. I have a handful of local spots I rely on.. Nothing more frustrating than watching a storm really light up and not being able to find a safe dark spot to set up shop.
 
Feb 21, 2012
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Wichita, KS
I shot these with no tripod, no remote, and f/22 aperture with a 10-15 second shutter speed. ISO was around 400 if I remember correctly. I can get you exact settings if you want. Basically, all you need is a DSLR, a sturdy place to set your camera, and some good bug spray. Don't be discouraged by thinking you need to spend a thousand dollars on a tripod. Look for a day with some good CAPE, and you'll likely have a prolific lightning producer. PECANs often provide some good lightning shows as well.
96f1f8bdaf1b24d77772bcb1826aaafb.jpg
d8321dbdb6db888f39f38e5f463b14c4.jpg

EDIT: @Steve Miller why won't media embed work?
 
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Mar 7, 2015
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Aberdeen, Maryland
I shot these with no tripod, no remote, and f/22 aperture with a 10-15 exposure. ISO was around 400 if I remember correctly. I can get you exact settings if you want. Basically, all you need is a DSLR, a sturdy place to set your camera, and some good bug spray. Don't be discouraged by thinking you need to spend a thousand dollars on a tripod. Look for a day with some good CAPE, and you'll likely have a prolific lightning producer. PECANs often provide some good lightning shows as well.
View attachment 9287
View attachment 9288

EDIT: @Steve Miller why won't media embed work?
Hey Taylor. Thanks for the reply. :) I have yet still to own a DSLR camera, the tripod, and a trigger. Using all the funds I currently have saved up to move into my own place. My dad currently lets me borrow his Nikon DSLR camera. Have no clue on the exact model, but it is a wonderful camera. My dad has a fairly sturdy Tripod that he also lets me borrow. He got it from best buy. Taylor, if you can give me the exact settings I will greatly appreciate for the next time I am able to go out and try and get some shots.

Thank you, and I love your lightning shots, they are terrific. :)
 
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
stormhighway.com
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Mar 7, 2015
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Aberdeen, Maryland
You can find tripods at Wal-Mart for $20. They don't last very long with heavy chasing use, but they work just fine. I used to go through two of those a year back when I started.

~$240 will get you a small Manfrotto tripod and a RC2 ball head that will last for a long time.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/660321-REG/Manfrotto_496RC2_496RC2_Compact_Ball_Head.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1071808-REG/manfrotto_mt190x3_3_section_tripod.html
Thanks for the advice Dan. For now I think my fathers Tripod will work well. However, soon I will have to get my own, so that will be something to keep in mind.
 
1: Tripod required.
2: Remote shutter release or cable (if using cable, be careful not to move the camera).
3: I don't use a trigger because I want to control the entire exposure
4: Use the lowest ISO possible. This allows longer exposures and helps to avoids noise, especially at night.
5: Don't use any f-stop above f8 or the bolts will look very thin
6: Use manual settings, never automatic, including manual focus
7: Keep checking the exposures to make sure they are properly exposed for any existing daylight
8: Try for the longest exposure possible, for example: f5.6 at 20 seconds instead of f4 at 10 seconds to capture more lightning
9: At night in total darkness you can expose for longer periods and fill the frame with lightning as desired. Remember that city lights
will blow out an exposure.
10: Don't get zapped!
 
Jan 18, 2015
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Tucson, AZ
1: Tripod required.
2: Remote shutter release or cable (if using cable, be careful not to move the camera).
3: I don't use a trigger because I want to control the entire exposure
4: Use the lowest ISO possible. This allows longer exposures and helps to avoids noise, especially at night.
5: Don't use any f-stop above f8 or the bolts will look very thin
6: Use manual settings, never automatic, including manual focus
7: Keep checking the exposures to make sure they are properly exposed for any existing daylight
8: Try for the longest exposure possible, for example: f5.6 at 20 seconds instead of f4 at 10 seconds to capture more lightning
9: At night in total darkness you can expose for longer periods and fill the frame with lightning as desired. Remember that city lights
will blow out an exposure.
10: Don't get zapped!
Being around city lights, or bolts being closer may require something higher than f/8.
But usually 7.1 is perfect

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
 
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Jan 18, 2015
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Tucson, AZ
Also, if you don't have a shutter release, a little trick is to set up a 2 second delay so when you hit the shutter, you don't accidentally move the camera and blur your picture

Sent from my SCH-I545 using Tapatalk
 
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"Panning camera trick"...

This trick will separate the individual return strokes in a single strike. Strikes are composed, often, of many return strokes very close in time together. You can pan the camera back and forth during the exposure, and this will separate the strike.

It has to be basically totally dark. No farm lights, no city glow if you can help it. Then pan the camera left and right, back and forth at a fairly fast rate. You don't have to shake the camera though. I'd guess about 1/2 sec to make a sweep.

Sorry, I can't find the pic that I got this way accidentally in the 90's when I shot one out the side window while going down the highway, but it separated the return strokes the same way.
 
Jan 18, 2015
232
60
11
Tucson, AZ
"Panning camera trick"...

This trick will separate the individual return strokes in a single strike. Strikes are composed, often, of many return strokes very close in time together. You can pan the camera back and forth during the exposure, and this will separate the strike.

It has to be basically totally dark. No farm lights, no city glow if you can help it. Then pan the camera left and right, back and forth at a fairly fast rate. You don't have to shake the camera though. I'd guess about 1/2 sec to make a sweep.

Sorry, I can't find the pic that I got this way accidentally in the 90's when I shot one out the side window while going down the highway, but it separated the return strokes the same way.
I know what you're talking about. I believe I came across an image or two, talking about lightning photography special effects you can do
 
Mar 8, 2015
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Burlington, IA
I use LightningMaps.org to find lightning & then I use RadarScope to stay out of the rain, severe storms, etc. I shoot from the "safety" of my truck with a wireless remote through the glass so before I had a good tripod I would throw my camera's neck strap over my side view mirror in case a wind gust blew over the tripod it would stop my camera from hitting the ground. Just figured I'd share a few things I do or did since pretty much everything has already been covered in this thread. fb204.jpg
"When thunder roars, go indoors...& get your camera."