Where Is Lightning In Thunderstorms?

I am familiar with most types of thunderstorms (Single Cell, Multicell, Multicell Cluster, Lines, and Supercells), but I stiil have trouble deciding/determining which side to traverse to, in order to get some of the best lightning ops. I've heard different things, about them being in different places in different storms, but mainly the NE edge? Can someone explain this to me a bit more?
 
Same as tornado spotting - if you're behind the storm or in the northeast (I assume you mean left-front?) part you'll be in a ton of precip and/or have your view blocked.
 
Cloud-to-ground lightning is mostly within the precip core of any type of storm. Heavy rain makes it tough to get pictures here though. In a line of convection, the stratiform rain area behind the heavy precip often contains highly visible, very photogenic lightning. Light rain and light winds make it easier to shoot pictures here. A squall line is easier to shoot after the heaviest rain passes.

A newly developed, small single-cell storm is usually one of the best for nice CG shots. The heavy precip is just beginning to fall, so initially it isn't giving the lightning a place to hide from you.

A multicell cluster or MCS is best tackled from the outside or behind it. Once you are in it, you're not getting any pictures in that rain unless something hits 100 feet from you.

Supercells are lightning goldmines, with CGs tending to arc to ground just about anywhere in and around the storm, but again mostly in the precip core.
 
This are my observations from years of photographing:

In a youthful storm that starts to grow, the first thing I expect to see are mainly CGs in, around, and in front of the raincore. Example:

http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/LLWest...rnSkylights.jpg
http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/LLFollowRain.jpg

As the storm matures, CC, IC and CA strikes become more prevalent, especially at the mid part of the tower. Example of air strike:

http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/StromP...ureElectric.jpg
http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/StromCholla.jpg

At the end of the storm’s life, energy is balanced at the lower parts but the upper part of the tower still has some equalizing to do so crawlers come out:

http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/StromPrimal.jpg

Observation has taught me that the storm seems to get the job done at the bottom first, equalizing the separation of charge there, then the task works its way up the tower and finally, the anvil finishes it up. That generally seems to be the case, but with lightning the only thing we can count on is the unexpected.

It’s a storm so it does what it wants…including throwing bolts from the blue miles away from the tower. Example:

Yeesh http://www.lightninglady.com/photos/LLBolt...fromtheBlue.jpg
 
Andrew, I've found the best place is where it isn't raining or
drizzling. This might seem obvious, but finding that area is the challenge.

I prefer the 'warm sector' quadrant of supercells. That is, to SE of
the updraft, whether it has a wall cloud or not. With classic SW
flow aloft, this is often clear of precip... So from E of the wrapping,
or any, gust front to S of the mesowarm front, (inflow bands),
that stretch E of the updraft along the core. This is for ambient
light shots of lighting or after dark... But after dark on Sups I
wouldn't recommend for only the more experienced chasers...

Also to the W of the cell... SW of the updraft in either a clear
RFD, Rear Flank Downdraft. or W of the core far enough to
not have rain. A far bit off, 10-20 mi?, will often yield real
nice whole storm lightning shots when S or SW or W of the
updraft... I like SW if it's moving NE... that is, straight behind
its line of travel...

http://www.nealras.com/pics/

nealras
oops, sorry Tim... habit....
Neal Rasmussen
:(
 
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