Sunday, September 18, 2011


Texas has been experiencing its worst drought since the 1950s, so it is understandable that we get excited when a little rain comes our way. I get doubly excited because it gives me an opportunity to photograph lightning. A storm came through this evening, bringing some much needed rain and some Big Scary Lightning. I started off photographing from the back porch, but self-preservation kicked in after a few minutes and I moved inside and set up at a window. Here is the best shot of the evening:

The little smudges that dot the image are water drops falling from the roof. The odd device to the lower-right is a satellite dish.

I can not emphasize this enough: LIGHTNING IS DEADLY. If you can hear thunder then you are well within the danger zone for a lightning strike. I do not recommend that anyone attempt to photograph lightning; but, for those of you who have made up your minds that you are going to do it, here are some guidelines that I follow:

  • Set the camera to Manual mode.
  • Focus the camera on a distant object. I use autofocus if it is bright enough outside. Once focused, I turn off autofocus.
  • Lightning images are best made at night.
  • Pick an area of the sky that looks promising for lightning activity. This can be hit-or-miss, depending on the nature of the storm. Move the camera as the storm progresses to increase the chances of capturing lightning.
  • Use a steady tripod and place the camera in a location where it will not get wet or blown over.
  • Set the ISO to a low setting (I use ISO-100).
  • Take 5-second exposures (shorter if the sky is bright) to help bring out the surrounding features. Also, longer exposures mean that the camera will spend less time processing the image and more time imaging the sky. Remember, lightning is fast!
  • Use the lock on the remote control cable to take multiple exposures. 99.9% of the images will have nothing of interest in them, so expect to take a lot.
  • Work from a safe location! Outdoors and near windows are not safe locations. Set up, lock the remote control, and get to safety!


  1. Excellent lightning shot! I've always wanted to take one of these. Thanks for the tutorial.