HOW TO … Take Lightning Photos!

A thunderstorm can be intimidating, but also very beautiful to look at. Taking pictures isn’t easy, as you never know when and where the next flash will appear. Long exposures and a wide angle can help you capture this natural phenomenon.

Please keep in mind, that this is only my approach and I’m not saying, it’s the right and only way to do it! I’m sure that there are several ways to capture lightning. But still I want to share my knowledge, as it might be helpful for all beginners out there! smile

I will tell you in detail how I set up my camera in Koh Ta Kiev to capture this image:

star TRIPOD

Put your camera on a tripod or on steady ground where it can’t move. I didn’t had my tripod with me, so instead I used a simple table. Not the best, but what else was there?! smile The more important it was to keep calm myself. As it was nighttime, no one else was around, so at least they couldn’t affect my mission. wink

star SELF-TIMER OR REMOTE CONTROL

When you push the shutter button, you might risk slight vibrations again, that you’d want to avoid. So instead use a remote control, or – if not available – the self-timer of your camera.

star FOCUS

Because it was around midnight and there was almost no light left, I chose to set the focus manually to infinity. The autofocus wouldn’t work anyway because it’s missing light. Don’t forget to set the focus to manual before moving the focus ring! Otherwise you could ruin your lens!

star ISO

I preferred not to have too much noise in the image, but I knew I could reduce it afterwards. Therefore I set it to 2000. Still enough to make details of the lighting itself visible.

star LONG EXPOSURE

I started by setting the shutter speed to the longest exposure possible, which is 30 seconds on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This gave me a big enough time span to capture one flash. Even though they don’t even last a second, but you never know when the next one is going to occur!

star APERTURE

Then I set the aperture to 11. You might consider going even higher (like 16 or 22), provided that there is enough natural light available. For a landscape photo like this you want to get as much depth of field as possible.

Above you’ll see the result straight out of camera. In post-production I enhanced the contrast and changed the color temperature to an atmospheric magenta tone. Additionally I reduced the noise as the ISO was quite high. All changes had been done in Adobe Lightroom only.

Any questions? Please ask! smile



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