Thursday, September 1, 2011


After what started out as a fairly slow summer has accelerated into a lot of shooting over the last month.  I will slowly release some recent shoots as my clients get a chance at first release.

Last night I did some personal shooting, something I really love.  Lightning.

Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember staring out the window watching lightning storms.  Once, I got older, I would drive down to the beach just to see a storm roll in off Lake Huron.  Now, with the photo bug, it is almost pathological.  Last night, my wife kicked me out the door to go shoot.  I might not be that pleasant to be around when I am "missing" a good storm???

The interesting thing about last night was it didn't look that impressive on the radar, but I could hear the constant rumble of thunder and that inspired me to give it a try.  I am glad I did.  I had a blast!!!

More often than not (with my limited experience) good electrical storms come in off the lake like a wave.    A straight line front rolling over land with short burst of intense weather.  Last night was different, it was more like a streamer.  A line of rain that kept coming off the lake.  This was good.  This gave me more time to set up.

Because I was not originally inspired by the radar, I was off to a slow start and wasn't sure where I wanted to be to be ahead of the storm.  Down by the lake was out of the question.  It was already happening there.  So, I drove inland and after about 20 min I was finally ahead of it.  But, this isn't where I would normally go.  I wasn't sure what I was going to us for a foreground.  Driving aimlessly, all of a sudden I found a likely spot.

Capturing an image of a lightning bolt is actually pretty easy.  A good place to start is 30" with an aperture of f/5.6 and ISO 200.  A stop either side of there depending on how close the storm is will put you pretty close.

The neat thing is that lightning exposes itself.  Leave the shutter open as long as you want, each successive bolt will appear out of the darkness of your frame.

Generally, a lightning bolt on it's own is not that interesting.  Give it a recognizable foreground and you have magic.  City skylines, iconic landmarks and the like all work well.

What to bring: a tripod, a raincoat (for the camera), a flashlight (if you can't operate all your functions in the dark), a smart phone to keep checking to local radar and where the storm is moving, and a lens of your choice.  I use my 70-200mm most often, but have used my 300mm and my 20mm.

Finally, please remember to use some common sense.  Choose your location carefully.  Don't stand in the middle of a field.  Don't stand under the tallest tree.  Don't stay at your location until the storm is right on top of you.  You might not like the result.

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  -1 stop applied in RAW conversion

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  -2 stops applied in RAW conversion

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