I really like photographing fireworks. Fireworks are ephemeral and spectacular. They’re there and gone in a brilliant flash of color.
The only thing better than photographing fireworks is photographing lightning. While it is even more ephemeral and spectacular than fireworks, it is also more unpredictable. Lightning is a one-of-a-kind challenge. You never know when or where you will see it and you never know what it will look like.
Photographing lightning is not without its hazards and that is not only part of the challenge, but perhaps some of its charm. Lightning is tremendously powerful and not to be trifled with. Stand in the wrong place and not only will you not get the photograph, but it just might end your life.
I have been close enough on a couple of occasions to have my hair stand on end (yes, it really does happen) but never while photographing it (once in a car, driving and once as a child when it struck a tree outside my window).
If you’re going to photograph lightning, please do it safely. If you can hear the thunder, you are in striking distance. Don’t be fooled by counting. For what you need to know about lightning, visit the National Weather Service Lightning Safety site.
In the meantime, enjoy a few of my favorite lightning images. All of them were taken from my covered patio at my home in New Mexico (I’m still trying to find a good, safe shooting spot here in Colorado). I used a tripod and a cable release, set my lens opening to f/8 or f/11, manually focused to infinity and used the bulb setting. When we had a lot of lightning, I just shoot as it goes. Most nights, though, I opened the lens and left it open until I got a strike or about 20 seconds passed. And when the lightning got too close, I went in the house (I’ve also shot from the garage before).