Lucky Lightning

There was a recent online discussion I had seen on the topic of Lightning photography. The word lucky was used to describe somebody else's shots.

Oh-oh.

Rightfully so, the shooter took issue with the statement. Responding with something to the effect of dragging one's butt off the sofa and into inclement weather.

This makes for a great photography tip: a) the key to excellent lightning photography is dragging one's butt off the sofa and into inclement weather. I will offer a few more tips in this post.

Lightning on Mackinac Island

Sunrise Lightning on Mackinac Island

Lightning on Mackinac Island

Sunrise Lightning on Mackinac Island

The previous two shots are old. Before the days of digital cameras and mobile devices with weather radar. In some ways, as a shooter, this is a little lucky. A unique situation where I was on Mackinac Island, during a storm at sunrise. And a camera with a dozen rolls of film.

Unfortunately, one of the shots was a little over exposed. On the original negative, this cannot be recovered. Now fortunately, the picture at Arnold's Coal Dock was a much better exposure. Not an exact science, because you never know how far away the next lightning strike with be. So again, a little luck.

Another photography tip: b) Shoot lightning in digital raw. This will give you a little extra latitude in exposure compared to shooting in JPG mode. If your digital raw image was over exposed by a couple stops, it is easy to dial it down with Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw software.

Lightning in Muskegon

Lightning over Lake Michigan in Muskegon

Lightning in Muskegon

Lightning over Lake Michigan in Muskegon

Lightning in Muskegon

Lightning over Lake Michigan in Muskegon

This next shot was in the middle of the day. The most difficult lightning shooting condition is daylight. Essentially, you want to limit as much of the day light through the lens so you can drag the shutter as much as possible. The downside is that you limit the lightning light also.

Lightning in Byron Center

Lightning in Byron Center

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning

Some more tips:

c) be safe
d) use a very sturdy tripod and a shutter release cable
e) my settings: I start off at 100 ISO and a 30 second shutter speed. My aperture could be set anywhere between 2.8 and 8.0. Aperture settings will be what experience and my gut tells me.
f) be lucky

These final two shots were on an occasion that I had enough warning that a big storm was coming. So I got my butt off the sofa and headed downtown. And I must say, I was a little nervous when I first stepped out of my car. Dorothy? Toto? is that you?

The first shot was taken at 70 mm. Perfect framing. 15 minutes and 20 shutters later, the second shot was taken at 200 mm. Perfect framing.

So I think the moral of the story is: If you get that killer lightning shot, it's okay to say, "yeah, I got a little lucky." If you're not the photographer, don't ever say, "you got lucky."

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning

Grand Rapids Lightning