Photo: When lightning strikes


Not long ago I spent a good hour standing in my balcony desperately trying to take a photo of some lightning. Not just some lightning, but an epic lightning and thunderstorm that was going on above my head.

It didn’t go so well. The best I could do was, well, this:

Lightning - the first attempt

One of those blurry could be almost anything shots. Heck, I could have faked that better in Photoshop.

The other night, as I was watching the BBC4 series, Sound of Cinema: The Music that Made the Movies (Which is excellent and I urge anyone who enjoys film or music to watch.), the night sky lit up. More accurately, it looked like someone threw a bolt of electricity on the building. Looks like there was another lightning storm.

After my last attempt at trying to get a shot of a lightning bolt failed pretty badly, I didn’t think I’d want to spend an hour or more out on the balcony waiting to capture something. For one thing it was a whole lot more humid than it was before and a million times more dusty. But then A gave me a nudge over Skype to take a shot at it. That was enough.

While I wasn’t feeling too hopeful at getting a shot, owing to my last effort. This time I sort of knew what I was doing and had a game plan. I knew that I needed my camera to be in manual focus. After all, I don’t want the camera to try to focus as I’m taking the shot – I’ll end up missing the bolt of lightning it! Being in manual mode and shooting out into the dark skies also meant I had to manually focus on the furthest point I could see through camera.

Shutter mode was my mode of choice. I need to have full control over my shutter speed. It needs to be fast – the lightning is pretty fast. And it’ll light up the sky, so I don’t need to worry too much about having an under exposed shot.

Finally, I had my camera in live view. I didn’t want to spend the whole time I was out there waiting, with the camera smooshed up against my face. With live view I can hold it away from me, and have a good view of what was going on around me.

After a little bit of tweaking the exposure, I had my settings read. Next thing? Just wait. Pre-empting the lightning is pointless. You can’t predict it! So instead I waited until I saw a couple of flashes, pointed my camera in the general direction, and just held the shutter button down for a few seconds at a time, at regular intervals.

While there were a couple of almosts…

Almost lightning shot

Almost lightning shot

I finally got what I was waiting for

Lightning - the money shot

The money shot! Actually what I said was “fuck yeah!”

Honestly? It was luck. I just happened to be pointing the camera in the right direction and had the shutter button down at the right point. But, had I not had my previous run of bad luck and not learnt what settings I’d needed for my camera, this opportunity would have fallen down the wayside.

8 thoughts on “Photo: When lightning strikes

  1. Wow, that last one IS the money shot! I think I tried this once, back in the day when I had a feeble Pentax p&s. Abysmal results. Bleh.

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