Photo: When lightning strikes

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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.


  1. Grrrrrl, it is NOT easy to get a lightning shot so KUDOS! Seriously!!!! Great shot!!!! Your skills did you well.

    • Thank you Lisa! Was so chuffed when I looked back at what I managed to get. Probably my best shot of the entire month!

  2. Wow!!! that is definitely an awesome shot Jaina!!! Thank you for the tips that was brilliant!

    • Thanks, Janine! Shock and awe was the general feeling the moment I realised I got the shot 😀

  3. 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.

  4. […] This is definitely my crowning glory for the month. My second time lightning watching in Bahrain. And after just an hour of standing on the balcony, I get THIS! Want to know how I managed it? Here are a few things I learned about taking photos of lightning. […]

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