Lightning is a challenging thing for photographers, but the satisfaction of catching a bolt can’t be beat! Here are my settings and equipment for lightning photography:
- Tripod, obviously ;)
- Remote release that can be locked to re-fire the shutter, or hold it open.
Your settings are a sweet spot that you will have to determine based on the kind of lightning that you’re trying to get. I use tungsten for my WB because it gives the lightning that great bluish glow, but that’s just a personal preference.
My ISO is typically quite low – unless the lightning bolts are small and faint. A high ISO will just shoot you in the foot if you catch a really dramatic one though – your shot will blow out, so beware!
My shutter – ah, here is the trick! Trying to anticipate lightning is a one way street to a drinking habit, so
- I set my shutter speed to 1/10 of a second
- Position the camera where the action is,
- Put on a wide angle lens so I’m capturing as much of the sky as possible…
- and then I lock the shutter.
Locking the shutter will keep it firing at regular intervals, at high speed without you having to touch your camera. Then you wait. It’s kind of like fishing. When the lightning happens, there is a really good chance your shutter was open. Afterwards you search through your card and sift out all the winners. This bit is like Christmas ;) Best of all, you’re free to enjoy the show and not worry about your camera. Make sure you’ve got a high speed, high capacity camera card and extra batteries!
I feel obligated to say this bit – lightning can be dangerous. Don’t stand near hydro towers in a really big storm. Don’t be the only thing standing in a massive, empty field. Keep your camera dry. If it’s really humid out, pack your camera case with those silica gel packs you get in your shoebox – it will draw out the moisture when you put your camera away. Springtime brings great storms – good luck!