I love amazing shots of lightening. Perhaps because I’ve never managed to capture one? I have tried many times, but I always miss. At one of the workshops I attended recently, they mentioned a few tips on how to capture lightening, and then, not having any opportunities, I forgot about it.
But, at last, as I was sitting on the couch reading the instructions for my new 5D Mark III the other evening, a brilliant flash lit up the sky. I grabbed the tripod and set my camera up on the balcony, attempting to remember those tips.
I tried a low ISO with a small aperture and a very long shutter speed. I tried a high ISO with a small aperture and a fast shutter speed. Then I remembered the suggestion to set the shutter on bulb (stays open until you close it). Of course, I hadn’t gotten that far in the instructions yet and the bulb setting isn’t where it was on my 40D, so I went with 30 seconds.
This led to several images that looked like it was daylight out except for the streaks of the car lights.
You may have noticed by now that none of the photos in the gallery actually contain any lightening. At least not obvious lightening. I think part of the problem was that the lightening was so far behind cloud cover that it wasn’t bright enough to make a huge difference in the exposure. While the clouds lit up like paper lanterns to my eye, the difference in light over a 30 second exposure was too subtle for my camera.
This theory led to me remembering another tip.
The tip was to cover the lens with a piece of paper or your hand and uncover it only when the lightening flashes. In case you were wondering what the dark shadow is over some of my shots, that’s my hand. Apparently, I didn’t actually cover the entire lens, so I have some fun finger shadows. I can see this turning into a whole new style of shooting. Look forward to many photos with animal shadows cast over them in the future!
I thought if I could block all light until the moment when the lightening was flashing, maybe the difference would be great enough to capture the flickering clouds.
I think I need to try this again with a different way of covering the lens to see if my theory has any merit.
Another thing I would like to try is shooting lightening from out in the country where there is little ambient light. The street lights in my neighborhood contribute to the problem, I believe.
I googled shooting lightening to see what other tips I could find. The biggest one I hadn’t considered before–and perhaps the skill I most lack–is to be patient.
I guess I was secretly hoping my new camera would magically solve these kinds of difficulties for me. Next time, I’ll upgrade the photographer instead of the camera.