A certain amount of refinement has taken place since the first shots with my Nikon Coolpix 5000 in 2002 to now with the Nikon D700. However, the basic idea is to use the time as the storm approaches to prepare. Use the lowest ISO setting the camera permits, trying for the longest possible exposure. Unless the storm is distant, a wide angle is the best choice for lens. A tripod is absolutely a necessity.

The goal is to retain the feeling of night, while making the foreground visible to give the lightning strikes scale and context. Nothing is more boring than strikes against a black sky and a black fairground. All you see is squiggly lines. It is best to shoot RAW and do the colour balance in processing. If you must shoot JPEGs, try using the incandescent balance in your test shots, and see if this is the effect you want. It deals reasonably well with streetlights, and produces the profound blue in the sky. Daylight balance produces a gray sky and amber foreground. Once you have the settings and the storm arrives, trip the shutter each time the exposure is complete. Unless the storm is intense, there will be lots of frames to be culled. However, with long exposures, it is possible to get several strikes in one exposure.

Stay safe, stay dry and enjoy!

Lightning with the CP8400

The following exposures were eight seconds, ISO50 f/2.9. No noise reduction.

Lightning with the D300

30 seconds f/16 ISO 100

Lightning with the D700

25 Seconds, f/13 ISO100

©2010 Larry N. Bolch.