Lightning Photography

Storm chaser Michael Bath has been photographing severe weather for almost twenty years. He’s archived hundreds of his beautiful photos of thunderstorms and lightning on his Web site, Lightning Photography

LightningHere are some of his Lightning Photo Tips

I used a Nikon FG20 35mm SLR camera with 100 speed print film until June 2004, and have since bought a Nikon D70 digital SLR camera. The D70 was a big change for me but I’m glad I waited to get an SLR digi rather than the hybrid / compact types that have less control. The D70 has an 18 – 70mm kit lens and I have since purchased a Sigma 70 to 300mm lens. However I mostly use the old manual 50mm lens for lightning as it has aperture to F1.8. With digital, it is a big advantage being able to see lightning shots as soon as you’ve taken them – so adjustments to exposure can be made while the storm is still active. Of course the biggest advantage is that it costs nothing and you see the results immediately. There is one negative, digital is less forgiving with over exposed lightning photos than film.

Despite lightning itself being very bright, the more overall scene light you let in, the better the picture (in most cases), so use low F settings. Zooming in on distant lightning often produces disappointing results, and I usually don’t bother.

For both night and late afternoon/early evening lightning you will need a camera that can be put on a tripod and have a cable/remote shutter release (or very steady hands). Also, for night lightning the camera really needs manual control of aperture and exposure times.

We may not have tornadoes to chase here in Australia, but some off the photo’s from up North look amazing, I can understand the fascination. Head over to his site and have a look.

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