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Guide to......lightning photography


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  • Location: Aviemore
  • Location: Aviemore


    Hello all, taking photos of Lightning is not as hard as you think, composing a photo is harder and requires practice and a little thought :p

    Let me make this very importaint point: YOU CAN ONLY SHOOT LIGHTNING IN THE DARK! If you have seen a daylight shot of lightning which I have its eigher a lucky shot! or lightning has fired several times down the same path, I dont know of any electronic gagets that are quick enough to activate your camera to get the shot.

    Taking a great lightning shot requires your chosen T-storm to be photogenic if it wont smile for you theres not much you can do, if all you have is CCs it wont make a very dramatic shot, However some spider lightning and forks which show themselfs can look very nice. :D

    Unless you have a high end digital camera it will be hard to catch lightning and even then I remain unconvinced that digital will catch lightning as well as film, the real magic of lightning photograthy is that its the lightning its self which makes the picture all you do is point your camera in the right place! as lightning is a fantastic light sorce it will paint its self on your film.

    Heres what you need! A 35mm SLR MANUAL camera with a "B" or "BULB" SPEED SETTING this will as long as the release is pressed will keep the shutter open, my recommended 35mm SLR is the OLYMPUS OM1/OM1N/OM1MD these cameras are top quality and do not require a battery to make them work as they have a mechanical shutter, one of these little gems will cost you between £80-£175 depending on condition and are widely avalable in most second hand camera shops, dont forget these cameras, I was selling myself 25 years ago! lol.

    Ok so you have a camera, (FILM) I use fuji print film 100asa, you need a slow film speed not a fast one! if you use 400asa the nightime background will soon become light :D

    TRIPOD AND CABLE RELEASE You must have these, thet will help frame the shot and stop any unwanted movement when you are "OPEN"

    TRANSPORT Its no good waiting for a decent Tstorm to come to you! get out there and go after it! perhaps thats why some of us call ourself STORM CHASERS?

    A THUNDERSTORM!!!! Oh yessssss you need one of these, heres what I do -------- Ok I position myself so that my T-storm is passing right to left or left to right not coming towards me (although sometimes you have no choice) and certainly not going away from you! Once i'm in position I set up, you should check that your film is correctly loaded before leaving home "TIP": gently rewind WITHOUT PRESSING THE FILM RELEASE BUTTON the slack on the spool when you feel resistance stop, when you wind the film on you will see the rewind handel turn as the film advances so you know its ok!! make sure your lens is wide open ie the small F STOP number ie F1:8 F2 F2.8 F3.5 depending on your lens, big zooms are no good for lightning unless you have one that cost as much as a house! Sorry "fastlane"!! I myself use a small 28-90mm lens which has captured all my best stuff!. I make sure my camera speed is set to "B" OR "BULB" place it on tripod and attach cable release.

    NOW LETS TAKE A PIC Watch the T-storm and the focal point of he lightning aim your camera in direction of the most frequent strikes and try to have something in the foreground like a church a building or a tree, now count the seconds between strikes for instance 20 secs as a ball park figure so I know roughly that my next strike is due around then Tstorms are like FLASHGUNS they charge up then fire off! its not exact but will give you an idea, ok so FLASH! Lightning has fired im counting 1234 ect when I get to 10 I open my shutter--thats 10secs of exposure I have safed and hopefully FLASH! yep THANKYOU VERY MUCH I GOT THE SHOT! You can place a black card in front of your lens as well to reduce exposure between shots equally as well, dont worry about waisting shots if you get a big CC then close and wind on and open again expect to waist 90% of your shots it dont matter because its great to capture lightning for the first time.

    OK hope this all make sense if you dont understand it email me, DONT FORGET LIGHTNING SAFTEY, DONT STAND UNDER TREES DONT STAND NEAR FENCES ETC ETC ETC ----- READ THEM!!! If its really active out there get in your car and move futher away one rule that WARREN FADLEY uses is "IF YOU'RE IN THE RAIN YOU'RE TOO CLOSE" it has served me well and its bloody difficult taking pictures in the rain as well!! Take care, chase safe and lets see some pics! STEVESTORMS

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