How exactly does one catch that ultra fast lightning bolt on camera? I have been struggling with this for a couple of months now and last night I finally figured out how to do it.
I have read tons of articles on this subject and there are a mentions of quite a few ways to do it. These include the advice to sit and wait (hope you are lucky), to get a noise activated trigger etc etc etc.
I finally gave up on reading and just started experimenting. Here is what I have learnt:
1 – You will get the best lightning shots when it does not rain! The rain causes a faded effect and the bolt does not show well.
2 – You need good equipment, I used a tripod, my Nikon D5100, 18-55mm lens and a remote shutter trigger.
3 – Patience, and a lot of it! Lightning strikes are random and therefore you need to able to sit around for a long while and be ready to snap at any moment.
Ok, so know that is covered, what now? Here is what I did.
First – I focused on where I believed the most strikes were. I then set up my camera and tripod and pointed it towards the area. (You will see that in my photos that they do not have a wide view of field. I was actually standing on my balcony when i took these photos.)
I then set my camera to manual settings: ISO 100, 15 second exposure, F4.5. I also set my focus to manual. (Easy tip on focusing in the dark. Get a light spot of some sort in your live view display. Zoom in on that spot as far as possible. The light will look smudged. Now gently adjust your focus ring until the light spot is nice and crisp. switch of live view and leave the focus ring alone.)
These were my first settings and I soon saw that the 15 sec exposure did not work. I t captured too much light and destroyed the images. Then I went to bulb settings. With my trusty trigger in hand I eagerly awaited the next lightning strikes. I started timing at random times and as soon as the lightning struck, I released the button. This too did not work well because the light was not enough for the strike too show properly. So I then experimented further and saw that if you wait 2 second after a lightning strike before releasing the trigger – the lighting is perfect!
I then saw that the lightning bolts were a bit fuzy – so I set my F to F8.0 and that seemed to clear up the image very nicely!
So there you are – Tripod, decent camera, trigger – line up the shots, focus manually, press trigger, wait for lightning, wait 2seconds and release trigger.
I you want to have some more fun, check what i did with the images. I shot about 20 decent lightning strikes and decided to combine them into one photograph. With software like -Startrails, you can combine all your images into one. This is what I ended up with.
Happy Shooting! You can also follow me on Goolge+.