Shooting in stormy weather can produce some great shots, but you need to know a few things before you start hitting the shutter button.
Firstly, be very careful if there’s thunder and lightning as this can potentially be very dangerous for you and your equipment. Make sure you are a safe distance away from the storm and don’t stray too far away from your car or home, just in case. It’s always worth reading up on lightning safety tips and if it’s possible, consider shooting from inside.
As you’ll increase your chance of capturing lightning if you use a longer exposure, a tripod will be needed to stop shake spoiling your shots. If your camera has a Bulb setting, and you have a way to keep the shutter open, use this method to increase your chances further. If not, around a 30 second exposure should be fine.
Storms can occur at any time of day but trying to use longer exposures during the day can lead to overexposed skies so wait for an evening storm when the sky’s darker.
The process of shooting storms can be a bit hit and miss, however, as Pete mentioned in a previous article, you can determine roughly when to fire the shutter by working out the direction of which the storm is moving.
Pete said: “In nature, light travels faster than sound, so lightening strikes first followed by thunder, but us photographers can reverse the process (wait for thunder then count the time between that and a lightening strike) to time a shot and predict roughly when lightning will strike.
When you hear thunder count in seconds the gap before the lightning strike(s). If after the next rumble the lighting strike’s quicker, it’s likely that the storm is moving towards you and strikes will become more frequent until it passes over.”
To capture lighting, you need patience. Set your camera up on a tripod and aim it at where the storm seems to be. Look where the lightning appears and set your camera up facing that general area as lightning tends to strike intermittently in the same area. You should use a small aperture, f/16 or f/22 if possible. Use a long exposure as mentioned earlier to increase your chances of capturing lightning. You may find you need to focus manually as auto focus can struggle in dark conditions.
You’ll need a piece of card to cover the lens which you can remove when you think lightning’s about to strike and hold back in place when it’s happened. Timing is everything but after a few strikes, you should get the hang of it.
It isn’t all about lightning though, storm clouds can also make very provoking photos too. To add more interest, use objects such as trees on the horizon line. This will also add scale to the shot, further enhancing the size of the storm clouds above.
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