Lightning is quite simply a marvel of nature. While it does carry with it an appreciable potential for destruction, we can’t ignore our fascination with lightning. It’s a beautiful phenomenon and, as such, easily lends itself to being photographed.
Lightning photography, however, can be challenging for the following reasons:
- There is a lot of guesswork involved due to the random nature of lightning flashes. You never know exactly where in the sky lightning will appear, how long a single strike will last, or how bright it will be. No matter how skilled a photographer you consider yourself, lightning is a subject that will force you to rely on luck to some degree.
- There are no do-overs, no mulligans when shooting lightning. If you don’t get it right on your current outing, you will have to wait until the next storm to try again.
- Lightning is a point-source subject, meaning its thin lines create very bright highlights with hard edges surrounded by strong shadows. This scenario is rather demanding on a camera’s/lens’ optical and focusing capabilities.
- Lightning can — and often does — strike twice. And about 2000 people per year are killed by lightning. Yes, it’s a small percentage in a global context, but just remember you’re always at risk when shooting lightning.
With all that in mind, on to the fun stuff.