As one of the most violent and explosive forces of nature, lightning storms are always a unique challenge for most photographers. We have all seen incredible photos of lightning, and one may wonder how these images are captured so exceptionally well by photographers.
First and foremost is safety. Make no doubt about it but lighting is extremely dangerous, as well as the heavy rain and hail that usually accompanies it. Safety and prudence cannot be underscored enough when trying to shoot this incredibly potent phenomenon of nature.
Having said that, to capture lightning, you should first know where the action is happening. One of the surest ways is to monitor your local weather forecast. Two excellent websites to look into for a good heads-up on lightning activity would be the Weather Network and Weather Underground. After checking these sites and once you have a confirmation of a good (or bad) thunderstorm, ChaserTV and Wundermap are both excellent websites for following the storm’s progress on radar, getting a blow-by-blow account.
Now that you have your perfect storm, one rule of thumb as you set-up for that perfect lightning shot is to make certain you frame an image that would look great, with or without lightning. The moment you get a decent lighting strike, the photo will be already set-up to look good. As far as exposure goes, make adjustments as if you were shooting with a flash, in anticipation of the burst of light that comes with a lightning bolt.
These are exactly the principles followed by meteorologist Willoughby Owen who runs the Hamilton NZ Weather Station. He already has the first criteria down pat, which is to track down storms, easily done as head of a weather station. Being a part-time storm chaser makes it second nature to document these marvels of nature.
Owen journeys around the world to photograph elusive lightning strikes, and he does quite an excellent job at it as seen here.