How to photograph lightning at night

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Taking pictures of lightning during a storm is a game of luck and patience that is usually left to the more advanced photographers. It requires a few extra pieces of equipment, a keen eye, and like i said before: patience. Use these steps to insure better chances of catching one of these split second events.

Things You'll Need

  • Film camera
  • Tripod
  • Shutter release cable with button
  • ASA100 film
  • First, the storm should only be a thunderstorm, not a complete downpour of rain. Taking your camera out into extremely wet conditions is not advised.

  • Next, locate an elevated area with a clear view of the area of sky the storm is located in.

  • Attach your camera to the tripod, and point it toward the area of the sky where you have witnessed the most recent lightning activity.

  • Next, attach the shutter release cable to your camera.

  • Now set your camera's focus to infinity so that distant objects are in-focus. This is when the lens is retracted all the way toward the base.

  • Then set your shutter speed to B. In this setting the shutter stays open as long as you hold the shutter button down.

  • Then set your aperture to f/8.

  • Now press the shutter release button on the cable and hold it down until lightning strikes.

  • If lightning does not strike within one minute release the shutter button and advance the film, the frame has been over-exposed.

  • If lightning strikes during this one minute time frame simply release the shutter button on your cable and advance to the next frame for hopes of another successful shot.

Tips & Warnings

  • ASA100 film is generally the best choice for taking pictures of lightning, as the film allows for long exposures in dark environments.
  • Patience is a virtue when taking lightning pictures. If you get one or two good lightning photos out of a roll of film you're doing very well.
  • Fast moving clouds don't work well with long exposures, they blur in the photo. Slow moving clouds make better backdrops that don't distort the image.
  • When taking pictures of lighting, keep a safe distance between yourself and possible lightning magnets, such as radio antennas and power lines.
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