Using Long Exposure to Shoot Lightning
Usually we get our weather here in Perth come in from the west or south, but around about this time of year, every now and then, we get weather come down from the north. As a landscape photographer, I always get a little excited, not because of the large clouds that form over the hills or the large drops of rain that start to fall, but because of the flashes of light that start to dance in amongst the clouds. This tropical weather produces the ideal conditions for tropical storms…I can’t think of a better time to grab my camera and get out shooting.
The radar tells me that the storms are forming over the hills and will be heading south. So I drive up to Toodyay which is situated in the hills of the Darling Range at the edge of the Wheat Belt.
While there’s still some light, I scout around the area for locations that will give me a good look out over the landscape as the storms pass by. When considering a good location I take into account three things; 1, vicinity to the lightning as it passes, 2. make sure nothing is obstructing the view of the storm, 3. and if possible a foreground with some interest, or perhaps a leading line to add to the image.
As the storm approaches, I discover a spot of the side of the road overlooking some farm land. I position the trip and set up the Nikon D800 camera with the 17-35mm lens. I don’t need polarisers or filters, just the lens hood to protect the front glass from catching any drops of rain…I don’t want any droplet makes on my final images.
Shooting lightning is a little like fishing. The longer you have you line in the water the likely you’ll be to catch something. Sae goes for lightning, the more you have the shutter open the more likely you’ll catch the lightning. I use a few different techniques to time the shutter with the lightning. First, I use the intervalometer, that I didn’t think that was very successful as I couldn’t control the timing. So I changed to a manual technique with the camera in mirror up mode and using my cable shutter to fire the shots when I thought the next lightning was about to strike.
When the light decreased, I change slightly again to a method using blub mode, which allowed me to slow the shutter down to 1 or 2 minutes, which enabled me to capture multiple lightning strikes for a more impressive image.