I took a trip over to Arizona earlier this year to capture the majesty of severe lightning storms during the monsoon. This is a night time strike taken near the border with New Mexico in a town called San Simon. Night lightning is relatively easy to capture the hardest part being the focus. I usually look for any feature that can be seen in the distance such as lights in houses, on antenna etc and then use live view on the back of my Canon in order to manually focus. I set ISO to 100 and then aperture from f/5.6 to f/11 depending on the brightness of the storm. This is just a judgement based on looking at the strikes. It’s not complex – 5.6 for dim, 8 for normal and 11 for bright.
Then, using a wired remote I open the shutter, wait until there is a strike and then close the shutter and reopen it straight away. It might only take a second, it might take 20. If there has been no strike for about 20 seconds, I close and reopen the shutter anyway. This keeps noise levels down. I check the first few for focus and adjust as required. Also look to see if the light is washing out the pixels next to the strike – if it is, go down another stop to control this.
Once that is done you just stand up and enjoy the storm while closing and reopening the shutter after each strike.
The hairs that accompany the main strike are there only for the very start of the strike however, because your shutter is already open you catch them. You normally don’t’ see these in daytime shots.
A tripod is essential and you may need some weight attached to it as it is often windy around the storms.
Kit: Canon EOS 7D EF 15-85 10 seconds @ F/5.6
More of my photos can be seen at FLICKR.