Storm Chasing Photo Workshop Day 2: How To Take Great Lightning Photos
“We’re in the Thunder Zone!” someone yelled across the cactus as the sky lit up directly above us, letting out a low, menacing rumble. Raindrops hit my skin and the air flashed bright white. “Time to go! Get in the van!”
Bonnie, here, coming to you on Day 2 of our Storm Chasing Expedition in Tucson, Arizona. It’s monsoon season and the storms are a-brewing! Last night we caught our first one.
As we sped along the highway, the sky lit up left and right. Bolts of lightning cracked through the clouds. Most people try to avoid lightning storms… but not us! We’re the crazy ones, turning our van toward the action.
They say if you can hear thunder, technically you’re close enough to be struck by lightning.
But the cool thing is, you don’t need to be close at all to take great lightning photos. Here are a few shots we got from a safe distance:
They say a bolt of lightning can carry up to a billion volts – all in a split second. It’s impressive, but it happens fast, so you have to be ready.
To get these shots, it definitely helps to have someone who knows how storms work, so you can get to the right spot. Our instructor, Kristen Bentz, found us just the right spots. She then set us up on our tripods and told us to set our cameras to the “bulb” setting, with a low ISO and an aperture around f/8.
That way, you can leave your shutter open as long as it takes to get a good bolt. It’s kind of like fishing. You cast your photographic “net” and wait for something good to come along. When it does – it’s the biggest thrill!
Kristen has sold her lightning shots as fine-art prints, and she’s won a number of contests with them, too, bringing in thousands of dollars.
If you can catch stuff like this, there’s definitely a market for it. Just make sure you stay out of the Thunder Zone!
We were lucky with our timing on this shoot. But it sometimes happens that you get to your shooting site and the storm has moved on (as happened to us next day). In which case, it’s time to get creative.
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