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Shooting lightning without getting struck

Jason Werling • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:26 PM

Did anyone see last night's light show on Sandusky Bay? And I'm not talking about the fireworks and lasers out at Cedar Point.

There was a pretty good storm over Marblehead and a collection of cars watched the show from the Jackson Street Pier including myself and my camera.

I took a few frames from my Jeep and a few more while bracing myself next to a trash receptacle. My favorite photo (and one of the only ones that showed some actual lightning is below...

Photographing lightning can be fun, but it is also pretty dangerous. That may make it more exciting to some, but getting struck by lightning just doesn't sound like a good time for me.

Here are some tips if you would like to put your life in the hands of the odds of getting struck...

1) Shoot it from a distance- Last night was a perfect example of a storm far enough away to photograph. It wasn't raining in Sandusky and a wet camera is usually a broken camera.

2) Use a tripod- I braced myself at 1/5th of a second shutter speed out the window of my Jeep to take the above photo and then held the camera as steady as I could atop a garbage can for several other frames. But it is much easier to use a tripod. (Again, refer to tip #1, shoot from a distance because you are taking a metal object (a tripod) outside into storm-like conditions.)

3) Put a reference point in the photo- In the photos below, one I took ten years ago at Ohio University, I tried to set up somewhere where the surrounding area would highlight the lightning strike.

4) Use a slow shutter speed- Not everyone has an SLR (Single Lens Reflex Camera), but if you set up your point & shoot on a tripod and put it in night mode you may get the shot you are looking for.

5) Be careful- I am not telling you to go out and shoot lightning photos. This is my disclaimer — Sandusky Register chief photographer Jason Werling is not responsible for any actions you may take after reading this blog to put yourself or your camera in harm's way of Mother Nature.

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