When it comes to landscape photography, shooting weather is one of the trickier things to capture. A sunny day? Sure, that’s not hard. But how about a storm — lightning strikes in particular? There are a lot of factors to consider, beyond the quality of your gear.
“Extreme” weather photographer Jim Reed has written an extensive guide on snapping bolts over at PetaPixel. Along with a DSLR with the “lowest noise … you can afford”, Reed recommends a quick lens as well:
But choosing a lens is subjective. Do you want to zoom in and create a close-up of a single lightning bolt or do you use a wide-angle lens to capture zigzagging bolts overhead? The faster the lens, 1.4, 1.8 or 2.8, the better for shooting in existing light conditions, but I have photographed lightning using much slower lenses at 4.5 and 5.6.
If you find your images are still turning out soft, despite good equipment, rain might be to blame, so you’ll want to take your photos as ahead of the storm as possible.
Reed also has some more general advice regarding focusing, which might help to keep in mind:
Always turn off the autofocus. When shooting lightning, you’ll want to use manual focus. Automatically setting your lens to infinity won’t always give you the sharpest image. Look for a distant light and focus on it. This will result in sharper-looking bolts. If you don’t have a distant light, have a friend walk at least [30 metres] away from the camera with a flashlight. Then focus on the lens of the flashlight.
For more specific information on camera brands and settings, hit up the PetaPixel piece below.