Process of photograph lightning

Last evening was the first time i encountered lightning scene while i was doing a personal photography project on a high ground at Bukit Batok, Singapore. I notice the lightning was occurring very frequently, why not try to capture this phenomenal moment since i did not try before.

Basic equipment i have that time:
-Tripod
-Camera
-Remote shutter release
-Wide angle or telephoto lens

PROCESS
Quickly set up my tripod, used a 70-200 F4 lens, mount it and adjust the composition i desire. Not sure how much time will the lightning keep striking. The camera setting was put to BULB mode, F/16, ISO 200 and expose it for 73 seconds. Below is the 2nd exposure result. My adrenaline starts to kick in!

shot 1

I changed to a prime wide angle lens and capture the scene again. Still in bulb mode, adjust camera exposure to F/13, ISO200 and expose it for 38 seconds. However i did like the walls on the side of my frame. Hence i decided to use 70-200 for more shots.

shot 2

Making correction during the process
Now am pretty sure the lightning is going to keep occurring at that particular area after observing how frequent the lightning strike. I re-adjust my composition a little more and shot a few frames landscape mode, realise i was missing out the lightning high up. I turn my camera to portrait/vertical to have more space on top. Over a short period the strikes of lightning start to slow down. I don’t want to expose my shutter for a long time. Hence i set my next exposure to F/8, ISO 320 and expose it for 35 seconds. Below are the most amazing result i got after my composition correction!

shot 3

shot 4
29 seconds exposure

Tips
Once you decides the composition, set your lens to manual focus. Auto focus might jump off or struggle to focus when the auto focus point is aiming at a dark spot in the night. How i get my focus was pointing the auto focus point on the transmitter tower, once it is fixed i push the button to manual focus on my telephoto lens.

Set your exposure time to around 20-30 seconds would be good, unless you know the lightning is striking so frequently, adjust your exposure time accordingly to your need.

Initially you need to conduct a few test shots to get your exposure correct, i share my setting here is not a guide line to follow but a reference for you to understand.

Editing lightning image
Post process is usually one of the fun part to let your imagination be as creative as possible, i transfer the images to Lightroom and did my tweaking.

shot 5
Original RAW files from my 5D Mark III which looks unexciting.

shot 6
Adjusted the white balance to my ideal final image. It looks more dramatic in this sense, making the lighting ‘pop”.

Stacking your lightning images
If you are lucky, you can get multiple lightning in a single exposure. Not all the time lightning occur so frequently in every few seconds. By stack up the images 3 & 4 in photoshop to get the dramatic result i want.

shot 7

Hope you like my experience sharing here.

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