Tips to photograph lightning in the daytime

It’s that time of year when afternoon thunderstorms are filling almost every day. I’ve usually been bummed out, wishing the lightning would wait a few more hours so it was dark outside, but that wasn’t happening. So when a thunderstorm was rolling through Salt Lake County, I opened up the garage and sat in the opening (mainly because I didn’t want to get soaked in the downpour) with my camera pointed to the sky above the house across the street.


I had, of course, my DSLR (Canon 60D) and the standard lens (18-135mm). I contemplated using my new 10-22mm lens, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it that wide with the neighborhood setting. I also had the Canon shutter release cable (RS60-E3) plugged into my camera. I used my Manfrotto tripod and left it on the lowest height so I could get a lower angle on the setting.


I switched over to manual mode, and using the built in light meter, I set it to 2″ with an f-stop of 22. I set the camera ISO to 100 so the sensor would be on the least sensitive setting. The house and tree across the street were properly exposed, so the lightning would show up as well – it it struck during the two-second exposure. I put the camera on manual focus, as it had a hard time focusing on the solid gray sky. To get a continuous shooting method, I would simply lock the trigger of the shutter release cable and it would take one two-second photo after another. Needless to say, I had two photos that had lightning and 427 photos that didn’t. That’s one way to fill up a 16-gig camera card.


photograph lighting bolt in daylight


At night, when you can go with a longer exposure, you probably wouldn’t have to take as many photos, and you would get a different look for sure. But I really liked how this photo came out, considering it was the first time I had actually captured lightning during daylight hours. And the automated setting on snapping consecutive photos, I plan to use that this coming weekend to try photographing some star trails (so I am hoping and praying for clear skies at night). I should also hope and pray that I don’t get eaten by any bears or other wildlife while sitting by a lake in the middle of the mountains in the dark of night. Maybe I’ll play some music so animals are deterred by the noise. 🙂

~signed, Carltonaut

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