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Lightning Over London

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Lightning over London 

In London recently we have had some really fantastic thunderstorm's. It started with a monster storm at three o clock in the morning that must have woke everyone up the South London and went on for about forty five minutes. I must admit I did consider jumping out of bed grabbing the camera and a tripod and going out there to give lightning photography a go. But the rain was so heavy both the camera and I would have probably drowned. 

I had never attempted Lighnting photography before so I decided to do some research on the best way to shoot lightning so that I was ready for the next storm, and there was some more storms being forecast in the next few days. 

I found lots of the "best way to shoot lightning " advice out there. The key points being low ISO, a long shutter speed of around 20 seconds, point the camera at a scene, push the shutter release and hope. A few days later when another storm started after dark and I was out there, with the camera on a tripod, a remote shutter release, and a large umbrella ready for anything.

The first thing I found was the 20 seconds shutter speed suggested was far to long. It maybe fine if you are in total darkness out in the countryside but I was in London with street lighting and houses with lights on and with the massive amount of light pollution that all big city's have 20 seconds did not work. To get a good ambient exposure I had to use a shutter speed of 3 seconds an aperture of f10 and 100 ISO.

Now it's just pure luck, it's open the shutter when you think there is going to be a lightning strike. I was getting 3 seconds for it to happen or not, and it was mostly not. I think I shot 35 frames and missed many good strikes and then I was lucky and captured the frame you see here. It looked good on the back of the camera and looked great after processing in Lightroom.

This was a good test to workout a good method of shooting. Next time I will find a better scene. Somewhere where I can see a lot more sky and no street lights. 

I was told of a really useful website, lightningmaps.org. This site shows you in real time where lightning strikes are happening with a delay of about 3 or 4 seconds. 

With this you can see a storm coming and be at your location setup and ready to shoot before it gets to you.

Here's a link to the lightningmaps.org site.

 

Important

Stay safe don't do what I did and stand outside doing your best to be a lightning  conductor. Standing next to a tripod and holding an giant umbrella in a electrical storm is not a good idea.

A safer place to be is in a car and shoot out of the window. That is what I will be doing next time we have a lightning  storm.

Now I have it all worked out we have not had a storm at night since then.But this is England and they say here if you don't like the weather wait a minute.

Author

Mark Shoesmith 

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