We are in the middle of the monsoon season here in Southern Arizona. Moisture comes up from the Gulf of Mexico and we get heavy rains, usually accompanied by thunder and lightning. I made two attempts to capture the light shows recently, and met with some success.
Lightning over Mt. San Jose. 55mm/2.8 Micro Nikkor, 1 minute at f/4.5
UAV and cloud lightning over Bisbee. 55mm/2.8 Micro Nikkor, 1.5 minutes at f/4.5. The light trail in the center of the frame is from what I believe was a UAV from Fort Huachuca. They seem to show only a white light.
On another night: Lightning strike over Huachuca Mountains. 35mm/2.0 Nikkor, 30 sec at f/8. “Huachuca” (pronounced wha-CHOO-ka) means thunder mountains, which seems appropriate
Second lightning strike over Huachuca Mountains. 35mm/2.0 Nikkor, 20 sec at f/8.
I used a meter-less Nikon FM that I’ve had since March, 1978, and Fujicolor 200 film.
If you look up lightning photography on the web, you see that exposure information is very vague. Aperture is set by how far away the lightning is. For ISO 200 at 20 miles or so, f/4 to f/5.6 was recommended. For the first two shots shown here, it was very dark out and I could afford to keep the shutter open for 30 to 90 seconds at f/4.5. The second night was different. There was a lot of cloud-to-cloud lightning that washed out the sky. The bolts were quite close, less than five miles, so I used f/8. Because of the cloud lightning I did not try for long exposures. I tried to keep the shutter open for 20-30 seconds, and then wound it and and tried again whether or not I had seen a bolt fly. I wasted a lot of film on shots that meant nothing.
I have not tried using a digital camera for lightning. Keeping the shutter open on B for the required long exposures would quickly deplete the battery, I’m sure.
The usual warnings about being out with a metal tripod during thunderstorm activity apply. I now have titanium rods and nickel-steel parts in both shoulder joints, and was acutely conscious of these warnings.
Thanks for looking. Please join me and add any lightning photos (and data) that you have.