Lightning will always be one of nature's most interesting phenomena and obviously a very interesting subject for nature and landscape photographers. It is therefore pursued by many photographers with different levels of experience.
With that said, we'd like to help the less experienced ones with a few essential tips.
Camera & Settings
Any camera with manual controls is ok, although we recommend a DSLR. Even an entry level model will do because of the increased control and flexibility. The correct settings are usually set on location following some simple principles. Thanks to systems like the Lightning Trigger®, the time spent with dealing with camera settings is reduced. However, while there is no fail- safe recipe, there are one or two guidelines to take into account.
The shutter speed should be somewhere between 1/15 to 1/4 second and ISO set at 100, or at minimum. Focusing should be done manually and the exposure should be set to single mode. This last setting is one of the key differences between shooting with the Lightning Trigger® and without one. Before these gadgets came along, a full storm could use up to 1,000 shutter releases often with minimal results.
Ideally, when shooting in daylight you should set your camera to Shutter Priority mode. The reason for that is the Lightning Trigger® can activate the camera's metering system and thus adapt exposure after each shot. It's pretty simple, especially since you don't have to make any settings on the trigger. Letting the gear work for you in this manner will allow you to focus more on angles and composition.
If you're shooting at night, go ahead and set the camera to full manual mode. Also have the focusing to manual. This will reduce lag before release. Even high end cameras and lenses have a longer response time in the dark. By setting the focus to manual you will eliminate this lag.
The aperture should be somewhere between f5.6 and f4, but again, this may differ depending on location. Generally you can rely on the single shot mode, as the Lightning Trigger® takes only microseconds to respond and the camera’s lag time is minimized. As we've mentioned before, this will save you a lot of shutter life if you are an avid lightning photographer.
Actual Weather Conditions
Photographers with an interest in lightning have to face some of the most hostile conditions nature can throw at them. With that said, storms can have different levels of intensity. Isolated thunderstorms are easier to photograph because all the action can be framed in a single field of view. Position yourself safely 6 or 7 miles across the field and use a zoom lens because obviously, lightning is unpredictable. If the storm is highly active, it will be harder to capture lightning since it may very well strike outside the camera's field of view. In this case, the best solution is to find a spot that allows for a wide angle composition It has to look good when photographed at 50mm or less.
This some of the most important advice regarding lighting photography. At the end of the day, there are two things to remember. Number one is that safety comes first. The other one is that you have to trust gear more than you used to. With gadgets like Lightning Trigger®, the real challenge focuses more on impressive composition and having balance within the frame. Believe us, that part sounds a lot easier than it is but the rewards are fantastic. Good luck.