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Make no mistake, lightning is extremely dangerous. It is the most unpredictable element of thunderstorms. The average person has about a 1 in 10,000 chance of being struck by lightning, but if you're intentionally going out into thunderstorms those chances increase dramatically. In the first half of the 20th century, an average of about 400 Americans died each year from lightning strikes. That number has decreased significantly with an average of 32 lightning fatalities per year since 2006. Much of this can be attributed to the National Weather Service's efforts on raising awareness about the risk of lightning strikes with their "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors" campaign. The general rule is, if you can hear thunder, you're close enough to be struck by lightning.
Your best shots will usually come from the outer edge of the storm. You really don't want to be shooting from the core of the storm, where all the rain is. You most likely won't be able to keep your lens clean enough to get a good shot. Your only option at that point is shooting out of your car. If you are under the anvil of the storm (where the lightning can sometimes be brilliant), there may be light to moderate rain present. In which case you can setup under an awning of some type, utilize an umbrella, or even setup your tripod in your car. The shot below illustrates anvil crawler lightning, and since it was raining at the time, I setup my camera on a tripod in my car and shot out of the passenger window.
The main difficulties of capturing lightning images are fourfold. Lightning is difficult to schedule, so you have to wait to find a storm to photograph. Depending upon your position relative to the storm, you need to find a vantage point to capture images that are reasonably clear (you need to be able to see the lightning from a distance) and have a perspective that forms a reasonable composition. More common vantage points are across a field, across a valley or from highrise building.
Next, you need to hope the lightning is not blocked or shrouded by rain (a common companion to lightning). This will interfere with your sightlines. Lighting is often at leading and trailing edges of storms, but if you are at the wrong end, the lightning will simply light up the sky.
A thunder storm was moving across Cape Naturaliste at sunset. I was lucky enough to capture these lightning bolts over Sugarloaf Rock while the sky was still filled with late afternoon light and a bit of colour from the sunset that had occurred just a few minutes before. 59ce067264