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Lightning photography can capture milliseconds of the most powerful natural phenomena. Just be sure you’re at least 6 miles (or 30 seconds between flash and thunder) from the storm.

IN THESE IMAGES, lightning appears close up, often seemingly just a few city blocks away. Don’t let the images fool you though — pro lightning photographers let the lenses do the work, or shoot from relative safety inside vehicles or under cover.

As lightning strikes only last for an eyeblink, it’s also necessary to use long shutter times (up to 30 seconds or longer) or devices which can trigger the shutter when lightning is detected. Note then, that most of the images are not single instants in time, but composite images containing several individual lightning strikes over a given period.

The odds of actually being struck by lightning in the US over one’s lifetime are surprisingly high: 1 in 10,000. For information on lightning safety, check the National Lightning Safety Institute.

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About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • Carlo Alcos

    Unbelievable photography. The earth is amazing!

    • Fe Sanz-Alcos

      wow!!!!!

  • Jess Gannon

    Absolutely amazing photos!

  • Lee Sie

    Awesome Collection of Lightning shots!

  • Snuppe Ekblad

    Nicke, your photo of the lightning deviding the tree is the best ever :) all the other pictures including the lightning hitting the Eiffeltower are also fantastic!

    • Niklas Montonen

      Slight difference in the distance to the lightning…

  • Christopher Bean

    Fantastic!

  • Frank McMains

    Thanks for including my shot. There are some really stunning images here.

    • Kristin Basilica

      loved this…. kinda made me wanna go out and shoot lightning : )

    • Frank McMains

      Anytime you feel like going, let me know. You are also welcome to borrow my lightning trigger if you like.

    • Thor Mazda Kenneth

      Frank Mcmains : what equipment do you recommend for lightning /storm shooting ?

      am a newbie but I love taking pictures of everything and anyone ;-)

    • Frank McMains

      In general, I’d say a wide angle lens something like a 28mm on a full frame camera. Obviously a tripod as well. Then you have two options. You can buy a lightning trigger that will fire the camera when it senses changes in ambient light (I use the AOE Lightning Strike II) or you can just set your camera, via a shutter release cable, to take pictures one right after the other. The second method works just fine if there is a lot of lightning. The trigger is nice and saves a lot of wasted exposures but it’s not totally necessary. The most important thing will be your settings. You want to have a small enough aperture to prevent the intense brightness of the lightning from blowing out the image but you also want to let the shutter stay open long enough to soak up ambient light to fill the rest of your photograph. I generally start at around f/8 30″ ISO 100. Hope that helps!

  • Mark W. Mitchell

    Many good shots!

  • Mariana Martins

    Thanks a lot for including my shot!

  • Jonathan Provo

    if people are interested these are some lightning pictures I have taken as a starting photoenthousiast. I know I am not as good as these by far but thought you might like them.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsjernobull/6775323518/in/photostream

  • Jonathan Provo

    if people are interested these are some lightning pictures I have taken as a starting photoenthousiast. I know I am not as good as these by far but thought you might like them.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsjernobull/6775323518/in/photostream

  • Charles Freeman

    what photos? I got three out of 47…

    • Me

      Get better internet!

  • Paul Schwen

    nice!

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