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.
San Tan Mountains, AZ
Satellite imagery shows that only a quarter of all lightning actually strikes the ground. Most is cloud to cloud. Once lightning does strike the ground, however, there can be multiple “return strokes,” causing the lightning bolt to appear to flicker.
Volcanic eruptions produce their own lightning in a weather phenomenon known as a “dirty thunderstorm.” Science is just beginning to study how static charges are generated from collisions of rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in the volcanic plume.