Lightning in East Texas

Becky and I were flying standby and coming back from our trip in Europe. We had been bumped from a couple of flights and were desperate to get home. So we took a flight which ended in Little Rock, AR rather than Dallas, TX. On the drive to Dallas there was quite the electrical storm. Since I shot my first picture of lightning in Germany, I have wanted to give it another go. This was the perfect opportunity. I pulled off the highway onto a secondary road and drove about a mile before pulling off to the side. Because we were flying standby our checked baggage, including my tripod, were already in Dallas waiting for us – not good when you want to use it before you get to Dallas. So, I improvised. I used the trunk of the rental car and my camera strap for leveling. Here is what I was able to shoot.

Image 9325 possibly the best un-edited photo of the event.

I took about thirty photos playing around with a variety shutter speeds (time lapse), ISO and apertures. All images used my 50mm lens with a UV filter. This one is probably the best one unedited.

There were three things which were hard to balance during this shoot.

  • The blinking hazards from the car – the yellow flashers on. This essentially painted the foreground of my shots with a yellow orange.
  • The bright flashes of lightening – There were quite a few really intense bolts of cloud-to-ground lightning this made it hard to set the light levels correctly. If I was set up to make clear shots of small bolts of lighting (meaning with a high sensitivity to light) then images would white out when there was a big flash.
  • Using a UV filter when shooting lightning – In several of my images a light green bolt of lightning ascends from the ground. I have read that this is caused by a reflection in the lens caused by using a UV filter. You can sees this in the unedited photo below.
9329 Unedited.

Unedited photo showing some bleaching/white-out, the orange painting of the foreground and the green bolt.

So I was showing my friend Josh my most recent shot and he popped the RAW image into Lightroom and adjusted a few of the sliders and we ended up with the image below.

IMG_9329 with corrections

Here is the same image as above, but after making some corrections in Lightroom.

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