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Photographing Lightning

Lesson 19 from: Innovative Techniques for Outdoor Photography

George Lepp

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Lesson Info

19. Photographing Lightning

Learn how to photograph lightning and how to take video of lightning storms.

Lesson Info

Photographing Lightning

So let's, talk about lightning it's happening this time of year, especially around band. I don't know if you get much lightning in this part of the world or not it's a little closer to the to the ocean here, but I was coming back from arizona or going through arizona at the time, and there was a cell that was just kicking down all kinds of lightning, so I stopped an overpass got out, put out the camera, and I have a thing called a, um lightning bug, and I have also a lightning trigger, so I set it all up and what it does in the middle of the day, the flash of the light and the infrared and radio signal, it comes out of a flash like that sets this thing off, and it fires a camera in the middle of the day and you can actually capture lightning. You don't have to wait at night and then open up the lens and let the record itself you can actually record it. So I put it out there and I took a whole series of pictures and then with lightning was going on a lot, and it was actually nine pictur...

es that I took or the nine that I kept here, and what I've done is I put them all together into one picture. This is maybe a fifteen twenty minute session on don't happen that often. That camera is on a tripod, it's not moving anywhere. So all of these images the base underneath, it stays the same it's, where the flashes are and where the clouds change but there is a blend mode in and photo shop. The older photo shop has it's called lighter color blend mode, and the newer photo shop is just called lytton. And if you have these things at all match, you bring them all into their you highlight all of them, and you hit the blend mode at the top and bingo, they all go together. We use this for all kinds of different things and knowing your blend modes I now refer you back to previous creative life programs about light room and about mostly in this case, about photo shop, and you could put this stuff together, and it just drops right in. So it really is a a wonderful way to work and it's no different, if some might say, well, that's cheating it's not because when we normally have shot lightning it's at dusk, we open up the camera for, like thirty seconds, and whatever strikes during that time or maybe it's two minutes or three minutes, we record all those pieces of lightning, and we think that it's all one moment it's not one moment is over a course of time and that's the same thing I'm doing, but it's in the middle of the day, and these new lightning trigger things make that possible. Now this is in bend from is a place called a pilot butte in the middle of sort of in the middle of town, and when there is lightning, I go up at the top of pilot butte, and I set up my cameras and everything with these triggers, and then I get back in the car and I watch all these people walking around and waiting for a big strike of lightning at the top of this hill, which is good chance, but anyway, the lightning trigger captures these. We've got three or four different lightning strikes, all within one shot looking over towards mount bachelor there's, some really big strikes when when evening that I was up there, I've converted to black and white because the colors didn't match that well, but those strikes were just massive in something like that and that's over the course of fifteen minutes, and I had those three cameras set up, and I wanted to do a lightning across the big panorama that that's my vision is to have a panorama with nothing but lightning going all the way across it and uh never happened that was always one camera or one and a half cameras worth I never got the third camera for that so someday I'll try that again I gotta find more friends with the same equipment so here I am doing video video is much easier way to catch for it, but I took the video and at the beginning is moving the cars are moving fast, I've spent up the video and then when I got to the lightning strikes I slowed down the video so now you see that everything's moving fast again and now when the lightning strikes I'll slow it down and I'll capture the lightning on those sixty frames per second so by playing a little bit with your little editing program, you could do some great things and show this lightning a little differently than maybe that you might have thought it would have been, but but video would capture that whole thing going on and it's maybe sometimes a better choice to do video than it is to try to capture it with this still, but these are the tools of the two there's the lightning bug and the lightning trigger ideas the lightning trigger for years lately I've been working also with a lightning bug which is less expensive and I can actually fire two cameras at the same time with it, it doesn't make any difference where this thing is pointed. If the lightning striking anywhere around you, it'll fire your camera. In fact, you get lots and lots of images with nothing in them because the lightning will strike over here and firing your camera. You're hoping it'll strike it right where it's going on. They're so keep keep these in mind if you want to do lightning pictures. If you live in some place that has a lot of lightning, the lightning bug and then there's the lightning trigger. So there are the websites. I have those lists that also in the notes, and this is a duel. You plug it into here and now you can run two cameras off of here that you need to cam records. In this case, I have to canon camera club records. I have actually run a nikon into canada at the same time so you can switch those out if you want to.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

George Lepp - Syllabus.pdf
George Lepp - Gear List.pdf

Bonus Materials

George Lepp - Innovative Techniques For Outdoor Photography - Notes.pdf

Ratings and Reviews


I watched the entire class, and found it to be a very negative experience - in contrast to all of my other experiences with Creative Live, which had been very good. The problem with this class was the instructor. Mr. Lepp, rather than giving us practical, useful information, and techniques for approaching the subject of Outdoor Photography, instead used his time to show off his seemingly endless array of incredibly expensive and cutting edge gadgetry. For the first half hour or so, Mr. Lepp seemed pleasant and interesting, but it quickly became apparent that this class was NOT about anything relating to the art of outdoor photography. Instead, it was basically a seminar highlighting exotic equipment for the 1%. I have well over $25,000 of photographic equipment, but the arena in which Mr. Lepp plays begins somewhere around the $100,000 mark, and then requires a staggering ongoing budget for chartering helicopters, hiring guides, and constant upgrades to remain on the bleeding edge of gadgetry and accessories. From his gyroscopic mounts to his 40" printer, Mr. Lepp has it ALL and continues to spend, spend, spend. I admire his deep pockets, but I would have appreciated some real insight and technique and useful knowledge on actually getting great shots. (And I must say... Mr. Lepp's work... did not impress me to the degree that other teachers on CreativeLive have.) I believe those giving positive reviews here were more or less wowed by the sheer magnitude of his extensive, well-funded travels and his off-handed way of revealing the endless contraptions and combinations of gear he uses. The passion here is clearly about the gadgetry, and NOT about finding an original and creative voice in the arena of outdoor photography.

R. Hetrick

Amazing class! I particularly loved the macro and how to correctly take panoramic photos sections. George was not only a great teacher but he was super funny too. Would be happy to take any of his future classes.


George really prepared a lot of information for his class. It is true, he does have a lot of expensive equipment and we may not be able to do some of the things he does with a smaller budget, but it is good incentive for us to plan for the future. He seemed to share new information constantly and stay focused and I was able to take a lot of notes. He talked about many kinds of equipment as well as software and websites he uses. I am pretty impressed that he is so up to date with recent technology. He especially loves macro/micro and stacking hundreds of images for minute focus on really large enlargements (for example, over 600 photos for one butterfly wing). That can get boring if you are not interested in doing that. I can take those tips and apply them to landscape photography though. I think it is more helpful for someone already doing outdoor photography and looking for new inspiration or new techniques as opposed to someone new to photography in general.

Student Work