lightning photograph "First Sighting"
image © Robert Luis Chavez

First Sighting...
The dramatic leading edge of a thunderstorm
was captured in White Lakes New Mexico


Standing under a thunderstorm with a tripod is not the safest thing to do. Experts say If you can even hear thunder, even far away thunder, it's really not safe to be outside. Lightning can travel miles through the air far away from where the actual storm is, that's where stories about a "bolt from the blue" come from. According to the "experts" If you want to be truly safe from lightning you would never try to photograph it. Well, if you want to be safe from plane accidents you would never fly either. In the real world we take risks all the time, and we usually make those decisions based on relative degrees of risk.

Accepting that lightning photography will always have some degree of risk, we still want to avoid the most dangerous situations. I never stand out in a storm if it's raining on me or if there are clouds above - even small clouds unconnected to any thunderstorm can unleash a random bolt when there's alot of electricity in the nearby clouds. In these uncomforatble and dangerous situations, I simply use my car as a rolling platform and shoot from inside the car using a window mount.