Drive-In Lightning
Posted by: David Arnspiger on July 10th, 2015

So I am sitting at the Holiday Twin drive-in theatre on the outskirts of Fort Collins, CO. My wife and grandson are sitting in the back of the car with me and we are watching Minions and eating popcorn and candy. My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter are in the next car over.

We're about one third of the way through the film when I notice flashing occurring from behind us. I lean back and look behind me to see glorious bolts of lightning off in the distance. I went back to the movie, but in about 5 minutes they were much closer and much larger. I happened to have my camera with me, so I climbed out of the car and assesed the situation.

I didn't have a trigger cable with me, nor a tripod, so I grabbed a water bottle with a curved side and used it to hold my lens and angle me up towards the sky. I placed all of this on top of my car, and put my arm around it so I could press the shutter button. The camera didn't move and I was satisfied it was going to work.

I set my EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens to manual focus and the focus at infinity. I have been experimenting with my settings for lightning recently, and I like what I get with 10 second exposures at F10, 24mm and ISO 640.

I started firing away and after about 180 shots I felt like the best had passed. Thumbing through the images, I was pretty happy. Normally when I shoot this many images I get 5 to 10 good shots of lightning bolts. This time, I got 80. Not all gems, but 80 out of 180 is one heck of a hit ration for me. Ten second exposures probably increased my odds too.

I got home and did some quick processing in Lightroom to brighten the images and get the color space right. I hate when lightning shots are really red. I like the blues and purples instead.

These are my results. Hope you like them.