Lightning photography is one of the industry’s blossoming niches, thanks to the advent of smarter technology for cameras and accessories. The sudden bolts of electricity are undoubtedly dazzling subjects. You and your audience will be captivated by this natural phenomenon, and will always be left in awe of its unpredictability and power. Having the ability to capture lightnings in all their glory is a skill. Just imagine how limited you will be by the chances you can capture them striking the ground. However, it is a fun niche to dabble into, given the amount of excitement that is involved in finding and chasing lightnings. There is an element of danger and surprise, which is perfect for thrill-seeking photographers who are brave and adventurous.
This niche requires more than just a mastery of photography basics. It also requires some knowledge in weather, and how lightning works. To capture anything beautifully, you must have an understanding of it. In this case, you should know the types of lightning, its colors, and its intensity depending on the weather. You will also have to invest in special accessories, like the MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger, which helps users turn their cameras into high-speed capture devices. It's lightning mode will help you capture the cleanest shots, while also allowing you to have more control over timing and duration.
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Other than photography skills and useful accessories, you will also have to develop an instinct for when it is best to shoot, and where it is safest to do so. While it is approximated that 44 lightning strikes per second happen on Earth, you will still need some guidance for monitoring lightning strikes and finding out whether one of these is happening near you.
If you are only starting out, you should be comfortable in knowing that there are tools online that can definitely help in this aspect. Another gift of technology? Smartphone applications and websites that help you find lightning strikes as they happen. Here are some of the best real time lightning strike map apps and websites that are available for you to use as lightning tracker.
Available on the Apple Store and Google Playstore ($2.99)
Spark was developed by WeatherBug to help users know where the nearest lightning strike is. This is basically an app for monitoring lightning. The app shares data from the Total Lightning Network relative to your smartphone’s GPS location. It has great features, which include the ability to save locations that are important to you.
Photographers will find this app very useful because of its ability to show more than cloud-to-ground lightning locations. Through Spark, you will also see intra-cloud lighting strikes, which can also be a great photographic subject for lightning photographers.
Earth Networks is Spark’s website version. It helps take out the guesswork from knowing where lightning strikes and storms happen. The website’s data is quite sophisticated, thanks to the worldwide network of sensors that detect lightning bolts. It started in Maryland in 1992, and has since established a presence in over 90 countries, making it a strong option for people who travel overseas. Using this site you can view more detailed information about where the thunderstorm is.
LightningMaps.org’s appeal is in its wide availability. The website is accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. There is also no payment required to use its lightning strike data (unlike other apps and websites). While the community-ran website looks a bit too simple, it is also very straightforward in giving lightning strike data. It flashes a single fading dot for every strike detected. If all you need is the location of the nearest lightning strikes, this website will do, so you can monitor it live.
4. Blitzortung Lightning Monitor
Blitzortung Lightning Monitor is a map-based application that visualizes real time lightning data. It offers a lot of functionality, including historical lightning data, and current lightning strike time and count. Photographers will also find this Android application very useful, because of its alarm function. Users can use it to find out the distance and direction of storms that they can photograph.
5. My Lightning Tracker
Available on the Apple Store and Google Playstore (Free)
My Lightning Tracker is among the best lightning monitoring apps available for both Android and iOS. Among the listed apps in this article, it has the sleekest modern design which also shows thunderstorms as they occur. It is highly-rated on both app stores, thanks to its diverse functions, which are also very specifically useful for lightning photographers.
My Lightning Tracker has data for lightning strikes across the globe, and also has historical data of hotspots where lightning strikes are often. You can also receive notifications when there is a storm near your area, which you can also monitor through the app. Its social sharing capability is also useful, especially if you are in a team of lightning photographers who are on the lookout for strikes to shoot. If you have a smartphone, and prefer not to pay for a real time lightning map application, you cannot go wrong with My Lightning Tracker.
With these available to you wherever there is an Internet connection, you can be confident in knowing where to go for your next shoot. Try out each one, and see which delivers the functions that you expect from a lightning map application or website. Technology has given photographers many a gift, so take advantage of these tools’ availability.
However, keep in mind that lightnings are inherently dangerous subjects to photograph. Even professional lightning photographers have had some close calls with thunder. Keep your MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger in your camera pack, since it gives you the ability to control your camera remotely. Set it up at your location, carefully compose your shot, and switch your camera trigger to its specialized lightning mode. You can place your camera setup on a window mount, or on a sturdy tripod. Just make sure that you can operate it from inside your hard-topped cars or vans. Prioritize your safety, and plan ahead before you drive to the location of your next best lightning photo.
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