First lightning of the year

Lightning strikes in Memphis

I knew it would work out this way. After spending three days driving 2200 miles stormchasing the midwest…and getting essentially nothing…all it took was a vacation to Memphis and standing outside on the patio to get my first real lightning shots of the season. I did get a few in Nebraska two weeks ago, but they were from pretty far away and don’t really measure up to my standards *tee hee*

I actually did take my bro-in-law’s car and drove about 1/4 mile down the road to a more open area to get the shot above, but most of the stuff just came over the house for 2-3 hours and it was easy pickin’s.

One thing I did learn last night: I love my Canon 85mm 1.8 lens for shooting lightning. The photo above was with that lens and it’s uncropped. If you zoom into the full-sized version, you can see even more lightning trails. LOVE IT. Clear, crisp…wonderful. Can’t wait to use it this monsoon season.

As always, you can click on the image to see it larger!

(exif above: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/5, iso 100, 25 sec)

(exif below: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5, iso 100, 20 sec)





  • Scott Ackerman

    Awesome bud. Both are great, but like you said, I love the detail in that first shot. Never thought to try the 85 for lightning, I’ll have to give it a go on my next lightning op.

  • Bob Lussier


  • Chris Nitz

    I really like that first shot. The secondary strike just makes the shot look so badass. The mighty Thor is not pleased 😉

  • Dave DiCello

    Mike…I don’t even know what to say, these are just breathtaking!!!!!!

  • Mike

    Yeah, I like the second shot a lot better myself. More going on for sure, but the details are great in the bolts.

    Thank you guys!

  • Jim Denham

    Awesome catches Mike!

  • A.Barlow

    Freaking amazing man! Hard to stop looking at it. Something primal in lightning, I just LOVE IT!

    I wish we had lightning out in California. It’s so so rare though…

  • Justin

    Awesome. The 85 1.8 (nikon in my bag) is a favorite lens of me. Small enough not to be intimidating. As you know, it is a great portrait focal range.

  • Scott Wood

    First off I am very jealous, but that should not be a surprise. 🙂

    I like both of them, but the tree in the second one really works well. I think that the 85mm on a full frame body will end up working very well for desert shooting, very comparable to 50mm on a crop body.

  • Chris Kenison

    Holy lighting, Batman! Awesome shots, Mike!

  • Lee Brown

    Yes sir. That is very cool!

  • Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    Stunning as always!

  • Chris DeAngelis

    I don’t know what powers you possess to conjur storms and lightening like that, but you sure do a great job of photographing it :). Any reason you shoot at f/5 for your lightening shots? I also need the 85…

  • Kristi Hines

    Thanks for sharing the difference between the two lenses. 85mm seems to be the way to go for details. Both are fantastic shots! Glad this trip is producing some wonderful storms for ya! 🙂

  • Ryan Sexton

    That’s some sick lighting. Everything I read on the 85mm is great. Most people say its one of the sharpest lenses out there. I do like the second one more, the colors with silhouetted trees is fantastic.

  • mark blundell

    Great image, we don’t get much lightning out here and I’ve never tried to shoot it,but if it does turn up, I’ll be rocking the 85 too.

  • Jan Winther

    I absolutely love lightning shots. These are no exception.

  • Agustin Rafael Reyes

    Damn! Really inspiring stuff. I wanna try this as well

  • Mike

    @ Chris – Not sure why I chose f/5.0. I think maybe the fact that it was a long exposure of 20-25 seconds at iso 100 and pretty much exposed correctly was one reason. If I upped it to f/8.0, then at 25 seconds I’d probably need to also up the iso.

    Whenever you shoot lightning, keeping the iso at 100 is pretty important for noise issues. Sometimes you may have to bump it up if the lightning is far off and not super-bright, but then again, those don’t turn out awesome most of the time anyways 🙂

  • Mike

    @ Ryan – The 85mm 1.8 is truly sharp, I love the thing.

  • Roan

    Absolutely magnificent. *wide-eyed*

  • Steve Beal

    So incredibly awesome! I was surprised to see that you use ISO 100 – I would have thought you’d need a higher ISO for single exposure, low light, but your shots came out incredible! I’m curious to see if I can employ my 600mm f/4 this summer for some lightning shots – that lens is like a lightning rod in itself 🙂

  • Mike

    @ Steve – Depends I guess, but you really don’t want your lightning blown-out with a higher ISO. Also, noise is a problem the higher you go and do longer exposures.

    600mm seems a bit zoomed in…but if you are far away, it may work out okay!

  • Heath O’Fee

    LOVE these, Mike. And typical that as soon as you get back from chasing storms, you take a pleasure vacation and get hit with a boatload of ’em 🙂

  • Scott W

    Amazing shots with perfect timing. Love the lightning trails in the first shot!

  • Jim Nix

    yeah those are awesome catches Mike!