There are few better shows in the African bush than a thunderstorm. Over the past two weeks we have been treated to an incredible array of exactly this, the raw power of nature. The sounds, the colours and the sheer explosiveness of lightening. There is a sense of calmness in amongst the electric chaos of a storm. It is something that cannot be described only felt.
The days leading up to a thunderstorm are always full of excitement… As each day goes by the temperature soars higher and higher with clouds building up into the late afternoon. There is a sense of energy that fills the air not only felt by us but the wildlife feel it too.
The theatre is unreal, a brief moment in time where the darkness is expelled and an African canvas is illuminated.
To watch the breathtaking sky is one thing but trying to capture it using a camera is another. We set our cameras to manual and experimented with some settings. Trevor and I had slightly different settings but purely because we had different equipment. I had a shutter release cable and he didn’t. We both used tripods, essential for a stable shot because of the length of time the shutter was open.
The lack of a shutter release is not a big issue and the self timer function can be used as a substitute to ensure a steady shot by allowing the camera to stop shaking after you push the shutter button.
Low ISOs and long shutter times are ideal. Allowing the shutter to stay open for an extended period of time provides more chance of capturing the split second flashes of light. A range of 100-400 was used for ISO levels and we set our cameras to an aperture of f8. The ISO level determines how long the shutter needs to stay open to correctly expose the image.
With lower ISO levels longer shutter times are used. 30 seconds was the amount of time Trevor found ideal. I set my ISO to 400 and floated between 10 and 15 seconds depending on the intensity of the flashes at the time.
Thanks to the digital age we are able to experiment and get immediate results. If you are unsure of your settings, fire off a shot and look at the results and adjust your settings accordingly. Remember that light conditions are very rarely the same so be open to experimenting until you achieve the desired outcome. To get these kinds of shots a basic understanding of your equipment and settings will help but the only way you will get the shots is if you get out there and try, have fun!
Written by: Simon Smit and Trevor Mccall-Peat
Photographed by: Simon Smit and Trevor Mccall-Peat