Lightning Photography | Skill or Just Plain Luck?

The Raw Story Behind Lightning Photography

By Bryan Snider | Weather Photography | Storm Chaser

Lightning is one the most mysterious gems found in mother nature.  Very little is known about it, and yet many people are naturally fascinated by its beauty and power.  I’m no exception.

As a child, growing up on the edge of tornado alley I saw my fair share of beautiful lightning storms.  It wasn’t until I was just out of high school that I began to try and photograph lightning.  In 2005, armed with my Canon point-and-shoot, (5 megapixel camera), I captured my first lightning strike.  I knew very little about the skill involved and frankly I got pretty lucky to even capture a bolt.  However, that one bolt was life changing! It sparked a passion that pushed me to develop then necessary skills to photograph lightning on completely new level.

Lightning strikes the mountains near Interstate 17 in the Verde Valley of central Arizona

“Verde Valley Lightning” | Purchase Canvas or Print

Just a few days ago, a very popular photographer / travel blogger Trey Ratcliff (from wrote the blog post (“Stormchasing In Guilin, China”) that sent the storm chasing community well into the Stratosphere!

Don’t let the title fool you.  It was the sub heading “Fake Lightning Shots” and the arrogance in the blog that really sent the chasing community into anticyclonic rotation. (pardon the weather humor). But I gave Trey the benefit of doubt.  His title was attention getting, and I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.

So what really broke the cap in the chasing community?

Honestly it was the whole article in general. I read it several times. I seriously tried to give Trey the benefit of the doubt, but his words made it very difficult.  Trey was pretty bold and made several storm photographers (including myself) feel like all our amazing photographs were likely “fake” and required little to no skill to capture them.  Like many chasers, I was blown away by these statements. Personally I have intercepted and photographed some amazing storms (not by luck), and I can assure you my images are not fake.  These images took quite a bit of skill to get them and that isn’t something you can learn, nor did I over night.

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