After weeks of hot sunny weather we finally got the first thunder storm in ages. It was a solitary cloud that passed over slowly but had a lot of flashes. However not many were fork lightning so only a few photos were useful in the end.
I was once asked if I waited for the thunder before pressing the shutter button to take lightning photos. That would be great if the speed of sound were faster than light. The key to lightning photos is a tripod, the right camera settings and patience. And a beer
It can take a hundred photos before you get one with lightning in it using the sure fire hit and hope method. I have no idea how they did it in the film days. Just set your shutter for a couple of seconds, enable mirror up and use the 2 second delay. On my camera I only need to press the shutter once for it to start the timer put the mirror up and take the photo. Then repeat. You can do it better and give yourself more beer time if you invest in a smartphone and use an app to take a batch of photos for you automatically. I use https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.HeliconSoft.HeliconRemote2 on my android tablet as it is great for a variety of automated functions you can't get from your camera on its own.
Settings are important but there's a lot of trial and error. Lightning seems to be very bright and it is but perhaps not as much as you might think as your eyes get accustomed to the dark. It is best to think of lightning the same as using a flash. Changing your fstop affects the impact of the lightning in your photo. Using a high f number can make the lightning look weak and too wirey.
Increasing the shutter speed may add some ambient light but it mostly gets overpowered by the lightning. It you set the speed too long, you have greater chance of getting lightning in the shot. If it's too long you might overexpose the scene if lightning strikes several times during the exposure. However, multiple strikes in one picture looks amazing!
Some things to consider while getting lightning photos:
Be somewhere safe and dry for you and your gear. Use a sturdy tripod as the weather can be unpredictable and windy. If you are indoors, turn off all lights. If you need to photograph through a window then put the lens or hood right up against it to avoid any unwanted reflections. Be patient and try to watch where the lightning is going or if it is hitting a certain spot more than once then focus there.