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Catching Electrical Storms

  • By Graeme Guy
  • Feb 12, 2024

Graeme Guy - Lightning over the Strait of Malacca.2

My wife and I live in an apartment on Penang Island in northern Malaysia that overlooks the Strait of Malacca with mainland Malaysia and Thailand across the Strait.

We get a number of tropical storms and sometimes waterspouts that emanate under the local tropical weather conditions. Many storms build up over mainland Malaysia. I can track these from a website that details the position and frequency of the strikes;,100.2600000,7

To get good images I need the following conditions;

  1. Frequent strikes at the same location about 5 miles away in a NNE direction
  2. Clear weather between the lightning and my position.
  3. An elevated position with a clear view
  4. The lightning strike is clearly seen and not totally behind clouds.

My photographic protocol is as follows;

  1. A Canon EOS 1DX Mk3 camera fitted with a wide angle 17-35mm lens  ( or a 38-300mm lens) and mounted on a tripod.
  2. The setting is ISO 400 or 800, 5-6 second exposures at f8, fixed focus at affinity.

As soon as one exposure is over the next one starts…..and is shot manually. Care must be taken not to move the apparatus during the 5 seconds. Any strike that occurs in that time will be recorded on the same frame. The short duration of the strike and exposure parameters are balanced to ensure the lightning bolt is clearly defined.

 The included images are examples of the location and exposure protocol described above.

The small island in the foreground is Pulau Tikus (Rat island) which is just off the Tanjung Bungah (Flower Cape) coastline of Penang Island.

The Strait of Malacca is one of the busiest waterways in the world and more interestingly the epicenter of pirate activity.

Bio:  Graeme was born in Wellington, New Zealand. He had appointments as a biochemistry researcher in Australia, England and Singapore. A major interest for most of his life has been nature photography with all the natural world being potential targets. While living in Singapore Graeme founded the Nature Photographic Society of Singapore. In his scientific career published over 100 scientific papers and retired in 2011