Caribbean lightning

This is easily one of the most technically challenging photos I’ve ever taken.

I took this photo while aboard the Celebrity Equinox heading back towards Florida. After hearing talk of “amazing lightning” from the other passengers, I grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran up to the deck. There was four main challenges here:

  • The storm is pretty far away, and strikes will vary in distance too
  • There’s nothing to focus on, it’s pitch black out there
  • Strikes last for barely any time at all
  • The ship is rocking side to side

To solve the focus issue, I set the focus to manual and focused on the most distant thing I could see, which was the communications array at the front of the ship. Setting the aperture slightly wider will reduce overall exposure, but give some more flexibility on the focus plane. With some trial and error, I found an exposure time of one second was about the limit before the image would smear due to the ship rocking. Putting it all together, I was able to get an image that was reasonably sharp and appropriately exposed (instead of milky or blurred clouds). Last thing was to get lucky when pressing the shutter button – and this image was the best of the lot.

This was submitted to the Information Services Photography Competition 2019 and placed first.

This image is copyrighted and may not be used or reproduced without prior written permission.

Shutter speed
Focal length

Canon EOS 7D Mark II


Canon EF-S 17-55 USM