Capture the lightning



On a recent afternoon, after a day and a half of strenuous garden work, Professor Roush quit working and took a number of photos to convince himself, and all of you, that spring was beginning in Kansas.  I was sidetracked, however, by the quick appearance of a small storm with a negligible offering of rainwater, and a little bit of lightning and thunder.

Many of you will remember how excited I was last year to accidentally capture a lightning bolt while I was taking prairie-storm pictures (if not, it’s HERE).  Least year’s photo was indeed fortuitous, and at the same time it was likely the end of an era, for this year, there is a new app for iPhone that will capture lightning, fireworks, gunshot flares, and other flashing phenomena.  Some genius has taken the luck right out of it and now everyone will have their own lightning pictures. I read about the app, called iLightningCam, a couple of weeks ago and the wait since for a thunderstorm has been near unbearable.  Finally, the sky darkened, the flashes began, and out I went onto the covered porch to see if it worked. Within 5 minutes, I had the picture above, a bolt of lightning flashing over my slowly greening and newly cleaned south garden beds.  Lightning pictures are now idiot-proof and I have the evidence.

The iLightningCam app is inexpensive (disclaimer; I get no sales revenue from mentioning it), works on both iPhone 4 and 5, and is simple to use.  There is a trial Lite free version as well.  It claims to use the iPhone light sensor to set off the camera, but I theorize that it is running a continuous loop of video and just capturing some set of frames that were taken just before a spike of light notifies it that there has been a flash.  At least that’s what I believe the “15fps” in the upper left corner of my screen indicates.

Once I get over my initial excitement with the app, I’m going to try to get more artistic with garden lightning combination photos, but for now, I’m still a kid in the candy store; a kid with the gift of magic bestowed by an iPhone genius named Florian Stiassny.  As my Jeep tire cover says, “Life is Good.”


  1. Wow, cool. Since I think that photos of lightening are pretty neat, I look forward to the proliferation of amateur photos posted to the web. That actually also might be enough to finally convince me to get an iPhone.

  2. Dear James,

    congrats for this great picture! (and article!)

    Greetings from the dev team, we love to see people taking great shots with it.
    I just found your article using google with ilightningcam + images as keywords.
    we dont use the light sensor, we analyse the video stream of the preview screen of the camera and trigger the main camera (5-8MP) when the time has come…


Comments are closed.