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How to Photograph Oklahoma Lightning Like a Pro

How to Photograph Oklahoma Lightning Like a Pro

One Sooner meteorologist and radar expert shares his tips for photographing lightning as it splits through the Oklahoma sky.

Sooners are no stranger to severe weather — that much is for sure. While some run for cover at the first sign of a storm, others with a little more tenacity grab their cameras and start snapping, hoping to get that perfect shot of swirling clouds or, even better, lightning illuminating the Oklahoma sky.

With all the elements against you — it's dark, usually windy and OK, we admit it, pretty stinking terrifying sometimes — what do you have to do to get the shot picture perfect? Well, who better to ask than Jim Kurdzo, a University of Oklahoma PhD candidate working at the Advanced Radar Research Center

The meteorologist and radar engineering expert works inside the University of Oklahoma’s Radar Innovation Laboratory, designing the pieces of the next generation of weather radar. That also involves field work, which places Kurdzo on the frontlines of severe weather — a perfect place for a thrill-seeking photographer.

Kurdzo says photography is just a hobby that grew from childhood fascination and blossomed after he took his first lightning photo at the Millersville University campus in Pennsylvania, where he got his bachelor's degree in meteorology. Since then, he’s been capturing clouds, skylines and lightning, now across the Sooner State.

With varying lightning photography tips and tricks circling the Internet, Kurdzo offers up what’s worked for him as he follows storms across Oklahoma.


The University of Oklahoma’s College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences does not condone or encourage storm chasing by students. Anyone who chooses to chase storms does so at their own risk and should not imply that their activities are connected with the University, unless granted permission to do so as part of well-planned scientific projects led by safety-trained faculty or scientists in the National Weather Center research units. Storm chasing is not part of the School of Meteorology course curriculum nor should such activities take precedence over the academic activities of the School such as coursework and attending classes and seminars.