Unfortunately digital sensor technology and photographic film are very intolerant of wide ranges of brightness: most films can "see" detail in only 5 to 7 f-stops range from highlight to shadow. Contrast that with human eyes that have a range 10 to 50 times as large. If you have ever photographed a scene that was partly in shadow and partly in sunlight and remember vivid detail in both portions yet the picture was nearly whitewashed in the sunlit portion and black in shadow, then you know the problem.
In my opinion, weather skyscapes present some of the most challenging issues in landscape photography. Often the sun is in or nearly in many photos. This presents the biggest problem for modern auto-everything cameras. Your camera's light meter is attempting to render everything in the scene as if it reflected 18% of the incident light. This corresponds pretty closely to the amount of brightness of a clear blue non-hazy sky 90° from the sun.
Pointing your camera toward the sun will cause the camera meter to go off the high end of the scale. By adjusting (reducing) the aperature back to so-called "normal" exposure (by increasing the f-stop), the resulting image will be underexposed. In these cases, you actually want to overexpose the scene such that the sun is rendered nearly white not the 18% gray your meter would attempt to make it. The best advice for shooting into the sun is to meter the scene without the sun in the viewfinder, get your shutter/aperature combination and lock them, then place the sun back into the field of view and shoot. Herein lies a basic exposure rule stated best in Galen Rowell's book (The Art of Adventure Photography): expose for your most important highlight! If that is some incredible cloud structure, then expose for it; if some meadow of flowers is your most important highlight, then expose for it. Such a simple yet effective rule. Below are a series of tips for general photography, then a list related specifically to shooting weather photos, followed by advice for shooting lightning photographs.
Photographing lightning at night is relatively easy provided you have access to remote areas away from town/city lights. One cardinal rule to obey: always focus at infinity. Anything less is plain stupidity. Associated with this rule: disable auto-focus, manually focus to infinity and do not touch it again. Here are some tips to help you:
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