Recipe 5.5. Simulating lightning

Catching real lightning with a compact digital camera can be a difficult and somewhat dangerous activity. The choice is either to spend a great deal of time outside in a storm waiting for the perfect moment, or a great deal of money on special photographic equipment.

Although we can't replicate the roar of thunder in Photoshop, we can easily add realistic lightning effects to photographic images. Of course, we could just draw a lightning bolt with a brush and apply a little glow to the layer, but that's unlikely to resemble the random qualities of real lightning. Instead, in this example, we'll use the Clouds filter and a simple gradient to convincingly imitate Mother Nature. The effect is positively electrifying.

1 This image certainly has the potential to be stormy, but let's start by adding a little more drama before we create the lightning. Add a new layer (Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+N), call it "Sky Gradient," and choose a dark blue/black for the foreground color. Choose the Gradient tool from the Toolbar. Select Foreground to Background from the Gradient Picker, and Linear Gradient from the Options bar. Drag a gradient from the top to the bottom of the image. Set the layer blend mode to Multiply and reduce opacity to 60%.

2 Stay with the Gradient ...

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