I was in town. Evening had come, the sun had dipped below the horizon, and the clouds were lit in a particularly fine manner. To the south, a bank of dark clouds exhibited a nice show of lightning. I began to pace outside in the parking lot, wishing I had my camera. And my tripod. And a remote shutter cable. Since I had no camera or accessories, I tried to ignore the brilliant display around me. Time passed, rain fell, gropple spattered down and the clouds above me parted. Now I felt as if I were inside the head of a man with a bald spot. On the edges of his head, however, lightning continued unabated.
I returned home only to be distracted by large hail that had fallen. Examining the thoroughly thrashed squash plants occupied me for a while. But lightning continued unabated.
Three hours after first noticing the lightning, I convinced Dane to come with me on a photo expedition to take lightning photos. Being an amateur professional photographer with a decent camera setup, I figured lightning photos wouldn’t be too difficult to catch – especially as multiple large bolts exploded every minute. Two miles down the road from my house, there is a nice empty field, devoid of power lines and other unsightly obstructions. I often take photos there.
I set up the tripod. Dane held an umbrella – it was raining lightly. To cover more sky, I chose a 12mm wide angle lens from my bag. For all you photo buffs out there, I set my camera to manual focus (infinity), ISO 100, f/8, bulb (variable exposure time). My exposures ranged from 20 seconds to nearly five minutes. Anything longer than five minutes and I got impatient.
Using that 12mm lens was a mistake. The lightning was spread around me in every direction. Not wanting to zoom in and miss a great bolt, I used a wide lens and captured tiny purple lines at the bottom of a massive picture. After an hour of trying to photograph lightning which always struck just to the left or right of my camera, I decided to call it quits. The exercise gave me an appreciation for the time real photographers must spend taking those photos which go viral on the internet. Rather than trying the wide-angle-covers-all approach, they have to zoom in and wait for that big strike. In my defense, a bank of clouds floated between my camera and most of the lightning. And quite frankly, illuminated fog doesn’t make for spectacular images.
Now I feel compelled to be out chasing storms until I can capture a bolt of lightning properly – using extreme patience and a long zoom lens. Hopefully the thunderstorms will continue.