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.

A hailstone in the hand… better than one on the head

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.

Scientists say this would power a city for how long?

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.


One thought on “Weather

  1. I saw this post in my email, I sure would have loved to see some evidence of the Montana sunsets I miss so much, but what a wonderful job you did capturing these photos!

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