A Different Kind of Flash

As many of you may know by now, I am fascinated by the sky.  The one subject in the sky I’ve had absolutely zero success with is lightning.  This comes with some irony as my brother has been an engineer on a project that monitors and predicts lighting for over 25 years now.

I’ve never managed to capture an actual lightning bolt.  In truth, this is probably because I haven’t put a lot of effort into it.  I have, for example, never asked my brother to let me know when they are expecting lightning storms in my area so that I might plan to shoot lightning.

On the infrequent occasions when I had my gear, I have rarely been in a place where I could get a good view of the lightning to shoot it.

At long last, I live in a place where I have a great view of the sky and I often see lightning while I am at home doing nothing more important than shooting lightning.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I actually attempt to shoot it.  Why?  What causes a person who really wants to capture a great image of lightning to sit on one’s duff and watch the light show unfold without so much as pulling one’s camera out of its bag?


That is the crux of it.  The times I have gone to the trouble of setting up, adjusting the settings (usually involving a few googles along the way), and then shot and shot and shot some more only to come up empty have made me bitter when it comes to lightning.

Oddly, when I see a bolt of lightning flash across the sky, it doesn’t necessarily look that fast.  Perhaps it’s because it’s burned an image of itself onto my retina?

For this morning’s shoot, I started out setting a fairly open aperture for a sky (f/8) based on some advice from the web along with 100 ISO and a long shutter speed.  I quickly realized that the guy who wrote this advice assumed the sky would be dark.  With lightning at sunrise, I really wanted more depth of field.  I also wanted a fast shutter speed to freeze the clouds, which were blowing fast across my field of view.  However, I sacrificed on the fast shutter speed in favor of capturing a lightning bolt.

The lightning kept flashing within the clouds, refusing to show itself.  Then, suddenly, it flared straight at the ground.  Lucky for me, the shutter was still open.  My first lightning bolt!  Then I caught another a few minutes later.

I combined the two into one image using Photomatix (which is not what it’s designed for), but it turned my lightning bolts pink.

I shot for a long time, but there were no more bolts.  I returned indoors to comfort the dogs (Twiggy is visiting again).  As soon as I sat down, a web of lightning bolts flashed across the sky.  Shoot!  I mean, Darn–I didn’t shoot!


2 responses to “A Different Kind of Flash

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