Midwestern Wanderlog

2016-05-24 – To capture lightning


It’s a secret ambition.  A hidden dream.  A photographer’s quest, if you will:  To capture lightning.

Sunrise Stats!
First light: 4:59 AM
Sunrise: 5:34 AM
Daylight: 16 hrs, 17 min

It isn’t an easy task.  While thunderstorms are common in south-eastern Minnesota through late spring and summer, the right kind of storm conditions for forked lighting that strikes the ground – particularly repeatedly – really are not.  And then there’s the danger; who in their right mind is going to choose to be outside, in the rain, with their camera, in the hope of snagging that elusive shot?  Because they don’t happen on a schedule – or if they do, it’s Nature’s unpredictable ‘schedule’ they follow – and if you don’t want to get (or can’t afford yet) a handy device that detects when lightning is imminent, you are left with one or two options:

  1. Point your camera in the direction of where you figure the lightning will be likeliest, and press the shutter button on your remote when your eyes see the flash in the hope of capturing a secondary strike
  2. Point your camera in the direction of likely lightning, turn the ISO waaaaaay down, set your aperture to its smallest setting (with however long a shutter speed is necessary to produce a proper exposure), and set your remote to continuous, so that every time the shutter closes, it opens again.

Today was almost the day.

_MG_0001Driving in there was lightning behind me most of the way; a storm following me in.  Truth to tell, I felt some nervousness hearing the thunder while walking the lower path.  I mean, I’m going to be on the highest point around, out in the open, with an electrical device on a metal stand when the storm rolls through.  There is the possibility of a lightning strike on the top of the hill.  But if I let no more than a fearful thought stop me, what else will I fail at when my imagination starts to get the better of me?

The rain came through just about sunrise, soaking part of the camera bag and making it necessary to keep wiping the lens clear to get any kind of picture at all.  After sunrise, with the camera safely tucked away, the wet plastic of the poncho kept sticking to my jacket and the straps to the camera bag.  I couldn’t put it back on.  So I stood in the rain, huddled over the camera bag, protecting it as best I could with the poncho until the rain passed.

I got so thoroughly wet in places!  Should have worn my FroggToggs…

Now, on the overlook I missed the lightning twice – had the camera pointed in the wrong direction.  But walking back, the part of the storm passing to the south was just so pretty that I paused and pulled out my phone.  There was just something about the dark clouds shading to light, the streamers of rain across the valley.  I’d been practicing with the panoramic setting, and as I was panning, lighting flashed.  To my immense surprise, you can just about see the faint streak on the panoramic!

Panoramic 145

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