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Pinpoint

Pinpoint
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 100, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

I’ve been on a mission this year to capture some lightning landing in mountains or hills or whatever I can. It’s been tough because I don’t just camp out waiting for hours, I chase the storms so it’s just something I hope happens. I definitely went for these last night knowing the storms were over some ranges, so the chances were good.

But about 3-4 minutes before this photo, the lightning was on the OTHER side of the mountains, off in the distance and I was about to pack up when a bolt exploded from the sky only 2-3 miles away. This was the second one a minute later and it’s about five miles away.

Shot with my 50mm, that’s my favorite focal length for lightning…so pumped to get this one last night. Nothing better than seeing where a lightning strike actually hits. Gives such dimension and a sense of distance.

Over Whittman

Over Whitmann
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 200, f/11, 10 sec // buy print)

The night of July 31st was one of the best nights I’ve ever had shooting lightning. Hours of non-stop action, sometimes sitting in one spot for over 30 minutes, capturing bolt after bolt.

But some of the best shots I got happened right as the evening got started and storms started firing. As I was flying west on Highway 74 towards Wickenburg, a little cell built up to my south. I stopped for a moment, watched it and suddenly lightning exploded out, super close to where I was. I knew right away that this was a wide-angle moment, and so I slapped on the 16-35. This is cropped a bit, but not much. The lightning was very close, only maybe 5 miles away and intense.

This was the second set of strikes I captured…I already posted this one and this one a few weeks ago and have a bunch more from this evening!

Highway 74

Highway 74
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 200, f/11, 10 sec // buy print)

Last night I went up I-17 just a little ways to see if the outflow headed south would do anything. I quickly figured it wasn’t going to happen, but as the outflow starting shifting towards Wickenburg, I thought something might happen there. There were some cells along I-10 popping up and I just figured there might be a collision of outflows near Wickenburg. That place is a hot bed at times, so I dropped to Highway 74 and blasted west.

As I drive along, a strong cell popped up north of Wickenburg. And then suddenly a little one goes up right to my south. I thought I saw a flash, so I stop and look up and boom a huge bolt lands just a few miles away. I scramble out of the car and setup…and this is one of the shots I got. I’m looking south from 74 at the town of Whittmann, AZ. This was a 16mm lens, so you can get an idea of how close I was to this thing. I love it when I can be right up on a storm like this, especially where there is still a bit of daylight left.

And as I’m sitting there watching this one, a massive storm forms right over Wickenburg to the northwest. It ends up being an epic night of lightning capturing. I have more bolts than I know what to do with and the problem with that when you do this enough is they all tend to look the same after awhile, so despite getting over 100 shots of lightning, maybe 5 or 6 are worth posting.

We’ll see though. There are some good ones in there! More to come!

A strike over Eloy

Lightning over Eloy
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/10, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

I had a lot of luck with lightning last summer…here’s another one from a crazy early night in July when this storm rained down bolts for well over an hour in the general vicinity of Eloy and Casa Grande.

 

Electricity over Sierra Vista

LIghtning over Sierra Vista
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L, 70mm, iso 160, f/8, 13 sec // buy print)

This was taken on the night before I left for Africa last summer. I was determined to get as as many storm images as possible since I was going to be gone for 10 days, and so that goal compelled me to chase all the way down to Sierra Vista on this night.

I have to say, it was worth it. This southern Arizona town was getting blasted with lightning bolts and I had a nice perch just north of town along highway 82. This particular storm did have some interesting looks to it, even at one time having supercell appearance. Definitely love this shot…mean looking storm and two cloud-piercing bolts.

The end of the road

End of the Road
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/8, iso 125, 15 sec // buy print)

I love middle of the road shots…but rarely do I get a chance to have lightning bolts striking at the other end! I sat here for a good 15-20 minutes capturing bolt after bolt…and this turned out to be the best of the bunch.

This was back on August 18th out in Buckeye…a night I’ll always remember because of the amount of lightning that I captured in a span of two hours within a 10 square mile area. I barely moved the entire evening.

Barrage

Barrage
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 25 sec, f/8 // buy print)

I’ve stacked lightning a handful of times. Stacking means when you basically merge multiple photos together to create a new image. In this case, I stacked near 30 images to get this one photo.

I don’t normally go this route for lightning…I like the solo strike, the power of less instead of much, much more…but sometimes when lightning is so far away that a single image just isn’t good enough, I like to see what happens when you stack ’em.

I photographed soooo much lightning on this night, in that same area (as you can see), so I had to give a stack a try. In fact, this is actually “Stack Number Two” from the night…the first one can be seen here. That one only had a few strikes, where this one includes everything that came after that. This image includes about 26 minutes worth of lightning. It’s kind of incredible to see what can happen in that short amount of time. The focus of the storm just raining bolts down in a general area.

Nature is amazing.

Lightning south of Casa Grande

Lightning over Casa Grande
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 125, f/9.0, 25 sec // buy print)

This particular night out near Casa Grande in early July was spectacular. I’ve already posted one image from this general area, this is a second one. Sooo, so many lightning strikes over the course of an hour. Twice this summer I’ve been blessed with storms that moved very little but kept popping out lightning for a long duration.

The lights belong to the city of Casa Grande and the bolts were landing just to the south of it beyond Interstate 8. You can see blowing dust to the right of the bolt as well. I really dig the two little filaments coming out of the cloud in the upper right…because you know they are connected to the main strike, but split way up further in the clouds.

Still have a ton of storm images from the summer to share but we’re starting wedding/family portrait season and things are going to get busy!

Close

Close
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm, f/6.3, iso 200, 10 sec // buy print)

Rarely do I get to play around when I’m shooting lightning. Usually storms last only so long before you have to run to the next one. That being the case, I tend to try and get my best composition setup and hope for a great strike.

On the 18th though…there was so much lightning and I sat at one spot for so long…I started getting bored and decided to play around. Yeah, bored. Okay, not bored…I mean, it was AMAZING. But in terms of photos…I had enough from a few angles and with the 50mm and the 35mm…so I decided to instead slap on the ol’ zoom and see what happened.

I went to an extreme 200mm focal length and tried to zero in on where I saw some strikes landing. My entire goal here was to just capture the impact area and totally ignore the top 2/3rds of the strike. It’s not always easy to do that because you kinda have to get lucky with a strike in such a small zone.

But it paid off. In fact I have a few of these. I loved this one because you see one of the filaments of the strike off on the left, with no connection to the main bolt. It gives you an idea just how close we are here and also how much higher the bolt actually goes out of frame.

 

A distant battle

Distant Battle
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, f/8, 15 sec // buy print)

A few nights ago in Casa Grande I tweeted out something about a lightning bonanza happening down in that area. I started shooting from this very spot at around 8pm and left an hour later. And the lightning was in front of me the entire time.

It was easy pickin’s.

This is a stacked image of eight separate photographs. Because it was such a wide angle lens, I knew right away that I was going to do some stacking…because for me at least, a single strike would have to be utterly AMAZING to stand by itself. But a bunch of them together…that would be awesome.  Also…this was sunset, so the purple in the sky was ridiculous. And the bubbly mammatus on the upper right…well, we just don’t see that all the time. I couldn’t believe I could get these kind of shots with that kind of sky…was too good to be true.

A bunch more coming from this night…including another stack at this very spot with the same lens that has even MORE lightning strikes. Cray cray.