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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.

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 dance at sunset

Arizona Monsoon Lightning
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/10, iso 160, 8 sec // buy print)

Two nights ago I was incredibly frustrated with the futility of capturing lightning. Storms were popping up everywhere, in bad spots, I couldn’t get to them in time and even when I did, they died out before any shots were had.

Last night…wow, what difference a day makes.

I sat in one spot for nearly two hours and captured hundreds of strikes. I am not even sure what to do with them all. I’ve never been on a storm that produced that much electricity over a general area for so long. And I’ve never come home from an evening storm chasing with that many photographs of lightning.

There was so much that I started experimenting with using my 70-200mm at full zoom to capture the bottom thirds of strikes just for fun to see how it looked. That never happens. Usually you are in such a hurry to capture whatever you can before the storm dies out that you don’t get to play around too much.

This was just one of the images. Five strikes to the ground in an 8-second exposure. The sunset behind it…the powerlines giving scale…the strikes themselves…definitely one of my all-time favorites already. I rarely do these panoramic crops, but it felt like it was called for here.

More to come!

 

The Grid

Electrical
(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 130mm, iso 400, f/5.6, 12 sec // buy print)

Powerlines and lightning, what could be better?

I captured this along highway 85 south of Buckeye. I actually had given up further south towards Gila Bend, so I was heading home when some storms popped up to my west. I drove on the shoulder a bit to line up my truck with the powerlines and the storm, and setup in the median.

Sometimes you find that perfect composition (or at least the one you want) when you’re chasing storms and then it’s up to God and nature to deliver the final product. Got lucky on this night.

Lightstorm

Lightstorm - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(Please click to view on black)

Sometimes the weather forecasters predict a big storm to hit in the coming days, only to either be wrong or off a bit on the timing. But for the last 2-3 days, the National Weather Service kept saying a low pressure system would move into SW Arizona on Labor Day creating some intense storms and lots of rain.

Which is exactly what happened.

I had been planning on an all-day, noon-to-midnight stormchasing event for Labor Day and was pumped when Monday morning nothing in the forecast had changed. My buddy Ken met me at my house around 12:30 and we flew west of Phoenix and then south to Gila Bend.

If we had driven to Yuma, we might have seem some really nasty stuff, but that’s a long haul. So we hung out around the northern parts of Gila Bend, shooting storms in the farmlands and irrigation areas. Caught a few night photographs that will be shared at a later time.

But this lightning shot came almost 30 miles south of Gila Bend on Highway 85. I literally ran across a low area and up a hill to setup for this shot, which ended up being the highest spot around. The lightning wasn’t close, but it’s definitely not the wisest thing in the world to do.

I didn’t have much of a choice. I could see a gorgeous sunset going on and some stormy clouds with strong downdrafts of rain. It took awhile, many shots, but I finally got a decent strike before the beautiful color of the sunset disappeared on me.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 250, f/10, 6sec – buy print)