Holy CRAP that was close!

(See below for the uncropped version)

Storms rolled into Phoenix from the southeast last night at a fairly fast clip. I was photographing some lightning off on the horizon to the northeast while waiting for the stuff south to hit us.

Once it finally arrived, it was quickly evident that if you wanted to stand outside your car with a tripod to photograph lightning, you’d better have a wetsuit and waterproof housing for your camera, not to mention a personal “windshield wiper” for your lens. There was just so much water, the levels of Precip Water in the Atmo (PWAT) were close to 2 inches I heard, and we received 1.22 inches at my house. That makes the third storm this year that we’ve gotten over an inch of rain.

So the photo above. Wow. I learned a secret from Shane Kirk about shooting lightning in pouring rain. You can do it from your dashboard with the windshield wipers on high. It’s not ideal, it may not work perfectly nor give you the most crisp shot of all time…but if you have no other choice, it can suffice.

This strike hit just under half a mile away from what I judged. Usually you know a bolt is close when you see the burnt orange “fire trails” that kind of fade away from a close strike. There was a little debate with my buddy Bryan about whether it hit right in front of that sign, but if you click on the large version, you can see the main, thicker part of the bolt stops at that hill and the rest of it is some kind of reflection in the rain.

The one bummer, if there is one, was that I was at 28mm for this shot when I should have been wide open at 17mm. Would have been even more amazing to see the upper levels of this bolt. Feel lucky to have captured this, the storm was essentially on top of me and I chose one direction to aim.

Here is the same shot straight out of the camera. A friend of mine, Brian Matiash, offered the idea of cropping the little left strike out, to see what it looks like and I have to admit, I like it better. But the original is below too!

This is most definitely the closest lightning strike I’ve caught on camera and you can be assured my heart skipped a beat!

7 replies
  1. Mike
    Mike says:

    Wish I had caught up with you while I was living in Phoenix! Great job and thanks for the tip as well about shooting through a windshield.

  2. Char
    Char says:

    Wow! What a shot! Thanks for the tip on shooting lightning in the pouring rain. I tried my hand at it last night too and got soaked, plus just saw some lit up sky no real bolts.

  3. Rich Beaubien
    Rich Beaubien says:

    Terrific Capture Mike.

    Great idea shooting form inside the car. BTW the car acts as a sort of Faraday Cage If you had been outside during this strike, you and your gear would have suffered.)

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Storm Chaser says:

    […] “That was a close one” within a quarter mile of the strike…camera was mounted on the dashboard taking a shot through the windshield with the wipers on fast.  The exposure was approximately 25 seconds […]

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Wyden Kivowitz, Mike Olbinski, Brian Matiash, Ben Lee Images, Brian Arsenault and others. Brian Arsenault said: Wow, that was close! Great shot RT @mikeolbinski: Lightning strike last night that required a change of shorts (almost) – http://is.gd/ewrae […]

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