Intensity (A beautiful mistake)

Intensity - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to see this even more intensely)

There is almost nothing about this capture that was done correctly.

First off, you are looking at a crop of the upper-left third of the original RAW file. Meaning, I didn’t aim too well. This was my first time using the new (old) 70-210mm and this was shot at a focal length of 205mm…so I ended up being a bit closer than I wanted, plus I totally misjudged what I was seeing in the viewfinder, so I was too far down-right.

Secondly…and I’m not sure where the mistake happened, but this was shot at ISO 400. Either I had been using ISO 400 before on some less intense strikes elsewhere and forgot to change it, OR I figured shooting lightning from so far away might need me to boost the ISO up to capture it better.

Either way, the reason the strike is so completely thick and blown out is because I should have been down around 100-200.

All that being said, I LOVE the way this turned out! All summer one of my goals has been to somehow find elevated ground to capture scenes where you can actually SEE the strike land instead of it just being off on the horizon somewhere. I mean, there is something a lot more scary about seeing the exact spot it hits. Maybe you wish you could just zoom in and see if it was some cactus that got wiped off the face of the planet.

My buddy Scott Wood and I were talking the other night out on Bush Highway about how much lightning we’ve captured this summer. Been epic so far. After a subpar year last season, I hope this doesn’t mean next year will be a downward curve again.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm 4.0, 205mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec)

15 replies
  1. Dave DiCello
    Dave DiCello says:

    Wow Mike, that’s just crazy how you can see it hit the ground! I wouldn’t have noticed there was anything wrong i fyou hadn’t said something, and I still don’t think there’s anything wrong! Outstanding work man, epic shot!

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    You know, I think I’ve probably been told by some other photogs to NOT say when you make mistakes or whatever, especially because you are usually the only one that notices. But I think we all take a wrong exposure sometimes and it’s good to know how we all fix it or make it better…so I don’t mind sharing it!

  3. Heath O'Fee
    Heath O'Fee says:

    Very cool that you can see the spot where the strike hit – just crazy. Can’t believe all those tendrils of lightning coming off of the main strike, too…so cool.

  4. Chris Nitz
    Chris Nitz says:

    Mistakes or not, this is a seriously badass shot. The blownout lighting makes it look extremely intense, and the fact that it is hitting the ground, and you can see that, just adds to the overall awesomeness of the shot. Freakin cool!

  5. Eje Gustafsson
    Eje Gustafsson says:

    Nice looking mistake, wish when I make silly mistakes it comes out that well, think I showed you my slightly out of focus lighting shot.

  6. Brian Furbush
    Brian Furbush says:

    Whoa damn, this is a great shot. Love that you can see the impact zone, something you almost never see. Nobody would have known this is a ‘mistake’ had you not said something – no right or wrong to art, after all.

  7. Didier Kaade
    Didier Kaade says:

    I don’t see a mistake… I see a Great Capture!! I would love to get this kind of thing here in Montreal…. In our season of Precipitation, if I exposed for 30 seconds, all you would see if a big white Frame with all the snow!!

    Awesome job…again and again!!

  8. Rick Young
    Rick Young says:

    Love it Mike. Mistakes are often a creative catalyst. You could’ve turned it into a tutorial… “want fatter lightning strikes? Pump up the iso to 400 and leave the rest of your settings the same.”

  9. Scott Wood
    Scott Wood says:

    I love making mistakes that work out as perfectly as this one did. If you hadn’t made this mistake, you would not have made this image, which would not had led you down a path of possibly experimenting with other exposure settings down the road.

    I love how bold those strikes are, stunning.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Intensity (A beautiful mistake) – leading weather photographer Mike Olbinski shares with us an image of a lightning strike.  That’s right, the entire strike, including where it landed!  A truly jaw-dropping image that is a true must-see! […]

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