Lightning on the 89A

Lightning on the 89A - Sedona, Arizona

(Click to see the image smaller so it fits your screen, or enjoy it on your huge stinking monitor!)

At the start of the year, I had a sort of awakening. I had changed up the way I processed images and discovered the beauty of black and white. It was the work of Mitch Dobrowner that really spoke to me around that time and I vowed to myself that this storm season I’d use a lot less color in my storm photography. Even lightning.

Suddenly it’s the middle of the stormchasing season and I hadn’t done a lick of lightning in B&W. I’ll be honest with you about this. I was kind of scared. I really try hard to be proud and confident of my own vision and processing methods, no matter what people think. But I still hear it and listen when I wish I didn’t.

Some of the lightning I’d posted this summer has gotten nice feedback, but some that jumped out at me were comments like “I love the color” or “My favorite thing about lightning shots is the different colors you get.” Stuff like that.

Believe it or not, it made me do a double-take on a B&W conversion. Plus I tried it a few times and never liked the results.

Fast-forward to this past weekend and a comment I got on 500px from Drew Medlin. He said something along the lines of “you’ve got the lightning, now focus on composition, foreground/background elements…” Yeah, I was a bit bent at first. Sounded a bit too forward to me. So I visited his page.

And realized he knew what he was talking about. His lightning shots were amazing. And they were in black and white. Boom, it brought me screaming back to where I was at the beginning of the year. WHY was I afraid of this? Look at the beauty Drew was showing through his work. It just reassured me that my original vision in January was on target.

I have no problem in this business letting people know where I get the inspiration that changes the way I do things. I think it’s important to acknowledge things like that. The fact is, Drew gave me a kick to the gut and I’m forever grateful for that. Thanks man.

Please check out his website and follow him on 500px.

I ended up dabbling a bit in different processing methods until I got happy with what I ended up with. And I just dig it. I love the starkness and power you get from an image in B&W anyways, now throw in some lightning and it moves me.

Hope all that made some sense. This shot was taken back on the 10th of July up in Sedona, a bit west of town along State Route 89A.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec)

14 replies
  1. Brian Furbush
    Brian Furbush says:

    Very cool, and I’m glad you’re starting to execute on your vision. Just goes to show that there’s more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. Spectacular shot.

  2. Chris Nitz
    Chris Nitz says:

    This is one of the best lighting shots from you yet! Love all the arcs and details. I’m glad to see you were not put off by the critique, checked out the other tog and then took his advice to heart. Looking forward to ever more awesome lightning shots coming from you now! Keep rocking man 🙂

  3. A.Barlow
    A.Barlow says:

    Awesome shot man and thanks for the site, I’ll check it out. I have to agree, mono seems like it’s a great fit for lightning. I mean, given that the subject itself lacks color, the silos often involved, etc.

  4. larry
    larry says:

    Wow, Mike. This is an excellent photograph. Thanks for the story behind the processing and vision, too. I’m now perusing through Drew’s stuff and am finally registering with 500px. Thanks again!

  5. Chris DeAngelis
    Chris DeAngelis says:

    Another great capture. I think you have done really well incorporating interesting foreground elements with your lightning shots! You do get some sick colors in your lighning photography, but I love this in B&W

  6. Scott Wood
    Scott Wood says:

    I love the strike, but the jury is still out for me on whether or not I like the pure black and white. I normally WB correct mine to take the color out of the sky, but not completely remove it.

  7. Chris Robins
    Chris Robins says:

    sometimes we need to reflect on what we read, and what it told to us, to get to that ‘a ha’ moment. getting bent is what the open feedback is all about. the fact that one can comment, be ‘forward’ and help us realize what we really intend to do. or, help us evolve to it.

    this is a fantastic shot, kudos for getting back to that original vision. i will check out drew’s stuff. terrific capture.

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