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Near Wickenburg

Near Wickenburg
(please click image to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 19mm, iso 200, f/11, 10 sec // buy print)

This was a storm I’ll always remember. I’m driving west along Highway 74 and notice a little blip on my radar just south of me, parallel to my direction. Suddenly a flash explodes in that direction, I slam on the brakes, pull over and whip out my cameras.

And then nail a few bolts right there in front of me, just after sunset. There were taken with a 17mm lens, giving you an idea how close it was.

Interstate

Interstate
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 24mm, f/11, iso 200, 20 sec, composite // buy print)

This was probably one of the more dangerous photos I’ve ever taken. It’s also my favorite lightning strike of the summer.

I was parked well off the shoulder of the offramp here on 339th Avenue, well to the left of this frame. I was shooting in this same direction, but even though there were amazing bolts all over, the composition was boring and just didn’t look right to me. So before I could change my mind, I grabbed my tripod and ran to the middle of the overpass, in the rain, and fired off about 5-8 exposures of 20 seconds.

Two things popped into my head while standing out there. The first, of course, was that lightning was striking within a mile or two of my location. Sooooooooo….why was I on the high point of an overpass? And second…this was a skinny overpass and I had basically two feet of shoulder space. If a diesel came from the south and another from the north, I don’t know what would have happened. I was watching of course and no one was coming from the south at all, so I felt okay…but it was nerve wracking. Even if I took off running…it would have been close.

I had to take the risk though. The lightning was incredible. And all over. I knew the busy traffic of I-10 would result in some great light trails. But what I didn’t expect was to get such an an amazing, super-close bolt.

You can see where it hits just off the freeway, maybe a mile up the road? Probably less? It’s hard to say. The way it flew into the frame from the right and then slammed into the ground was amazing. But the added element of the freeway and light trails gives the photo visible dimension. You can actually feel how close it was. It’s been tough to get shots like this…mostly bolts land somewhere on the horizon, never giving you a good idea of exactly how far away they took place.

Now this is a composite image. I always like to be up-front about that. It’s only a composite though to fill in the light trails on the left side of the frame and to remove some distracting ones that were on the offramp. I took roughly 5-8 shots and so I had a few other frames to choose from to get the whole interstate lit up. I’ve been lucky before on a few shots like this where I captured all of it in a single frame…but this was only a 20 second exposure and even though I-10 is busy, a 30 second exposure would have been better. Normally I might have left it alone, but once I caught this strike…it was so worth tweaking it just a bit to make it perfect.

Hope you enjoy this! Definitely a highlight of the season for me.

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!

15 Seconds

15 Seconds
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, f/11, iso 200, 15 sec // buy print)

July 31st was a pretty amazing night for lightning. This storm just exploded over Wickenburg and didn’t move much and didn’t send any outflows at me. I just sat around for almost an hour capturing bolt after bolt.

This was only a 15-second exposure, but there are six strikes plus maybe a seventh off-camera. An amazing display of power…it’s the kind of lightning-fests I live for!

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!