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Arizona monsoon lightning photos from August 28th

My daughter sat in her little car seat, enjoying Toy Story and staying safely away from any lightning or the bazillion numbers of mosquitos I encountered last night out in the Arizona desert. Probably was a little too close to a couple of canals out there, but at times it almost felt like a swarm of bugs attacking me. I definitely have more than five itchy bites on me today.

The above lightning strike was my favorite of the night. A tip to lightning photos out there (not that any of you would do this), if your car is running because you are keeping the AC on for your little girl, go ahead and do NOT put the tripod on your trunk…just use the ground. Subtle vibrations from the engine running caused a few of my shots to be a bit unsharp and I can’t tell you how bummed I was about that.

There is another one below I like that has the strike landing behind a cactus which created a beautiful silhouette.

While I was out, I met a guy who was trying his hand at lightning photography and while I stood there, I realized his own silhouette sitting on top of his SUV was kind of cool against the clouds over the city. Amazingly, I caught a shot of a lightning strike AND him, so I walked over, introduced myself and emailed him the photos today.

The last one is just him sitting there…watching. I just love it.

Hope you enjoy these!

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!

First monsoon storm of the season

Yes, I am a happy camper tonight. When I left last week for Holland, all I heard was how that weekend was going to be a big one for the monsoons in the Phoenix area and I was going to miss out on the start of all the storm fun. Yeah, I know, I was going to the NETHERLANDS, so how could I be bummed about going and missing a few lightning shows?

Well…turns out nothing hit the Phoenix area really until tonight. And I was here to capture it. Luck spins my way one more time.

The shot above is one of my favorites from the night. The right bolt is glowing blue/green at the bottom because it hit an electrical box. You know when this happens because usually the lightning strike disappears but you see a bright explosion of light on the ground basically POP and then go away. The boxes in Phoenix used to be green so the glows could be an awesome green back in the day. I dunno if we still have those or not, maybe in the older areas.

A ton of fun out there tonight, I just sat in one place, two guys in a truck pulled up, whipped out chairs and watched along with me and there was much “ooohhing” and “ahhhhing” going on!

Lightning!

Last summer I realized I could photograph lightning with my little point and shoot camera. Downside was that it was a continuous shot mode, took 2-3 shots per second and you kind of had to be close for the camera to pick it up.

But I was hooked. Big time. I LOVED chasing storms and getting lightning shots. So I knew I needed a better camera, one that could do lots of cool things.

So I bought a Rebel DLSR. Most of you have seen how much I’ve used it since October or so. But as much fun as it has been, I couldn’t believe how long I had to wait until summer to get thunderstorms for lightning shots.

Surprise surprise…we had a nice little winter thunderstorm show last night and yes, I rushed out thanks to my buddy Tyler letting me know he saw some bolts lighting up the sky.

It was a fun storm chase for me, although it ended up with my Blackberry being slaughtered by my car and pouring rain. I stopped to shoot some photos and was in such a frenzy that my phone fell out of the car onto the rocks without me realizing. I left just as pouring rain and hail showed up (drove through some pretty dang good hail), and didn’t realize it was gone for over an hour.

After looking all over the car, I came back to the same spot and somehow spotted the red blinking light. Soaked with rain, scratched from me likely running over it, the phone was still ON, but nothing worked.

Ah the fun of storm chasing 🙂

Here are four shots from the night, the only four I really ended up with. The first three were shot from Higley and the 202, looking northeast. Amazing how high up this little corner was and how it almost looks like they were shot from a hilltop.

This last one below isn’t as good as the others, but I do love the rain you can see falling, while the lightning appears from out of the middle of it all.