I’m proud of several of my photos. I work hard at learning and practicing the skills required to get the shot I want when I want it. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that allows you to put those skills to work – often in a hurry – to create a really stunning image. That happened tonight.
We had been hearing all afternoon about the storm that was approaching promising strong winds, lightning and possibly hail. I didn’t think much of it because, well, we haven’t had much rain at all this year and every time the weather dude says it’s going to rain, it doesn’t. However, I found myself very awake at 1am sitting on my front step watching the intermittent glow of lightning over the north end of the city. I thought of my camera but realized that the trees and houses made for a very poor view of the horizon. Then I remembered the little park I found a few months ago at the south end of the city – on a hill overlooking all of south Cambridge.
I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera bag and tripod and rushed out my car. I drove VERY SLOWLY AND SAFELY the to the park on the hill. As I setup my tripod and got the shot framed up, I could see that rain was already falling on the horizon and I had little time. I had done exactly ZERO research on how to shoot lightning – but I trusted my instincts and set the aperture to 8 and the ISO to 100. I then set shutter speed to “Time/Bulb” and the drive to “Remote”. At the time I had no idea how I knew that this was what I should do. I now realize that it’s what I learned while shooting the Canada Day fireworks earlier in the month. I had researched that a LOT and that experience served me very well here.
Unfortunately, you can’t anticipate lightning the way you can fireworks. So I just opened the shutter and waited. Every so often, I’d close and re-open the shutter to keep the ambient light low enough to still look like nighttime. I captured lots of lightning but no ground strikes – it was all in the clouds. Then the magic happened and a big beautiful fork of electricity hit the ground just on the edge of the frame. I waited another second in the hopes a second strike would happen but none came so a press of the remote closed the shutter. I took a few more exposures of varying lengths but got no groundstrikes. This was it – and it was enough:
The technical stuff: 23 second exposure at f/8, ISO at 100. The lens was my trusty 28-80G at 28mm
Post-production: no colour correction at all. I lightened the lights and darkened the darks and added just a touch of noise reduction. That’s it.