Chasing LIghtning is not for the faint at heart. Being in a vehicle “reduces” your exposure. It’s also possible for the vehicle to be struck. This can destroy the vehicles wiring or it’s computer. You also don’t want to be touching metal when that goes down lolol. I’ve been very close to bolts before.
I was driving up in Montana where my son and I watched a bolt hit the dirt 30 feet off the road on the drivers side. It hit in front of us so we had a clear view of it. I can still see the outline. The truck was all closed up so the sound was muffled. I’ve heard some pretty loud bolts but with a window open… a close bolt is going to leave some “ringing” in my ears lolol.
I usually work scenes like this with 2 cameras sitting on the cars passenger window on clamp tripods. Using Lightning Triggers allow you to set your camera to click with the bolt. My Sony Mirrorless respond within a few milli-seconds to the initial start of the flash. I usually use about 1/4 second exposure which you adjust to the brightest part of the image. (expose the highlights properly). If you set the ISO too high, you will have the bolts too bright which tends to grow them larger than they are. This is about as perfect an exposure as you can get for as dark as it was for this scene.
I know, it’s out of season in Wyoming, not so much down south at the moment though. Be careful down there. As the cold air moves over us, the arctic blast does BIG storms in LA, MS, AL, GA….. Be careful out there and prayers for those effected by the storms.
In this complex summer image, I set the camera up at the mirror to reflect the sky slit 90 degrees left frame….Flash….. Can you find the Deering Seeder? This was a HUGE mesocyclone that hadn’t even reached us yet. We were just under it’s leading edge here. That shelf cloud is an indication that it’s about to get sporty. The 80 mph winds this brought with it did some damage. The big hail missed us though. That big white roof is our big barn which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field under that roof. It’s an old roping area under there.
This storm donated quite a few lightning photos. I usually work storms like this up on the ridges definitely in a car. The car doesn’t make you immune to the strikes but it helps. Your not going to get killed by ground current if your not touching metal is the plan. Not that the bolt couldn’t hit the camera. I’ve been pretty close to some strikes before and it will wake you up. Looking forward to working it with the new vehicle with no moon roof. I ordered it WITHOUT a sunroof (a several thousand dollar options that will probably leak). More metal overhead is a good thing I’m thinking lolol.
Setting up and sitting for night time exposures catching huge million amp plasma channels creates a lot of adrenaline (fun). There is enough amperage to melt sand in those bolts. You only do this from inside a “Faraday Cage” . Lock yourself in a metal drum, isolate yourself from the metal to become safe even if the drum is directly struck.
It has been my observation that anything you do any activity a LOT. Your going to get injured doing it, Having a metal vehicle surrounding you is a good thing while taking photos like this. Think about it. Your on a ridge line, high up in a metal truck watching bolts flash 360 around you. I’ve been very close to strikes before. I can’t say that I’ve ever been hit doing this. I watched a bolt hit a few hundred feet away driving up in Montana one day. Traveling I was driving along a rural road. Hard to miss the bolt strike the bare grassy field just off the road to my left.
• The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Just because your in a truck, doesn’t mean your safe. It does moderate the extra risk statistically. Please keep your hands away from metal contact. Lock your trays in the upright and locked position…… Even so… The lightning can also serious damage your vehicle’s electrical system (which would really suck).
When you order a new vehicle to do precisely this… You really don’t need a sunroof over your head. lolololol 😜👀⛈ They cost more and lighning can travel right through glass.
Bolt Striking the Red Hills is a MASSIVE strike. That ridge is 40 miles distant from my Telephoto lens which was trained where the last bolt struck. Quite often bolts will strike very close to the previous ones. I look for patterns and focus on that area.
I do use lightning triggers on my cameras. These are boxes that automatically sense lightning by the pattern of flashes they generate. They Trigger my Sony’s in mere microseconds. I endorse no particular brand as the several I’ve tried all have their issues but “generally” work. None are “cheap” but then again, look what you get for your efforts. I might only get 1 in 20 bolts I try to get manually without time exposures. These are 1/4 second exposures at other settings that bring in the landscape.
In pitch dark, you just set the camera on a tripod, remotely trigger it or timer the shutter at about 25 seconds at let the lightning display. This technique is the best way to get multiple bolts. This capture however was a single discharge with multiple plasma channels reaching down. This is the kind of bolt that will start fires. Forested ground is particularly easy to burn. That ridge often has a fire call during dry electrical storms that pass through now and then.
We have a local rancher that helps as a Range Officer at our Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship in 2018 that had to leave the event. All because of a lightning strike near his ranch up in those very hills. The response of several departments along with hundreds of men saved his homestead. Unfortunately some of his ranch burned.. The grass will grow back greener the next year, I’ve seen it.
Lightning Bolt Cloud to Ground is a 2 feet x 3 feet image in full size. Now I know this is out of season but I am redoing my portfolio to current standards and I’m reposting some from this last summer. I think it’s an interesting break from the early winter weather we’ve been having.
It was raining at the time about 10 minutes after sunset. This was our version of twilight that late summer 2019 evening. I was in my Jeep Grand Cherokee on a large flat ridge top right in the middle of lightning flashes all around me. One of the better places to be during a lightning storm is in a car. That is as long as your not touching metal. It also helps if you don’t have long camera lenses sticking outside your open window….. oh wait lolol..
There are two ways of doing this. If it is very dark, set your camera on a stabile tripod in a dry area. Take 25 second time exposures at ISO 200 and f11 to start with… You will have to tweek some to see what comes out. Or use an external “lightning trigger” to snap the camera as the bolt touches off. Set your camera near or at ISO 200 F11 and 1/4 second. Your setting s may vary but now too far out.
The trick here to get a full frame (not a crop) image was to watch the storm and figure out where the bolts were consistently hitting. Then you just point the camera into that area and wait lolol.
Time to Change Pants was taken by a Camera with a lightning Trigger on top of it.
I know this is out of season. I’m mixing into my daily posts refinished (to current standards) most of my older portfolio (4000+ images left to do. I digress..
There are many manufacturers of Lightning triggers and I endorse NONE of them….. Like game trail cameras, they all have issues I think lolol. In theory, they detect a bolt and automatically triggers the shutter. Your camera settings are highly variable depending on the light so I won’t . I will tell you that 1/4 of a second is a good shutter speed. I’m really glad I wasn’t standing by the camera just under a tin roof (to keep it dry (ish). I was inside my house tending to a project and about jumped out of my chair.
To this day I don’t know what in the barn yard this het. The trees are about 100 yards out from the lens across my “front” south facing yard. Since one bolt is behind the trees fingering down to the ground, I would assume that the bolt is to the rear of the trees. It looks a tad closer than that like it might have been inside my fence.
The time between the flash and the boom was non-existent so it was quite close. (5 seconds roughly for sound to travel a mile). So as a result of this photo, I’ll be using
Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands, front yard.
The Lightning and the Seed Drill timeline started looking much further left than the camera points for this image. The head lights of my Jeep Grand Cherokee are what is highlighing the 1930’s IH Deering Seed Drill (seeder). That Antique has been sitting here for a LONG time and has seem more weather, sunsets, sunrises than any of us left alive today. An old soldier survivor of wind, rain, hail, and worst of all, cattle rubbing against it. It has BIG views in all directions. (Change up seasonally eh? )
Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (jeep) next to another metal object (seeded) seems logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea 🤔⛈.
Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list. Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I’m actually afraid of is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits your car or just nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. 📸
I find that the Sony alpha 7 cameras I use tend to record lightning with a slight purple tint. This is very common in lighting captures in my experience. This is a 10 second time exposure . . Other settings were ISO 200, f20 and it was quite dark under that cloud with only a faint sunslit. I used f20 so as not to overexpose the headlights on the seeder.
“Thunderhead Lit Up Trailing Stars” is a time lapse photo on a tripod set up under my deck. All the lighting you see is ambient inside our “compound” from various yard lights mulitiplied over 10 seconds…. The storm is a 500 microsecond lightbulb flash giving me lit clouds from within. As the storm travels, it’s leaving stars in it’s wake in the pure dark sky. Got em!
This is not a composite in fact the bright star is actually a planet… Jupiter. The flash was instantaneous but the stars needed the time exposure and the results fit like a glove📸. About 10 seconds at ISO 300 with f6 (ish) should get you here if you have a tripod, and a storm that leaves stars in it’s wake… Hint…. Longer than about 12 seconds gives you streaky stars…..
This Mesocycone was Veiling the full Moon enough to catch the stars visible to my naked eye but seldom to a camera pointing at the full moon. Most you see are fakes or composites. This 6 second time exposure would have been overexposed badly with a full moon that was unveiled. This is the real deal seeing stars with a full moon.
Straddling South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, this storm was 100 miles across. I photographed it in the deep backcountry for almost 2 hours with 6 different camera lens combinations from before sunset to well into Astronomic twilight under the full moon. Being backcountry means any light on the terrain is ambient from the flash and the moon/stars.
THe colors are way saturated which is what time exposures do. I actually really dampened down the purples in this image.
This ranks as one of my personal favorite images of the year. There are a few others….🤔
So Taking a photo of a Blurred Windmill during the day with amazingly divergent Rainbow Twins behind, and a totally random lightning strike hits just as you hit the shutter… Priceless lolol. I swear this is not a composite and is an unmolested image. Filed under totally random things that happen if you press the shutter button enough. Technically the lightning photobombed “Sneaky Pete” the windmill who is the champion photobombing windmill of all times. I have no control over his actions 😂 . I certainly didn’t have a lightning trigger on this camera (I own and use 2 of them WHEN I work lightning). I was taking a double rainbow lolol. Flash boom.
Here “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill is doing what he does best, get into my landscapes. I have no control over his actions…..😎 (years old narrative).🤣 The window to the Big Horn Mountains from my ranch has 130 miles of atmosphere between my high ridge location and those 13,000 foot high peaks… I see them maybe once a week. It was dead calm for this capture or I would have had the windmill blurred by it’s spinning. This 3 second time exposure well after sundown at twilight is a classic view from the Bliss DInosaur Ranches Ridge 1 of the Big Horns from the borderlands…
Windmills are excellent Lighting attractors so one of the best places to photograph lightning. Here I was in my Jeep, it was pitch black out, and the ambient light from our barnyard provided ample light for this 25 second time exposure. The camera was mounted on the car window and the 50 mile per hour gusts were wrecking havoc on shaking the car (camera). Lost a lot of images by blur that way.
Mesocyclone Threatening the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters.
This storm was ready to move right over us. A Big Mesocyclone Threatening to dump on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch is always a hit or miss. Some get the hail, some get the rain, some get buried in hail or rain lolol. I actually left the hill for this storm (something I don’t do very often) because everyone down below wasn’t aware of the threat. Had to go . Got our cars all under roof anyway
Good Sunday Evening From the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch.
Lightning Time Lapse…..
Post number 2 through our system.
Here is one of the most complex manual time-lapses I’ve ever assembled. This was over about 5 minutes of a thunderstorm a few nights back. The flashes were sharp and fast…. I didn’t have a lot of time to set up so I missed some but hopefully you’ll enjoy the result…
I’m posting on a dozen multimedia sites and I will respond to questions and responses here on FB.
Whew… There!! 10 images finished this AM, worked sunrise, downloading currently, 8AM….. Late…… Time to get some more images finished for tomorrow and post in about 15 forums some two different or more images… It’s going to be a busy day catching up.
This fellow from the thunderstorm high wind event that did do some damage and I was in a car facing into the “breeze”. Easy Hurricane force winds shortly after this photo was taken. One of those “on the edge” images I probably shouldn’t have been there but such bolt shows don’t happen too often. I haven’t even scratched the pile images from this weekend.
SO…… off to the races… I’ve still got to pick up my dig site from the work there this weekend.
Good Monday Morning about 1/2 an hour before sunrise.
This image of the Photobombing “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill jumping into my lightning shot. (Fast huh? ) That guy has no sense being out in a dangerous storm like that being metal and all….. I have no control over his actions……. 🤔🤔😲😲😲😲
I still have two guests digging for fossils. We had a “pretty good” dig this weekend. But…….I had to move dry dirt over the site to work the dig though. Thank heavens for diesel fuel…
I will still be in the field today and hopefully will get SOME limited images on later today. Tomorrow I’ll be slow getting on with the clean up then back at em?
I have lots of clean up (branches broken things by REALLY high wind….more than even we are used to) to do after the big blow the other night that came through with one of these Mesocyclones that are hanging around up here this august lolol
OK, I lied….One post this weekend…. Guests aren’t here until a bit later this AM.
We’ve had 2, TWO inches of rain in 2, TWO days.. Makes looking for dinosaur bones easier and harder at the same time…. Mostly harder..
From Last night…. I sat this storm for an hour with several cameras involved. Car headlights are good but you actually have to be outside (in the rain) to do images using the car head lights usually lololol…
Have a great weekend. I will probably not post again until sunday evening or monday.