If you stay under a large Mesocyclone long enough, your going to see some interesting things. This bolt was just ahead of a large rain shaft as the storm moved right to left. The dog leg in the precipitation shaft show a pretty huge change of direction. Winds can do very unusual things around these monster clouds. The light environment was basically pitch black post sunset but the flash bulb was adequate to the chore. I have to use a 25 second time exposure to do this kind of work. Wind is never an asset in that work. 🙂
The reason I like this is you can see the point of impact. It hit what I call “ridge 2” about 3 miles to my south of my position. I’m sure it hit a tree seeing the sparks. Fortunately it did rain which would put out any grass fires. I have seen trees burn for days internally after a strike. I have put out several of them. You could pour 1000 gallons of water on a burning tree and not put it out. It usually is nessary to tear it up to really put out an internally burning Pine tree. Most of the time the lighting runs down the outer bark blowing away chunks of the tree in the process. I see a LOT of lightning scars on the old growth timber along the ridge lines. Most trees survive the strikes. Some certainly don’t….
It was pitch black out around 11PM this stormy night of worrying about range fires. I usually end up going “up the hill” after lightning storms with a quality “FLIR” (look it up if you don’t know) to look around for heat signatures in the distance. I find stomping a fire out when it’s 10 feet across is much easier than 3500 acres. Loosing a little sleep and running around the ranch at night is a small price to pay. If I hear thunder, I am up before it fades from the distance.
So I tend to stick around watching such events, nothing better to do…. Might as well set a quality camera on a tripod. Placed under my front porch roof where I can go inside and be close by. I have a tendency to try not to let quality gear get wet. Conditions have been known to change rapidly during these weather events.
The leaves are blurred on the close tree left frame. They were rustling in the breeze which in time lapse photography means blur. The 25 second time exposure is pointed down my driveway to the main gate entrance. That log gate is a 120 yards from the camera. The ridge right in front of the bolt is 550 yards out. The bolt certainly hit the next ridge over which is right at 1000 yards or 3/4 of a mile. I was running the camera at this point. FLASH….. 1, 2, 3, 4 ….. Booom… After regaining my eyesight, thought it might be a good idea for me to go inside and let a lightning trigger run the camera on automatic lolol.
The big white diamond on the lower left is a reflection off of 8 solar panels on a solar tracker. There are more panels you just can see the corner of in yellow sodium light next to it ground mounted. I’m thinking I got a little battery power from this lightning bolt
Location: The Homestead at the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming / Montana borderlands (Wyotana)
This is the third image in this Huge Storms Time line that I’ve published. Several double bolt shots were taken of this storm. What really stands out on my 27 inch computer screen….. That loop of clouds on the far left side of the frame stands out big time to me. It is a perfect chain hook for this storm. I’d say the bottom of this huge slowly spinning stop is 15 miles across and the top was 40 or 50 miles across. Still small at this capture, 2 hours later it ran over the Devil’s Tower area. I have images of Hail Slathering the Tower from the hail coming off the back of this storm. The separate shafts off the right side of the storm consists of mostly hail surrounded by rain.
You want to avoid the back of these storms as getting under one will get you slathered in hail. Hail can be 5 inches or so. That would be a bad thing. In 2008 we had some soft ball hail cause 150 grand of damage on our place. This year 1/2 hour of chickens egg sized ice with a few bigger did over 1/4 million in damage. Next year we will be replacing 47000 thousand square feet of roofing. That is our ranch headquarters just this side of the north part of the storm by about 15 miles. It went past us and left us untouched but we got little rain. We need the rain but not the hail. Picky, picky, picky…..
If the sky was going to do this, I prefer this distance. Though I understand ground currents from Lightning can hit you many miles away. This Storm is 20 miles south and I’m on rubber tires. You can see the somewhat obscured “wall” cloud surrounding the center of the much larger Mesocyclone storm that though centered south, is over us like a hat brim on a Stetson™.
I close the camera down to light and give the shutter 5 seconds in early twilight. It’s dusky dark which is how I finished the image. This is effectively a short time exposure. Caught two lightning events here. The left two went first followed quickly by the right bolt in the hail shaft.
This is the last post of mine before Facebook transitions to an entirely new format the first of September 1. I post all my FB work using software, not direct posts. When they beta tested the New FB months ago, tried it, my system of posting failed miserably. I have NO IDEA how this is going to work or not as of tomorrow morning (as this posts). We have a “ticket” into our software company a week old now. As I type this, it is the 25th of August. If I miss any number of normally scheduled posts during this change over, I apologize ahead of time. I will figure it out.
IT was/is VERY dry out. It has been in the 90’s for an extended period. Precipitation has been low all year. In HUGE contrast to the previous year.
A long day ended and an instant after I closed my eyes it seemed. Out of the night I was awakened by the rumble in the distance through the walls of my homestead. Generally being pretty quiet up here but for the roosters in the morning, I sat up to take notice. My fire watch instinct kicked in… On went the fire resistant pants and wool socks. I get to the porch all dressed up…. It started to rain…. pretty well.😜
Lightning flashed every 5 or 10 seconds but most of it was not visible to me where I stood. My window under a metal roof this night was fairly limited by the wind. I hesitate to put expensive gear out where left unattended, it might get knocked over or soaked. So I keep it close. I do keep a properly built “ground ring about my homestead. In 2 decades of living here. I’ve never had a lightning strike come into the house. I learned to build “ground rings” after building several Ham Radio Shacks and a communications tower on hill tops. Burying copper wire or water pipe recycled is a good way to get a proper path to ground before ground currents get you. It’s always better to have the best ground outside your place.
The Telephoto time exposure of a gigantic spiral Lightning bolt. It was following the easiest path of least resistance. It’s hard to know but I’m betting this was a ground to cloud lightning. That is of course just a guess. Obscured is the top of the bolt. The shaft of falling hail blocking even the strobe passing behind.. The back of this mesocyclone had a pretty good down draft along with it. Down Drafts from big Mesocyclones tend to shake my Raptor quite a bit lol. I’m usually turning it 90 degrees to the action. Usually facing my window into the wind and rain. That’s hazardous duty for cameras lol.
Based on empirical observations, Tampa Florida takes the record of lightning events/ strikes I understand. I spent years in that area. Having a memory of quite a few good storms over the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, there are moments up here…. Well let me tell you that 30 miles east of here is a little place called “Lightning Flats”. Right up on the North East Corner of Wyoming. Let’s just say it has it’s share of strikes over there. I know of animals getting killed by lightning up here. I’ve never known anybody killed by lightning to my knowledge. One is much safer in a vehicle as long as you stay away from metal and sticking long metal tubes out open windows….😜 👀
I watch very carefully and a a visual learner from natural events. I don’t always get it right so apologies ahead of time lol.
As this erupted, I watched the “bolt” Strobe multiple times. I can visualize it in my mind now as if it just happened. Flash flash flash flash four times. This was a one second exposure which was not long enough to pick up the barely visible landscape. I was trying to get the bolts alone that were consistently blasting this particular ridge about a mile away. Roughly hitting the same area as that part of the storm floated over the high topography, I pointed a telephoto (400mm) at that spot pre-framing the image. The cameras on my drivers window clamped to the truck.
At first I thought this might be a shake of the bolt but the branches off the main aren’t all doubled as they would be if the whole image was shaking. It wasn’t a long exposure as I indicated a second. The lightning trigger that controls my shutter took the whole sequence of the bolt I believe. Each ionization path following the one next to it. I think it would be a blur if the camera moved. I’m fairly conviced this is multiple bolts not a shaky camera blur artifact. What do you think??
The Emergency Alert was going off on the Local Radio Station warning of golf ball sized hail, 60 mph winds with dangerous lightning. I’m not much for heading down the basement. I’d rather drive up a local ridge and watch it all develop. I don’t have cell service up here in the backcountry so I don’t have radar. I have to react visually to what I’m seeing. Fortunately this one wasn’t moving directly at me staying about 20 miles to my south.
These storms are huge and while we did get a direct hit, the 50+mph outflow from it was “sporty” up on a high ridge line. I often have to set up and tear down camera gear very quickly to keep them from getting wet. Rain coming in a vehicle window is not good for high end camera gear. I know there are rain coats for cameras lol. Just another layer of complexity I think. I’ve been known to pull off of the ridges onto the leeward side of the hill to get out of the highest winds. Some of these Mesocyclone can get pretty sporty before you know it. It’s always good to have a plan be. I’m about a mile away from someplace I can pull behind/under at this particular spot.
This is a classic wall cloud surrounding and acting as a floor to the massive cloud above. The back side of these storms (right) is usually the worst hail. Those shafts are hail not rain. The hail is often hidden in the rain too. That tendency caught me off guard during our big hail storm in early July this year (2020). I didn’t see it incoming. No radar remember…. In the front (left) , you can see the rain precipitation wedge in the front of the storm ahead of it’s motion. The down drafts forcing the rain sideways forming the wedge.
First of all let me say this was the storm that went over “Devils Tower” about 3 hours later. Traveling about 3 hours later I photographed the “Devils Tower” all white from the hail . This storm made national news I understand though I didn’t see the coverage. I got a bird’s eye view of the center of this huge Mesocyclone. The area of hard precipitation with this storm was at least 20 miles across. A good metaphor to this is a big spinning top with that wedge shaped area of precipitation a down draft from above. It is a huge storm just drifting where it wants to go. Areas under it are going to get “Slathered” by either hail or hard rain or both. Usually sideways from the downdrafts affiliated with such a large storm.
The lightning bolts were at least 40 miles out from my location. I was up much higher on the ridge than the surrounding ground for the perspective. View straight south from “Rattlesnake Hill” over the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters. . I’m essentially standing on the Montana / Wyoming border looking straight south.
My time exposure here was only 1.5 second. I’m not sure which bolt went first. It was WINDY from the downdrafts affiliated with that storm. Being on a ridge top only enhances that. I try to stay out from under those lightning area by using telephotos to suck me into the image. I have been surrounded by it before in my younger foolish days. It is intelligent to respect lightning and hail very much from these storms. I will dive for cover as I deem necessary. Safety is a concern.
This was actually a pretty rough storm up on the ridges. I pulled the truck off the top with the top winds (at my house clocked at 54 mph). I was up in the storm so I’m pretty sure I was in 60 mph winds. Pulling my truck on the backside of a hill helped moderate the buffeting. No hail other than slush. Since my truck is already a hail victim, I’m not so worried now about the little storms. I know it’s limits. It’s already golf ball hail tested lol.
The leading edge of the center of these big curved Mesocylcones (the kind of storm here) is where the rain comes out. The hail you can see in the distance. I have to fight rain with cameras so parking such to keep the water out of the lens is handy. Not always possible. About the time those rain/slush shafts hit. I had to put all the gear in it’s baby seat. Then I headed for wind cover off the topographic high. The max wind on our ranch this year in July clocked at 84. That is above the 78 mph we got in 2015. We have had some wind damage along with the fire (by lightning) and hail storm in early July. I’m thinking 2020 is a “Mulligan” year.
This is a harsh environment. I can’t imagine much damage on a sod roof of the 1910 homesteader up here. The 3 inch hail that caused so much damage here recently wouldn’t have hurt anything but the grass around them (might just be a big deal). But it didn’t break the host of plastic things we have in our environment. In the model T days, I suspect the metal was such that it wasn’t going to dent lol. The glass… I’m sure there were replacements in the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. 🤔
Taken 7 days before it posted here. This is one frame out of several dozen that I got from watching this storm. The limiting ridge is several miles away. This is an aimed telephoto shot on an area of sky I was watching. It was a “little” active there. This was well after sunset with a heavily overcast sky above. It was pitch black except for the bolts in the distance.
I use triggered time exposures to capture lightning in my photon trap bottles. This particular image happened over 25 seconds. The first two bolts on the left happened 4 seconds into the exposure. The two others happens within the next 10 seconds with a few seconds of inactivity before the shutter closed. Then the camera too another 25 seconds to perform low noise processed the times for a proper rendering. I work these scenes with two camera quite often to alternate between the rigs so as not to miss much.
Needless to say, this is a busy shot and I’m glad I don’t have burning ground to my south and east. It was raining as you can see from the rain shafts. I’m thinking those bikers got drenched for the second day in a row. A geographic location called “Lightning Flats” is about 15 miles to our east. We could give Tampa Florida a run at times for it’s money. Lightnings a serious deal up here too.
Best seen full screen as the bolt is extensive. The charge goes from the two points where the difference in electrical potential charge is greatest. Sometimes that is ground to cloud. Sometimes cloud to ground. The last possibility is cloud to cloud. This of course is the latter. When I think of lighting, it’s cloud to ground but I see many of each type in the limited storm chasing I do. I way prefer cloud to cloud from a safety standpoint lol. Hopefully there isn’t cloud to Raptor…..
I tend to see these cattle in this hollow when storms come through as I watch storms from this hill top often. The road up there isn’t a mud problem as others are. The type of soil is better drained sandy material. I don’t like to drive on ground that will rut and work rain storms lol. Those cows though… I think there is some instinct that says clear out of the rest of the square mile pasture and congregate there during a storm. I’m not sure of the instinct that drives them here. I’m not even sure of the instinct that drives me here lolol.
So lightning heats up the air to around 50,000 degrees F. That’s about 5 times the temperature of the surface of the sun. When the differences in charges between the clouds in this case overcame the insulative ability of the air, a flash happens. Quickly… Like the close to the speed of light fast.
Dry lightning…..Taken right off my front porch this time of year is not what I’d like to see. It’s a little dry for this crap. I will set up a camera with a lightning trigger under the metal covered porch roof at just the sound of thunder. In a heart beat. I like to see some rain around those bolts though durn it…. .
Historically this spot on the front porch has been a water safe place for the fairly expensive camera rig not to get a shower. Fortunately I didn’t have one set up during the serious hail storm we had a few weeks back. Big things 3 inch hail stones crashed through the skylight of that porch the other day my cameras are usually under. Didn’t hurt the tripods set up there though. Lucky… Any of this kind of activity has some risk either personal or financial attached. I’m just glad I don’t have to photograph charging African Elephants with only a camera and a jeep. Now a lightning bolt will mess up your day just like an elephant only a lot faster.
I have ringed my house with an effective grounding rod system. It is better grounding than we are. (Ham Radio) Wireless computer connections, wireless phones make most communication safe during lightning. Don’t use the wired ones though. We have had lightning strike our back yard trees several times killing a few along the way. It’s not good to be outside in this country when you live around the trees. The ground tends to be wet which tends to enable ground currents to travel. Those electrons will ruin your day too. You have to just love lightning 😔 It does have the qualities one of which is being photogenic. 😀 📷
Taken around 11PM at night of the LONG day we had a dangerous grass fire on ranch. I had gotten up at 3AM to work Neowise Comet the night before. LONG day. A lightning storm around 2 pm started a fire over a ridge about a mile from my homestead. Instantly upon hearing thunder I jumped in the Raptor. Used it’s agility to quickly get the heck up the 400 foot hill I climb to see around. Binocs come out. Sure enough, smoke in one of our fields and a rapidly growing area of flame in 20 mph winds. Crushed grass from hail and somewhat grazed down fortunately. It took me 20 minutes to get a fire truck to the scene. We activate the local calling tree. The counties involved were both Powder River Mt and Cambell County Wy. The fire was on the border. This conflagration harmed no dinosaurs.👀😜
We are under extreme fire danger up in the country this year with one of the driest June/July’s on record. Last year was one of the wettest. If you don’t like the Wyotana weather, stick around it will change. Such as it been since the beginning of time on earth lolol. We are loaded with hundreds of square miles of hour fuel. A Hour fuel is very combustible. Dry grass for example. Fortunately grass fires are easier to fight than timber fires. We kept it out of the timber.
So we fought that fire, after seeing the Bureau of Land Management crew sitting the fire overnight and wishing them a peaceful night under the stars, I went back toward the homestead only to be waylaid by this little thunderstorm (Mesocyclone) for another hour. Time exposures of up to 30 second. It was a little windy that night as I indicated. The trees are all blurred from moving around in the lengthly 20-30 second period of electronic shutter. Wind moving my truck/tripod is problematic. Particularly if there were any point sources of light around. Blurs result.
Note the stars in the upper right corner of the frame.
After a long day of fire fighting, I was done with thanking the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Fire team that stayed out sleeping under the “Stars” outside their fire fighting rig. For this fire, most neighbors, surrounding ranchers and local fire departments had departed before dark. The BLM crew “sat” on the fire over night. They left the next morning for another fire and another set of Meal’s Ready to Eat on the menu. Thank you fire crews and first responders everywhere. You have to love lightning hitting the ground in a tender dry environment full of grass.
That evening on the way home, the lightning show continues. The big round wall cloud that bolt penetrates blinded me at around 20 miles distant. Because this is a time exposure, you have a whole series of bolts recorded in this 30 second time line. One after another over a random few second intervals. I’d say there are 4 flashes in this particular capture. It takes another 30 seconds to process the image internally in the camera. This effectively puts the camera out of commission while it is processing the data. This is why I run 2 cameras alternating back and forth lol. It does keep you busy 📷
That Wall cloud is a really well formed one. I love climbing ridges and getting these views but that was a long day. I gave up after about an hour as the action faded. There are a few more good catches from this event. Long day done.
Just after the sun had set, the Massive rotating storm started to loose the energy that was forming it. Fueled ultimately by rising air from it’s heating influence. Starved from it’s energy source. The Mammatus clouds as above can be a sign of the big rotating storm collapsing.
This particular day was a storm filled afternoon. I suspect that HUGE bolt is 40 miles distant on the “Red Hills” (The name) making up that distant ridge. I use what is called a lightning trigger to “click” my shutter during hours where a time exposure would over expose. You can use neutral density filters on your camera to do time exposures during the day. I’m sort of a purist and don’t like screw on filters in front of my lenses. I have had images ruined by ghost images due to their effect. I point at the sun a lot, lightning probably isn’t that different. Bright Light and all that.
At night however, a long exposure might do you. In pitch black, storm flashing away….need a tripod, with a timer or remote thumb trigger for your camera, start at ISO 300, F4 (ish) and say 20 seconds. Let it flash, wait a second, then click…. Don’t touch anything until the shutter closes. Then look to see what you got. Go longer or shorter exposure to bring the image into reality. Now you know pretty much what I do to do this.
This was taken the day we had our grass fire. I had been following up with the Bureau of Land Management Hot Spot Team. I was talking to the crew until about 11:15 when it became apparent that the Comet Neowise was going to be behind clouds. Time to go to sleep, a few miles back to the homestead all the while noticing HUGE multiple lightning flashes 20 miles to our south. The silhouette of the hill on the skyline is called “Bowman Hill”. Bowman is 15 miles south of me.
Now it takes my Sony mirrorless cameras (which work only OK) for the Comet Neowise) do a pretty good job on 30 second time exposures even in windy conditions taking photos of flashing lighting. I was definitely ridge topped here having to climb out of the bowl our homestead is in to see this. Those same sony cameras take ANOTHER 30 seconds to process that 30 second time exposure before I can take another exposure. Problematic so I work 2 cameras at the same time alternating 30 second clicks and I basically get full time coverage of all the bolts possible. But I can still only take 2 photos a minute at best. (that make sense??).
So anyway…. That is the center of a Mesocyclone all lit up by that flash. The wall cloud demarking the tip of the massive spinning top of this 60 miles across storm. The intensity of the storm at a late hour was remarkable with flash after flash discharging every few seconds over all. But many of the flashes were deep in the storm backlighting several surfaces. Stars…..
Talk about a busy photo. I swear rainbows and lightning in the same image together is not a common thing to happen in front of your lens. You have to hunt this stuff and then set up the possibility. It was very dark but I could see the “Right Turn Clyde” sign to align it with the the blurred windmill. (you remember those two Shows 1978 and 80 right). The Windmill had a great view of the rainbow that had formed with a faint compliment secondary rainbow. This was very late and the only light left for the rainbow was the long traveled pink light. Normally you see this as a pink Belt of Venus on the frozen atmospheric ice.
Here the “Belt of Venus” pink backshow light was all that available to the rain droplets to refract back to my lens. The pink color being as strong that night as I have seen it in a summer evening. I’ve seen it WAY stronger in the winter. Winter of course is the time of year to watch Alpenglow in the Wyotana skies. All the ice makes for amazing shows. The same light reflects in a much darker shade off of water droplets than ice crystals. Light to amazing pink in the winter is standard, this openly cranberry color is an odd one for me to see. Thus it is my gold standard to finish the image. It made a huge impression on me at the time.
Obviously I have several finished images from this timeline. Each a little different in it’s coloration as the sequence of events played out in front of me. There are times I REALLY love doing this.
This was the last of the last light of the day making it’s way to the storm. I was using time exposures AND a lightning trigger to make my life easier catching both phenomena in the same frame. Mostly rare Red Rainbows are only formed by the long traveled “Belt of Venus” pink light. Hundreds of miles travel through the low blanket of air surrounding the earth prevents longer light wavelengths from passing. To quote a literary Grey Wizard (at that time) “You Shall Not Pass” (classical reference).
This one was just a quick 50,000 amp or so discharge in the hills back to my southeast. I always go up those hills the next morning to look around. I have to verify there isn’t a fire smoldering in a log somewhere.
This storm system was late in the day for me to see this much. I mentioned time exposure but it was only about 2 seconds. Camera work is all about balancing light between the three settings you need to understand in manual mode. Shutter speed you have control of as one of them. A longer shutter gives you more light to play with. It was very windy at this capture with the truck (my tripod) was shaking. Much over a few seconds was impossible. Faster shutters than 1/2 second and you might miss some of lightning with often ripples through clouds over 1/2 second.
In another 15 minutes this would have been a red rainbow. Considered Rare as they only happen RIGHT at sunset. I know this as it did in fact turn red later but for at this click was still orange. The sun was setting over my right shoulder. It was partially obscured by various clouds at various sections of the timeline here. This series of storms like a train trailing cars ran just to our east giving me wonderful views of the activity sunlit by the colored light. That light reflecting off the storm back to my optics. The long waves surviving the low angle ridge through the curved atmospheric lens.
The sunset ongoing over my right shoulder was in fact quite a good show. It takes a good main show to give me enough light to see the back show during storms. Only a very complex atmosphere could give me the proper conditions for this unusual capture. That is my communications tower just to the right of the bolt. It has been hit hundreds of times. Ummm… working from up there takes larger stones than I have to be up there in a serious electrical storm. I’ve spent a few episodes up there. Grounded all that gear is. Talk about a target lolol.
It is my understanding that Lightning AND Rainbows in the same photo are also unusual as the conditions that cause each are unusual together. I don’t have a lot of the two of them dancing in my portfolio. This storm train provided me with many examples. Before this timeline I may have had one or two in my lifetime. It’s probably just me, I miss things all the time lolol.
I love to work that group of trees for the perspectives from that high ridge. Certainly I’m glad I’m not over there now. Seeing areas you frequent struck by lightning from a distance is a good thing. Better than from up close and personal lolol. This is taken from right at one mile away from the hill that his being struck. This is a very wide angle image showing more of the storms perspective.
These clouds were roiling with the majority of the precipitation behind behind this leading edge. I was surprised by the hail the other day because I don’t have cell signal to give me current radar information. I saw a rain shaft coming and didn’t realize it was full of 2 inch hail lolol.
We are indeed very remote up here. I’m actually going to research radar in vehicles or somewhat to get internet to my vehicle. I do have a communications tower so it’s a matter of how, not if. Might be able to do it for certain spots on the open prairie but not the whole thing. I have internet at my communication tower but that is kind of a silly place to be in a lightning storm.
This was much closer to sunset than others from this timeline. Mostly the clouds above are the only sunlight left. The landscape is illuminated by the lightning bolt plus the ambient lighting from the partially occluded twilight ongoing over my shoulder.
Lightning AND Rainbows together I have determined are an uncommon capture in the same photos. At least during my time travels lol. I’m thinking I have ONE other recent high resolution digital capture taken staring “Sneaky Pete” the windmill with a rainbow plus a lightning shaft. The storm that produced this scene gave me 1/2 dozen other similar captures that will slowly work their way into my daily published posts.
This was a very small part of a very large Mesocyclone I had been tracking on radar all day. It started down in Casper with it’s track bearing down on us. It JUST missed us by a few miles to our east. I’m sad we didn’t get the precipitation but I’m glad this monster missed us. We have had enough wind damage this year. My best to my friends/neighbors to my east after this storm. We all roll the dice with these big prairie Mesocyclones. Basically they are 100 mile across spinning tops of clouds. Tey have the power of an atom bomb expended during it’s brief lifetime. I have some AMAZING larger wide angle storm views of this storm.
Fortunately there wasn’t TOO much lightning that I saw. The fire danger is high. My lightning triggers liked the light on this particular storm. Some times none of the various triggers I use pick up a bolt. I might have three cameras set up on three different camera triggers and only one will take it. Go figure. I endorse no camera lightning triggers as of yet in my professional career. Some bolts are captures such as this.
Pointing a camera where a bolt had just hit has a good probability that a repeat performance is in order. It took me a second to zoom into where I thought the last strike was based on the residual image left on my retina . So I moved the camera, got it all set up just in time Flash…1,2,3,4 BOOOOM…. So not quite a mile just over the hill we call “Dobie” (don’t ask me why it’s called that). Looks to be a ground to cloud bolt..
It’s not too often I get a really large (OK, huge) bolt like this completely on the frame without cropping down a larger image. Usually the some leader is cut off. This is a full frame non-cropped image though. I couldn’t have centered it better if I knew ahead of time where it was going to be. Well I still had that ghost image in my eyes from that last flash lol.
There was a whole series of storms that moved through this evening. Each had it’s own character and lighting into sunset. I worked each and every one till the lightning and lighting subsided. There were some amazing captures from this timeline . I spent over 3 hours with this storm train. That is 1000 to 1500 image stuff. This will take a while to sort it all out. I had two cameras on lightning trigger and others free handed. I can run up to three cameras but it get’s to resemble a rats nest on my truck window.
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 (vehicle) seems somehow 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 actually flinch for, is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that particular photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case 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. Turn on some tunes…..
Having watched several bolts flash out of this rain shaft, I dutifully pointed a long lens at the spot. Tracked it a ways and the Lightning trigger clicked the camera automatically. Sometimes I have been lucky observing repeat performances with bolts originating out of the same spot of the sky. Even as the storm system moves across the landscape, the lighting source moves with it on the timeline. I have various experiences watching the same point in the storm launch bolts along the storms path. I’ve worked well over 100 storms to date for lightning.
Lightning bolts last a half a second sometimes so longer exposures up to that long work nicely curing the daylight hourse. Your other two manual settings are subject to what your doing and the ambient light level so any of my “Shared” settings won’t help. I will tell you that I like to set my ISO around 320 for daylight lightning under deep clouds. Shutter speed will change depending on how much wind is blowing. Long shutter speeds and a shaking vehicle don’t work well together. If your just taking a 2D sky as above, depth of focus is irrelevant. Low fstop of about f6 and a Lower ISO would be better. If your taking a landscape and want the foreground in focus, it’s important to have a higher F-stop as that gives you depth of focus from close to far. But it takes away light which has to be made up for with camera sensitivity (ISO).
This shelf cloud from a good sized mesocyclone moving through May 2020. I’m happy to say I only had one small formerly nice calf shed cartwheeled over a fence. As well as two empty standing gasoline tanks/stands blown over from this one. They have been standing for decades. Any hail missed us. I was however, pelted by horizontal rocks and gravel. Carried by the wind gust coming up the hill over the gravel road lower left frame. Looked like a sand storm coming at me.
I’m estimating conservatively it was a 60 mph direct down draft but it was probably 80 mph. My recording wind gauge is currently down waiting for a replacement moment as the winds here wear out the 120 dollar devices every 4 or 5 years. They are actually incoming next week so that will be fixed. I have recorded a 79mph wind on the ranch historically.
I’ve been an observer of weather for some time. The winds usually affiliated with this type of Arcus cloud CAN be pretty severe. I snapped this image along with a few more. Thought the better part of valor was to avoid the worst of it. “Clever Girl” is only 5 months old and has no hail dents yet. I heard golf ball sized hail in this…. didn’t get it. Only .3 inch of rain but we’ll take what we get.
I thought it was pretty nifty this shelf has 3 horizontal rings looping around rotation clearly visible in this capture. The lightning bolt was a rare one in this storm as it really didn’t light up too much. There were some dangerous bolts. When my truck started getting seriously buffeted, I headed for the barn under that big white roof. I left that building’s white roof in the frame for a reason. It is a good scale. That is 1/2 of the roof of a building which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field. I’m almost a mile and 200 feet above that building at the click.
I used to do stupid things like go up in the back yard to watch a rain/thunder storm come in at midnight. This was indeed less intelligent than my IQ would indicate my choices might be. Apparently somewhat risk adverse at the time, I was actually driving my Polaris Ranger Crew UTV which while it has a metal roll cage, had a plastic roof. This bolt woke me right up and could have put me right to sleep lol.
Doing a LOT of lightning shots every summer, I ordered “Clever Girl” (my Ford F-150 Raptor) from the factory WITHOUT a sunroof for a reason. IT’s always good to have metal between you and the storm.
Isolated from ground currents probably in the vehicle on rubber…Better than being on foot…. Having said that… I would not like to be under or even closer to that bolt. It felt like an artillery shell being launched. That along with the benefit of being blinded at the same time. Flash bang less than 1 second…
The old “Steel Yard” on the ranch is actually Over that hill. It consists about 1/4 acre of various antique farm implement parts and pieces with a lot of metallic objects. It is roughly 1/4 mile past that ridge line. I suspect the bolt hit a sharp edge there as moist drainage is also over there. I suspect that is where the ground currents went as I noted the sudden lack of Jack Rabbits down there after that too.
That was a very hard core strike from the incoming storm. It was time to go inside which I did post hast having learned my lesson. I’m much more careful now days but working on your porch is about the same thing as the Polaris with the fiberglass window into the metal roof overhead. Inside a vehicle or inside a house with a proper grounding ring around it. Never touch metal in your vehicles during a storm….
This is a 25 second time exposure in pitch black around midnight. Long time exposures at night have unintended consequences. Red and blue colors make pink with both colors being enhanced. The silly long exposure at least with my Sony Alphas give me these hues. I can’t see the real scene of a long exposure on the screen of the Sony to argue with it. This is just a close estimate by the camera of the scene. I just saw a flash… What colors are put out by lightning? All colors…..there was some ambient light from our ranch pole lights too messing the colors up….
Why time exposure? You get multiple bolts with a 25 second or so exposure, ISO 125, f4 to start with… Work from there moving your f stop up a click each shot to adjust to the ambient light conditions as necessary. Review the images for results and pick your poison for the duration of the storm.
Yup, it was a little windy for this capture. The problem with time exposures (low light generally with a punctuated flash during the click) is that wind shakes everything. I was sitting in my vehicle with an open window with metallic objects sticking out. All while next to a tall metal object on a hill top. Perfect place to take lightning photos I’m thinking… What could possibly go wrong? 😀😜👀📸
SO: Windmill Wednesday… Windmill Junkies Unite: 🤘 “Sneaky Pete” the windmill risking all to jump into my Lightning image. Hazardous work environment for the young guy.
Blurring a windmill is easy even in a soft breeze. You just have to leave the shutter open long enough to allow the blades to move during the exposure. This is complimentary to lightning as the longer the shutter is open, the more likely it is that you’ll catch a bolt. I also use lightning triggers but they only initiate the click. It’s me that sets the camera up. Lightning I tend to close the camera down to light and do 5 second exposures with ISO and Fstop set dependant on ambient light. This storm was fairly dark so I used ISO 200, 5 seconds and f22. Your setting will vary. Wind will keep your shutter MUCH shorter than 5 seconds. More like .25 seconds. This is where those lightning trigger gadgets come in very handy. Set to ISO 100, 1/25th, F18 and start there with a trigger. Hope this helps… Lightning is tough trying to anticipate it. You might get 1 in 10 flashes If your very quick…
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. This one was REACHING out my direction lolol. It’s miles long.
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 1/4second or longer time 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. 📸
A busy time lapse photo from a good camera on a steady tripod set up under the awning of my homesteads deck. The lighting you see is ambient inside our “compound” from various yard lights accumulated over 10 seconds…. The storm provided a 500 microsecond extreme flash giving me internally illuminated clouds. As the storm travels, it’s leaving stars in it’s wake in the pure dark sky. Got em!
Basically combining Time Lapse and Flash Photography .
This is not a composite in fact the bright star is actually a planet… Jupiter. The flash of the lightningwas instantaneous but the stars needed the 10 second time exposure. The results fit like a glove 📸. About 10 seconds at ISO 300 with f6 (ish) should get you close if you have a tripod, and a storm that leaves stars in it’s wake… Pouring rain (see dark areas)..
I wonder how long I can expose stars without streaking? 🤔🤔👀📷
500 divided by the Focal Length of your Lens = The Longest Exposure in seconds) before Stars “start to trail”.
For example; let’s say you’re taking a shot with a 24mm lens on a full frame camera. 500 / 24 = 21 seconds, which you can round to 20 seconds. Use the rule, it works. Hope this helps you avoid streaks unless you WANT them lolol. I think longer the better for that to taste…😜