‘Tis the season! We just haven’t had any thunderstorms yet, but you know they are coming. One of my favourite things to do is chase after big thunderstorms. To see nature’s raw power displayed in a big prairie thunderstorm is really an amazing experience and making an image that conveys this experience can be quite a challenge! These two images were both made last summer near Red Deer. This close image of lightning was made late in the afternoon just south of town. The lightning kept striking in virtually the same spot, next to field of canola, over and over, but my reaction time was just too slow, even though I had lots of caffeine from two or three coffees, and as it was still light out I couldn’t simply leave the shutter open and wait for a strike as you can at night when a long exposure captures nothing until a strike lights up the neighbourhood. I had missed 6 or 7 strikes and was about to give up when I recalled a program on Discovery Channel about one of the NASA Space Shuttle missions that flew over the Amazon rain forest at night studying thunderstorm lightning patterns from a few hundred miles up. They discovered that a strike in one thunderstorm would trigger a chain reaction of lightning strikes through many storm clouds along a chain of storms stretching as far as 400km. I figured I had nothing to lose by trying the same as there was a second storm approximately 10 km north of the one I was watching that was quite active with lightning. So I kept my camera aimed at the spot where the strikes had been hitting but kept my eyes glued to the storm to the north. First strike I saw, I hit the shutter as quick as I could and WHAM!! I captured this image.
[Pentax OPTIO 43WR]
This storm was exactly what I have been hoping for for years! I wanted to capture the strike, sure, but I also wanted to show the clouds and it’s movements using a long exposure. The strike was just to finish off the image. The only problem in finding the right storm to capture my idea was that I needed a storm that was quite a distance away, with nothing(rain, other clouds, etc) between myself and the storm, and with lightning coming out of the back of the storm. I also wanted the clear sky behind and above the storm and it had to be late enough in the day to allow the approximately 1-5 minute exposures I felt I would need to show the clouds movements. This storm showed up and I used up every frame of film in the camera bag!!
[Hasselblad 501CM, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 100F]