Evening light show

Sunday evening, the promised rain rolled in, the first of the real spring storms – the weekend weather had been excellent, and I’m still sporting a sunburned face from being out too long without a hat Saturday. With the rain came some electrical activity, but I could do little about this with the downpour; aside from the difficulty of having camera equipment out in the rain, there’s the bare fact that once the rain starts, all that usually happens is a generic illumination without any visible lightning bolts. So, the best thing to do is to catch the approaching storm. Or the receding one.

The rain had stopped, the sky had cleared, and I went outside to put something in the car when I noticed all the activity to the east. Knowing a nearby pond would have a good view of that sky plus allow some reflections, I quickly stuffed the equipment in the car and sped over to the water’s edge.

distant electrical storm over pond
Despite some nice visible bolts while driving over, initially all I could see once I set up the camera on the tripod were flashes within the clouds, but eventually some inter-cloud activity became visible and I began getting some decent frames. There wasn’t a sound to be heard from the storm, being many kilometers distant by then, and the sky directly overhead was showing stars and a crescent moon. I settled on roughly 12 second exposures with only a second or two in between, since the activity was near constant at that point, and ended up shooting 123 frames. Of those, quite a few showed distinctive bolts, even though the dramatic ground strikes (like a year and a half ago in the same location) weren’t really visible. I put together 27 frames that were taken without changing the camera position and made an animated gif (pronounced “fig”) out of them, seen below.

animated gif consecutive frames of electrical storm
First off, note that these are consecutive, without any frames being pulled – in other words, yes, each one got something in it. Second, look at the thunderhead to the right that gets revealed as the low-level clouds nearby, colored yellow by the city lights, drift off. It is solely illuminated by lightning, which was so consistent in that area of the storm that the appearance of the thunderhead remains practically unchanged. Compare that against the gif (pronounced “ifg”) seen here, and how the layers of clouds seem to change with each bolt.

One of my (many) photographic goals is to capture a red sprite, and I watched this storm carefully to see if any indication of such a display was forthcoming, with no luck. It probably goes without saying, at least if you’re familiar with red sprites at all, that conditions have to be just right to capture them. Still, with the number of storms that I’ve had enormous luck with in the past two years, it seems more likely I’ll snag one of them over a tornado or a frozen waterfall, also items on my list.

There was another photo outing this past weekend, so more pics may be forthcoming shortly. I’m trying to get back into more regular posting, I really am…

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