Canon 30D, tripod
Tokina 19-35 at 19mm
37 seconds at f11,
ISO 250


lightning reflection

Lightning images can be tricky, and require a lot of things to go right. For years, I had very few opportunities to even attempt them, and when I did I rarely got anything too exciting.

full lightning frameA lot of this had to do with where I lived at the time, where the views of oncoming or receding storms were extremely limited; when you have only a narrow patch of sky that's relatively unobstructed, it takes a lot of luck to have an active bolt precisely where you want it. Most times electrical storms were coming from cells rather than fronts, only a few kilometers across, so even traveling to an area with a better view might simply mean driving out of effective range. Add to that, the region just didn't seem to see too many storms, and little warning when there was, and that's the recipe for a lightning photo dry spell.

That changed significantly when we moved. More thunderstorms, a little website that featured real-time lightning activity plotted on a map, and much better views, including a lovely pond within walking distance, greatly increased the number of photos that I was capturing.

This particular case worked out pretty well. The rain was just beginning while the strikes were distinct, and I could easily catch reflections in the water of the pond. Coming back inside before it drew too near (it's a lot farther away than you might imagine from the photo,) I took a close look at the reflection and realized that, all by itself, it was a captivating abstract, even though the full frame carried well enough. I love how the ripples from the raindrops throw a bit of distortion into the bolt, but not too much.

Realize, too, that the illumination for this image comes entirely from the bolt itself, save for the lights from the houses around the pond. The exposure was 37 seconds, waiting for an unpredictable bolt to appear, but when it did, its brief flash froze a selection of ripples in place even as they distorted the bolt itself. Very cool.