The easiest yet

It’s been a day of severe storm threats, alternating rain and sun, and tornado watches, but after dinner, I heard thunder about the same time that I was getting lightning strike alerts, and checked the Real Time Lightning Map: lots of strikes south of my location, but what looked like increasing activity to the west. I figured I’d give it a shot, and grabbed the camera and tripod and hiked it over to the neighborhood pond, knowing I had little time to spare.

Naturally, I saw one brilliant strike as the shutter was closed, but I waited it out – which hardly gives the right impression, because I didn’t have long to wait.

lightning strike beyond pond
It was dusk, with a little light still left in the sky, so I was slowly lengthening my exposures from 12 to 30 seconds or so. I was rewarded with this strike, and this is full frame; we can go in a little closer with a tighter crop for better framing:

closer crop of same lightning image
You can see that the wind and the rain have already roughed up the surface of the pond and all reflections. This exposure gives a decent idea of what I could see without the lightning, and I was watching to see if any beavers might want to get into the shot, though they remained out of sight.

But I could feel the wind picking up and the rain getting stronger – not like a front, but like a cell, gusty and sporadic. And then the wind really started to pick up. I had my hand on the tripod steadying it for this next frame.

closer lightning strike over pond
Even as brief as it was, I got the impression it was significantly closer, which the thunder confirmed, and the wind was roaring now. Still not close – several kilometers off – but lightning strikes can be unpredictable and the storm was serious by now. This was the last frame (uncropped at 18mm focal length, by the way,) and I immediately packed it up and headed back, not sure if I’d overstayed my time and wouldn’t be soaked before I got home. As it was, I was a bit damp, but the downpour held off long enough. Meanwhile, the lightning that seemed to be heading right in for a window-rattler died out almost as soon as I got home.

So you know, it was just shy of five minutes between the first and last frames that I shot on this little attempt, a total of 12 frames, which makes it by far the most efficient storm outing yet, even when others have produced better images. I could have thrown a pizza in the oven before I left and been back to take it out on time.

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