So, there I was
undressed, laying in bed, unable to sleep, with a large chocolate lab spread across my pillow and snoring his brains out. So like most of our electronically addicted generation dose at 3am I picked up my phone and started fiddling with it. I had been watching the weather on my computer down stairs for a while before going to bed, and I was curious as to what was precipitating. As the NOAA radar loaded up I saw exactly what I was expecting. The warmer lakes had charged the storms up and they were heading strait towards my area. They were to the north, and 40 miles to the west yet. Having been around the block a few times, I usually prefer to be ahead, or to the side of a storm to get the best photos. Sometimes smack dab in the center is pretty awesome as well. Knowing that sleep was not going to happen I got up and packed the gear into the car.
Lightning combined with metal objects at high elevations…
I went down the road, around a few corners, made a left hand turn, up a hill, then up a two-track to the top of it. This is a usually place to watch the incoming weather and offers fairly impressive views. I also like to come up here with a handheld VHF/UHF ham radio and use the lowest power setting to talk to people a ways off. The thought of why I was in a field, on a hill, in front of a storm crossed through my mind but I decided that there was some risk, but possible worth it. As a good friend, Gordan has told me about sailing and thunder storms “Either you will get stuck by lightning, or you wont. If you do, either you will die or you have one hell of a story.” Not the most reassuring thought because there is nothing that is not painful about being stuck with enough power to juice NY for a few days, but I do like good stories. The possibility of gaining super powers played a role as well. So I set up the tripod, camera, and a cable release. Setting the shutter to bulb, and the aperture to F/11 I decided that there would be enough from a lightning strike to sink it into the sensor. I had left my car door open for most of the night so that in the event that my hair started to stand on end, or if the tripod started to glow. I figured I had enough time to leap into the Faraday cage to escape a lightning strike. At least that was the plan…
So, I waited
and waited, and waited. Exposure after exposure was made and I came to a saddening realization. It suddenly became apparent that due to the age of camera it took a long while to process the image. I would make a 3 minute exposure and it would take an additional 3 minutes for it to process, then 5 seconds to save the file. I have been dealing with the lag for a while, it is nothing new, but when there is lightning crashing down everywhere it kinda matters. One moment in particular, I had just closed the shutter after a long exposure of nothingness and two seconds after, the largest bolt of lightning I have seen in a while came crashing down from the sky. It started in on side of my framing, crossed, and touched down right in front of me. I have a rendition of it that will be attached to the ending of this post. There should be video of this, I had a one of those turned on and strapped to the leg of the tripod. I figured that I would have a record of my death in the even that I could not tell that story. After an hour or so atop the hill I managed to capture one acceptable shot and one that was borderline. The rain started to pour down and that is usually a good time to leave.
Thoughts, dangerous ones…
After the frustrations of the lag that was brought about by the digital age I came to an opinion that it may be time to revert to film for lightning capture. Simply because it is done when I decide to advance the film and it’s over with. But then we have all the problems that are associated with waiting for development and digital rendering from the film. All completely doable, but who has the patience for that these days?
Here is what we all missed:
Thanks to the powers of GIMP and my own memory, I have created an artistic rendering of the lightning bolt that escaped.
Upon further recollection, I determined that my brain has been wiped by alians and that the following image was a more accurate depiction.
Apparently there was a lot going on that night…
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