Bolts in the Blue. A nearby thunderstorm fills the sky with lightning.
With storms, you never know. Usually, when I am shooting lightning photos my sessions are cut short by the storm’s winds and rain. Friday night, however, was a golden opportunity as a fairly compact thunderstorm producing plentiful lightning passed just to our north. As the storm approached, moved through, and departed I experienced only a light breeze and no rain at all. Wonderful! And so I was able to shoot a good number of lightning pictures, only missing a couple when I had to re-aim the camera. Here are my favorites from the shoot…
A Sky Full of Electricity. A nearby thunderstorm fills the sky with lightning. Photo by James Guilford.
Closed-Circuit. Or “U-Bolt”. U-shaped discharge with an oval shape inside!
February Thunderstorm – Cloud-to-Cloud
A powerful thunderstorm rolled through the area the night of February 24 – quite unusual, as was the general weather, for winter in Northeastern Ohio.
Lightning arcs in February Thunderstorm – Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud to Ground in the same space of time!
The storm approached from the southwest and, as it rolled in it was dry at first. I set my camera up in a sheltered patio area and waited for the occasional flash of lightning. Then, as so often happens, rain started and drove me indoors.
Lightning arcs in February Thunderstorm Bursting forth and spreading along the underside of the cloud – a “crawler.” The crawler was weaker, not as bright, as other flashes.
There, thanks to a beautiful new picture window with excellent glass, I was able to continue the shoot from the dry safety of my living room! Unfortunately, most discharges were out of my line of sight or low to the horizon; I did, however, get a couple of decent images.
Hot Shot: A Very Intense Bolt of Cloud-to-Ground Lightning
I enjoy photographing lightning. Most of the storms that visit this part of the country arrive with wind, rain, and then lightning and are too “wet” for me to shoot. Those storms that arrive “dry,” with lightning first, seem rare. We had two of those dry, photo-op storms recently. The first, on July 8, I documented here earlier. The second, the night of July 13, didn’t give me much time between its approach and the arrival of rain but did give me an excellent image. Appearances can be deceiving but the spectacular lightning bolt shown here may be the most powerful I’ve ever photographed. Before you say anything: yes, I am careful and shoot only from protected locations!
Moon and Jupiter, July 8.
The night of July 8 started out with my wanting to photograph the Moon and Jupiter together in the western sky. There they were, hanging in the dark with a wisp of cloud lending mystery to the scene. It was lovely.
Clouds Moving In, beginning to cover the Moon and Jupiter.
Then clouds began to obscure Luna’s bright crescent. Thicker and thicker came the clouds and then, above the horizon, clouds lit up with flashes and thunder rumbled… a thunderstorm was coming! I was expecting storms to arrive later but there I was, all set up and ready to record the show!
Mars and Stars – the View to the South
I looked to the south and not yet reached by the approaching weather was the beautiful sight of brilliant planet Mars and the stars of constellation Scorpius. Lovely to see but about to be upstaged!
Lighting up the Distant Clouds
I made a lot of exposures, mostly showing clouds illuminated by hidden lightning though after the fact I discovered there had been faint streaks in the open all along. Sometimes the whole sky seemed to light up.
The Whole Sky Lit Up
As the storm grew closer, the lightning grew more intense until nicely-placed lightning bolts appeared and I got my best shot of the night. Only moments after that final good exposure the wind grew and rain began to fall, forcing me indoors.
Shot of the Night – Double Bolts
The storm showed promise…
on radar the approaching line was preceded by a gust front and followed by storms with plenty of wind and rain and LIGHTNING! So, despite suffering from a head cold, I headed outdoors after 11 PM and into the heavy summer air. Making a long story short, I shot many images hoping to catch a lightning bolt before the arrival of rain. I heard thunder alright and saw soft-edged clouds lit by internal cloud-to-cloud sparks. The one bolt I did see during my hour’s efforts arced between clouds and between snaps of the shutter … perfectly bad timing! I muttered to myself quite a bit about that. The lightning petered out and sprinkles of rain began to fall. A disappointing night. So here is the one halfway decent shot from a not very photogenic storm.
A lightning-filled thunderstorm arrives overhead.
In the waning minutes of sunset, a thunderstorm was moving into the area. As the leading edge of the cloud shield floated overhead, rumbles of thunder could be heard. Looking up, I saw the sky was alive with cloud-to-cloud lightning, much of it crawling across the cloud surfaces and readily visible, illuminating the coves and knolls of the storm. Fortunately I had my camera and tripod at hand and quickly set up in the parking lot behind my car. Quickly making rough camera settings I shot frame after frame, composing as best I could from a less-than-ideal vantage point. I would have shot a lot more images — there was lightning all over the sky — but my session was cut short by rain, threatening sky-facing lenses, forcing me into the car. It was quite the show, that spring lightning!
Sunset and lightning usher in the night.