visual spectrum: lightning exposure


The first time I ever saw lightning bolts striking the ground was when I was a kid, visiting my grandparents in Maine.  California (at the least the area where I grew up) rarely gets lightning storms that even begin to approach the magnitude of the lightning storms in Maine and Japan, so lightning storms are still deeply impressive to me.  When I lived in Osaka there would be about two lightning storms a year that would be strong enough to literally make the walls of my apartment flex, and while I was living on Swan’s Island I experienced more than one house shaker.

The photo at the top of the page is the view from the window of the house I was staying in on Swan’s Island.  I took the photo at the tail end of what had been a tremendous lightning storm; in fact, the storm was so impressive that it took me a while to remember that I had a camera lying around and that maybe I should try to take some photos.  There was too much cloud cover  to get any photos of actual lightning streaks, and by the time I set my camera up, the storm had mostly moved on.  Still, there were occasional bright flashes so I set my camera up using one of the window frames as a provisional tripod, set the ISO to 1600 (which is very grainy on the Ricoh GRD2), and set the exposure time for about 30 seconds.  There were no huge flashes during the time that I took this shot, but there were just enough small flashes to illuminate the landscape outside my window.

I didn’t really have any expectations about the type of image that I might or might not end up with, but I love the grainy atmospherics and the dreamlike sense of haunting that define the end result.

I’m also not entirely sure that it’s a good idea to be taking pictures outside during a lightning storm without some serious precautions: As this site points out, it’s entirely possible to get killed or injured if you’re outside during a big storm.  In fact, I actually know a person who has the very unlucky luck of having been struck by lightning on two different occasions while working as a ranger in the remote wilderness.  The first time he got struck by lightning he lost all the nails on his body (they grew back), and the second time he lost several teeth as well as the nails (the nails grew back, the teeth didn’t).


2 Responses to “visual spectrum: lightning exposure”

  1. Nice story.

    The last time I went out to photograph in a lightening storm in Japan I had to take a couple of cans of Kirin to calm my nerves. But I won’t be doing it again.

    • 2 Trane DeVore

      Sometimes the lightning storms out in Toyonaka are strong enough that I need a couple of cans of Kirin to calm my nerves, even without stepping outside to try to get some shots. Just remember to wear your non-conductive rubber boots next time!

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