When a loud, intense thunderstorm comes rolling through an area, people react in one of two ways, usually: one group will close the blinds and hunker down, and hope the storm passes without too much damage from the wind, rain or lightning.
The other group will rush outside, anxious to see the storm, and in some cases (like me) to photograph it or to chase it and watch it.
The first group may be termed as the more sensible one, less likely to get themselves killed or hurt — but in my mind, they’re missing out on a lot of cool storm action by hiding from it.
I’ve always found lightning fascinating and interesting to watch, because of the power and intensity and amazingly intricate webbing of energy that appears with suddenness in the dark storm clouds. Part and parcel with that is the thunder; if you’re out in the country and you just listen to the quiet, and then hear how the thunder rolls and rumbles, depending on how far away or close the lightning is. The bass rumbling can be quite incredible, not to mention that a nearby lightning strike can produce a bang like nothing else you’ve heard without being in a war situation, or near explosives of some sort.
People ask me how I get some of the lightning shots that I’ve managed to get; largely what it takes is patience, and watching the storm clouds to see where they’re going, and which part of the clouds has the most lightning in it. Also, a crucial piece of equipment (besides a good quality camera) is a good solid tripod, as prolonged exposures are needed to capture unpredictable lightning bolts.
It’s sort of addictive, when you’ve been out to watch a few storms and you get some really nice clear spectacular shots of lightning streaking across the sky.
Have any come close to me? Well, a couple times they have, yes. One time was up on Signal Hill, and I had the camera aimed up 10th Avenue towards the water tower, and I caught an amazingly bright, clear lightning bolt that was pretty close. Immediately on the heels of that, a lightning bolt struck the ground very close to me to the right, close enough I could hear the sizzle — but not close enough to affect me.
More recently, we had a big storm hit on July 24, and I was under the city’s new gazebo by the museum; at least two lightning bolts hit very, very close while I was under there with drenching rivers of water pouring down on us. In spite of that, I wasn’t really able to get much for lightning photos out of that storm — but I have from subsequent storms, some really good ones, and these are the ones that keep me going back out for more.