When Lightning Strikes Too Closely


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Photo

Title     When Lightning Strikes Too Closely
Photographer     heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user
Portfolio     Time Exposures
F-stop     f/5.6
Shutter speed     30 sec
Categories     Journalism
Nature
Weather
Lens     Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
Camera     Canon 40D
Format     Canon RAW
Content advisory     G (general audiences)
Submitted     August 22, 2008 7:09:05 PM CDT
Views     15,195
Rating     35 Thumb-up

What you are looking at is lightning bolt nearly striking my wife, Amy (and myself). The main bolt was estimated at striking the ground about 60 feet away from us, with a smaller finger bolt coming between us. I was about 12 feet behind Amy taking the image.

There was a nice, distant heat lightning show going on that evening and so we decided to take a ride to a desolate area where there was a minimum of artificial lighting, to experiment with capturing the light show with long exposures. It was pitch dark outside and a flashlight was used to focus the camera on Amy. This 30 second exposure image was actually the last we planned on taking for the night when suddenly an excruciatingly loud and blinding bolt of lightning struck nearby. I grabbed the camera and we high-tailed it to the car.

I did not expect this image to come out because I moved the camera without thinking of whether or not the 30 second exposure was completed. But to our surprise, the image came out quite well, despite the discoloration and over-exposed areas caused by the lightning. The bolt must have hit just at the end of the 30 seconds. Without this image as evidence, we would have never known how close it came to hitting us and how extremely lucky we are to be here today. BTW, we did not feel a thing! Nor did we hear any other bolts occur before this one came along.

Other than adjusting the exposure, and a slight crop off the top and bottom of the frame, the image is untouched.

I look forward to all comments and critiques. Thanks for taking a look!

Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM on Canon 40D
ISO 500, 30s @ f/5.6
Manfrotto tripod with Monfrotto head
Taken late evening in Port St. Lucie, FL

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from jimmsp/Jim (774) Send mail to this user on September 10, 2008 7:13:44 AM CDT (7)

This could be a hard one to critique. As a simple photo, I would probably give you 1 TU, including simple obvious comments like "overexposed over 1/3 of it". As a nature photo, I'd give you 5 TU - best close up of a lighting bolt I've ever seen. That little finger bolt is outstanding. As a journalist photo, I'd give you 5 TU - a unique capture that could be on page one. Average - 3 TU plus. I hope you have this framed and hung at home.

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Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up    from blaizerb/Blaize (6,555) Send mail to this user on September 8, 2008 5:39:35 AM CDT

what an amazing capture, thanks for all the info on this. cheers

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on September 8, 2008 2:43:32 PM CDT

Thanks, Blaize!

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from chadsmith/Chad (24) Send mail to this user on August 28, 2008 10:27:36 AM CDT (4)

Great capture! If I had one complaint it's that it looks a little too digital. Like it has too much of an "unsharp mask" on it or something. I wish the edges looked a little smoother. But that is a small complaint. Otherwise it's awesome!

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 28, 2008 10:51:36 AM CDT

Hi Chad. Any temptation to clean up this image other than the exposure with levels and curves has been held back because the journalistic quality of the picture. Of course, it can by Photoshopped to look more pleasant, but it wouldn't be the same. Glad you like it. Regards

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 29, 2008 5:02:30 PM CDT

To anyone viewing this image-

I would like to know which websites are linking this photo. Please let me know how you got around to discovering this photograph. Thank you.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from gregcampbell/Greg (67) Send mail to this user on August 27, 2008 1:04:30 PM CDT (5)

Very cool! This blows away the tired 'Lightning Over The City' sort of image that we've all seen a thousand times before. More, please! :) (What's the proper aperture for lightning hitting 50 feet away? F92?) One note/quibble - the 'finger' bolts hitting Amy in the knee are just lens reflections. Real streamers would be a lot brighter, and wouldn't be similarly shaped.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 27, 2008 2:22:00 PM CDT

Hi Greg. Yes, I believe that would be the correct aperture- I'll be more prepared next time! LOL Thanks identifying those reflections for me. Canechaser/Jesse had also informed me. Glad you like my "to die for" image. :) Best regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from mikestephens/Mike (49,804) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 6:36:20 PM CDT (6)

Shawn--you NUT, you!

I was thinking of giving this 3 thumbs because this could and should be in a magazine! I usually don't read others' crits before writing my own, but did this time. I agree this is a once in a lifetime shot. I say that for two main resons--1. If you try this again, you are suicidal! 2. You're luck to be alive as is your wife on a METAL chair. You guys are CRAZY =).........

What the heck can I say here? You should have gone with a shorter exposure time because the lightning is overexposed?? LOL!! Geez! I;d like it better if it was more rectangular--landscape showing more down the road. WOW! I'm still stunned! Just stay away from me and my family =)

mike s + +

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 7:01:45 PM CDT

You have me rolling on the floor Mike. Yes, she was a good sport; the image has over 1,600 views in 24 hours and she wasn't even nude!

I suggested to Amy that she hold an umbrella next time but she said there won't be a next time. I can't understand why! I wanted to try it again with a 10mm.

Staying away from you and your family forces me to go through New Jersey to get to Long Island. (Nothing against NJ people). Thanks for stopping by. Best regards.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from jhsmith/Jim Hartley (11,819) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 2:17:54 PM CDT (5)

Now if you had just been a bit better prepared and had your camera settings right...think you should go back and try this again...just kidding, lol!!! We lived in the Tampa Bay area of Florida for 12 years and I remember those storms so well....always seemed to be in the distance and then bam!...a strike very close...tis why so many folks get wiped out by these storms. Glad you were both okay....Oh, and yes...a great capture...one to remember for sure!!! Regards, Jim.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 2:41:51 PM CDT

LOL. Hey Jim- that's my plan, except I'll have to find a different model. This one won't try that again! :)

I think lightning runs in the family. My dad was actually struck and lived to tell about it. He was an officer on the beat, using a call box when lightning struck the pole the box was attached to.

It's great to hear from you and your sense of humor. Best regards

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Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up    from pietrocecchi/Pietro (47) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 12:44:24 PM CDT

At the frontier of reality... :) Great! Awesome!

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 5:27:35 PM CDT

Thank you, Pietro.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from keesz/Kees (13,860) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 9:38:46 AM CDT (10)

Geez Shawn, that was a close call, I guess this is what you call a once in a lifetime shot, come to think of it, I don't think there is a photograph taken ever before of lightning striking so close to a human being, it sure came out better then you would expect, sure there are some blown highlights like the road and Amy's arm and face, but for the circumstances, this is very acceptable, congratulations for a very good shot and for being able to show us, Kees.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 12:01:10 PM CDT

Hi Kees. The raw image came out wickedly over-exposed. But there was enough information captured to bring out some fine details from within the bright areas. Never did we expect this picture to turn out the way it did. Next time, I'll make sure I raise the shutter speed to compensate for the bright exposure. Not! LOL Best regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from zacman09/Pascal (24) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 8:59:00 AM CDT (7)

WOW, I wish I could add anything constructive on this shot but I can't. It's a once in a lifetime kind of photo and from my point of view these are the best one cause they can capture moment that would have been lost in memory. And for an amateur photograph it has the same value I think of an historical shot from a photojournalist that's why I'm going for a 3 thumbs up.

Has for taking chance and not being careful, well I don't think you deserve any reprimand. I've witness a lot of more stupid thing that people do and for no reason whatsoever. Taking some risk is part of life.

Nice work.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:54:39 AM CDT

Hi Pascal. We were not out to get an image of lightning like this. We were just at the right place at the right time, or rather, wrong place at the wrong time; depending on how you look at it. LOL Thank you for your kind words. Best regards

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From zacman09/Pascal (24) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 12:36:20 PM CDT

Yes that's exactly what I was trying to say.. :) (blame it on my french). Bye the way I look through your portfolio and I'm impressed. You got great shot of birds. And I think you have a good talent for shooting portrait even tough has you say it's not your thing. Also Thank you for giving us detail about your pictures it sure is more fun to look at them when you get some background information.

Many greets from 3000 miles away in Québec.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from mbiasion/Enrico (9,547) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 4:10:46 AM CDT (10)

Hi Shawn, this picture is really impressive, especially after read your description. The image look overexposed in various areas, but insn't a real problem because give to the whole image a really dramatic atmosphere. The point of view is perfect, with your wife in a not centered position. Ciao :)

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:51:15 AM CDT

Hi Enrico. It's almost like this lightning strike was planned, as it knew it had to fall into the rule of thirds composition. This is nearly the original frame as shot; just a bit was cropped off the top and bottom. Thank you for taking a look. Best regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from oyetkin/Oguz (1,193) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 11:38:54 PM CDT (10)

You guys are very lucky...and nice shot. The overexposure of the road and the resulting high contrast works really well to give the "we just got struck by lightning" feel...

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:48:45 AM CDT

Hello Oguz. I am happy you are pleased with the image, even with the imperfections. Thanks for stopping by. Regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from canechaser/Jesse (4,230) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 11:15:29 PM CDT (16)

Shawn, I have enjoyed your bird shots for a long time now and myself and William/lightningstrike both have looked over your photo and have a couple of things to say. As storm chasers and lightning photographers we both must say that you are very lucky to be standing and breathing. The first time I looked at this image I said this was fake but after seeing who shot it and reading your post and careful examination of the photo this was the real deal. I assume it was not raining and the storm was some distance away and if these are all facts what you experienced was what is call a positive lightning strike and most likely leaving the parent thunderhead/thunderstorm and main structure of the storm to strike in a clear rain free environment. These strikes are some of the most powerful strikes and also some of the most deadliest because people are under the impression that the storm is far enough away and it is not raining so they are safe, the lightning can strike 20 plus miles from the main storm. I have had my most close calls with strikes like this. The smaller figure bolt is not a bolt at all but is what is called ghosting and this happens when an intense strike happens and the light from the bolt is so strong that the light bounces in the lens elements or filter. You have to look past the over exposed bolt and take the photo for what it is. The shot is great and I might have to take on some more bird photography to see if I can get a once in a life time shot like yours but with your most shot subject.. Stay safe and get under something next time dude. Take Care

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:43:37 AM CDT

Thank you, Jesse, for your information of lightning. I feel the image makes us look very foolish but we would have not been out if we heard thunder nearby. We had no idea that lightning can strike 20 miles away from the storm... amazing! I am not so anxious to do this again anytime soon!

The memory card with the original photo is safely stored away in a safe, just in case the authenticity of the image ever gets questioned. :)

Thanks again for your info and kind words. Best regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from edwin/Edwin K.W. (234,816) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 10:45:36 PM CDT (9)

God bless you Shawn, wow what an extreme condition you and Amy were having. If I were Amy, I wouldn't dare to be your model. Can't blame any flaw and distractions on the shot but this is really a great decisive moment capture. A real great effort Shawn, wish this will be the next "Photo of the Week". Cheers......Edwin

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:33:37 AM CDT

Hi Edwin. There was no audible thunder. This bolt came out of nowhere! Amy was sitting in the chair with her eyes closed but I saw the whole thing. Very scary stuff! Thank you for your kind words. Best regards

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from madness/Robert (594) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:54:08 PM CDT (11) Early critique

Well I am glad the camera was ok... I am kiding of course like the other guy said this is an amazing shot the fact that it came out so well is amazing I am glad you guys are ok. You should really blow this up and frame it in your house I know I would :).

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 8:16:41 PM CDT

Thanks Robert I appreciate you stopping by. I might just do that as far as blowing it up. Best regards.

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Non-conforming thumb-up Non-conforming thumb-up    from deleted306546/deleted (0) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:30:30 PM CDT

Very cool photo

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 11:28:51 AM CDT

Thanks, Jennifer!

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Thumb-up Thumb-up    from darrell/Darrell (8,171) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:21:44 PM CDT (10) Early critique

I agree with Kam, priceless, 3 thumbs up for surviving, one thumb down (should be more) for judgement. Pretty cool shot.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:43:25 PM CDT

Thanks Darrell. I can say if I was to take shots like this in the future I will probably bring a blanket next time. As for this time it was like the bolt was just sent for me to photograph :) Best regards.

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Thumb-up Thumb-up Thumb-up    from klematix/Kam (1,212) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:14:53 PM CDT (14) Early critique

I hereby use the opportunity to gongratulate both you and your wife for surviving a strike of lightning. Maybe it wasn't the wisest idea to go to a plain area and sit on metal frame garden chair? The photo is extremely rare and could maybe never be reshot, so it's meaningless to critizise it. You told that you were moving the camera just before the flash stroke. That blue and dim lightning seems to be a preflash, a "streamer", which rises from ground upwards to the higher voltage cloud, which returns "return stroke" and discharges to ground. It was formed at the same spot where the bright flash stroke, but seems to be aside, thanks to you, who moved the camera. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning#Leader_formation

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 7:38:14 PM CDT

Thanks Kam. Thanks for the critique. The lightning bolt was so unexpected since I had been photographing in that spot for more than an hour without any bolts for miles or even thunder for that matter. We never even got a drop of rain. Best regards.

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From yosemiteken/Ken (10,105) Send mail to this user on August 22, 2008 8:39:58 PM CDT

Jeepers! A couple questions: Did your hair start to stand on end? Any ionization jumping between fingers? ....any signs of the ion overload to indicate an impending strike? Ken S

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 3:18:22 PM CDT

Hi Ken. Actually, we were too bewildered to notice any of those things. Our adrenalin directed us to the fasted route out of there!

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From mikestephens/Mike (49,804) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 6:30:50 PM CDT

ABSOLUTE:Y AMAZING! Your wife was a "sport" for doing this with you. You owe her BIG time!! I don't know how recent this was, but I;d like to see the marsh or area where the lightning bolt struck.

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 23, 2008 7:43:03 PM CDT

Hey Mike. This was taken on 8/7/08. I had it copyrighted before posting it on photosig. I went back on the following day and was able to pinpoint the area from the photo but didn't see anything on the ground. ~Shawn

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From moochagoo/Vachette (4,701) Send mail to this user on August 26, 2008 1:45:41 AM CDT

That could be a "Xfile" picture ! Great ! I dont see Mulder...

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on August 28, 2008 10:55:07 AM CDT

Mulder was taking the picture. :)

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From johnwilliams/John (25,824) Send mail to this user on September 4, 2008 7:32:40 PM CDT

So this is what you two get up to when there's no wildlife around! This image is terrifying, Shawn, but I'm glad you and Amy emerged alive from this well recorded near miss. Your input on PhotoSig is too good to lose. Please don't expose yourselves like this again! Papa John

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on September 8, 2008 6:01:25 PM CDT

Hey John. I'll surely do my best to keep out of trouble! ;)

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From pdub/Peter (301) This user is a Premium Member Send mail to this user on September 8, 2008 12:17:03 AM CDT

This made me think of a super-slow-motion video of a lightning strike I ran accross a few days ago. Remarkable image, glad no one was hurt.

Peter

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From heymanniceshot/Shawn (16,897) Send mail to this user on September 8, 2008 2:43:13 PM CDT

Hi Peter. Thank you for sharing the amazing footage. Regards

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