Archives for July 2011

Lucky Strike!

How many times have you shown someone your images and heard “Wow, you sure were lucky to get that shot?” And just how much luck was actually involved in the making of the image? Take last night…I’m in Salt Lake visiting my family and just as we were preparing to go to bed, I heard my mom call out “Laurie, come quick!” I rushed in to her room to see what was up and she was standing at her window looking out. Just as I turned to look at what she was seeing, I saw a flash through the trees. And then another, and another. A surge of adrenalin raced through my body…LIGHTNING! As I turned from the window she said, “You’re not!” knowing full well that I was headed to my room to change back into my clothes, grab my camera and chase the storm.

Within minutes we were in the car and headed to one of my favorite locations to photograph lightning over the city. As we raced to the spot, we kept seeing flashes but, no bolts. When we arrived, I turned off the car and sat in the darkness watching for a minute. Darn! Just as I had thought, the storm was moving towards the northeast and would quickly be obscured by the mountains. What to do. I started the car, headed back down the hill and off towards downtown. It was a race against time. Just like in storm chasing, if you get behind the storm, it’s hard to keep up but, I was certainly going to give it a try. We arrived in the avenues at a location that looked out over the state Capital which I initially thought would make a great foreground but, the Capital building was too big and way too bright from the vantage point I had chosen and even more important, the storm was still heading away and would be out of view by the time I got my camera set up.

I was faced with the dilemma of letting the storm go. It was about 12:30am by now and I didn’t hold out much hope of catching it. A bright flash made my decision for me and off we went again following roads that led us in the general direction, seeing flashes as we went. I was now in unfamiliar territory and had no idea where to go even if we did catch the storm but, hey, in for a dime, in for a dollar. In a short time we came into the industrial part of North Salt Lake were there are oil refineries and there was the storm still moving north but in view with the refinery in the foreground.

I jumped out of the car, set up my camera as the storm kept moving. It was a race against time. I was faced with an exposure dilemma…a really bright foreground and intermittent lightning. I took a couple of test shots to see how long I could keep the shutter open without blowing out the foreground and settled on 8 seconds. So, with my MC-36 remote release plugged in I began firing, counting 8 seconds (I didn’t have time to set the intervalometer) and releasing, click, 8 seconds, release, click, 8 seconds, release, click…FLASH…8 seconds release. I chanced a look at my rear lcd and couldn’t hold back my whoops of joy. I nailed it. I kept shooting for another fifteen minutes catching a bolt or two, changing the direction my camera was aimed as the storm continued on but, the storm was moving away and the bolts that I was getting were getting smaller and smaller so, I finally packed it in and at about 1:15 am we headed back home satisfied that I had made at least one image that I knew I was going to love. It only takes one good image to make the crazy midnight run worth every minute of the chase…

Nikon D3S with AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR Manual exposure set to BULB, manual focus set to infinity, 8 seconds at f8 and keep on clicking

So, once again, I sure was lucky. By deciding to chase the storm in the first place. By not giving up when the first two stops didn’t pan out. By persevering into the wee hours of the morning, I made my own luck and got the shot! Yeah, I sure am lucky! Lucky to be able to follow my passion and get the occasional lucky break. So, next time you are faced with a great photo opportunity I hope you get lucky too.

Happy 4th Of July!

And a special birthday wish to Mark!