Late Night Lightning

Been awhile since I have experienced late night lightning, but I was awake and in luck tonight, Aug 28th, 2016.  We had taken a trip to the Arkansas River valley in southern Colorado to buy Pueblo peppers and visit the state fair where my kids had participated at the State level in 4-H earlier in the week.  After a fun but long day we came home and I started peeling the skins off of our many bushels of peppers; this usually goes well into the night!  Just as I was finishing bushel #1, there were flashes in the sky; at first I thought it was a car going by but to my delight a storm was passing by to our south.

The insects were having a symphony in the front yard and the only man-made noise was a train passing by a 1/2 mile or so away (lots of squeaks and metal on metal scrapes) so I recorded some of the ambience while enjoying it.  Meanwhile the lightning was becoming more frequent, so i jumped in the car and headed for vistas out of the trees.  I ended up driving about 5 miles south of Larkspur and sat on top of a hill overlooking the Spruce Meadows Open Space at Greenland and watched the show.

I enjoy taking pictures of lightning with power lines, and these were carrying a lot of electricity so I figured it would be perfect foreground for lightning shots.  Given it was raining and the lightning was fairly close, I decided to shoot from within the truck.  I have been getting better at holding the camera fairly steady with the iris open, these were 6 second shots at ISO 800, f/11, focus at infinity.  I was using a wide angle lens.

To remove the rain from the windshield I need to have the wipers on; sometimes there are drops in the shot but that goes with the territory; not much I can do about that given it is raining.  Luckily the lightning is so quick and otherwise it is dark (no light) so most of the shots you don’t see the wipers.  Then it is just a waiting game, reviewing the pictures to ensure the field of view is what is expected.  Unfortunately the lightning was infrequent, about 90 seconds apart, so I got a lot of black pictures I had to delete later.

As always, click on the photo for a larger size.

Lightning

Interesting placement of the bolt and the tower, I wish I could say it was planned, but nothing about that shot was planned; all luck…and being in the right place at the right time!

Lots o lightning

Lots going on in this shot, it was very bright!

Anvil Crawler Lightning

One of the last anvil crawler style bolts of the evening, just before midnight; the last one was massive (there was about 5 minutes between it and the previous) and it was so bright and long that I moved the camera (I have to admit I was getting tired and it startled me) and the picture was blurred/jittery.

Upward Streamer Lightning

Close-up of the previous shot (lower right) showing three upward streamers, the right most one got the return strike but was a bit off from the original streamer (or there were 4).

Colorado Lightning

If only we could harness that…looks like it almost tapped us!

b&w lightning photo

Cool black and white shot, south Douglas County Colorado, Aug 28th about 11:30pm.

Rural Colorado Lightning

I love the monsoon season, because 30% chance of thunderstorms means there will be one within 30 minutes of where I live; it is the way living atop the Palmer Divide usually works!  I drove about 10 minutes south of home and was able to capture these tonight.  Not as close as yesterday’s lightning by any means, but still pretty cool.  Again, cell phone and daytime pictures so quality is appropriate, daytime lightning is much harder to photograph, especially getting the stepped leaders!  What will tomorrow bring?Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning

 

Castle Pines Lightning

The monsoon is in effect here in Colorado, like it always is in late-July and/or early-August (which I love) as I can capture some great lightning photos. Nice thundershowers each afternoon cool it down and make just fantastic evening/night conditions (and also keep the landscape green, which is a challenge here this time of year)! I was driving home from work which is normally 45 minutes but yesterday ended up being over 2 hours. As I was in the stop-go routine, an oncoming storm with very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was encroaching. Luckily, the traffic ended up thinning out just in time to miss the core of the precipitation which would have made the drive even longer, ugh!

I travelled to the next exit and got off to take some pretty close, daytime lightning photos. This is with my cell phone, but surprising got some really nice shots! All of these bolts were between a mile and two away.

Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning Castle Pines Lightning

Castle Pines Lightning

This one is interesting I feel because it shows the end of the initial discharge and the start of the second return stroke.

Colorado Lightning Composites

Lightning taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

2 Lightning stills merged: SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

These are some of the timelapse photos I took of lightning on Singing Hills Drive southeast of Parker on July 13, 2011.  I have stacked two images in each of these composites in Photoshop to show multiple CG bolts and stepped leaders per photograph.  The lightning was very intense and close and luckily I was in a clear slot in the clouds avoiding rain and getting a good 25 minutes of solid lightning; one about every 30 seconds or so.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

In Photoshop, I loaded the RAW images and then chose >Scripts >Loads Files into Stack.  From here I was able to choose the “Add Open Files” option and also checked the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option checkbox.  From the image that it created, all I needed to do is change the layering option to “Lighten” for each of the images.  I started with 4 or 5 images and chose the best two that fit together in each of these shots.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Would love to hear some of your Photoshop or photography techniques!  Leave comments if you can share anything cool that you do!  I appreciate it!

This next picture was across the street on September 2, 2012.  These were hitting everywhere around me so I had to put the tripod on the porch, put it on auto-pilot, and head inside.  I was able to get three in a row that made this amazing stacked series.  Looks like an outline of a woman–mother nature–Gaia to me.

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado - 3 Lightning stills stacked

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado – 3 Lightning stills stacked

Enjoy!