It’s been a while since we had a good thunderstorm here, though we seldom suffer for a lack of them. We’ve had some heavy, heavy rains, just no thunderstorm. Last weekend it rained nearly five inches with only the faintest, occasional rumble of thunder…nothing worth dragging the camera out for.
As many of you are aware, one of my favorite things to do is capture photos of lightning. This is easier said than done, but with persistence, not impossible. Of course, there is the occasional lucky shot, and luck is certainly part of it, since you have to have the well placed optimal brightness lightning bolt: too bright and it washes out, too dim and it is not vivid enough. There is a lot of luck taking pictures. of lightning.
The best scenario is a stable sky nearby with no low level clouds and a raging thunderstorm off in the distance. If the storm is right upon you, you have to deal with the driving rain, the extremely bright flashes which overwhelm your camera sensors, and the reflection of the lightning on the clouds which just give you a whitewash. Persistence pays off, though. It is a lot like hunting. Lots of times you go and nothing happens. Others, well, others you just happen to be in the right place at the same time, have your camera on the right setting and pointed in the right place and the shutter open when the very brief electrical discharge occurs. Voila…the shot you’ve been waiting for. There are lots of misses for every hit though, so no need to get discouraged. The sky is very big and your camera lens covers only a small part of it.
I tried to relieve the small coverage area by finally getting me an extremely wide angle lens. Because of that, I am not using the lens I have made so many good shots with. The very wide angle lens requires some techniques that I have not figured out, yet. There is a lot left to learn about it. There is nothing wrong with the lens, only wrongness with my use of it. Attribute it to ignorance.
The remarkable thing about ignorance when combined with persistence to accomplish a specific goal is that every wrong thing done leads to the elimination of one more wrong thing. While I have not yet learned what to do with this lens, I have learned dozens of things not to do, each not to do thing learned bringing me closer to the correct usage.
I did manage to squeeze in a few shots. I had one beautiful bolt captured right in the center of my aim, but it washed out, rendering just a white blob in the center of the photo. I was terribly disappointed, but then again, so is the hunter who shoots and misses the trophy buck he finally managed to see. That is why they call it hunting. There is far more to it than just harvesting an animal, there is the thrill of the hunt.
Hunting can be very frustrating. If you don’t think so, just try hunting for your car keys at the exact moment you need to leave to be able to make it to a very important appointment on time. Sometimes, a determined persistence is required even though the keys turn up in a place where you have overlooked them several times. Hunting for something as elusive as a game animal that does not want to be found, or the location of the next lightning bolt, which is entirely random to me yet never random to the lightning can be frustrating, even vexing.
But the hunter knows that eventually his persistence will pay off. The lightning photographer knows this, too. You’ll never likely find a big buck or a great lightning shot while sitting in your recliner, though it is entirely possible that that is the very place you misplace your car keys as they slide out of your pocket and into space between the seat cushion and the chair’s arm, into the nether regions of foldable steel framework that extend to hold up you feet as you sleep, dreaming of doing interesting things, only to have them pass you by in your fit of lethargy.
These are not my best lightning pictures, but they do represent a significant investment of time. Eventually, I’ll get the hang of this wide angle lens, but so far the intelligent use of it has eluded me. Still, if I use it enough, I’ll get lucky even if I never get good.
There are worse things than that. Some folks go through their whole lives lucky while we’re persuaded that they’re smart.
So, now, reverting to what experience has shown me is likely to produce the best results, I have put my old, trusted lens back on my camera. Unfortunately, the thunderstorm has fled to harass others far beyond the reach of my vision. Perhaps the thunderstorm doesn’t like having photos of it made. Perhaps it thinks it is an indignity. Perhaps it does not like my amateurish attempts to capture its thunderous majesty. Likely, it just disapproves of useless anthropomorphisms directed at it, since I’m pretty sure the thunderstorm doesn’t like or dislike anything, ambivalent and apathetic at my suggesting it has human qualities and faults…it just does what it does in what seems a random manner to me, but actually in a very ordered obedience to the laws of physics.
Yes, anthropomorphism is a big word. If you don’t know what it means, look it up. I’ve known it for a long time. Its precise meaning conveyed exactly what I meant.
By the way, do you know where your car keys are? I think I left mine on the front porch in the now thunderless, wind-blown rain.