July 15, 2008 North Omaha Lightning

This little lightning outing was rather interesting. It's funny, only 1hr before I left, if that, I was whining in an e-mail to another chaser. We were talking about the year as a whole, and I just said it was sad there hadn't even been any decent lightning events. I then said, maybe tonight will provide some, but I wouldn't hold my breathe.

There was a line moving east with a severe storm sitting over North Bend. The line appeared to weaken some as I left, but other storms were trying to fire in an e-w line ahead of it. Well what happens is that bowing part continues se, and this area near Omaha east of it sort of anchors. The bow goes southeast and curls back to this location, and west Omaha. I've wanted to try and get some reverse lightning off the TV towers here for a while, but never remember to try. So I drove down to north 72nd in Omaha to give it a shot. The best time to get those, bolts going UP off radio/tv towers, is after a big storm complex moves through and you are under the anvil. What I wound up getting were more CGs than anything, as I sat in rain forever, heavy rain. Areas around there received over 3 inches, the majority of which fell while I was there.

Anyway, after talking with Randy Chamberlain, who was getting peppered by CGs in west Omaha, I found this location in a movie theatre parking lot, behind the Applebee's. At first I thought it would work well to get the towers. Since it would be at least sprinkling, I had to shoot from my driver's seat with the window down. This has several issues. To have it pointed up high enough it has to be closer to the window opening. There the lens will get wet more easily. What I should have done was moved a few parking lots north, so I could have the camera back in the car further, not getting quite as wet.

In the above you can see one faint cloud to cloud bolt above, and the line pushing se over Omaha. That actually curled back to the northwest, into a pretty nasty "wall". It was just north of that "wall" in northwest Omaha that was getting completely smacked with CGs. I called Randy back and he quickly had to let me go, due to wind and heavy rain, as well as insane lightning all around. It took what seemed like forever for that whole thing to reach where I was. I wasn't leaving my towers though. It was still getting dark anyway, and not quite there yet for lightning stills.

Getting darker now. Theatre now has its lights on. CG under the slow moving line. Rain was picking up now and driving me nuts. You don't want to check the lens because you know the second you do is when something will hit...and you'll miss it.

I wasn't getting any good lightning yet, so I turned the car so I could shoot west real quick. There's the "wall" to my west. It was in there and just north of it that was getting a ton of lightning. I ISO'd up to 1600 for this one. I forgot to turn it back to 100 and got a couple very blown out bolts. Any rain drops aren't from being careless, trus me. They just get on the lens fast when it is, ummm, raining.

This sort of pissed me off. The lightning I watched tracking right for me jumped over me during a badly timed lull. Now all the sudden it was a mile or so east.

Funny. I was just looking at Google Earth to see if I should get a capture to show where the towers and I were located, and on there I see a name for an area to the east, near this above shot. It's called....."DeBolt". I've never heard of it before, but it's on Google Earth. So I call this de DeBolt bolt.

That one to the left was actually pretty close now. I have my ultra wide angle Canon 10-22 EF-s lens on.

Let the pouring begin. The wind was blowing pretty good from the north. So I turned the car again and looked south out my window. It didn't matter. Mist was coming right back into the car in waves. Before long my whole left side was as wet as if I had jumped into a pool. Cleaning off the lens was a lost cause at this point. So I'd shoot figuring getting a very close bolt with a bunch of rain on the lens is better than nothing.

I just cleaned the lens off. When I'd do this that very next frame would still have new drops already on it. Well I was setting the cam up, and decided to double check the view through it. I swear to god it never fails. BOOM a bolt hits almost in the same parking lot I'm in. So I hurry and flip the cable release. BOOOM another right next to where that one had hit. That one is the above image. Those towers are really close to where I am. They are right across that street. That bolt is about even with them but just left.

So what do I do after getting that 2nd in the batch of very close CGs? I stupidly try and look at it on the LCD as it comes up. I figured no way another would hit right away again anyway. Wrong. This one hit as I was looking at the other on the LCD. It pulsed and gave me just enough time to quick draw it. You could see the beading action as it fell apart. I really need a camera mount in my car bad, so I could at least have the video camera running while doing this. I have some video, but man it was making the hard(shooting in the rain) that much harder. That and I need some mount for my still cam in the car. Messing with 3 tripod legs in the driver's seat of a Mustang isn't a lot of fun. You have to extended a couple and get them to sit somewhere, while the whole thing is on/around your lap. Toss in getting soaked and the lens/camera getting soaked too...well, it's not terribly easy to do these in the rain like this. You run out of dry areas on your shirt to use to wipe the lens off.

I think I've noticed something about close CG barrages. They seem to like to come in 3's. In 2003 on the Aurora NE supercell a few chasers and I had one happen out of the blue around us. The first bolt was the warning and it was maybe 3 electrical poles away. Then in the span of maybe 10-15 seconds 2 more hit just as close. Like that portion of the updraft says it is time to discharge, and it takes it a few bolts to finish...for the time being. This above was much like that. Back to back to back very close bolts hitting the same general area. Just look at the image file names on those two. 6574 and 6575. Had I not fiddled with the stupid camera that extra bit it'd be 6574, 6575, and 6576....all consecutive exposures with bolts in a similar location. It would happen again this night. This night was likely the best lightning show I've ever seen, as far as close CG bolts. It was nuts how long it went on here. And believe me, I missed a ton of bolts messing with my camera and the rain. A couple points when there was no wind, just downpour, I had to put the window up and sit there. Not that things could have gotten any more wet in my car anyway. I looked funny, since the left half was literally soaking wet like I'd been in a pool, and the right side not far from being all dry. I should have went into a gas station afterward just to see if I got any funny looks. Looked like I had a line drawn down the middle of me.

Hello! Cloud to TV Tower bolt! If only I'd been able to get a better angle with the camera. Rain just was not allowing it. As you can see the door frame is in this shot. I had to move the camera in as far as I could and zoom in a little(not that you can zoom much with a 22mm limit lol). I also bumped the camera on this one. You just can't move at all with the camera where it was. Had I been a little smarter I'd have moved the couple parking lots north and been able to get more of the top of the tower. I just really wanted a more looking straight up shot, if I could get it. But damn the rain. Again, this is how nuts the CG barrages were. The next image below is the very next frame on the camera.

Lightning is hitting the other freaking tower! Bam it hits one, then bam it hits another. I'm 99.9% certain it is hitting that closest tower. First off, count the red lights. You can see 7 here, on that tower. There are 10 on that tower(look at the first image on the page). So the tower extends well above the frame. Secondly, no cloud to cloud crawler is going to be this bright in super heavy rain. The camera is on the lowest sensitive ISO of 100, so as not to blow out close bolts. The lens is stopped way down to F16. For a flash/bolt to freeze/illuminate all those rain drops like that, with the lens stopped down that far, in this kind of rain.....the bolt is hitting something on the ground. Below is a 100% crop....a little interesting, lol.

The tower on the left, the one I know got hit with this one. You can see the bolt reflecting off those cars in the parking lot. No cloud to cloud bolt is going to show up like that with these settings and the torrential rain, so that bolt is hitting something. The reflections argue strongly for a position to hit that tower, coming from the right a hair. The bolt isn't hitting behind me with the angle off the glass like that. The other tower had JUST got hit, which helps argue this too. Anyway, I'm certain it's hitting that big TV tower. What else is funny are those people! I blew it up a bit more below.

This is 200% of full size. Notice the reflection is on the curved part of those cars, suggesting the bolt is to the left. But on that SUV it's more in the center, with a leftward angle to the bolt itself. It got that second tower, no doubt. Now for the people. The driver/left person had to have gotten out and shut the door during the exposure, but shut the door before the bolt(which is why you don't see that door...just its light). You can see both their lower door lights. The person on the right obviously had the door open during the bolt. That's got to scare the crap out of a person lol. The flash-boom gap is almost instant on that. And heck looks like that person on the right might be carrying an umbrella. Might not make a difference, but I know I'd feel like tossing that thing after that.

Sick of getting wet, I turn the car and face it south, and shoot through the windshield. Wipers I know, but what's a person to do....it was pouring. It was either wipers or have it appear like I'm shooting lightning from the bottom of a lake.

On and on the CG's go! There are two TV radars in the image too. Hint, the second one is right behind a tower.

Boom! The wind blow rain even looks kind of cool on the parking lot over a few second exposures. I really need to find the real infinity spot on that lens again. I thought I knew where it was, but many of these are just a hair soft at full size. Maybe some of that is having it stopped down so far, as I think past a certain point you can lose sharpness doing that.

Don't ask me. Doesn't look like it's hitting the ground, but that would be a hair odd to be that low, not be a branch from another bolt, and not be hitting the ground. There was some selective cropping done on these last two, since they were actually horizontal shots. The edges of the pictures were just cluttered with water drops/light reflections