September 1, 2010 TV Tower Lightning

I recently sold my 5D II and 17-40L so I haven't had any wide angle capability(an XSi and 10-22 is now on the way though). I've not been overly interested in shooting anything not having that ability to go wide. Randy Chamberlain called about the lightning and I wound up taking my XT and 50 plus 100-400 out for the heck of it. Lightning died soon as I get across the river to the spot. But it tried in random areas. Southeast breeze and sprinkles forced me to shoot north out my window. I thought of pointing more ne at these houses but held n. Then BAM right over by the houses a nice bolt. I point over there and north flickers away lol. I didn't budge though and got this one.

3 shots stacked from that same location. The first one on here wasn't stacking in very well so I left it out on its own. This stuff was very infrequent. It wasn't like they were popping away over there, or I'd have zoomed in more to that specific spot.

I talked to Randy again and we wound up talking about TV tower bolts. I half joked that I bet I could do those from here, if I ever had a rain free view to the south and could see the north Omaha tv towers. I'm facing north and see a brighter flash to my south. I then watch south and see a CG and was like dang it, damn the breeze and sprinkles that way. The next bolt I see is from the same spot but I clearly saw it go UP. I was like dude, that bolt went up, that had to come off some tower. I then asked myself, where are those TV towers from here. I thought, hell I bet those are off the TV towers and these trees here are blocking them. So I moved back east till I could see the horizon there and sure enough, those tv towers were right there. I then see another, doh!

I get set up and get this one. Hard to see maybe but that is coming up off one of the 4 tv towers there. Those are about 20 miles south of me. 50mm lens on the XT.

Again, another bolt hitting the tower. This likely more of a downward moving bolt. The white balance on the RAW file is nearly the same setting believe it or not. Just really changes depending on how much precip is where.

The 100-400 is on now. Problem was I kept stopping WAY down, F16 or so, because something above me kept making the area bright as daytime. I feared sooner or later some bolt was going to hit real close and I hadn't seen a tower bolt in a while. So of course I stop down and get a dang tower bolt again instead,which was underexposed.

Hit her again! I never even saw this one and was mostly watching. Oh yeah to do these I finally figured out a way to shoot out my passenger window from more inside the car. Tripod legs extended straight out allowed me to use it low enough in there to do them. I'm feeling like a pretty big tool for not having done more with tower bolt stuff than I have. This route further away is way way easier than when I was trying wide angle from like a block or two from them. But yeah obviously 20 miles is too far. Maybe! See below lol.

Same place, 20 miles away from those towers. 400mm! The bad part about this whole deal was no live view to nail the focus exactly right. I just stuck it on the infinity marker and hoped it'd be close enough. While stopping down much it probably is fine to do that anyway. I'm for sure going to find a closer spot to do these. I'm stupidly willing to keep at it when no bolts are happening(which is why I got what I did). That is the thing. The most pathetic radar appearance can often be the best for these. All you need is a fairly "energetic" anvil with recent storms at least somewhere around. It doesn't take anything severe at all or even heavy. There are times when hardly anything is on radar and you get these 10 minute explosions. Meaning 10 minute gaps of no lightning pretty much, then the entire sky loses its mind for a second. When that happens, it's more common than not that an upward bolt will come off any tall towers around. And that is the deal with these towers, they are very very tall. I wouldn't even bother with the shorter towers. I'm sure these are 1000 foot towers. Kinda regretting it is fall and storm chances will wind down. Maybe get some thunder snow tower bolts! I have tried in the past lol. Randy was there lol. Heavy sleet and snow and we'd get crawlers going across but no, nothing coming down and hitting the dang towers(and you couldn't actually see the bolts, just the crawling flash...snow and sleet far too heavy). I think the most epic potential is much closer with a wide angle but man is it hard to do that and keep sprinkles off the lens. If you aren't getting some kind of sprinkles you probably won't get upward bolts. They just love new or old nice anvil shields that are simply going to contain anvil precip.

Here is one from 2008 when I was real close to the towers(18mm here). Maybe best thing about this is it was September 29 so still some time. Anyway if you compare things you might see that real close, with wide angle may not be better anyway. If you could get almost under them(which you can) and point straight up almost and not get sprinkles on the lens, then yes this would be a crazy view. Otherwise you just don't get enough of the bolt going across the sky from closer. The rest of that one is on the

page here

. I think best op is probably going to be 5 miles or so with a 50mm. Maybe more than 5. Or 3-4 miles with a wider angle lens. The problem becomes the closer and wider you get, the closer to the open car window the lens has to get and more likely to get drops on it. I was surprised just how nice it was to telephoto out the passenger window, though I'm sure my seat is still soaked. Dang it now I'm very interested in doing some more of this. Should go location scouting, but then that would assure no more convection here this year.