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2018 - The Year of Lightning

I have been capturing photos of lightning for over 10 years now. I've had good years & bad. I've captured as little as 50 lightning images in an entire year. Then there are years like 2012 in which I captured 360. 2012 was my best year for lightning ever...until this year. Just one night of shooting this year smashed my 2012 record with well over 1,000 lightning images captured in less than 6 hours.

In addition to all the still images captured so far this year, I have made a series of time lapse videos of the storms. In this video below, you can see 580 of those lightning photos at 30 frames per second, shot over an hour and 47 minutes. This was on July 20th looking south from Lewisport, Kentucky.

While my very first lightning photos of 2018 were captured near the end of February, my first really good photos of the year began to be shot in April. Winter can be a very depressing time for someone who loves to photograph storms. The time between my last storm in the Fall and my first storm the following Spring is what I not so fondly refer to as "Sunset Purgatory". Other than an occasional snowstorm, sunsets are about the only interesting thing weather wise to photograph during that time. It gets very, very boring. You can only shoot so many hundreds of sunsets before you lose interest. The two shots below from April 3rd were the ones that got me completely energized for the storm season, pun very much intended.

After April's storms, I went a month with NOTHING. That was almost as frustrating as Winter was. May 6th made up for it however by helping me break a personal record. It was the first time I had ever captured over 100 lightning photos in less than an hour. It was a very small storm cell that approached Lewisport, KY from Rockport, Indiana. It was so small and unexpected that I didn't even know it was in the area until I saw a flash of light through my bedroom curtains. I first thought it was a passing car until I felt the ground shake. I quickly grabbed my camera and set up 2 miles west of town and pointed my camera southeast of Lewisport, looking toward Owensboro, Kentucky. The following 2 images were shot on May 6th.

The month of May was very kind to me. It went on to give me 5 storms in all. Here is 1 image from each of the other 4 storms (in order from top to bottom) from May 10th, 15th, 20th, & 31st.

June was even more kind to me than May with 6 storms. Not only did it give my my new favorite lightning photo ever, the one at the top of this post from June 26th, but it also gave me my favorite time lapse video of lightning ever (up to that point) over the Cannelton Locks & Dam on June 13th. My favorite still image from that location is directly below the video.

July only gave me 3 storms to shoot, but what I captured that month proves that quality is more important than quantity. What was my favorite time lapse ever, shot just a month prior, was eclipsed by the one below. This is overlooking Cannelton, Indiana from an overlook southeast of Hawesville, Kentucky on July 20th. It really picks up about 9 seconds into the video. I made a multi exposure stacked image of the best 16 exposures of that shoot. That stack, with all of the exposures used to make it, is my Print of the Month for August 2018.

That has been my year of lightning so far in a nutshell. As I write this, it has been 3 and a half weeks since I've photographed a storm. With a chance of more in the next couple of days, I'm hoping to add to that. Before 2018, I had captured around 3,000 lightning photos in 10 years. I have added around 1,500 to that just this year, most of those in just the last 3 months. I'd like to add at least another 100 before the year is out.

A few years ago, I wrote a Lightning Tutorial blog post if you are interested. Shoot at your own risk though. I take steps to reduce the risks, but you can't eliminate the dangers completely.

The digital version of my 2015 lightning photography book "S.P.A.R.K. - Storm Photography Across Rural Kentucky" is now listed as a Pay What You Want download. Feel free to check it out.

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