Lightning, the random beauty
This was one of those one in a life time photos, the pure power and random nature of lighting makes each time it fires off a special moment only showing itself for a fraction of time, to capture this moment you need to be ether lucky or rather well trained in the art of shooting long exposures , I like to think that I am more lucky then skilled
so lets dive into how I manage this shot and the story behind it .
The evening started much like any other got coffee sat around at work , though I noticed something strange on the weather, they predicted lightning , this is rather uncommon in the area that I live in, as we normally ether get light rain or heavy rain, lightning is something of a strange accurrance, from checking the weather it looked like the lightning was going to move over just after 6 PM with rain to follow
now this is where professional gear comes in handy, fully weather sealed gear means that I would be able to shoot even when it started to rain, this would prove to be invaluable as the location that I had in mind was rather open with no real cover for me to use should it start raining, here I will add a photo of the location in normal light to the right hand side for you.
This location has been on my list to grab a great photo of for some time, I always had the problem of net getting the light perfectly hens it has always been missing from my landscape collection, though with lightning perhaps this finally would give me what I need, something interesting for the sky plus a great view of the mountain itself, what could go wrong right ?
Well I soon found out that this spot would be a horrible spot for one the weather was moving over the mountain towards town which if fine but it did add in a extra element that I never though of and that was the fast moving clouds with rain first followed by lightning, think this was due to being so close to the mountain itself, even with my weather sealed gear it proved extremely difficult to grab a proper photo , water kept getting on the lens and I had a car or two that kept moving past producing light on the rain itself which just killed the entire photo
Though I think the biggest problem was that yes I had managed to get into a perfect spot to grab some lightning, though the lightning was hitting the mountain itself on the other side facing away from me which just simply gave me a white glow and no bolts that looked like anything that would be useful to me, well other than a interesting light cloud on top of a mountain, though it was lacking what I was looking for.
It was at this moment while looking at the back of the screen that the realization started to sink in that maybe I would never be able to get the perfect lighting on top of this dammed mountain that I had kept my eye on for so long, I simply sat down in the grass , it was a nice evening after all, nice and cool soft rain all over and you could smell the rain so crisp and to boot the power was off completely in the entire town, load shedding has created this opportunity to be able to grab a night time shot from my location which was more or less in town surrounded by street lights and such, the darkness was contrasted by the bright light from the lightning every now and then kind off showing you the light, this was truly a beautiful sight and as some one once told me
-Not everything that looks good shoots good
I refused to give up though, dragged my wet ass back up and grabbed my phone, from knowing weather a bit from a study or two I have done before I knew that this little storm would keep moving over town which presented a different type of opening to shoot lightning , calculating where it would move I tossed my gear in the back of my truck and drove off to a location I believed would be perfect for the storms movement.
The annoyance of government being able to switch power off and back on also showed it’s ugly face, power was switched back on while I was driving all the lights popped back on and the dark night sky went bright with street lights and honking horns from frustrated drivers cursing at each other as all the robots went stuck on red, leaving me semi stuck in traffic at night time, not the best when I only have a few moments to get to the location that I marked out .
Though I did not give up, I know the local area and jumped on the back roads, charging through the night to the middle of town, not something that would seem important to most, though I did arrive at my spot and I could see the storm moving over slowly, parked and grabbed my tripod with camera in one single move, did also remember to lock my car at least .
Now finally I was in a good spot to grab what I wanted even though the street lights where out and even though the mountain was no where near me I was determined to grab this dam lightning already.
I setup my Panasonic G9 with the kit lens the 14-42 with the lens zoomed in to around 16mm to cut off a little bit of the buildings around me though still maintaining a good amount of sky in the frame, for setting I put the G9 to the lowest native ISO to ensure that I get a nice clean photo , ISO 200 , with all other controls on manual I changed my focus to infinity and then pulled back a little bit, lightning never sticks around for you to grab focus anyway, so I guessed where it would be more or less and hoped that it would be in focus should I even be able to grab it at all, shutter speed I put on 15 seconds, yes that’s right a entire 15 seconds. Bit long though I hoped that with the speed that lightning has that perhaps i would be lucky and grab a strike in the few seconds that I gave myself .
Did make one error though when I was setting up my camera, I accidentally taped the ISO dial and changed my ISO to 400, no big problem though as it would still give me a nice crisp photo.
I then put my camera on time lapse mode, what this means is that it will shoot one photo which takes 15 seconds then wait 1 seconds and shoot another photo, and repeat this for the amount that I set this function to, I set this to shoot 300 photos total just in case, now this meant my camera will be shooting for a total of 300 x 15 = 4500 seconds, one photo after the next , this adds a great deal of stress on the sensor of the camera though this is where professional cameras shine compared to normal cameras , they are built to withstand much more punishment compared to other cameras .
All that was left was for me to let rip with the shutter and sit back and hope everything was correct, standing by with a lens cloth to clean water off the lens after every shot .
Though while shooting I noticed something all my photos where more or less properly exposed though once lightning did strike the photo would go extremely bright, meaning I was not even sure I managed to capture anything at all hell here have a look at how the photos showed up on the back of the camera .
With seeing every photo with lightning turning out like this I though bugger, I messed up something , though I left the camera so that it would finish the time lapse , hell I started it might as well finish the time lapse, so with most photos that hopefully contain lightning being extremely over exposed I headed to editing to check them all out, this is why you shoot in RAW format , so that you can recover as much detail as possible , though something as over exposed as this made me wonder if it would at all even be recoverable when editing .
So then lets get to what happened in editing, after checking the almost 300 photos I did find one, not just one but one showing something rather interesting, well not just interesting it was amazing seeing how much details I was able to recover have a look at the before and after .
Raw files work so dam awesome, here let add in the final edit for you as well, this is the photo that I also posted online
The photo ended up rather interesting indeed, now one thing that I am really good at is editing and delivering photos rather fast and knowing that the lighting storm was something rather uncommon in my area , I finished and uploaded the photo to facebook to the local group for my town, seeing as they would love seeing something like this .
Now this is where things get interesting not only did I post the photo to my own Facebook , I shared it in the local Facebook group as well as I reached out to the local news paper who where rather delighted in the photo so I sent them a lower res social media copy of the photo as well which they also posted to there Facebook page, within the first few minutes of posting the photo had already gotten over 100 shares and had gone wild over the the local groups and people with my Facebook going insane with notification on comments and such, scary on the one hand and awesome on the other hand .
Now here the power of social media comes into play, if one person shares something and 5 of the friends they have also share that same thing to 5 of the friends they have then you have a potential for something as simple as a photo of lightning to be shared an extreme amount of times not only that but it will also reach so many eyes that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of everything.
I reached out to the local news Paper to ask them if they would be willing to share the details on the photo that they posted, I was exited to find out that they had no problems with that at all so here we go lets have a look at what there post shows . Now as you can see it has a good amount of views and such though the interesting thing comes in with the shares and comments, on the post they made they had a total of 290 combined, not bad though they also shared the back-end stats for the post, which shows a total of 1 900 reactions , comments and shares , which means from the post itself they had a rather good amount of engagement though the shares I would say made up even more of the engagement itself .
one of the biggest numbers on the stats will be the reach, that shows the total amount of people that have seen the post ether directly or from some one that shared the post itself 42 300 total more or less, rather a large number .
the post the George Harold made looks dam good indeed some interesting stats to look at to boot, extremely grateful that they made a post and allowed my photo to reach so many eyes . Now lets look at my post that I shared to the local Facebook group for the town I live in .
Sadly for this group I am not able to obtain the details on reach and share amount due to the way the page is setup and managed, though from the stats and comparing them to the post made by the news paper they have similar reactions around 1 000 , which means we can say that it as well has a reach more or less in the 40 000 possibly more possibly less, we can only speculate though the locals loved the hell out of the photo which was rather awesome to see.
Now those two stats came from shares and a post made by the local news paper rather a good reach so far though how will that compare with the stats on my own page ? well lets have a look .
finally we can see some more stats compared to the other two think mine did rather well, odd that I managed to get 4 sad faces for some reason 🙂 though most of my post reach comes from the shares themselves , those 120 shares creates a 41 000 plus reach for the photo, rather interesting .
Well why the hell does all this even matter at all ? well it shows a couple things that you need to keep in mind when you are creating content for social media , something that is local such as this lightning storm which was a odd thing in itself , carries more weight with locals compared to lets say people in Cape town, so keeping that in mind to help grow my own Facebook group I have focused more on creating content that locals would enjoy things that when they see it they go “ooo yea I remember this” or things like that , and in this manner not only do I grow my page I also grow my business and potential client base to boot.
This was and will most likely always be my most viewed and most reaching photo, all due to me grabbing the moment and creating something that resonates with the people in my town.
Yes this photo has made me no money to date, though the smiles and moment that I captures has brought joy to many and this in itself is a reward which I would always be happy to take.
Remember to always keep in mind why you create content and build on that.
Keep well everyone and stay safe.