On the night of August 30th, I was driving home to Pasadena, and noticed flashes of light in the sky behind a dense cloud cover. "Here's my chance," I thought.
A few days prior, I had purchased a remote shutter release. This meant that long exposure photography and night photography were now readily possible and within the realm of creative possibility. So when I saw lighting in the sky that night...here's my chance.
I quickly went to my apartment to grab my tripod and my first instinct was to head to the Rose Bowl. I know there are a few streets that overlook the stadium and therefore have an open view of the sky. In the dark however, I couldn't quite remember where to head, so the second instinct came to mind, "go to the Art Center." The Art Center College of Design is a well known school in Pasadena, CA that cranks out tremendous talents in the fields of fine art, film, advertising, etc. They churn out the next great Pixar animators, people like that. They have a hillside campus on Lida St. I have driven there a number of times and remembered that again, there is an open view of the sky. I arrived and weaved my way a little further up on Linda Vista Rd.
Lighting flashes still flickered in the sky, mostly hiding behind cloud cover. No matter, I still set up my tripod, and adjusted the settings on the D800E. I was ready. I clicked the shutter and was way off. Too dark. I made a few adjustments and...click. The shutter was open, recording the night sky. After about 30 seconds....CRACK!
It was a quick and silent blip of light followed by a quiet crackle.
Looking back on it now, I remember being so casual about it, "Oh. Cool. Got one." My mind genuinely thought, "well this is easy." I imagined having a whole gallery of lighting images to sort through and later select from. Little did I realize how rare and lucky it is to catch lighting in a still (and only on the second shutter attempt).
I stayed a few more moments realizing how unpredictable Mother Nature is. I eventually left and headed towards home thinking I would call it a night. The sky however, kept teasing me. In the car, I kept seeing these great cracks and lines of lighting thinking I'd be able to capture a few more if I really tried. I pulled over near a short bridge on Holly St. and proceeded to set up my tripod again on the sidewalk of the bridge, which had a nice view back towards the Rose Bowl.
Again the sky taunted me, flashing great lighting here and there. It's just a matter of timing. I felt with the lighting condition that it was best to expose the photograph for anywhere from 45 -90 or 120 seconds. In a minute or two, who knows what the sky would do? It was pretty funny because after creating an image (with no lighting in the shot), I would be looking at the camera, adjusting settings to prepare for the next shot, and THAT is when lighting would actually strike. Oh man.
The other funny thing is that the patch of sky I was facing and trying to cover was wider or more vast than I was able to get to the lens. All that said, the only other shot where I could actually catch some lighting ended up looking like this:
How on earth am I supposed to know exactly where the lighting will be? I took it as a nice life lesson. On Facebook I said,
You can’t always know exactly where lightning will strike…but show up, be ready, be prepared, be open, look in the right direction...Get out there and at least give yourself the chance to experience something amazing.
After a few more failed attempts, it was time to pack it up. I drove back to my apartment just off of the 210 Freeway, and the sky wouldn't stop. Beautiful flashes just through the fence of the freeway. "Come on!" It was addictive. Unfortunately I couldn't catch it again, but to end the night, I played with some long exposure images with the street and freeway: