Monday, August 2, 2010

Florida Bay Lightning

Bolts of lightning rain down on coconut palms lining the Florida Bay

A month has passed with fickle summer weather bringing electric storms barreling off the tip of Florida. Since I got here I've imagined images of lightning strikes over mangrove swamps or dwarf cypress, but I haven't managed to be in the right place at the right time.

A 7-image stitch reveals a panoramic of a storm system brewing off of Cape Sable.

Taking the time to learn how storm systems build and travel is starting to pay off. I now keep an active report on my phone to track weather patterns so I can quickly hop in my car or kayak to follow a promising lead. Needless to say, this system isn't full-proof and I've spent countless hours patiently awaiting the supposed downpours with my camera in waterproof gear, only to have the storm split and go directly around me. It's unpredictability is humbling and frustrating, but it would be short-sighted to denounce the very character that I've come to love about nature photography.

These clouds move fast, which you can see by the blurred top portion during a ten second exposure.

You can imagine my excitement then, when the hard work pays off. This past Wednesday on my way back from Key Largo, I noticed a dark cloud bank off the northwest corner of the Florida Bay. I checked my phone and saw the deep crimson blobs surrounded by green heading southeast towards Tavernier. Speeding home, I grabbed my camera, a headlamp, and a kayak and went straight for a shallow mangrove patch I scouted a month prior.

I paddled out 15 minutes from the ramp near my house and made it just in time for the peak of the light show. I ran a few test exposures before setting up my camera for a 4.5 minute exposure in order to capture multiple strikes while balancing the light in the foreground without the use of external strobes. When the image finally processed and I looked at the LCD, all that pent up frustration of failed attempts vanished, instantly.

 Light show on Florida Bay.


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