Monday, September 22, 2008

Lightning in Badlands National Park

Western South Dakota is a great place to photograph weather, a lot due to the fact that you can see the weather from a long distance.

Last week as I was headed west on Interstate 90, I noticed dark storm clouds beginning to rise and build directly ahead. Since I was approaching Cactus Flat at Exit 131, I jumped at the chance to shoot weather in Badlands National Park. I was hoping for at least a good sunset, but got that and lightning to boot!

These shots were all taken in the vicinity of the Doors and Windows Overlook near the east entrance to the park.

Here the front approaches over the grasslands.

I hiked to the east side of the ridge at the parking area and shot back toward the west.

Now I will say standing outdoors with a metal tripod while lightning is striking in the area isn't the smartest thing, so I'd recommend being very careful when trying to photograph storms like this. No one has ever accused me of being the brightest photographer out there, but once the bolts started cracking, I did head back to the parking lot and shot this panoramic while standing next to my vehicle.

My theory was that if I did get struck by lightning, at least someone would see me lying there and hopefully call an ambulance. I wasn't sure that would happen very quickly if I was out on the trail somewhere.

For those of you curious about the technical details on the panoramic, that is one 18-second exposure at ISO 100. After shooting for a while, I roughly determined a pattern and rhythm to the lightning strikes and thunderclaps, so could guesstimate when the lightning might strike. This was one of those storms where all the lightning seemed to be happening in the same spot, so I knew I had the camera pointed in the right general direction. Then it was just a matter of having the camera open at the right time. I captured several strikes, but this was the best.

For more info on the Badlands, check here


Tim said...

Awesome lightning picture!

Anonymous said...

I like the second picture you have posted! It's cool.

- I saw KFF in Spearfish on Saturday, and they were AWESOME. Did not see Williams and Ree or Brock Finn, as I headed back to S.F. and saw Liquid Thin for their CD Release Party.