Lucky Shot? NO WAY! Make Your Own Luck!

So my son was in his drum lesson which, because of some make-up time, was nearly two hours tonight.  A perfect opportunity to take some pictures around Belmar, NJ.  There was a chance of severe thunderstorms, and we’re near the water, so, caution is the better part of valor…

I’m parked at the Belmar Boat Basin, on the Shark River Inlet, right after the storm passed through the area.  It was a particularly nasty storm, and while not completely over, it was obvious the worst had passed through my location.

However, just to the southwest, the sky was electric.  I positioned the car so the rain wasn’t coming in the open window, aimed the camera, and waited…

Jersey Shore Lightning, Belmar, NJ


I’ve always wanted to take a lightning shot, and never had the “scene” to do it with.  I usually chicken out with lightning, go inside, and hide.  Here in NJ, we don’t have the grand vistas that photographers have out west, where you can see a storm 30 or 40 miles away, and photograph it from relative safety as it approaches.  Here in NJ, and suburban areas throughout the county, you see the storm when it is above you or just to your (usually) west.  Anything more than a mile or so away and all you see are the trees and buildings that are in the way, especially at sea level.

So for this shot, right place, right time, right camera settings… ISO 400, 1/25, f/8 on a Nikon D5000 with 18-55 mm lens at 30 mm.

Is it a stellar lightning shot?  No way.  I’ve seen way better.  But it does illustrate that you need to have your camera with you and previsualize the scene a little.  I’ve heard it said that “LUCK” stands for “Labor Under Correct Knowledge.”  And that’s exactly what I was doing.  I was working under the correct knowledge that the thunderstorms would be moving through the area between 6 and 9 PM, right around local sunset (so I knew the light would be perfect).  I’d been to this location before, so I knew I’d have an almost 360 degree view of the sky, no trees or powerlines.  I knew the sky would clear behind the back edge of the storm during the sunset, which is what lit up the houses.  So I just had to set the camera, and wait for a lightning strike to appear.  This one lasted about 2-3 seconds.  As soon as it appeared in the viewfinder- CLICK!  Easy as pie.  Lucky?  Nope.  It was literally planned this way!


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