Chasing The Storm – Lightning Photography

Lightning Storms are one of the most incredible forces of nature. The sheer force of a lightning strike is enough to power a city for months on end but man has not yet learned to harness and store this incredible energy source provided free of charge by nature. As Summer approaches in South Africa, the first rains and electrical storms for the season are already brewing and we’ll soon see what kind of storm activity nature has in store for use this season. Acclaimed South African Lightning and Storm Photographer Mitchell Krog shares some of his images, views and experiences with lightning photography.

Danger Written In The Sky

Multiple Lightning Strikes Light Up The Summer Night Sky. If Only Man Could Learn To Harness This Energy. For many years SA photographer Mitchell Krog has watched and studied electrical storms and to this day still stands in utter amazement at this incredible force of nature. In recent years he acquired the equipment and skills to finally capture them on film and he has produced an endless array of breathtaking images. For Mitchell it is not about simply capturing a lightning strike on film but more importantly capturing the entire scene and telling a story through his images. “With any form of photography if you can captivate a viewers attention, draw them into an image, tell them a story and have them study it for more than just a few seconds you have imprinted an ever lasting memory” says Mitchell. Lightning photography can be a very lonely passtime, only those with enough dedication, patience and endurance to be out at strange hours of the night will stand a chance of capturing unique, sometimes once in a lifetime images.

The Big Detour

A passenger aircraft destined for Lanseria airport bypasses a massive storm cell. Missing dinner and spending many lonesome hours outside comes with the job of photographing lightning storms. From Mitchell Krog’s Lightning Photography Portfolio. (Copyright Mitchell Krog – All Rights Reserved)

As with any form of photography, timing is of the essence. If you are unprepared, unwilling or unable to drop whatever you are doing at a moments notice you will miss opportunities. “I cannot tell you how many evenings I have rushed out of the house just minutes before dinner was ready only to return home several hours later, but nature waits for no man and if you are quick to seize the opportunity you will reap the rewards” says Mitchell. Mitchell’s Fire and Ice series, capturing a grassland fire which was started by lightning strikes was one such occasion. He explains – “I was cooking dinner when I heard thunder approaching, I took a quick look outside and saw the sky glowing red from a grass fire, I dropped everything, rushed outside and managed to capture a few frames of this scene before the storm extinguished the fire it had started. This entire window of opportunity lasted a mere 20-30 minutes and was at it’s best stage for around 5-10 minutes.”

Fire and Ice

An early Spring lightning storm starts a grass fire and is capture here with strikes falling around and into the fire. Minutes later the storm extinguishes the fire it started and the moment is gone. From Mitchell Krog’s Fire and Ice Lightning Photography Series.

Safety is an important part of watching and photographing lightning storms. Finding a safe location with a good view is of the essence, you need to be able to see the storm approaching and be able to determine if you are in any way in the path of danger. “If your view is in any way blocked a storm can sneak up right behind you so a 360 degree view is preferable, you also need somewhere safe to escape to. I’ve often been watching a storm in one direction when right behind me another one is brewing, so I always keep a watch all around me. Standing outside with a metal tripod and an electrically charged camera when strikes are falling too close is asking for trouble” says Mitchell. Mitchell insists that climbing on the roof of your house or any metal structure is a big no-no and could quickly cost you your life and he always promotes safe lightning photography. “There is just no image worth losing your life over” he adds.

Killer Storm

Credits to Mitchell Frog (2007)

On the 23rd of November 2007 this mammoth supercell emitting lightning strikes up and out of it’s core was captured by Mitchell Krog. The strikes emanating from the centre of this storm cell were kilometres in length and streaked across the night sky. This same evening several massive storm cells circulated through Gauteng and claimed lives in their path. (Credits to Mitchell Krog – http://www.mitchellkrog.com)

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