stormy skies

Lightning Across a Pink Florida Sky

Lightning Across a Pink Florida Sky

Pink Lightning over Florida

With all the storms across the midwest, it made me recall the storms that would strike Florida, some of which allowed me to still take my camera out and capture how they transform the sky into, in this case, a palette of electric pink. This is the view along the seawall of the apartment complex I lived at in St. Petersburg, Florida. On calm days manatees and dolphins could be seen from this spot, but this evening a powerful and beautiful thunderstorm dominated the horizon.

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New Mexico True Rural Land Photography Riders on the Stormy Skies

New Mexico True Rural Land Photography Riders on the Stormy Skies

Going through my recent rural land photography archives while out in remote places in New Mexico, I was reminded of being brushed by a strong thunderstorm.  It does not rain often in the winter in the greater Albuquerque area of New Mexico, much less a thunderstorm.  Thus, my surprise at having to stay close to my Jeep Renegade Trailhawk in case a deluge broke from the sky or lightning started striking the ground.  

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Severe Lightning Storm & Waterspout over St. Petersburg Florida June 2013

Severe lightning strikes in St. Petersburg Florida during a powerful June 2013 storm - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 bulb mode lens covered until strike tripod mounted with cable releaseWhile out teaching a 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lesson in downtown St. Petersburg on June 25, 2013 my photography student and I were treated (?) to a spectacular view of a powerful storm that produced a waterspout, funnel clouds and ground shaking lightning.  While keeping a safe distance, I was able to quickly setup to try and capture some lightning shots.  This means setting the shutter speed to bulb mode and covering the front of the lens until lightning is visible and keeping the lens exposed just long enough so the overall shot looks good.  I only had three chances and was lucky enough to get the above lightning photograph on that third try.

Waterspout over Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg Florida June 2013 - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1.6 sec tripod mounted with cable releaseThis waterspout attracted a lot of onlookers.  In grew in size greatly and I could not get my camera around the tree in the foreground to show its full length.  It was eerily translucent and silent dipping up and down from the clouds above.

Oncoming ominous storm clouds approach St. Petersburg Florida waterfront - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseThis is the approach to the storm before we saw any lightning, waterspouts or funnel clouds.  I had never seen such a long, thin band of angry looking clouds stretch all the was from Tampa Bay to south St. Petersburg.  The sun was going down adding a bit of pretty color to the underside of what really was a menacing stormy sky.

Funnel clouds came from this cloud band along the downtown St. Petersburg Florida waterfront - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 5-exposure HDR tripod mounted with cable releaseTurning and looking to my right from the same spot as the previous photo shows just how long that band of clouds stretched too.  Right above the sailboats two funnel clouds would eventually form right in front of us!  They never touched the ground and all we ended up was a little wet once the rain came, but the storm added a lot of excitement to our photography lesson!

1-on-1 Nikon D5100 DSLR Tripod Photography Lesson with Lisa in St. Petersburg Florida

Lisa photographing a water spout during our stormy photography lesson in St. Petersburg FloridaFor our second of four 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons in downtown St. Petersburg I met Lisa in the evening for a tripod focused photography lesson.  With sunset around 8:30pm, our 2-hour lesson would cover sunset through twilight through night.  However, Mother Nature provided a bit of a diversion in the form of a severe thunderstorm.  It was the loudest most powerful lightning I have felt in Florida in 15 years!  Before all that happened there was a waterspout staring us down and two funnel clouds floating overhead.  We stayed safe and out of danger, but we ended up getting a bit wet once the rain came before we got to cover.  All this made for quite an exciting lesson!

There were plenty of stormy skies to photograph before sunset, then of course the waterspout too.  So instead of a photographing a gentle sunset from Vinoy Park as I planned, we actually photographed the waterspout and then tried to get some lightning shots too.  It was the most exciting photography lesson in a long time!

Rainbow over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida HDR

Rainbow as seen from Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRI rushed home from a networking event to pick up Kiki and get our usual evening dog park time in before an imposing storm on the horizon passed by.  Basically, as soon as we got to the dog park a deluge opened up.  After even a huge live oak could not provide adequate shelter, we headed back home.  Naturally, as soon as we parked the rain stopped and the sun was out.

The storm that birthed this rainbow did wash out dog park time, but at least I got to make this photo - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRSo back on went Kiki's collar and leash as we headed out for a walk.  That is when I saw this rainbow appear vividly over Smack's Bayou.  Still we walked on and I let Kiki run around in a soccer field (see lower right corner of the above image for where we were earlier).  I just hoped the rainbow would stay visible by the time we got back.

There was actually a double rainbow visible shortly, but not possible to capture by this time - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 7-exposure HDRIt did.  So I mounted my Nikon onto my tripod quickly and was able to make the above photos.  I could see a double rainbow with my eye, but getting it to come out in a photograph was not possible due to a number of factors.  Still, I was glad that even though our usual plans got washed out, at least I was able to add another rainbow photo to my archives.

Heat Lightning in the Cloud Heavens over Florida

Space Stars Earth Cloud Lightning Florida - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 20.4 sec bulb mode tripod mounted with cable release

As Kiki and I were returning from our customary after dinner walk, before us in the deep twilight sky was a large cloud flashing from within.  I went out onto my back patio with Nikkor 80-200mm mounted to my Nikon D300 mounted to my Induro CT214 tripod having set the shutter speed to bulb mode.  I put the focus on infinity, the focal length to 80mm, locked the ballhead, connected the cable release and began making long exposures noting the flashes of light.

Heat lightning is a common sight in the Florida night sky, but rarely do you see distinct bolts of lightning creep horizontally across an isolated cloud.  Usually the sky just flashes in general, and unfocused giant flash bulb.  Tonight this cloud formation appeared as a witch's cauldron brewing a silent power.

Clouds illuminated from within before the night sky - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 14.7 sec bulb mode tripod mounted with cable releaseStill, the lightning was very elusive and most of my shots turned out like the one above, revealing only the flash, not the bolt.  

Lightning Photographs over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida

Lightning branched out high and low over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/16 ISO 200 25.2 sec (but card covered most of the time) tripod mounted with cable releaseThis evening I finally had the opportunity to photograph lightning conveniently right from my own back patio.  While I was eating dinner I watched and listened to a strong storm approach.  First came very heavy rain, always needed for the flaura and fauna of the area, and it also cools things down nicely outside.  

Lightning trickling out from the clouds above Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/16 ISO 200 31.8 sec (but card covered most of the time) tripod mounted with cable releaseThe rain for the most part ceased, but numerous lightning strikes were still visible from exiting storm.  These conditions allowed me to first get out onto my back patio and then even out into the open to try and capture a few of the lightning bolts dancing all over the sky, as many bolts did not touch the ground, but rather spread like cracking ice parallel to the horizon.

A single strong lightning strike over Smacks Bayou Snell Isle St. Petersburg Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/16 ISO 200 1.2 sec tripod mounted with cable releaseI used the same techniques for photographing fireworks to make these lightning images.  I detailed the shooting process here.  I hope to have more chances for different kinds of lightning shots as the summer thunderstorm season continues into August.