Friday, September 6, 2013

Big Stormy Sky Country

The Montana Sky opened up in a big way on Thursday afternoon when a thunderstorm passed within a couple of miles from our rental house.

  On our way back from a trip to Quake Lake my wife and I stopped at a scenic overlook and we noticed an anvil head cloud in the distance

Anvil head cloud from Quake Lake
(those are not cattails in the water but rather 30 ft dead trees killed in the flood when the lake was created during an earthquake in August 1959)
We made it back to the house before the storm passed by and I was able to get the following photos.

Back side of same cloud from our rental house

Lightning show begins

Big strike

Tangled double bolt

Storm passes behind nearby mountain
   If you have ever tried taking photos of lightning you understand that the best time to attempt it is nighttime,  when you can take long exposures to increase your chances of capturing a strike without overexposing your photo.  All the photos above were taken before sunset and were  1/5 to 1/8 of a second in duration which makes it tough to have the shutter open while the lightning flashes.  I took about 1300 photographs in order to get 10 or so to turn out. I also missed a few good ones while the shutter was closed momentarily between photos.

  Later in the evening the sky partially cleared before another distant storm skirted by.  In these photos I was able to capture stars in the clear part of the sky while lightning lit up the storm clouds.  They weren't the best star photos taken this week  nor the best lightning photos taken that day,  but it was pretty remarkable having an opportunity to photograph them simultaneously.

Stars of Scorpio next to storm cloud

Milky Way core visible on the left side of the photo


  1. Those are mighty slick! Well done! What was your aperture and ISO for the lightning shots? I'm curious!

    1. I wanted to use the longest possible shutter speed to increase the chance of capturing the bolts, so I settled on ISO 100 at f/8. I think at smaller apertures it would have diminished the intensity of lightning. Once I decided on those settings I just held the shutter button down and hoped for the best. I think I missed about half of the strikes because they occured during the split second between exposures. I took 1300 photos in 19 minutes. You got to love digital.

  2. Nice ones Mark. I do read your blog - about once a year...