Image: Woton's Crescendo©
After finishing one of my Ultimate SW workshops in whom excellent professional photographer Kevin McNeal attended, Kevin and I decided to continue the chase for dramatic light. Sitting at McDonald's in Kanab Utah, a violent thunderstorm and torrential downpour struck hard.
We quickly checked all our weather apps, and Kevin turned to me and said, “It’s going to go over the North Rim dude!” Without hesitation, I said, “Let's go!” We made the North Rim quicker than may be legal, with lightning striking the whole way there. Thinking this was “it” we jumped out at the first turn out and started shooting like crazy. In just minutes we captured tens of lighting strikes (not even using the lightning trigger).
After some time I started realizing that this was in fact, not “it” and the storm was building and getting more incredible with every passing minute. We both took off to another pullover and continued with the same fantastic results. Finally, after literally hours of shooting at various pull over locations, I decided to make a mad dash to Wotan's Throne, my favorite place on the Grand Canyon. As I got there, I could not believe what I was witnessing! Rainbows, Mammatus clouds, God rays, fog rolling into the canyon, lightning striking non stop about every 30 seconds, was all building into a monumental crescendo.
In an adrenalized panic I grabbed my Sony A7r, Canon 11-24 and tripod and ran to my favorite spot. Suddenly, before I knew what had happened, I was on the ground literally HIT BY AN INDIRECT BOLT OF LIGHTNING!
It happened so fast I did not know what had happened. Although not injured, I was disoriented and terrified for a minute or two. I even got shocked. I ran under a tree and then said to myself, “Mark this is NOT safe at all!” So, I climbed down about 10 feet off the cliff and hid in a small cave/alcove for several minutes to get my head together. Finally, I said to myself “can you really NOT shoot that?”
So, I ran out and began the process of photographing again. Every time I would start hearing a loud ringing/buzzing in my ears, or the small tree next to me starts buzzing loudly, I would run back into the alcove. I decided to ditch the tripod for safety and shoot handheld. I also popped the Lightning Trigger on, and it began shooting constantly. Kevin showed up directly above me and we laughed the yelled out in excitement as the sun began to set, and the scene went ballistic. There were 4 Japanese girls taking photos with their “point and shoots,” and every time the lightning would strike, we would all laugh and yell out in applause.
I have been photographing Landscape full time for almost two decades now, and this was definitely one of the most amazing captures to date.
Gear: Sony A7r Canon 11-24 11mm/ƒ/8/ISO 200, Single Shot