Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally! Finally! Finally! Offlede gets THE lightning shot

Yes, I, Andrew C. Knapp, took this. And it's on Flickr here. The photo received absolutely no editing in Photoshop. Not even a crop job.

Update: This post made it onto July 22's "DC Blogs Noted," a compilation of links to D.C. blogs about what's going on each day.

After trying for two months to catch a great lightning bolt in Florida, I finally got one at an unexpected time and in an unexpected place.

I had just eaten dinner with some friends in Chinatown, D.C. After that, I split with the group and walked downtown as clouds were steadily building over the nation's capital. There were a few drops of rain, but they didn't scare me away.

I noticed how the clouds were forming behind the Capitol, and I thought the contrasts in the sky would make for an interesting photo.

How's this for interesting?

When I reached First Street, the roadway that runs between the Capitol and the large reflecting pool in front of it, lightning began to flash behind the building. But I knew I would need a tripod because of the long exposure I would have to use: There's no way to hold the camera steady for that time period.

Of course, I didn't bother to bring a tripod on the flight from Florida. So, I improvised: I set my camera onto the concrete divider alongside the walkway, set my arm down perpendicular to the camera, propped the lens on my wrist to get the proper upward angle. Then I started firing.

Nineteen frames later, I ended up with the shot above. I knew I had clicked the shutter just before the lightning struck, and I was using a relatively fast shutter speed for the amount of light, so I wasn't sure if I had gotten it. But I looked at the screen on my camera, and there it was. Bingo.

"Yes! Woo hoo! All right," I yelled as I did the signature Tiger Woods fist pump. I was happy.

These are my camera settings on my Nikon D40 for that shot: 18mm, two-fifths of a second shutter, 200 ISO, aperture at f/3.5. The real key is the 200 ISO. Higher ISOs - say 400 and especially 800 - make for a grainy photo, and I was glad to avoid that in this shot.

I didn't stop trying after that. But it's funny: I took about 1,000 more shots in rapid succession, but none of them were nearly as successful. One of the other shots is below.

I'll share more about Day 2 later, though it mostly consisted of great times with great old friends and just a few photos.

But Day 3 is still ahead. It's Newseum time! Copy editors, unite!

Washington Capitol Lightning
This one is a different look: It's slightly to the right of the first photo's shooting location. But the bolt action isn't as pronounced, obviously.


Anonymous said...

Awesome photo!

Anonymous said...

Awesome shots! But guess what?! I found a typo....what kind of editor are you??

Andrew Knapp said...

I found two after your comment, Mark. I was a bad editor in this case because I didn't really have time to edit. I admit it.

Thanks for the pointer.

R. Iosifovna said...

Woah, I'm jealous! Fantastic shot.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this through Flickr. It's excellent. It's not just a lightning photo. That's what makes it cool.

Anonymous said...

yup, that's very nice.