Tuesday, April 7, 2009

From the Archives | Lightning unlike anything I have seen

Lightning 5
Lightning spreads across the sky in Princeton, Maine. This shot looks from my childhood home on Grand Falls Flowage toward the center of town, though you see few lights because it's a rather small town.

Note: All images are scanned prints, which were made from film. As always, all rights are reserved. These photos inspired the logo (below) that I'm using for this series.

ArchivesIn the boonies of Maine, Independence Day called for the utmost of celebratory acts. Down East is such an undeveloped region that few cities - and when I say cities, I mean places of 1,500 people or so - had little money in the budget for fireworks. That's when good ol' Maine ingenuity came into play.

Yes, fireworks are illegal in Vacationland. But that didn't stop Mainers. Plenty of my "neighbors" would shoot up homemade rockets or Roman candles smuggled in from the southern states. Living on a lake, I would walk outside, scan the distant shores, and once in a while, I'd see a rocket shoot up, explode in a small blossoming pattern and deliver a pathetic pop.

It wasn't much. But it was something. It was a way for a very patriotic people to show pride of their country, even though their actions broke many of its laws.

But one year, Independence Day stood out.

The evening of July 3, 2002, was like most summer nights in Princeton, Maine, my hometown of about 900 people. It was dark. Mosquitoes buzzed overhead. Moths swarmed around outside lights. And the water on Grand Falls Flowage was still.

It began as a flashing in the distance. The flashing got brighter. Soon, veins of light pulsed across the sky. One after another. Lightning. Everywhere. The branches crawled from the horizon in front of me to horizon behind me. Bolts covered the sky.

But it was silent. No thunder. The lake was just as calm as it was when the sun went down.

At 18 years old and deep into my first obsession with photography, I was eager to pull out my Pentax K1000, my cable release and my father's tripod. My father, a professional photographer, joined me. We set up on a small dock in front of the house. I took exposure after exposure of the crawlers. Each only lasted about five seconds, maybe 10. The lightning was so frequent and so intense that a longer shutter speed would have been overexposed.

Florida is known for its lightning. Its west coast is considered the lightning capital of North America, according to NASA. The Space Coast, especially near Cape Canaveral, isn't far behind. But in more than a year of living here, I have never seen anything like the Maine storm in 2002.

The next day, the true Independence Day, it happened again. It wasn't nearly as intense on the second night, but again, there was no thunder. It was quite a show. Better than illegal fireworks. And besides being one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, it was one of the eeriest.

Lightning 4
This image has been shared before on The Offlede, though I didn't explain the story behind it. It has sold well as a limited-edition print at my father's studio, Knapp Photographic.

Lightning 2
The lightning in this photo comes from above. Actually, it was coming from all directions.

Lightning 1
This is the only photo in which I caught an cloud-to-ground bolt, as you see in the left-hand corner. And this is a very poor scan. Sorry.

Lightning 3
An amazing sight, don't you agree?

Elsewhere: Spectacular shows of natural electricity do happen in Florida. For some great photos, visit Sky Diary, the Web site of Chris Kridler, a colleague at FLORIDA TODAY and an experienced storm chaser.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh crap. That's amazing.