A bolt of lightning, 40 metres away (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)
It’s pictures like these that make me a) want to do more photography, b) feel more in awe of nature than I already am, and c) wonder how the photographer didn’t pack up his gear and run away screaming. But thank goodness the talented storm chasers didn’t run away, they actually witnessed a very rare event, up close.
This astounding image was shot by photographers Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger when they were chasing a thunderstorm along a beach in Vlissingen, the Netherlands. Chasing a storm along a beach. The best bit of the SpaceWeather.com article comes right at the end, where it says that Schaefers and Burger took a series of shots from “underneath a balcony where they figured the lightning wouldn’t reach.”
Let me emphasise that last bit: underneath a balcony.
Balls of steel comes to mind. For me, nothing less than a reinforced bunker surrounded by lightning rods will do.
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Anyway, back to why this image is so fantastic. When lightning strikes the ground, if you are able to get the timing perfect, you might be able to capture ‘upward streamers’ rising from the ground to meet the leading edge of the bolt, as NASA lightning expert Richard Blakeslee explains:
Streamers reach upward from the water.
“In a typical cloud-to-ground lightning strike, as the leader approaches the ground, the large electric field at the leader tip induces these upward propagating streamers. The first one that connects to the downward propagating leader initiates the bright return stroke that we see with our eye. Upward streamers are often observed on photographs of lightning hitting the ground.”
It’s hard to imagine if this streamer phenomenon has been observed to reach out from water before, but this Dutch example must be very rare. It’s hard enough to photograph lightning streamers on solid ground, let alone on the surface of a body of water.
In case you weren’t already amazed, check out this shot. It’s called The Cruise You Don’t Want to Take for very obvious reasons:
The storm, plus cruise, ship off the coast of Vlissingen, the Netherlands (©Francis Schaefers and Daniel Burger)