As a lightning photographer I will remember 2017 as an average year. There were a handful of nights when I was treated to some awesome displays of energy, but more often than not I did good to see a good bolt or two.
Ask a meteorologist what kind of year it was weather-wise and he or she will likely look at data such as the average high or low temperature, or base their assessment on how wet or dry it was. However, if you were to ask a “lightning bug” like me to recap the weather and you would likely hear about how many lightning-producing storms there were.
As a lightning photographer I will remember 2017 as an average year. There were a handful of nights when I was treated to some awesome displays of energy, but more often than not I did good to see a good bolt or two. And of course there were a handful of nights when I was awakened from a sound sleep by a thunder clap, knowing full well that the storm was already too close to take pictures of either for safety's sake or because it was already raining, which typically brings a quick end to my photographic fun as it pertains to shooting lightning.
There was a time when even the heaviest of downpours wouldn't put a damper on my hobby. That was when the Henley clan's modes of transportation were a couple of old, yet reliable vans.
In my Dodge Caravan, I would just throw open the side door and fire away while rain was still falling. It was in this vehicle that I captured some amazing images of lightning over both the Mark Twain Riverboat and Mark Twain Hotel Apartments while it was raining.
In my Ford Aerostar, when the third row bench seat was out, I could raise the back hatch, set up a camera or two, and remain nice and dry while shooting as it rained. It was in this vehicle that I caught lightning dancing trough the sky while looking south from North Main Street.
Unfortunately those vans have been replaced with cars that don't begin to provide me the same level of protection that the vans did from any form of precipitation ranging from a drizzle to a downpour.
Now to capture my lightning shots I will vacate the car I'm using and set up in hopes of snapping a few shots before the precipitation finds me.
Because I am setting up outside I rely on both my eyes and ears to keep me safe and dry. When the clap of thunder closely follows a bolt of lightning it means it's time to gather up my “toys” and hustle back to the car.
My reliance on hearing doesn't end there. About a month ago, on what proved to be my final lightning chase of 2017, I ventured out ahead of a fast-moving and energy-filled storm.
As I attempted to capture lightning in the sky above the wind turbines that overlook the industrial area off of Warren Barrett Drive, I paused when I heard a sound nearby that I had heard once before. On that occasion I was shooting from the shelter that overlooks the river. I was curious when I began hearing a roar, like that created by a waterfall, out over the dark river. It took a few minutes before I realized what I had been hearing was heavy rain falling.
Consequently, when I heard the same sound again I realized I had only a brief amount of time to get me, my camera and tripod in the car. Because I hadn't stopped to consider that I might not be able to fit a fully-extended tripod with a camera attached to it in the front seat and then close the car door, I wound up getting soaked before I could sufficiently shorten the tripod's legs.
Hopefully I learned from my mistake so that I'll react quicker the next time I hear a sound I've come to know.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Courier-Post.