Sunset Lightning over Rural Wisconsin farmland – Just one bolt please

the Answer’ print Fine Prints available here ~  ‘The Answer’ 20150409 / 365 

Lightning strikes across the sky at sunset.

2 Samuel 22:13
Out of the brightness of his presence bolts of lightning blazed forth.


I’d been chasing between two storm cells at the latter part of the day; cells from both the southwest and southeast of me. I seemed to be in the middle of the green areas of the radar. In other words, the rain was plentiful and the sky had been mostly blah gray, without much drama.

I drove to a few of the places I’d earmarked at different times, in prior months, for lightning landscapes. However, the lightning seemed to be playing cat and mouse with me. I set up in two different places, hoping that the approaching thunderstorms would throw some lightning into my landscape; completing my vision. When it appeared via my Iphone radar app (radarcast) that the cell had moved past me I packed up to scurry to the next ‘obvious’ possibility. Just as I’d packed my gear and soaked ‘camera raincoat’ into my car, a bolt scattered across the sky. The lightning marked the glorious vision in my memory, but not onto my ‘film’ (sensor). This cat and mouse game with the lightning happened twice. .. it seemed as though the thunderstorms were not going to easily play their lightning for the cameras. …

The elusiveness of the lightning is a challenge unto itself, but its one that makes the hunted prize prize all the more rewarding when it is captured. Behind the image are the hours of experiences that the image represents. The experiences translate into miles of rural roads driven and the continual checking of radar (when there is cell service). This image represents  the other two incredible landscapes that only I can see the lightning dance across the sky.. because the elusive lightning wouldn’t paint for me. I still feel that spring soaking that initiated me into this season of thunderstorms. Dancing between the downpours makes catching good lightning tough. Competing to expose a fading daylight landscape with a yet unseen lightning bolt can be tricky. .. and though I have a lightning trigger, I wasn’t using it today.

With all of those thoughts and experiences tucked under my belt this day, I saw a pulled into a field turnout to check my radar and plan my next move. Lucky I did .. While the lightning continued to dance sporadically and without prediction at 360º,  there to the southwest the sunset peeked boldly from breaking clouds. It’s small dash of orange and yellow were predictable enough to entice me into a photograph of the sunset alone. I was in the middle of a clearing in the radar and surrounded by cells that had moved north of me. I made an image of the sunset and then .. knowing that one more cell was moving in from the southwest, It was still relatively light, so I underexposed my scene by 2 stops to ready for a bolt. I had a feeling this time .. I set my camera’s intervalometer to make constant 6 second exposures.

I imagined how beautiful a lightning strike would be across a sunset sky. The clouds were nice and dark above, which would make a dramatic backdrop for a bolt. .. I could only imagine it at this point. I said a short prayer, “Please God, if it be your will .. just one bolt.”

With that prayer, I let the camera make continuous 6 second exposures. When I saw the electricity literally fly across the sky I prayed that I had captured it. .. There were 20 or more 6 second captures on my camera’s sensor. One contained God’s answer to my one bolt prayer. .. and what a bolt; perfectly balanced against the breaking dark clouds, above the sunset. The white lightning was rendered the lightest of pinks, picking up colors of sunset behind the clouds.

Behind the prize there are layers of stories. I believe its why I love photography that is challenging. There isn’t always a visible prize, but there is always something learned, something gained. While we might not always get that ‘just one bolt’ answer according to our way, we always get the answer that God wills and it is always in our best interest. ..

May the Lord God Bless you and keep you!



lightning at sunset rural photography


  1. This is a great image & the work that went into getting it makes me appreciate it even more.

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