Lightning Only Strikes Once

To commemorate Labor Day, I am sharing an image from my recent trip to the southwest. This image was taken during a brief, but exciting visit to the Grand Canyon. As I mentioned in my previous post, the main goal of this trip was to photograph dramatic skies and storms. So, at the beginning of every morning of our trip, we wondered where the storms would lure us on that particular day. Using our weather apps on this day, we could see that the chances for storms at the Grand Canyon were very good. The only problem was that we awoke that day in Beatty, Nevada, which required a six hour drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. No time to waste…we headed for the south rim! Later, as we approached the south rim, my weather app confirmed that a five-mile wide storm cell was developing right in the middle of the canyon. This is exactly what we wanted!
In this situation, there were two types of people: those driving like hell to get away from the storm and those driving like hell to get closer to it. Of course, we were in the latter group and we seemed to encounter all of the former group as we worked our way along the south rim road in search of a good overlook. Fortunately, the more we drove, we fewer people we encountered and we were ultimately able to find a good location. As we parked, I could see this amazing storm cell right in the middle of the canyon. It was awesome. It looked a bit more ominous in real life than it did on my weather app, that’s for sure! It was a bit frantic for me to organize my gear after a long day of driving. The last thing I wanted was to miss such a fantastic opportunity, so my adrenaline was racing.
I managed to get set up and I attached my lightning trigger, which is a little gizmo that quickly trips the camera’s shutter during a lightning strike. Pretty cool. While setting up, I pondered the sensitivity setting on my trigger. Hmmm, I had no idea what setting to use. Too sensitive and your camera clicks away like a possessed tourist. Not enough sensitivity and you risk missing lightning strikes. This was no time to experiment, so I opted for a sensitive setting and crossed my fingers.
While my camera was under the control of the lightning trigger, I finally had a chance to relax and enjoy the view. I realized that the Grand Canyon completely engulfed this storm cell. That was fascinating to me. The Grand Canyon is so big that it completely swallowed a major storm system. Seriously. With a depth of more than a mile and a rim-to-rim distant of 18 miles in some places, the walls of the Grand Canyon easily contained this storm system. You need to see that with your own eyes sometime to believe it!
After a few minutes of relaxation, it was back to work keeping my gear dry, my lens clean, and maintaining pace with the other members of my group. Then, almost as quickly as we arrived, the storm began to clear. It was beautiful as the setting sun broke through some clouds and illuminated the canyon floor. A magnificent scene, but, unfortunately, I never saw any lightning. I heard plenty of thunder, and some of my buddies claim they saw lightning, but I never saw any. Disappointed, I left the Grand Canyon thinking I missed a lightning strike, but I had to get over it quickly…we were already planning for the next day’s storms!
Fast forward to three days ago. Imagine my surprise as I was reviewing images on my computer and there it was: a lightning strike! I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but my lightning trigger took care of that for me! You see, while I was pondering the expanse of the Grand Canyon, cleaning my lens, tending to my gear, my camera had been clicking away under the control of the lightning trigger, taking frame after frame, one of which captured a lightning strike. But that is all I needed…one single frame with a lightning strike! I was so excited that I had to share the image with you today. I realize my feelings about this image are significantly skewed due to all the excitement associated with the chase and then thinking I had failed in my quest. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy it even a tiny amount as much as I do!
Happy Labor Day!
GrandCanyon copy


  1. Great shot Steve. The lightning trigger sounds like the nickname of a wild west gunman. This is really a cool photo. It makes me want to be there to hear the sounds and smell the smells that are associated with these natural scenes and events. I guess I’ll have to appreciate this visual instant and hope for opportunities to fill my other senses in the future. Thanks for the post.


    1. Thanks, Ron! One of my absolute favorite things about rain out west is the smell of sage. The moisture really makes the delicate aroma of sage come to life. I think I like that more than any image. Too bad I can’t capture it with my camera!!


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