For me, the holy grail of a storm chasing trip is lightning. But there is a lot more to storm chasing than just chasing. You have to analyze and predict where the storms are going to be before you begin the chase. I learned a lot about that on my recent trip. In 4000 miles of chasing, I saw a handful of strikes when I was in a position to capture one with my camera. I think that is actually a pretty good success rate, but the last night of the trip was really special. On this night, however, the tables were turned and the lightning ended up finding me!
On the last night of my trip, I had given up on storms and lightning and all I wanted was one last sunset before heading home. So I ventured out to a location near Sedona, Arizona. Unfortunately, the sunset was a complete dud due to some heavy clouds that had formed on the horizon and blocked the sun. But the clouds got darker and darker as they quickly moved in my direction. After the sun had completely set, a beautiful lightning show began! A small, but intense storm cell had formed several miles away from me, so I set up my camera and tripod and captured image after image. The strikes were happening at a rate of about one strike every 20 seconds. It was quite a show! My exposures were 10 to 15 seconds each, so most of my images captured a lightning strike. I was concerned that the storm would continue moving toward me, but no…it stopped, so I safe from the rain. Oh, yea, and I was safe from the lightning too!
After 15 or 20 minutes, I had captured about a dozen lightning strikes, and the cell dissipated. Yesterday I was finally able to process the resulting images. I decided to stack all of the individual pictures from that session into a single image. Since my camera was locked on my tripod and remained stationary during the session, the individual images overlapped perfectly, except for each lightning strike. The end result is a single image with a dozen different strikes! I think it is pretty cool to see all that violence and beauty rolled into a single image. That is the holy grail of my trip! I hope you enjoy it too!