IN FOCUS

 
Seizing the moment!
Mike Grandmaison, September 04, 2011 at 7:58 AM

We had spent a long, arduous day hiking in the Killdeer Badlands, in the East Block of Grasslands National Park in Southwestern Saskatchewan. I, along with three of my colleagues - Dave Reede, Peter Blahut and Brad Smith - had enjoyed a pleasant day making images of this seldom visited park which is quite off the beaten path. It was a very hot, sunny day with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. Nearing sunset (and as the clouds rolled in),  we dragged ourselves up the coulee after a grueling 15 to 20 kilometer hike.

While enjoying dinner at the campsite, lightning was striking at a blistering pace on the southern horizon. One by one, we headed down the road to find a vantage point with a nice foreground. In circumstances like this, while it helps to have 'lady luck' on your side, this is when experience and technique come into play.

It was already darkish but light enough to see what you were doing. Armed with a 24-70mm zoom lens on a sturdy tripod, I took care to position the fence low down in the frame to anchor the composition. I began to make 30 second long exposures at an aperture of f/16. The wind howled and I used my other hand to steady the tripod during the long exposure. The wind also added an interesting element to the scene by blurring the grasses. Rain soon began to pelt down and was actually freezing the right side of my body. I wiped the rain drops off my polarizing filter following each exposure. After a few minutes, the sun broke through the clouds behind me and lit up the landscape. Seconds later, a double rainbow appeared and transformed the landscape into an otherworldly scene. If that wasn't enough, the full moon rose above the horizon on the left side of the frame!

 

I captured at least a half dozen nice images that evening. This was by far my best session at shooting lightning yet, after repeated attempts over the years. Sometimes, it's just a question of anticipating an image and seizing the moment!