Photo of the Week – September 8, 2016

Back in late June, a group of us were at the Niobrara Valley Preserve collecting data.  During the evening, a storm rolled in from the west.  Against all common sense and safety, I went up on a hill above the Niobrara River to photograph the approaching lightning.

Lightning over

Lightning over the Niobrara River.  The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.

Lightning photography seems much more complicated than it actually is.  Mostly, you just point the camera toward a storm, open the shutter of the camera for a while, and hope lightning strikes within the frame before you have to close the shutter again.  The photos here were taken with exposures between 3 and 8 seconds each.  And, of course, I took about 200 photos (I’m guessing, but that’s probably close) and ended up with a handful of shots with lightning bolts in them.


More lightning over the Niobrara River.


Even more lightning.  Actually, this photo came before the other two, sequentially, which is why the lightning looks skinnier (it was further away).

They say photography is mostly about being there, and that’s certainly the case with these photos.  Unfortunately, lightning can be awfully dangerous (I was once knocked down by a nearby lightning strike while trying to get off the top of a mountain and really don’t want to repeat that).  Eventually, safety concerns overrode the urge to capture a great image and I skedaddled for shelter.  A more dedicated photographer would have stuck around for the lightning to fill the frame.  On the other hand, I’m still alive to write this post.

There’s something to be said for that.


About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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17 Responses to Photo of the Week – September 8, 2016

  1. Ed May says:

    Very cool pictures Chris!! >

  2. Nate M says:

    So what were you full exposure settings on these?

  3. Dave Gruendel says:

    Wonderful shots, Chris. I’m struck by the similarity in shape of all three strikes. I’ve never notice that before. Is it typical? Is there an explanation?

  4. Teresa says:

    Amazing and incredibly gorgeous. Thank you so much.

  5. Yep, been there, done that. Been struck by lightning and don’t want to repeat that. Great pics!

  6. Joanne says:

    Beautiful photos — nature at its finest — especially like the second one

  7. Gretchen Graff says:

    Lovely lightning photos. Glad you’re still here.

  8. mark vanek says:

    I remember you doing at cedar point years ago Chris. Probably not as stressful with digital cameras

  9. Deb Mowry says:

    I have not been struck by lightening, but my electrical at a house was, and the fire alarms all went off in the middle of the night. Had to find a ladder in the dark and figure out how to turn them off.

  10. j.hammonds says:

    Gorgeous images! I’m glad you were aware of the danger and moved to safety when you felt it was time.

  11. Sara McClure says:

    I’m glad you’re around too! :) Gorgeous photo.

  12. Beautiful photos Chris. Makes me homesick for NVP and Sandhills.


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