Dancing with Zeus and Thor

Picture: Lightning bolt in forest near the Sierra Buttes, Northern Sierra, California

Image: Lightning bolt in forest near the Sierra Buttes, Northern Sierra, California

This is one of those posts you write knowing your wife and mother aren’t gonna be too thrilled.

Last week, the Sierra saw some very strong afternoon thunderstorms move across the Range of Light. My buddy, Michael Routh and I had ascended to the top of a fire lookout in the Sierra Buttes. Soon after our arrival, ominous looking cumulonimbus clouds started moving in our direction, heralded by the faded sound of distant thunder. We made a hasty retreat down the mountain. Once we were back on paved roads we stopped to check out conditions for a possible sunset shot, and that’s when hell started to break loose.

It started with distant lightning across the valley. We both set up our cameras within 15 yards of our trucks. I used a Singh-Ray Vari-ND filter and started shooting consecutive frames between three and six seconds. We were nestled a bit over halfway up the side of the valley, and with every bolt, the thunder just echoed above us. As the storm approached, booming thunder quickly became loud cracks like a rifle retort. I managed to catch this one bolt that hit pretty close to where we were standing.

Looking at the detail shot, you can see the bolt between the trees and the more distant valley. I suspect it was close to 1/4 mile away. A few moments later, standing there in my Teva sandals, the tops of my feet started to tingle. The next instant found me diving into the front seat of my truck. Then came the rain.

That night we were awed by the electrical power of this storm. We watched the storm as it moved toward the central valley until 10 pm.

I have another lightning shot which is my favorite. I’ll show that one in a follow-up post.

And yes, that is a little bit of a rainbow in the photo. Alas, the full rainbow with lightning shot still eludes me.

Image ID#: 110913c_SRA-0197

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4 Comments on “Dancing with Zeus and Thor”

  1. Richard Wong Says:

    Wow that is a close call Gary! I’ve experienced my fair share of big thunderstorms and make a run for indoors as soon as possible when it happens. Just not worth it.

  2. Robert Says:

    Great shot, and a story to tell of the true danger, I love it. However, the text/background colors on your site do not match at all for me, far too close to the same. This is on FF, just wanted to let you know.

  3. David Leland Hyde Says:

    I like that second one of the close lightning bolt. This might be filed under “Don’t try this at home” or “Stay safe: don’t try this yourself.” Anyway, it was an entertaining post to read.

  4. latoga Says:

    Great story Gary, reminds me of similar incident up at Crater Lake (I just didn’t get the lightening hitting and knocking over a tree 1000 yards away on film). Amazing detail on the close-up image!

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