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Close Encounters Thunderstorm | by Jim | jld3 photography
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Close Encounters Thunderstorm

So I set off to west Texas last week in search of photographic gold. My targets were Dolan Falls and then, out further west (where there’s very little light pollution), photos of the Milky Way, star trails, and the Prada store outside Marfa, to name a few.


It was an inauspicious beginning. First, I was unable to locate Dolan Falls. Despite all the driving – and then 3 miles of hiking in the heat with all my gear – I could only reach the river, with no clue how to find the falls. Discouraged I set off to Alpine, TX. Then, cloudy, hazy conditions scuttled any chances of any blue hour shots, and also looked to jeopardize any stars or milky way shots. I had driven a long way not to have anything to photograph. There were some passing thunderstorms in the area and my cousin suggested trying to shoot them over the town or maybe head off to the McDonald Observatory outside nearby Ft. Davis. I hadn’t even thought of that. As night fell and I couldn’t get anything worthwhile nearby, I noticed the storms seemed to be moving out. Even though it was still almost completely cloudy, I figured I might get lucky and get some clearing if I drove the hour or so northwest into the Davis Mountains. Sure enough, as I arrived at the observatory half the sky had opened up. It was amazing how many stars and satellites you could see! I spent the next hour and a half setting up and taking the images for a star trails shot [in comments below].


Up on top of the hill it was about 60 degrees and pretty windy and I had dressed for the heat. I got cold after awhile so I went back to my car while waiting for the sequence of images to shoot. Eventually I saw flashes of light and thought the caretakers were upon me with flashlights ready to escort me off the premises. Instead, it turned out to be lightning – the storms which had been off on the horizon moving away, had started to come back! Seeing the opportunity to photograph lightning – something that’s been on my list for years – I quickly terminated the star trails shots and turned my camera 180 degress to face the approaching storms. I only needed a couple attempts to get this shot. And while I did get a couple other decent photos on my journey (short of expectations), I felt fortunate to have had this unexpected opportunity present itself.


I rarely ask, but please check this out large in lightbox!


Nikon D800 + 24mm 1.4g + 30sec. exposure @ ISO 1000


Trip details:

Days on the road: 2

Miles driven: 1088.3

Fuel consumed: 52.3 gals.

Time in car: 16:52:47


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Taken on June 14, 2012