Line of Least ResistanceAs rain falls a bolt of lightning strikes Morecambe Bay. I wondered if I could get away with not getting wet. However I was wrong, I got soaked. But still it was worth it.
What started as walk down along the edge of Morecambe Bay, near Silverdale, was cut short by a line of approaching thunder storms. The view over the bay at low tide was punctuated with the occasional bolt of lightning flashing down to the sea. A rough count between the flash and the accompanying rumble of thunder put it around 12 kilometres away. Plenty of time and a safe distance. I set the camera up on the tripod, lowest ISO setting, smallest aperture to give a shutter speed of 2 seconds. Not knowing when the next bolt of lightning will appear it is just a matter of taking one exposure after another. Eventually the shutter is open just as another flash lights up the sky but it looks surprisingly faint on the screen. The rumble of thunder comes only seconds after the flash and the first spots of rain start to fall. Hurriedly I pack everything away into the rucksack and pull out the waterproof cover. I suddenly feel a bit vulnerable standing on an exposed headland carrying a metal tripod with an electrical storm rapidly approaching. Morecambe Bay - Study in black & white.The texture and ripples in the mud and sands of Morecambe Bay following a heavy thunderstorm.
Back at the car sheltering from the rain, I have another look at the image, the lightning looks very faint. Then I remember an article I once read regarding lightning photography. They recommended an aperture of around f8 I seem to recall. That seems to make sense, the lightning flash itself lasts only milliseconds so theoretically shutter speed should make no difference, only making it increasingly unlikely to capture a bolt as the shutter duration becomes less and less as its speed increases. Like using a flash in a dark studio, exposure becomes a product of aperture and flash power & I wonder if this is the same when photographing lightning. Not being an expert in this field I'll have to do a bit more research to find out. Wider aperture, neutral density filter to sufficiently darken the scene so to allow a longer shutter speed at a wider aperture.
Roll on the next thunderstorm so I can try it out!!
The resulting image needed quite a lot of post processing to bring out the lightning making it pretty unusable for printing, but still it looks ok on screen, I hope.
After waiting in the car for a bit there is a brightening of the horizon out to the west. Eventually the rain stops and the sun drops out of the clouds low to the western horizon. Out comes the camera again. The sky overhead is still dark with the recently passed storm until the sun dips towards the sea and the clouds light up bright orange. This is reflected in the wet sand and mud of the bay. It looks fantastic.
As the sun sets the light changes incredibly rapidly, going from orange to pinky red. The scene looks surreal, almost martian in a way, the sands changing colour in tune with sky to a deep red. Eventually the sun sinks still further and the colour is suddenly gone. It was brief but spectacular.
Morecambe Bay is a fascinating place, home to thousands of wading birds who make use of the food available each time the sands are exposed by each receding tide. It is however, a dangerous place. People have died here venturing too far out onto the sands at low tide and being cut off by rapidly rising tides, or worse becoming stuck fast in quicksand and over come by rising water.
These photograph were taken on the edge of the rocky shore line at low tide with a minder staying back at the car just in case I did get stuck. Remember always to stay safe while taking photos.
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