i've always enjoyed making images in inclement weather as long as i'm prepared for it. and therein lies the key...prepared for it. if i'm caught in such weather without the preparation, whatever the season, it can be miserable. but...if i'm diligent in being prepared, those are some of the best times to make images in my opinion.
i was at peavy plaza in downtown minneapolis this particular evening, scoping it out and hoping for a downpour to make images in. i "discovered" it through images shared by another photographer. i was also at the plaza the weekend before during/after the rain and made some images. this one i'm quite pleased with. this facade is part of westminister presbyterian church, just south of peavy plaza.
i love the mood of light and shadow here. while the rain had stopped, you can see the "twinkles" from the raindrops on the hand bannister to the right and the bush in the lower left. the colors "twinkling" in the dark windows of the church are raindrops reflecting the scene behind me when i made this image. that's my best guess at least. the dark windows themselves are also stain glass but i don't believe the "twinkles" are from the colors of the glass. for instance, the green raindrops you see on the two right windows most likely are the reflections of the green wcco sign. wcco is one of minneapolis' tv and radio stations. the sign is lined up on the same side behind my back.
fast forward to the next weekend when i was hoping for a downpour. it wasn't happening and i wasn't sure that it was going to. what was happening was flashes of lightning in the sky. i began to formulate a plan in my head. about a month ago, i had been at gold medal park to scout out a potential site for making images of the strawberry moon. i shared about that in a blog. check it out here if you haven't yet read it!
i wanted to find a location that would give me a broad view of the cityscape to maximize the possibility of capturing a lightning strike over it. gold medal park was close by and offered such a view.
i arrived at gold medal park and began the twisting ascent to the top. literally, it is a twisting ascent. the path circles its way to the peak where there is quite the stunning view. from the south side of the mississippi river, i'm looking across the river to where st. anthony main runs along the river. i've shared images from that street. it's one of my favorite locations to make images. to my left stands the guthrie theater with its cantilevered bridge about midway up, extending to the river. just beyond it shines the iconic gold medal flour sign. to my right is the eleven on the river condominiums being built. it looms large over gold medal park. the views from those living spaces are sure to be among some of the best for those who can afford, most likely, a princely sum of money.
i began to set up my camera gear. once that was in place, i fiddled around with some potential compositions until i found one i liked. that, ladies and gentlemen, was the end of planning for the image. now it was time for luck to step in. sometimes, i would trigger the shutter with my remote immediately after an image was made. sometimes, i would wait until i had a gut feeling something might happen. that gut feeling, by the way, was wrong a lot 😂.
all the while, i kept looking out over the scene i was making images of. the pillsbury sign rose up from the old grain silo building in the distance, giving off an old-school glow on the horizon. right next to it, on top of an old warehouse, stood the water tower on the roof lit up in red, white and blue. i say "the" as it is an iconic landmark. how many water towers have you seen on top of a building? i'm still trying to figure out the history of the water tower and its use. my guess is that the tower was integral to the flour building it stands on. so far, i've only been able to find that it has been around for about 100 years. if any of you readers know anything about the history of the water tower, i'd love a link or comment shared about it in the comment section at the end of this blog.
i made 191 images that night of this scene you see above. only three of them had lightning strikes in them. that meant .016% of my images found success. not 16%. not even .16%. luck was mostly nowhere to be seen. but oh.....this was one of those nights where "if at first you don't succeed, try again" paid off. about image number 150, somebody must have fooled mother nature. do you remember that classic tv advertisement? "it's not nice to fool mother nature..." and then, in one case at least, thunder and lightning struck! if you do, you are old like me 😂. it was an ad for chiffon margarine. i don't even know if it exist anymore. but she was fooled big time by the looks of this image.
i'm not gonna lie to you. it. was. incredible! it was like the sky went from night to day for a few seconds. i'm going to tell you another secret. my camera settings were set up for images like the first lightning strike. when the strike happened for this second image, it was so bright it overexposed the image in a big way. let me share a portion of that image here...
i had to put in some time to bring it all back to what i saw that night in post-processing. in the edited image, i can still remember the gasp i made when i realized i had captured this amazing lightning strike! i elicited a "whoooooaaaaa" and started laughing a little. i may have even done a little victory dance! good thing the people who were up at the top with me had left a little earlier. my dance would have been painful to watch. it definitely would not have "broken the internet" if it had been shared to social media. well....maybe it would have but not for the good reasons!
here's a cool thing to note about the main bolt of lightning from which the smaller ones branch off from. look very closely and you can see a flare to the left of the water tower at the edge of the building where the main bolt goes behind. that is from the lightning bolt, not one of the many man-made light sources in the image. it is similar to when you see the sun and moon partially hidden behind something. you see flares coming out from that point where it is ascending from or descending to.
well, i made about 40 more images with nothing to show as far as lightning goes after the image above. at about the 30th of those images, the sky let loose and the rains came down in sheets. i had already been prepared for it with a shower cap over my camera and a rainproof cover over my backpack. wait...what? a shower cap? yep! a good hack for keeping the camera dry while being able to see through to the camera. with a lens hood on the lens, all i have to do is lift the cap to wrap around the top lip of the lens hood and my lens and body stay dry.
a bit of a "frightening" moment...at one point, i saw a tiny white spider skitter under the shower cap while i was making images in the rain. it apparently decided to climb my tripod and seek cover under the cap. after i got over my initial freak-out, i tried swatting it away before it got under the cap and missed! argh!! it disappeared somewhere into the depths of my tripod and camera. i never saw it again. i thought it probably jumped ship when i was tearing my gear down later...i hoped. i didn't need it climbing on me as i'm driving home. yep, this hulking dude gets skittish at the smallest spiders. do you know how fast they move??!
that was a great night for me (other than the spider)! while i never made a satisfactory image in the rain, lady luck smiled on me. she gave me the opportunity to capture one of the best lightning strikes i've seen in quite some time!
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the church image and the big lightning bolt images are both for sale on my website. if either strikes your fancy, they will be in my online store very soon. in the meantime, you can use the contact form below or on any web page of my site to send me a message about purchasing one of these two prints. i'll work with you to make this a smooth process and help bring about an art piece that will be enjoyed as a conversation piece for many years!
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thanks so much! i'll be seeing you soon with more "images from a quiet world"!