Photographer Captures Rare Moment As Lightning Strikes An Exploding Firework

Jul 10, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

Photographer Captures Rare Moment As Lightning Strikes An Exploding Firework

Jul 10, 2015

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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We Americans are always looking for any excuse to blow things up, whether figuratively or literally.  Once a year, though, we have a legitimate excuse to get explosive, and every Fourth of July the skies light up with “the rockets’ red glare.”

Mitch Axness, a system support specialist at North Dakota State University, describes photography as a “serious hobby.”  While photographing the fireworks display at Devils Lake, ND, Mitch captured a once-in-a-lifetime image as a bolt of lightning reached out to meet an exploding rocket.

Using a Canon EOS Rebel T4i and a kit lens, Mitch set up to shoot the display.  Dialing in at ISO400 and f/11, he describes how the 8-second frame turned into an amazing photo.

“It also sprinkled occasionally and I had thought about leaving, but the sprinkles were very light and eventually quit. The show went on as normal, and I took many standard shots and, with an 8-second shutter speed, wouldn’t always fully pay attention when the shutter was open. This image was captured during one of those times; I don’t remember what I was looking at but I didn’t see the lightning strike in the photo. It wasn’t until the image appeared in the preview that I saw what I had captured, and gave out a ‘whoa’ (and probably a few expletives) in celebration. I tempered my excitement thinking that maybe the image wasn’t in focus or that there may have been some camera shake, which once I got it on my laptop saw that wasn’t the case.”

The following day, Mitch sent the image to a local media outlet who runs weather images during their newscasts.  He thought his 10-year-old daughter would be impressed to see her dad’s image on the TV but was not expecting it to be as big a hit as it was.  “I had no idea it would catch on and spread the way it did.”

What about you?

What’s the most exciting or unexpected image you’ve captured during a fireworks display?  Share it with us in the comments!

[Image by Mitch Axness | Used with permission.]

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Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery

Allen Mowery is a Nationally-published Commercial & Editorial Photographer with over 20 years of experience. He has shot for major brands as well small clients. When not shooting client work or chasing overgrown wildlife from his yard, he loves to capture the stories of the people and culture around him.

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11 responses to “Photographer Captures Rare Moment As Lightning Strikes An Exploding Firework”

  1. Eric Jaakkola Avatar
    Eric Jaakkola

    How does a air-burst explosion ground out a lightning bolt?

    1. Derek Bruce Avatar
      Derek Bruce

      A good question! Since electricity will find the path of least resistance, it’s likely that the firework, upon launching and leaving a trail of spent fuel, provided a path for the lighting to be interested in.

    2. Eric Jaakkola Avatar
      Eric Jaakkola

      My point being it has to touch the ground for it to exist. It can’t terminate on the explosion.

    3. Derek Bruce Avatar
      Derek Bruce

      I’m thinking the exact moment this photo was taken excluded the portion below the firework perhaps?

    4. Derek Bruce Avatar
      Derek Bruce

      Actually, I retract that, he was using 8-second exposures.

    5. Ed Rhodes Avatar
      Ed Rhodes

      it doesn’t. If you zoom in (ctrl and + sign) you can see the zig zag of the bolt going all the way to the ground. It’s hard to see behind the streaks of firework color, but it’s there. Also, the bolt goes in-between the centers of the two firework explosions. The bolt never connects with the center of either one.

      He did catch an awesome coincidence, one that will hopefully motivate him to keep on enjoying photography.

  2. Mike Perry Avatar
    Mike Perry

    I think it’s actually behind the explosion. If you look closely, you can see the bolt appear to go into the ground.

  3. Chris Works Avatar
    Chris Works

    That’s quite a rare moment indeed!

  4. Ang Ecklund Avatar
    Ang Ecklund

    Good Work Mitch Axness!

  5. Lyn Korte Avatar
    Lyn Korte

    Wow