Tisdale - Thursday, August 17, 2006 image by: Jo Lukinchuk

These images were created during a spectacular electrical storm from Jo Lukinchuk's farm window Monday August 7.

Catching lightning is really a difficult task with a still camera, in fact the length of time of the discharge is such a small moment of time it is humanly impossible to depress the shutter button to get the scene. Most photographers use cameras with a manual shuttle and simply hold the shutter open to capture the spectacle but for most of us using modern point and shoot digital cameras that method is just unlikely to get any success.

What Jo did was recorded the event with a video camera then using her digital still camera took pictures of the video to create these images. That extra step of having to use the digital camera is just a technological limitation. If you are using a digital camcorder you can use a firewire connection to your computer and download your video into the computer and then using QuickTime Pro select the individual frame from the video. Sounds complex but it is really pretty easy.

If you have video, on any video camera and need a still made contact me and I will be happy to help you capture the image so that it can be made into a printable image. The limitation is that you can not produce a print much larger than 5 x 7 as the video camera's resolution is not designed for this sort of application. We began doing this in 1993 and actual used a convention VHS video camera to produce digital student portraits of all the students in Cumberland House's Charlebois School.

Lightning has been pretty much a mystery until this last thirty years or less. Though Benjamin Franklin explored the power of static electricity discharges it was not until modern technology allowed scientists to sort out some of the details. The most remarkable discovery was that most lightning is a discharge from cloud to cloud as the potential electrical field of the atmosphere establishes. A ground strike is really fascinating because it does not come down from the clouds but rather shoots upward from the surface.

Jo's images are pretty terrifying and the noise that seems to go with these things and the emotional stress associated with the surprise can be pretty unsettling. But for me lightning took on a whole new dimension over the water of the British Columbian coastal passage when I wandered into a thunderstorm with my Cessna 182. I will not go into the details of my stupidity but I discovered that instead of skinny snaking lines of light lightning is much more like freight-train sized pipes of energy. Shocking!

What is surprising is not the power and awesome beauty of an electrical storm but rather the simple fact that so many of us live to tell about the experience. As we can see Jo and her family survived this one and I and my 182 lived on to fly another day just as several billions of us all around the planet are not fried by these atmospheric shorts. Let's consider some safety precautions:

1. If you see someone's hair starting to stand on end or feel the hair on your arm bristle get into some kind of insulated shelter. Cars and trucks are good since they are mounted on rubber and that insulation will prevent injury from a discharge.

2. Golf course, soccer field, baseball fields are all deadly. They are open space and with nothing tall enough to act as a conduit for the discharge you and your playmates on that playing field become crispy critters.

3. Trees are wonderful things, in a rain storm they can reduce the amount of rain that hits you and deflect hail from causing injury but with a potential electrical storm in an area trees are ready to send and receive, standing under a tree when it is involved in an electrical interaction will result in an immediate visit to St. Peter.

4. In the event of you being conscious after a strike involving someone going down get to work immediately CPR even on a very badly damaged person can save an otherwise lost life.

Nice pictures but take from inside, okay?


image by Jo Lukinchuk


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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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