Rare Lightning Storm Rolls Through Ventura
It was a regular Fall day in Southern California with light Santa Ana breeze blowing, the air was warm. I had just gotten back from a 5 day trip to Wyoming with friends to explore and see some fall color. I spent the day downloading my photos and editing some of my favorites and the morning had quickly become afternoon. It is so easy to let the day get away when editing, but my good friend Rhonda sent me a text to see if I was headed out to shoot. She often texts me when the clouds look good and are setting up for a nice sunset, so I assumed that was what she meant... then I heard a clap of thunder 🌩 .
Now thunder isn't something you hear everyday at the beach in California so it took a minute to register.
Then... a flash of light ....and thunder again!
OMG... I ran out to look and the whole sky was dark. So I scooped up all my camera gear and threw on the shoes that were closer to the door and off I went. I raced towards Ventura from Oxnard with the clouds behind me, trying to rack my brain for a vantage point that would make a great composition, while trying to out pace the storm. You never know how long a thunderstorm will last so I was a little frantic. But it seemed the storm was coming from the southeast. I headed away from it to Ventura's Grant Park so I could look back over the city and ocean - a view that everyone loves.
As I got closer to the hillside view, it was obvious that I wasn't the only one with that idea!
LOL - Cars were racing everywhere.
I thought I might go to the highest point, "The Cross", but instead I saw an opening on the side of the road with a great view I've photographed before. There was no time to waste to search for parking so I pulled in right away and I am glad I did. The sky was just beginning to light up with some color as the sun was about to set and lightning was flashing everywhere. I had no idea if I had only seconds to get the shot so I rushed to get set up and settled on using my smaller travel tripod because it was ready-to-go from my Wyoming trip- not my first choice but it would have to do.
It was still bright out and shooting lightning is not my specialty. Once I had my composition, I had to sort out the settings, the best I could start with was a 2" exposure...not ideal for capturing lightning but since I left my neutral density filter on the floor of my office with all the other equipment I had just unpacked. But I was determined to get the shot. Clicking away at 2" exposures, in awe of the fantastic show that mother nature was putting on. As the sky darkened, my settings improved and gave me better odds at capturing the lightning perfectly. Before I know it I was at 15 and 30" exposures. If I had more opportunities to photograph lightning, I would probably invest in a special trigger that makes it much easier.
After settling in, I finally said "hello" to the photographer I tried not to run over as I backed into my space. Luckily, it turned out that I knew him 😅. As we were chatting, a huge lightning bolt hit nearby, we both felt the electric charge! I tried to climb under the back hatch of my Toyota 4Runner for shelter...I am not really a fan of standing out in a lightning storm with a metal tripod and camera! YIKES
Then, as the sun was setting, the sky turned the most vivid orange I have ever seen! We were lulled out into the open with lightning flashing above. My friend Trent went first, then I had to follow. He had a red umbrella and somehow I felt safer knowing he was there. You can see his red umbrella in my last photo before the sun went down. Then I got some other shots of the night sky with a bit of orange glow and lightning as it kept putting on a show. It was hard to leave, but as the sky became black, I knew that I was fulfilled with what I had seen :) It was time to call it a night. Then, on the way home I couldn't resist pulling over to walk out onto the pier. But by then, the wind had picked up and rain was falling. I got one or tow little bolts but the storm had mostly moved on.
What a night!!!
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