Lightning Rod

September 3rd, 2013

Sacrificing sanity for the sake of photography.

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I’m not exactly sure when it hit me. Maybe it was while I was fiddling with my camera’s exposure settings that I realized standing in the path of an oncoming lighting storm might not be the most intelligent thing I’ve done in my life. But I had my wife, my daughter and her boyfriend as company, so if our foursome got struck by one of the errant bolts slashing toward us, at least we’d save on funeral expenses.

But they weren’t the ones with their hands glued to a metal tripod on this dark and stormy night. I was the conductor in this endeavor, in more ways than one.

I’ve been caught in storms before. Heck, I’ve intentionally traipsed toward tempests throughout my career as a journalist. Some of them even involved weather. But as I’ve gotten older and as less and less people have been willing to pay me for my pictures, I’ve slowly realized how insanely lucky I’ve been. Stupidly, dumbly lucky.

Still, when my wife nudged me awake over the weekend and wanted to share the wild weather with me, my gut response was to grab my gear and go.

We made it to the end of our driveway.

Lightning was snap, crackle, popping right over the tree line at the end of our block. But unlike Rice Krispies, we didn’t hear a sound. It was the oddest sensation. Bolts were jig-jagging across the sky and only a distant rumble ever reached us. It seemed, though, like they were getting closer.

Taylor and her new boyfriend were already out on the driveway, sharing a romantic moment watching the storm. I’m sure the last thing on both their minds was sharing their date with Dad.

Since I had grabbed our only easily-accessible tripod, Marci was forced to roll out an old sparring bag on a stand that the kids used for Tae Kwon Do. Long ago we decided to sell the thing and it still has a sign taped to it asking $40. We never had any takers, so the padded punching bag sat abandoned in the garage until pressed into service as a supplemental stabilizer for a wife who just wasn’t quick enough to snake the tripod first.

We snapped as the lightning crackled, using long exposures to make sure we captured lightning in a pixel.

All four of us eventually realized that the electrical storm was getting a little too close and that only imbeciles would continue along our present course.

My apologies to imbeciles everywhere; you are all much smarter than we were.

Ducking for cover, we finally got it through our heads that maybe we should leave the lightning experimentation in the past with Ben Franklin. But not before seeing that we each got a pretty fair group of photos.

Safe inside, we raced to look at our pictures and maybe post something on Facebook before the power went out. We listened to the rain as it began pouring down.

The power never went out that night, but the next day, under brilliant blue skies, it cut out twice.

FOR SALE: One professional quality tripod that doubles as a punching bag.

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