We had our first real monsoon of 2016 last Friday night. We didn’t know it was happening until we left the movie theater, because that’s how it works. It’s a monsoon season late afternoon. You go into a building and it’s all calm and benign outside, if not boggy under a sky constantly on the verge of raining. Then night falls and you leave the building to find hell boiling over from the top down.
It is fantastic.
Storms in the desert always hold me in thrall. Some years, monsoon season barely trembles. Other years, the theatrics of a night storm could expunge the banality from a decade’s worth of lackluster monsoon seasons.
I’ve never tried to take pictures of lightning during these monsoons, but that night, I thought I’d film the sky as Callaghan drove. I’ve discovered that taking screenshots from video footage on my phone is a useful way to take “impossible” pictures. I recorded the sky for nine minutes on the way home, and Lo, I indeed managed to capture some lightning!
(Despite the fact that lightning flashed erratically from different directions, so I kept moving my phone between my window and the windshield. And the fact that heavy rain animated the windows in a continuous blur. And that between the dark outside and the glare of interior lights on the dashboard, I couldn’t see what I was recording.)
My screenshots aren’t going to end up as centerfolds in any nature’s majesty themed magazines, or on postcards, or in calendars, or on anything… but I’m thrilled with how they captured the mood of the storm. I’d characterize the storm’s mood as something like Samuel L. Jackson’s character’s mood in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.
Here’s a bolt gashing down to light up the dark around it:
Bolt lighting up the sky.
And another supercharged bolt suspended in a flash, looking like an electric vein:
Doesn’t this look to be two kinds of lightning happening at the same time? Is it possible to get a flash of sheet lightning at the same time that a lightning bolt appears?
This next pic shows lightning bolts approaching the earth in a more decorous composition of filigreed branches, but then the branch on the left says “F*ck it” and flumes down like fire the rest of the way:
The finger of wrath blow-torching its victim on the ground.
And here’s one that shows lightning not messing around at all, ripping through the sky in a war-like blast that would incinerate everything in its path:
Lightning on a mission.
That looks like another instance of hybrid flash/bolt action, to me. I’m not sure what that is, but it was definitely angry. Like Samuel L. Jackson in the last third of Snakes on a Plane.
These image results may have come from a matter of timing as one display of lightning overlapped with another – recording the show as video allowed me to capture those split seconds. I’m not counting out the possibility, though, that factors such as glare or curvature of the windows could have created the visual effects of the last two pics.
Regardless, there’s an idea of our first monsoon of 2016 in Phoenix. Raw and unfiltered.