Lightning By Chicago (From a Plane)

So Close, Yet So Far

As I was heading home from my trip to Clemson, SC, I had a connector flight at Chicago O’Hare airport. As we boarded (on-time, I might add) and pushed away from the gate, I noticed occassional flashes of light out of the opposing side’s window. We spun around and headed towards the runaway. It was clear, as I pressed my nose to the glass, that there was a thunderstorm in the distance. Despite the potential for danger, I hoped that we’d fly near enough that I’d be able to get a good aerial shot.

And Then We Did

It was actually harder than I originally thought to take a picture of lightning. “Duh,” right? It’s even harder to do it at night when it is pitch black (with the exception of the city lights down below).

I set my camera to manual focus and zoomed to infinity here. Under normal circumstances, one might set the camera to f5.6 or something nice and sharp, but I had one distinct factor working against me: I was on a plane. And that plane is going about 300 MPH. It’s tough enough to get a stable shot going 0 MPH. It’s even tougher to do that going 300 MPH.

Any time that I saw leader-lightning, I’d snap a few shots sequentially with the hopes that I’d capture a bolt or two. Unfortunately, many of my photos were either dark or lightning obscured by clouds.

And then, this shot came. As we began to fly over Lake Michigan, I clicked off a few shots and get a nice cloud-to-cloud shot. The image is cropped a little bit from the original to give the image a better composition. Admittedly, I was not leveled when I took the shot, so the horizon is somewhat crooked. Overall, that’s alright, as they say, “As long as you got the shot.”