OK, here’s my near miss story.
It was about 5 years ago. Back when I was in my photographic infancy. It was pre SLR, pre digital, my first camera in fact. A small 35mm film Pentax, nothing special, but it had one feature which in later years I would come to love. BULB.
I was on a frequent visit to my wifes parents place in Kellerberrin W.A That’s about 250 km east of Perth. Mid summer. The weather bureau had promised some unsettled conditions, so I was fairly hopeful I would see something at least.
Upon arriving I noticed that already some promising cloud formations were starting to grow on the Horizon. I informed my wife that I was going to drive out of town to “chase” storms. She laughed at me.
I drove North out of town into the golden wheat fields and oppressive heat. The clouds were closer, and had developed into fairly good sized cumulo-nimbus, darkening rapidly at the base. I had driven about 35 kms out of town and decided to set up next to some trees.(ok I know what you’re all thinking)
Setting up consisted of placing my camera on a fence strainer post, selecting BULB and resting my finger on the “shoot” button. I didnt even have a tripod!
I too, was trying for daylight lightning, little did I know that it is nearly impossible to capture with a high end SLR, let alone a crappy point and shoot Pentax on which I couldnt even change the exposure/aperture settings.
The Storm had merged with another and I was suprised at how far it had travelled towards me in such a short space of time. It was quite active now with bolts occuring at about 30 second intervals. I had decided (in my wisdom) to move further up the road, to try and put some distance between me and the Storm. Had I known that storms can travel at up to 50-60 kph I would have possibly acted different.
I stopped at the new location, parked my ute and walked up a small hill. I was now overlooking fields that were sloping away from me down a gentle incline. I could see for miles and the view was incredible. I was very pleased that I had decided to change locations because this would yield much better results. I placed the camera on the big wooden straining post that formed the corner of the hill paddock. Two ringlock fences were stretching away from me in both directions, the ends of which were well out of sight.
There was a bright flash, followed quickly by an extremely loud thunder roll. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I couldnt wipe the smile off my face. “god I love this stuff” I thought.
I promptly turned my camera on, selected BULB and made sure I was focused wide, to make sure I got the capture.
I had no sooner raised my head from looking at the camera when BOOOOOM (and thats the only word I can use to describe it)
A bolt, had hit the fence, 2 star pickets away from where I was standing, My senses were reeling. I dont really know how I got there, but I was lying flat on my back staring up at the sky. The rain had started to land lightly on my face and all I could see, even though my eyes were open, was a white line, etched from top to bottom across my vision. It was kind of like when you look at the sun, or a torch for too long, and an impression is left on your retina.
And the noise, oh, the noise that the fence was making. It was a noise like I’d never heard before, a kind of high pitched humming, like it was vibrating really fast. Its a noise I will never forget as long as I live.
After a while (dont know how long) I managed to pick myself up. retrieve my camera, which was still sitting where I had left it. All I can say is that, I am glad I was leaning on a wooden strainer instead of those new metal ones!!
I walked calmly back down the hill, got into my ute and placed the camera in the centre console. I started the ute, performed a U-turn to head back to town.
As I did so, the centre console lid (which I had left up) fell back with a slight bang
I nearly shat myself…
I even let out a little girly shout. I was shaking so bad I didnt think I was going to be able to drive back ! But I did.
Ever since then I have had a very healthy respect for the Power these storms produce, and keep a respectful distance to this day.
And to top it all off. I NEVER EVEN FIRED A SHOT!!!, not one. The cameras display read “1”….dammit…. Oh well, at least I didnt die…
In the Lightning and Storms forum EOS20 has started a thread about near misses. Here’s mine