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How a photojournalist got this skyline lightning shot

Published: Thursday, July 16, 2015 @ 3:48 PM
Updated: Saturday, July 18, 2015 @ 8:15 AM
By: Ben Gray - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Behind the Lens, A Photographer's Story-- AJC Photojournalist Ben Gray talks about his shot of lightning over Midtown Atlanta.

As storms rolled into Atlanta on Tuesday evening, I headed up the Downtown Connector (highway network system) on my way to cover a lightning-strike fire in Acworth, about 40 minutes north of Atlanta. Rain started pouring down, lightning lit the sky and traffic slowed to a crawl. I immediately realized there was no sense in trying to make my way to Acworth when I was in the middle of the storm already. 

Equipment: Canon 1Dx camera, 16-35mm f2.8 lens zoomed to 35mm, 13 sec, f/7.1, ISO 125

I pulled off at 17th Street and made my way to a parking deck, where I knew I would have protection from rain and lightning while also having a good view of the Midtown skyline. I jumped out, with my camera in hand and quickly adjusted the ISO and aperture settings for a long exposure while leaving the camera on the aperture priority setting. 

I didn’t have a tripod with me, so I balanced the camera on the wall of the parking deck, put my left hand under the lens to raise it up a little and hit the shutter button. To my amazement, the sky lit up with a tremendous bolt of lightning during the very first 13-second exposure. After sending the photo for use on this AJC story, I went back to shooting, but none of the photos even came close to that first frame.