Thunderbolts and Lightning, Very Very Frightening

I had a pretty good idea that it was going to be an interesting sunset when I noticed the gap in the cloud on the horizon and the electrical storm spinning its way up the coast towards me. So I headed out early to Gerroa because that particular location is excellent for photographing both sunsets and storms and also because you can photograph in every compass direction. Sure enough, the sun got underneath the cloud and turned the world orange. Even better sunset coincided perfectly with the arrival of the storm. I started off at the little reserve behind Crooked River, then moved down onto the beach. As the storm got closer the rain arrived and I took cover in the little shelter by the boat ramp. I was pleased that I had a roof over my head when the hail started coming down. As the storm passed overhead and began making its way out to sea I drove to Black Head and, now clear of the rain, photographed the retreating storm as it headed east. There were a couple of fairly close calls with the lightning – in one case a massive crawler lightning spread overhead and every hair on my head lifted outwards. All things being equal, it was a memorable sunset.

First shot of the evening. The sun was setting at this point, but hadn’t started back-lighting the clouds yet.


The back-lighting begins. This is an HDR shot from three long exposures. In the distance you can see a lightning bolt to the right of Mount Coolangatta.


The storm approaches. Here you can see the gust front and the mammatus cloud on the leading edge all beautifully back-lit by the setting sun.


Probably shot of the day. As soon as I saw this on the LCD screen on the back of the camera I knew it was a great shot and couldn’t wait to see it in Lightroom. Also I love how the birds do not give a shit.


Some more adventures in long exposures. This was shot on the 10-22mm at 10mm. The orange glow on everything was so weird and amazing to experience.


Close to shot of the day. Two bolts hit the bushland in Seven Mile Beach National Park. Later on I discovered that this strike was probably the one that started a small bushfire which was put out by the Shoalhaven Heads Rural Fire Brigade.


As the storm headed out to sea I drove up to Black Head to photograph more lightning. However I was torn by the amazing colours to the west and gave in for a brief moment to photograph the clouds on the back edge of the storm and the setting sun.


Some of these shots might look like composites, but they aren’t – this is a single exposure showing three main lightning strike groups.


This crawler lightning spread right over my head and made all my hair on my head stand on end.


This was a big strike. One of those ones that turns night into day.


Last shot of the night. Well and truly night-time when I took this one, but the storm was still lighting up the clouds to an amazing degree.


By |2018-07-13T15:10:06+00:00July 13th, 2018|Shoots|2 Comments


  1. Hannah July 13, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Andy these are amazing! Incredible shots. I’m glad you didn’t get done by the crawler!

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