It was a hot, summer night last July in New Jersey.  I needed a creative challenge, so I made my own photographic challenge.  I heard the accu-weather forecast which said the weather was supposed to get very stormy in New York with a high chance of lighting and thunder.   With this information, I traveled to my favorite state park in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Liberty State Park has a fantastic view of lower Manhattan and the incredible new World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, now the tallest building in the United States.  I set up my tripod and camera in the perfect spot on the water front promenade, a few hundred yards across the Hudson River. I patiently waited for the sky to grow darker and the weather to slowly change from mild and calm to stormy.  I brought a second tripod and clamped a large gold umbrella to my tripod and positioned it over my camera and tripod in case of a heavy down pour.  I had a poncho with in to protect and wrap my expensive Nikon SLR camera and tripod if it turned into a heavy down pour.

After about an hour of nothing but dark skies, the thunder started, as predicted, and small lightning strikes started to hit the New York skyline.  I starting shooting and opened up my lens to the ideal exposure to capture the skyline at night.  I had my camera set up in the perfect mode, P for shutter priority mode.  I kept shooting and kept experimenting with the right time exposure to capture a lightning strike.  With any night time exposure it’s important to bracket to find the perfect exposure.  Better to shoot a little dark which can easily be adjusted in Photoshop pots production.  By shooting dark you have more pixels to play with and will never have a problem seeing more image.  Shoot to light is a problem because trying to push a photo darker in post-production never looks as good.  I used an ISO of 400 which was low enough to not give me much noise but fast enough to not get blur.

I kept firing away, but I was disappointed with my early results. I knew I did not have an awesome shot based on what I was seeing in my preview window; the lightning was simply just too small and too dim.  Since you have no idea when the lightning is going to strike you must guess and fire.  If the lens is open for about one half second or longer you might get lucky.  Finally, after about 44 shots, BAM! A tremendous clap of thunder and an enormous bolt of lightning struck the World Trade Center with a bright electric glow of light and my shutter closed a split second later.

Hooray! I checked my monitor preview window and I captured it!  A direct lightning strike on the World Trade Center tower against a dramatic Ten Commandments pink and dark red sky!   Of course, I had no idea it was going to hit the most famous new building in the country, but every artist or photographer has to credit “the good luck of being in the right place at the right time” once in a while, and I had great luck that one summer night!  Afterwards in the studio, I had to choose the ideal longer exposure for the New York skyline which was about a 2 second exposure and photo compose it with the fast approximate .5 second exposure of the actual lighting strike.  The final composed image is quite striking and won a photography award for Best Photography.  The photo is published in “American Graphic Design and Advertising 28.  The photo looks so good, I have to tell many people it was not created in Photoshop.  The suspense, excitement and challenge of capturing random lighting was one of my most exhilarating shoots in recent years and the reward of creating an award winner on a slow week was very special. So if you need an architectural photographer in New Jersey or New York, Ted DeCagna has the experience and expertise to pull off that dramatic shot for you web site or advertisement.

This photo is available for private resale use.

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