Amazing Space Needle lightning view from Alki


Just in from Susan Grossman at Singing Pixel Photography. She says she caught this image from Alki at 1:45 am today and adds, “It took snapping, oh, a photo every 60 seconds for 66 minutes to finally catch an image of an instance of all the lightning that was tearing around this morning.” (P.S. The latest official “forecast discussion” suggests it’ll be dry, with some cloud breaks, by fireworks time tomorrow.)

13 Replies to "Amazing Space Needle lightning view from Alki"

  • k July 3, 2008 (10:26 am)


  • d July 3, 2008 (10:29 am)


  • Rhonda Porter July 3, 2008 (10:29 am)

    It’s Supersonic!

  • RobertSeattle July 3, 2008 (10:30 am)

    The big lightning bolt is behind the Space Needle though – correct? (Didn’t hit it)

  • WSB July 3, 2008 (10:41 am)

    The Needle has 24 lightning rods, according to the various online references I just scanned … so probably not unusual for a bolt or two to actually hit it.

  • Christopher Boffoli July 3, 2008 (11:07 am)

    It is really challenging to photograph lightning. You need a lot of patience and luck, keeping the shutter open for a long time in the hope you might catch something. So kudos.

  • AJP July 3, 2008 (11:08 am)

    Wow! Way cool pic!

  • SANDY July 3, 2008 (11:17 am)

    can i purchase a copy of the lightening picture you took from alki? very cool!

  • WSB July 3, 2008 (11:20 am)

    Sandy – if you click Singing Pixel Photography in the line beneath the photo, that’ll take you to the photographer’s site where you can contact her directly with that question – thanks!

  • Christy July 3, 2008 (1:00 pm)

    Awesome shot! I admire your persistence and patience. I heard the thunder and just went back to sleep.

  • RobertSeattle July 3, 2008 (3:01 pm)

    Here’s a story about the Space Needle getting hit from a year and a half ago.

    Someone prove me wrong, but if the space needle did get hit by lightning, it would go through the
    lightning rod system and wouldn’t come “out” again (it would go to ground)

  • Aidan Hadley July 3, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    Robert: You’re right. The Space Needle’s lightning arresting system would direct the current deep into the ground. But even without such a system, the metal super structure of the Space Needle would direct the current to ground in much the same way the metal plumbing and electrical system of most structures would (albeit in a less controlled manner). Similarly, the metal structure of airplanes and cars will direct the current around occupants inside them. People generally mistake the rubber tires of a car as the reason cars are a safe place in a lightning storm. But the idea that a couple inches of rubber is going to stop a bolt of lightning that just punched through a few miles of sky is ridiculous. The metal acts like a Tesla cage and directs the current around the passengers.
    It is worth noting that, although lighting LOOKS like it is striking down, that’s not always the case. The flash happens so quickly that it fools the eye. Just as often, ions flow up from the ground where they meet downreaching ions from oppositely charged clouds and close the circuit, creating a lightning bolt.

  • Susan/singingpixel photography July 3, 2008 (9:23 pm)

    Thank you, everyone! I got the photo by setting up my camera on a tripod and having it automatically take a photo every 60 seconds. It took over an hour to catch the right moment. I didn’t do much to catch it, really, other than set up the shot. For those who are interested, I took it at f/8 with a 13-second exposure and ISO 50.

    Longer explanation, for the curious: In order to catch lightning, you need to leave the shutter open for as long as possible, because lightning is very, very fast. Leaving the shutter open results in getting the multiple strikes that you see, as you catch more than one in the same shot. Since you’re leaving the camera’s “eye” open so long, lots of light gets into the photo, and you have to compensate in another way to cut the light down. (Even in the dark, the city lights would be too bright and white out the photo if I didn’t cut down the light coming into the lens.) So one compensation is setting the aperture to a very small opening–“f/8” means that the aperture is one-eighth the size it would be if it were open all the way. I also used a low ISO–that is, the setting that has to do with the camera’s sensitivity–to reduce the light it was picking up.

    For all that, I still got too grainy a photo and had to fix the exposure a bit to make that less obvious.

    I’m not a pro photographer and I might have gotten some of this explanation wrong, so don’t take it as gospel.

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