Night of Fire — Lightning near Gainesville, Florida

Lightning near Gainesville, Florida
Lightning near Gainesville, Florida

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Central Florida is one of the lightning capitals of the world — the yearly number of bolts per square mile is exceeded at few other locations. This is the reason the International Center for Lightning Research and Testing is located here. During the summer months, thunderstorms occur most afternoons.

But despite their frequency, attempting to photograph these storms can be frustrating. Long-lived supercell storms are rare. Short-lived pulse storms are more common, forming and then dying quickly, producing lightning for just a few minutes. Chasing such storms can involve much fruitless scurrying around.

On the day I took these photographs, I had been unsuccessfully chasing these ephemeral summer thunderheads. A bit after sunset, I gave up, thinking the storms were over for the night.

Boy, was I wrong.

Lightning near Gainesville, Florida
Lightning near Gainesville, Florida

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On the way home, I began noticing flashes through the trees. Parking at the next open field, I saw, off to the west, a new storm building. I quickly set up the camera, expecting the fireworks to end any minute.

But instead of fading away, this storm grew stronger, throwing bolt after bolt for nearly an hour. And not little anemic bolts, but big, bold, photogenically-branching cloud-to-ground bolts. It was a beautiful storm.

Lightning near Gainesville, Florida
Lightning near Gainesville, Florida

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Lightning near Gainesville, Florida
Lightning near Gainesville, Florida

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