Photograph by Jason Heritage
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After leaving Badlands National Park on July 23, 2012, we headed west to explore Mount Rushmore National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. Little did we know we were heading into a forest fire that was raging out of control. Wind Cave was shut down and we had no place to stay for the night. We were forced to divert to our back up plan — KOA — and fortunately for us, Hot Springs KOA was only a short ride away. Shortly after arriving we heard the early signs of a storm brewing just to our south. Having decent cell service, we checked for approaching weather and saw that this was a particularly strong and fast moving storm. Despite the rapidly approaching danger, we fool-heartedly decided to get a better vantage point of our peril.

What we witnessed was absolutely amazing! The setting sun’s rays were shooting over the mountain ridge to our west and striking just beneath the clouds, illuminating the sheets of rain as they fell. The orange glow of the rain was complimented with intense white lightning strikes that pulsated repeatedly. “This is awesome,” I thought. The storms electric intensity increased my chances of landing a shot of lighting!

As I was lining up for a shot, it dawned on me that I didn’t have my tripod. “Rookie mistake,” I thought. I had to improvise quickly before the storm hit. By slowing down my shutter speed to 1/40th sec and holding my breath, I was able to acquire the photo of lightning you see above. I was so enthralled with my shot that I barely made it to safety before the storm struck and nearly ripped our tents out of the ground.

Camera: Nikon D7000

Lens: NIKKOR AF-S 18-105mm 3.5-5.6G ED

Settings: ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/40th

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