Skip to main content

Picture This

Seattle Times photographers offer a glimpse into what inspires their best visual reporting.

July 10, 2012 at 8:14 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Lightning strikes Seattle


Lightning strikes near the Magnolia neighborhood during Monday morning's rare Puget Sound thunder storm. The photo above was taken from Alki Anchor Park just before 2 a.m. The storms caused lightning strikes that burned two homes in Yakima County.

It was hot on Sunday night and I was sleeping lightly in the early hours of what was now technically Monday. "Crash, boom." What was that? Flash, flicker. Lightning, a thunderstorm? It must be a fluke. Then I hear it again and again.

I check the twitter-verse on my iPhone (#lightning #seattle) and see tweets about storms in Georgetown and West Seattle, all near my White Center home. Ok, let's go.

Suddenly, my wife and I become storm chasers. We guess about which direction to go and make a few rookie storm-chasing mistakes. Finally, we set our sights on Alki and keep driving until we see bolts. It's raining as I get out of the car and the adrenaline hits me. I know the general technique of lightning photography was to use a tripod and keep your shutter open for as long as possible, hoping to catch a bolt as you're making the exposure. But you don't get to practice lightning photography until you're faced with a storm, and in Seattle this was it.

I made this picture with a 25-second exposure at f13 at ISO 640 with a tripod on the pier at Alki Anchor Park in West Seattle at 1:47 a.m. My tripod head isn't very sturdy, so the Magnolia lights have some motion to them. As the shutter was open, I was chatting with a man with a bicycle. This was my second exposure on the pier, and my 23rd overall. The first 22 photos were me practicing, in the 23rd I think I got it right.

Heather Trimm is a Photo/Multimedia Specialist at The Seattle Times, and a Seattle Wedding Photojournalist at

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
No comments have been posted to this article.
Start the conversation >