Lighting show at Grand Canyon

September 23, 2011 • 11:58 am

A grand show indeed (click to enlarge, click again to make huge and gorgeous). The photo is by Dan Ransom (reproduced with permission), and see the comment by Michael Fisher below to see how it was made.

NOTE TO READERS: if you comment on the page that appears after you enlarge any picture, your comments won’t appear in the main thread below this post, but on the picture page.  Since nobody wants that to happen, please come back to the main page before leaving comments.  Thanks —Mgmt.

ht/Favidat via Matthew Cobb

25 thoughts on “Lighting show at Grand Canyon

  1. It’s aliens!

    Has anyone else noticed that the UFO sightings have not gone up at all since the advent of the cell-phone camera?

    One should suspect that we’d be bombarded with UFO photos by now.

    Instead, the aliens appear to be even more camera-shy than they once were.

    Funny that.

  2. That’s odd. If you click the picture to enlarge it you’ll find an independent set of comments. I was wondering what happened to my former comment about it being a time-lapse photo, then I clicked the picture and there it was.

    1. I was wondering about all those strikes being simultaneous, too. A good place for a timelapse–where the foreground doesn’t move much. 🙂


    2. In the same link Dan the photographer writes this about his beautiful pic:

      …it is possible this image could’ve been done with a single piece of film, but it would’ve been difficult. It would require double exposing a single frame. One exposure in the waning moments of twilight to get the canyon detail, and then a longer exposure once the sky is sufficiently black to not blur the clouds while the lightning strikes. My digital technique was much more simple.

      The image is actually part of a time lapse I am shooting for a documentary project in the Grand Canyon. So this particular camera (5D, 20mm 1.8 sigma lens) was locked down on a tripod shooting this exact same scene for perhaps 2 hours, on 10 second intervals, starting before sunset and continuing until the lightning chased us off the rim. We could see the lightning striking well before it got dark with our naked eyes, but only caught a couple of frames of it, until our exposure times lengthened to multiple seconds.

      As the sun set, the exposure time lengthened on the camera, and we got more strikes. The base exposure was (off the top of my head) ISO 100, f4, 10″. Then, the camera continued shooting at up to 10 second exposures, but once it got dark enough the exposure was simply black, with lightning bolts, I switched to bulb exposures, releasing the shutter after every strike.

      The final image is the base exposure, with the frames of just bolts (the rest black) composited in photoshop using the lighten mode. The composite is made in sequence, and the locations of the strikes are exactly as captured.

      Whether or not this constitutes “acceptability” is up to the viewers to decide. It is certainly a composite, but one for me that accurately portrays approximately 25 minutes of lightning in a single image
      – Dan

  3. god made the Grand Canyon in about 12 seconds and it took a lot of energy. What’s the problem? I’m just surprised that he took pictures.

  4. Wow! Two of my worlds that are normally totally separate just touched each other. Cool!

    I know the guy who took this picture – his name is Dan Ransom. He’s a young guy (well, to me, anyway) and a dedicated backpacker and canyoneer. I have done some canyoneering with him. Some of his canyoneering photos (especially the Southern Utah ones – but then I’m biased) are spectacular. I think he makes a living with his photographs, but I’m not really sure how. He does have a web site where you can see more of his work, and look at his trip reports (if you like that sort of thing).

    1. Thanks for this; I didn’t know who took the photo as it was tweeted, but I’ve put the source in the post and written Mr. Ransom for permission.

  5. I have done a few canyons with Dan and I believe he is in the field at the moment and might not be able to check his email immediately. I think he would appreciate your posting of his photo. His photographic skills are highly regarded in our tight little community of canyoneers.

  6. Why does it look like the photo has been cut in half at the top of the mountains? I’m pretty sure they’re not all the same height. Plus the ground isn’t lit up by the lightning at all. There should be shadows created by the lightning. Looks photoshopped.

    1. The Grand Canyon is formed by a river eroding a basically flat surface. So the mountains that you see are actually the edges of the trail of erosion. It really does look as the picture shows.

    2. What you see as mountains being cut off is actually the top of the plateau. It is really that flat. Pretty much any rim shot like that will show the same thing.

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