Lightning

I keep trying to get the perfect photograph, a picture of a bolt of lightning as it’s happening in real time. I know it’s possible, because you can just go onto Google and type in “lighting” and you’ll get tons of pictures of actual bolts. But I don’t want any of those pictures. I want my own lightning bolt. Besides, if you type in “lightning” on Google, you don’t just get photos of lightning bolts. Sometimes you get lightning graphics. Or sometimes you’ll get pictures of hockey players for the Tampa Bay Lighting franchise.

Sometimes you’ll get a screenshot of somebody playing Mario Kart, in last place, but holding a lightning bolt in reserve, just waiting to unleash its lightning shrink powers on everybody else, maybe on the final lap, with just enough time to race into first place and steal the lead. The only problem with that strategy is, chances are, the longer you hold onto your lightning bolt, the sooner one or more of the other racers is going to be given a ghost, and obviously they’ll steal your lightning. Nobody ever says steal your lightning. It’s always steal your thunder. But not in Mario Kart. There’s no thunder at all in Mario Kart. It’s one of the only representations of lightning that I can think of on the spot where there is no accompanying thunder, no mention whatsoever. Also, if somebody has a star, well, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that if they use that star while you use your lightning, it won’t have any effect at all, not on them. And while that’s a really tough trick to pull off in a head to head match, when you’re playing Grand Prix? Versus six or seven computer players? Everybody knows what I’m talking about. It’s almost guaranteed that it’s going to happen.

What I’m getting at here is, lighting comes in a lot of forms, and I just want one of them, one picture of one bolt of lighting. It would be my lightning, my bolt. That would be the closest I’d come to owning that particular shock of static electricity, or, at least, nobody else could claim any more ownership of that specific lightning than I could. One time I was at home during a thunderstorm. After way too much deliberation, I found my camera and put it on video recording mode and just took a video of the sky for a couple of minutes. I got a few lighting bolts in there. My plan was I’d then upload that video onto my computer, fast forward to where the lightning bolts appeared, and then I’d just make a little freeze frame, have my own lighting bolt picture, finally. But for a number of reasons, which I’ll get into, in detail, I never followed through.

First of all, what inspired me to think of this plan, this video recording plan, was that I was looking out the window and seeing all of these amazing bolts of lighting, in real time. And after two or three of them I thought, man I should have gotten my camera, this is about as good a time as any to try to get that lightning photo. But I thought, nah, I’ve already seen two or three great bolts of lighting. What are my chances of seeing any more? So I didn’t get my camera just yet, even though it was waiting, right there in the next room in one of my desk drawers. So I was still sitting there looking outside the window and the lighting just kept getting bigger and better. Five, six, ten, twelve bolts of lighting.

And that’s when I was like, all right, I should really get the camera. So I went for it, and then I went upstairs, to the upstairs bathroom, because it has a higher vantage point, and I turned on the camera and clicked it to video mode. And a minute passed by, and then two and then three and no lighting. I really should have tried it, like I already said, after bolts number two or three. But then finally, some lightning. Crack. But it was like, looking at it through this tiny screen wasn’t even close to just looking at it through my window with my eyes.

First of all, and I keep saying first of all without getting to a second of all, but think of this as a separate first of all, or a continuation, but when I look out the window I see everything. When I look at my camera looking out the window, the majority of the screen is taken up by sky. Everything else looks so much disproportionately smaller. Is it the lens? I have no idea, this camera only cost like two hundred bucks. I think my iPhone takes better pictures to be perfectly honest. And whereas when you look at lighting out the window, you can see the bolts like actually travelling through the sky, cutting these paths that almost appear preordained, but when you look at the video, it’s kind of just like, flash, lighting bolt, flash, no big deal, flash, how long am I really going to stand here in my bathtub (the window is on the side of the tub, that’s why I was standing in it) pointing a camera at the sky taking a video of mostly nothing, intermittent lightning, totally lackluster when compared to the real thing.

That’s the first of all of why I didn’t get around to then doing the freeze frame stuff I was talking about. The second of all isn’t as introspective, isn’t anything cool about looking at life through a screen versus through your own eyes. It’s all about me saying I’ll do something, planning to do something, but then never following through. What am I going to have to find the USB cord for my camera? Hook it up to the computer? Try to ignore all of that lousy built-in photo and video editing software that always comes with cheap cameras? Figure out how to get my photo into some editor that I’m, well, slightly more comfortable with than the built-in stuff, still not really knowing how to use? And then searching through minutes of sky, just to find the lightning? In theory, I could do this. I could zoom, enhance, zoom, enhance. I guess a real photographer could do something with it.

But then again, I was looking through a window, and on the other side of the window was the screen, so there’s that to deal with, the reflection on the glass and then the little wire shapes from the screen. So even if I were to do something cool with it, it would be “artsy” at best, nothing like what I’m really going for, a fucking huge fucking monster shot of some lighting, like totally bad ass lighting, something you’d see on the cover of National Geographic magazine, just that shot, and then the caption: “Lightning.” Because you wouldn’t need much more of a title. The shot would say it all. And inside there would be even cooler shots, and then really cool articles about how lighting strikes and why and all about science, and little side articles about getting struck by lightning and surviving. I’d buy that issue. I wouldn’t subscribe to the monthly because, let’s be honest, who has time to commit to National Geographic every month? But I would read the shit out of that lightning issue.

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