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MONSOON 2021: Take amazing lightning photos while staying safe

Published: Jun. 14, 2021 at 4:34 PM MST|Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 7:57 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Lightning is fast. A millisecond and it’s gone.

There is a thrill that goes along with that, and being able to capture something that no one will ever see again.

Some pictures are worth 1,000 words, others leave you speechless.

For nearly two decades, Tucson’s Greg McCown has been leaving folks nearly silent with awe.

“I usually go out with an idea in mind of what I want to capture,” he said. “Rarely does that actually work out.”

Most of the time it works out better but in some other way.

Like in August 2015, when in the midst of setting up cameras off Marana Road, McCown captured one lucky strike.

“As I was setting up the third camera, my vision caught a flash,” he said. “This is daylight and I’m seeing a flash, that’s gotta be a pretty good size bolt.

“After I finish shooting, I went over to the camera. I check through and I’m like ‘hey, that’s a pretty good shot.’”

That pretty good shot went viral from Brazil to the Netherlands.

“I had no idea that amount of attention it would get,” McCown said.

So what does it take to safely snap such an attention-getter?

First, the gear.

McCown recommends a Nikkon or Cannon with manual settings and a few different lenses from mid to wide-angle.

Next is location.

“Many times I am looking spots that are high up so I can just focus on the distant things,” he said. “We can bring up our cars real close which means we can jump back in the car real quick. To be too far from your vehicle is never a good idea.

“Most of the time I’m either shooting the storm kind of either from the front of the side. Rarely do I want to shoot from behind but it all depends on the storm itself because every storm behaves a little bit differently.”

That unpredictability is why McCown stresses going with someone who has experience.

“Do it with someone who already knows and understands,” he said.

For safety reasons, if something does go wrong you do not want to be alone. That’s the worst-case scenario. Be safe and be patient.

“There are so many times when I go out and I get absolutely nothing,” McCown said. “You have to get in the mindset, okay I’m paying my dues. This means I’m going to get the next one.”

You never know. The next one may be THE one.

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.