Tag Archives: sky

Photo op 19

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I was a little busy with releasing one novel and writing another one when fall rolled around, so I didn’t post many of the autumn pics I had taken. I’m trying to make up for that now by posting some of the ones that I really enjoy. With the bitter cold hitting so hard, I’m not sure if I’m ready to start sharing winter pics just yet.


Photo op 7

20110905(41)copyImage copyright 2011 Mike Kelso

This image from 2011 typifies why I call these posts ‘Photo op’s’. I was driving home from work and saw this happening in front of me. I whipped my car to the side of the road, grabbed my camera, and started shooting. I’ve been very pleased with this picture ever since. 

One thing I try to practice in my photography is be prepared for any opportunity. I always have my camera with me. Even if I have to use the camera on my phone (which I’ve been doing a lot lately on my Instagram) I make sure that I have a camera with me at all times. A large percentage of the pictures I take are because I had a camera with me to use when I saw something interesting. 

There are several times that I have been unprepared for something special to happen and I didn’t get the picture of it. But that is another post.


Photo op 4: Lightning lesson


Lightning is one of my favorite photo subjects. For this particular photo, we go back seven years. I was driving home late in the evening and lightning was flashing around like fireworks. It started out as cloud-to-cloud lightning, which just flashed. Once I started seeing the forks, then I stopped. I happened to have my tripod with me and pulled off the road to get a series of quite decent pictures.

This presents a good photograph motto, coined from the Boy Scouts, ‘Be prepared’. I used to have a tripod stowed away in the car for just such an occasion. On this night, it paid off.

I’ve been asked before how I take such pictures, so I’ll give a quick description here.

  • To take a good lightning pic you need to have a tripod. As a last resort you could use a stable structure, fencepost, wall, something that won’t move, and set the camera on top of that. Whatever you use, the camera should be absolutely still.
  • Darkness is your friend in these cases as the darker it is the longer you can set your shutter speed. The longer your shutter speed the more chance you have of capturing a lightning bolt.
  • Make sure you set your camera to manual focus and focus on infinity. Some cameras have a focus ring that can go beyond infinity, you’ll have to try to get the sharpest focus you can through trial and error.
  • Set your ISO low, 100-400 should be good. You don’t want it too bright or the bolt will wash out.
  • Set your shutter speed anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. If the storm is throwing out a lot of bolts very quickly you may want to stay on the 10 side so that you get more individual shots with lightning in them.
  • If it starts to rain, try to take as much cover as you can while still maintaining your shot. An open garage is perfect. It gives you some protection from the rain but still allows for some movement to aim your shot.
  • Aiming your shot is pure guesswork. Sorry, I wish I had a more scientific method, but I just aim where the last bolt hit and start shooting.
  • Carry a plastic bag in your camera bag at all times. A gallon sized freezer bag is perfect. They’re thicker, providing more protection. If the rain is getting your camera wet, dry it off with a small towel (another important item to have in your camera case) and put the bag over it, then rip a small hole in the bag, just big enough for the end of the lens to fit through. Put the bag over the camera, poke the lens out through the bag and there you go, instant waterproofing. There are pre-made camera covers, but I’ve found this method to be perfectly acceptable up to a point.
  • And we come to the last bit of advice. Get the hell out of there. If the last bolt hit so close that you don’t have to count between lightning and thunder, it’s time to leave. These are only pictures and not worth risking your life for. If you’re being pelted with rain so hard that you have to dry the lens off every few seconds, it’s time to go. Safety first. There will always be another storm. Strangely enough, I’ve found that my best pictures are taken right before the rain arrives and after it passes.

That’s my basic guide. I’m sure I’ve missed something. I’m also sure that other photographers could give more in-depth descriptions. This is just a beginners guide. Just don’t forget to experiment with all of these settings. Make it your own. Use what works for you.

And most of all, have fun.


Any comments are welcome. Do you have some advice to pass along that I missed, feel free to post it in the comments section, have a great story about one of your photo experiences, I’d love to hear it.


If you liked my picture, please feel free to visit my Photo website.

Photo op 2: Solar Eclipse

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Image copyright 2014 Mike Kelso

I took this picture during the 2014 partial solar eclipse. It passed through Pennsylvania right around sunset. I was hoping to get a shot of the sun with a slightly bigger chunk taken out of it, but the clouds moved in, obscuring my last few moments before sunset. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with this picture and a few of the others I took that day. This is the best of the bunch, I was just hoping for a little more. 

Fast forward to 2017. Everyone who has ever looked through a telescope or worn a pocket protector is having a major conniption fit over the solar eclipse that will pass over North America in one month.  

Truth be told, I’m pretty excited myself. I live in Pennsylvania and I had considered driving to South Carolina just to get pictures. It would’ve been an all day and night affair. I would’ve had to start driving at 1 AM, get there, take my pictures, then drive straight back, arriving home around 2 AM, then getting up for work at my usual 4:30 AM.  

Needless to say, I scrapped that idea.  

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to take pictures from where I live. We will still have a partial eclipse, but more importantly, the pictures I take will include the area that I call home. I’ll still be able to look online and see all the professional pictures of the total eclipse, but I won’t be able to see any that were shot from my town unless I take them.  

I’m looking forward to it and will start scouting locations in the following weeks. 

In the meantime, enjoy this pic from a few years back and cross your fingers that August 21st will be sunny all day, or at least until after the moon passes.

Just don’t forget, if you plan on taking pictures of the eclipse or even watching it, make sure you get some glasses for protection. I’m ordering mine today.

Have a great day.