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                   Friday, September 5, 2014 11:30PM CST

Lightning barrage over downtown St. Louis - September 5, 2014

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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This was a frustrating day when just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. I say 'just about' because it certainly could have been a lot worse, and for that I was thankful! These were the two gallery-worthy captures from the day:

Dusk lightning over downtown St. Louis
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Twilight lightning over the St. Louis riverfront
Click to view larger version

Again, I was back in West Virginia this week to continue a short-term contract web development job, one that included the provision for me to return to St. Louis for storm coverage when needed. Friday was another such day that would require me to return home for severe weather. However, I discovered upon making the 500 mile drive back home that I'd left my main video camera back in West Virginia. Not good! So, my Friday was spent trying to get my old video camera and workflow up and running. My old camera was not compatible with my new computer, so I needed either 1.) a specialized part, or 2.) my old laptop would have to be 'brought back from the dead' with a bunch of new parts.

No stores in St. Louis had the part for option 1, so I had to focus on option 2: a trip to a computer parts store to revive the old laptop. There was a problem with my debit card as I tried to make the purchase of $200 in parts, requiring me to leave the checkout line and drive across the metro area during rush hour (from Brentwood to Tesson Ferry in South County) to my bank to get cash. After completing that task and unboxing the parts, I discovered another missing part that left the effort dead in the water. It was now 6PM, and I was out of time - storms were entering the city. I just wouldn't have a video camera for this event (other than dashcams).

While shooting the storm, heavy rain and wind foiled my original riverfront setup spot, driving me across the river to the other vantage point at the last minute. I missed two close bolts right over the city by seconds as I set up the camera. One of those was right over my head, and I couldn't tell if the Arch had been struck. The rest of the evening, I had that sick feeling that I'd missed another item I'd spent 4.5 years trying to capture: a good nighttime Arch strike still image. And like April 10, 2013, I would have missed it by seconds! Not again!

The frantic effort to get the video camera situation resolved had really messed up my 'game' this day. I didn't execute the chase properly as I would have if I'd had all my equipment in order and ready to go. Now - as I said, the day didn't go as badly as it could have. Thanks to another photographer's image, I was able to confirm that the Arch was not hit (whew). However, that event was actually a vivid double cloud-to-ground strike hitting both the Federal Courthouse and One Metropolitan Square (see my Facebook page where I shared the link to that image) - which would have made for my best 'lightning over downtown' image ever had I stayed over at the east riverfront. However, had I been 'on top of my game' that day, I would have never set up at the east riverfront at all. I would have been anticipating a strong westerly wind to be giving me wind-blown rain problems, ruling out the east riverfront. So, I got a little bit of comfort in knowing I would have missed that shot anyway.

Such is storm chasing and lightning photography. Hopefully those reading this can see why I get so upset when someone steals my images! It takes going through a lot of failure, stress and money over the course of years before I actually catch "the shot".

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

Through it all still excellent work
- Posted by Kathy from Lebanon
Thank you Kathy!
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL
Don't worry you did your best! But please i would love to have some footage's or photos of any other close range storm nd lightning! Can you do that for me please? #keepdoingit
- Posted by Innocent from Nigeria

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