J MacDonald Photography
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What Were You Thinking? Installment #5

Let me preface this with a little info about why this comes so late.

My family and I were vacationing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and we had a very horrible thing happen. We were at a place called Hurricane River when my wife suffered a broken hip. The location we were at was quite remote. It is about a 15 minute car ride to even get somewhere that has a cell phone signal. It took 40 minutes for my 9 year old son to even be able to flag down a passing car and direct them to where my 14 year old son and myself were trying to work my wife back to our car. It was then a further 30 minutes before an ambulance arrive, only to then find out they would need a DIFFERENT ambulance to come because her injuries required a hospital that was two hours away in Marquette!

All in all it ended up being a 30 hour wait in a hospital to get an emergency hip replacement surgery, all while almost 500 miles from home, with no family, no friends and no support for several days.... And all within the first two days of our vacation. It was a nightmare. But we are home, she is healing quickly, and we are trying to get back to some sort of a normal life.

Now on to the image I want to discuss.  This image was shot while I was on a camping trip I arranged for some of my photographer friends just a few weeks before "the vacation from hell".

I took my friends up to my camper with hopes of shooting a few specific places, one of which is the pier in Grand Haven. My goal for this night was to just swing up and get some great sunset photos. But when we started to head out we saw on the radar that a series of thunderstorms were marching inland from across Lake Michigan! The assumption was we'd not get a sunset, but could maybe get some lightning shots! What I ended up with that evening was both at once!!


The setting sun and lightning all in one shot! Made with the Olympus OM-D E-M1
and mZuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

When we arrived we found that we were indeed going to be treated to a sunset, (which if you haven't seen a Lake Michigan sunset then you haven't really seen a sunset) AND to a potential show of lightning! So my friends and I were at various places along the beach and both piers you can see in this shot. We were shooting the sunset and watching the lighting slowly come in form the distance. 

As the sun started to get really low on the horizon I had an idea that I hoped I could pull off. I wondered to myself if I could use Live Composite and capture the tail end of the sunset, but also maybe get some of the lightning as the storm approached.

So this is what I did.

I composed my shot in such a way as to leave a hint of sunset, but make the majority of the scene dark so it would let the lightning stand out. This was not easy because I had to try a few different shots to not get the sunset over exposed.  I ended up being able to shoot this with the following settings

Manual Mode: Live Composite
Focal Length 7mm:
Aperture: f/4.5
Base Exposure time: 3.2 seconds.

The Live Composite feature of the Olympus OM-D cameras makes going from a crazy spur of the moment concept, to shooting a once in a lifetime (at least for me) shot and getting this result STRAIGHT OUT OF THE CAMERA. The photo above has had NO EDITING to it.

I know this wasn't probably some wild in depth how to, but then, these cameras make some things so easy that the explanations for how to make images like this are rather short.

Thanks again for stopping in, and for those who reached out over the last few weeks to check in on my wife...Thank you so much! Your love and kind words have been a big blessing to us.

Take Care,

Jamie A. MacDonald

Jamie MacDonald1 Comment