Totally awesome lightning bolt in shape of Wisconsin captured by amateur photographer
If it's true lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot, then how rare is it for a lightning bolt shaped like the state of Wisconsin to drop out of the sky ... in Wisconsin?
Jerry Zimmer is a photography nut who's fascinated by lightning, and on Friday night his passion paid off with a too cool photo of a really unusual bolt of lightning.
The electrical charge looks like a cowboy snapped a lariat down from rain clouds with the super hot rope coiling around in the shape of the Badger State.
"I've been doing this lightning thing for about 20 years. I love photography and I'm fascinated by lightning," Zimmer said in a phone interview Monday. "I sit out and wait for it."
Zimmer lives in Hager City, a few miles on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River from Red Wing, Minnesota. He doesn't consider himself a storm chaser, but when he saw several storms heading north through the Twin Cities and noticed a lot of lightning sparking toward the ground, he traveled to a hill a couple of miles from his home with his camera gear — a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and a tripod.
It's not easy to get good lightning photos. Patience is key. Setting his camera on the bulb setting with a timer release to leave the shutter open for 20 to 25 seconds at aperture settings of F5.6 or F8, he pushed the button repeatedly and was rewarded with only three pictures of lightning.
But one of them happened to be the shot that lit up and electrified social media.
"When I push the button down, I can't look in the camera at all. I saw the circle with my eyes. It was literally kind of a spiral," said Zimmer, a custodian at S.B. Foot Tanning Co. in Red Wing. "When I downloaded it on my Facebook page, someone said it looks like Wisconsin."
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For camera junkies or lightning nerds (or both), Zimmer's photo was taken at F5.6 for 21 seconds, ISO 50.
Lightning occurs when ice particles in the upper part of a thunderstorm rub together and make a charge that seeks out the ground, said Ben Miller, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sullivan.
"A static charge like you get in the wintertime when it's dry and you rub your feet on the carpet and get zapped, just on a bigger scale," Miller said.
Air is a very poor conductor of electricity and gets extremely hot when lightning passes through it. In fact, lightning can heat the air it passes through to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the National Weather Service. That's five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
And actually, lightning can strike twice in the same place.
Zimmer estimates the Cheesehead lightning bolt was about 40 miles away as the storm passed between River Falls and New Richmond.
"I've been doing this for 25 years and I've never seen a lightning bolt do that," Zimmer said. "Someone told me it was Bart Starr leaving us a message."