Game-stopping action with a violent storm

Orlando Sentinel

Sunday night during the sixth inning of Florida State’s game against Alabama in the Tallahassee Regional NCAA Baseball Championship, a storm moved in, postponing the game until the next day. 

What started out as ethereal clouds, coloring the sky with subtle hues reminiscent of a Bob Ross painting, quickly turned to the dark ominous fury that deluged the stadium in torrents of rain wind and lightning.

Several mentors and colleagues of mine throughout my career have frequently reminded me that bad weather can often make great photos, despite its inconvenience. Anytime dramatic weather affects an event I’m covering, I try to make some frames before taking cover.

As thunder pounded over the press box while I was transmitting pictures back to the paper, I quickly grabbed my Canon Mark IINs with the 16-35mm lens attached from earlier and ran to the grandstands to make some weather features.

I adjusted my ISO down as low as it would go, equivalent to 50 ISO, in order to achieve a long shutter speed in attempt to capture some the lightning bolts surrounding the stadium. Several fans were watching the storms roll in over the field from the stands, which made a nice foreground subject to frame my photograph if I was lucky enough to get some lightning during my long exposure. 

After several attempts with exposures of 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds, lightning miraculously always struck the minute my shutter closed.  Or in a few cases, the wind was blowing the rain with such ferocity, the water covered my lens in water, ruining any hope of seeing the lightning I was trying to capture. 

For this particular image, I actually abandoned my previous methods and changed my exposure back to 1/25th, 2.8 aperture, -1.0 exposure compensation, to shoot some photographs of fans silhouetted in the lights of the stadium with the driving rain moving across the quickly flooding field.  As luck would have it, the lighting struck just behind the scoreboard of Dick Howser Field simultaneously, rendering several usable pictures of the lightning over the field. I continued to shoot as the weather continued to deteriorate, although visibility was so poor, I could no longer see any lightning.

The storm was bad enough that the game was delayed until the next day. Florida State came back against Alabama on Monday with a big eighth inning as the Seminoles beat the Crimson Tide 11-1 to play in next weekend's Super Regional.


Gary W. Green is photographer for the Orlando Sentinel. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @gwgreen

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