Big Bend, Part II - Or, That's as Close to Lightning as I Need to Be by Josh Trudell

As I carried the box holding my camera bag back to my room, lightning flashed to the south. Backing up for a second – the Chisos Mountain Lodge sits in a big bowl in the mountains. The Window is a crack in the west side of the bowl, making a beautiful spot for sunsets – or lightning watching, if you’re into that kind of thing.

From where I was standing, lightning buzzed and flashed through the clouds to the west – still far enough away that it wasn’t raining, but making for some great views through the Window.

Racing back to my room, I pulled out my bag and tripod and headed for a small scenic overlook trail in front of the lodge. The storm seemed to be drifting to the left of the Window, behind the mountains, but some long exposures helped me capture a couple of lightning strikes.

After about 20 minutes of shooting, I went back to the room to see what Superwife’s plans were for the evening. We had talked about going for an evening hike, and I was hoping to find a place where we could continue to watch the storm.

Not a problem, as it turned out.

We packed our gear, stepped out of our room, and found a cloud monster had eaten the surrounding mountains.

The storm had shifted course, bringing the lightning and rain right into the bowl around us. The wind picked up fast, blowing hats off and sending papers swirling. Rain began to pelt us, hard drops that sprayed off the ground. Thunder boomed around the timpani drum of the mountains.

Immediately giving up on the hike, we started for the lodge. I stopped in amazement as the clouds rolled down the mountain behind our building, disappearing the trees and rock formations.

I stopped to try and capture the swarming clouds, but the wind and rain made it almost impossible. I shot one frame:

And then we ran for the lodge, where we sat and felt very small as the storm raged around us.

The turning point was a sudden change in tone from the roof and windows. Quarter-sized hail started bouncing off the deck and dinging the cars in the parking lot.

After about 15 minutes of that, the storm lessened quickly, leaving a watercolor-smeared sky.

Next – Why all that rain in a desert isn’t necessarily a good thing.