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Catherine Hill Bay, NSW, Australia

After a long busy week I decided to get down to the beach after work to relax a bit and shoot some fresh photos. My initial plan was to photograph the stars or the full moon. With sunset around 7:40 pm and the moonrise after 9 I thought I might be able to sneak in some star photos and then catch the moonrise if the sky was clear. It wasn't. With the weather really heating up here in Australia, evening thunderstorms are quite common and after a very hot day chances of having a clear sky are slim.

Under a low blanket of cloud I walked down to Ghosties Beach, a 30-40 minute walk through bushland and along several beaches at about 5:30pm. The weather was calm and beautiful - I had a swim in the ocean, took some photos of the beach, the caves and the clouds as the sun set. I decided I'd give the night photos a miss due to the cloud cover so as it started to get dark I packed up my gear and began the walk back to my car. Some serious clouds had been gathering overhead and to the west that I couldn't see from where I was near the cliffs and within a couple of minutes I heard thunder rumbling in the clouds above me. As I walked back the storm began to close in and I saw many lightning strikes both ahead of me and from the storm front that was now coming up the coast behind me. I managed to get back to my car safely but have to admit I was very nervous and scared until I got there. I stopped once at the end of one beach to set up for some photos but abandoned that when the rain started and self preservation told me it wasn't a smart idea. I did manage a couple of blurry photos capturing some lightning strikes - they will be a good reminder of why I should try to avoid getting myself into that postion in the future. I was what they call 'shit-scared' in the classics.

When I finally made it back to the car wet and sweaty I took some time to composed myself and give my gear a bit of a wipe down before driving. I then drove to a place not far away where I could watch the lightning show from the safety of my car. What a show it was with literally hundreds of lightning strikes in all directions, the bulk of them out to sea as the storm crossed the coast and headed north. When the rain settled and it felt safe to get out of my car, I walked down to the beach and took this photo, which is a series of 5 x 30 second exposures. The lightning bolts on the left of this shot were hitting the area I was walking in about 30 minutes earlier - I think I got out of there just in time. The one furthest to the left hit the top of the hill I had to walk along to get to my car and was less than 1km away. It reminded me I probably still shouldn't have been standing on the beach with a tripod so I packed up after that and went home. I followed the storm as I drove north up the coast and estimate that there would have been something like 1000+ lightning strikes in the hour or so that I was watching.

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