Rolf Maeder Photography: The Blog

Rolf Maeder's Photography Scrapbook

The Grand Canyon Lightning Show

Grand Canyon Light ShowEvery­thing about this pic­ture was a sur­prise. It was lit­er­ally hit­ting me like light­ning, show­ing me that moments of sig­nif­i­cance can­not be planned or forseen, they can only be received.
Among the dozens of shots we took I’ve got this incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful photo were every­thing is right. I feel very lucky!

This shot was taken at 9pm with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon 24x85mm lens at 24mm, f/8, ISO 400 using a 25 sec. expo­sure. The long expo­sure made it pos­si­ble to catch three light­ning bolts with one shot! 

On August 30th, I invited Scott Stul­berg and Holly Kehrt to the Grand Canyon to get some sun­set shots. I like to take pic­tures there and I know all the good photo points and for them every­thing was new.

After a short time, we noticed that we couldn’t get what we wanted because of the very hazy light.

Sunset at Grand Canyon

So we decided to return to Sedona, just shortly check­ing out some more view­points. On the Moran Point we saw that far away a light­ning storm was build­ing up. That was much more than we expected, so we started set­ting up our tripods and started to take pic­tures. The long expo­sures made it pos­si­ble to catch mul­ti­ple light­ning bolts with one shot.
My friends and I were like chil­dren, shout­ing out when we saw a spe­cially strong light­ning in the dis­tance. And of course, we didn’t exactly know what the cam­eras were record­ing until we saw the dig­i­tal files at home.

At Moran Point, the storm is approaching

The lightning storm comes closer

A Thunderbolt is striking the Grand Canyon with full force.
For the last shot, I took the risk to change to a 70x200mm lens at f8, 25sec. In the night, it is very tricky to focus with a long lens, and to set the right expo­sure dur­ing light­ning strikes makes it even more dif­fi­cult. I’m happy that I got this pic­ture, even so it is not 100% sharp as the other ones.

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  1. Hi Rolf!
    I am very very sur­prised at your mir­a­cle thun­der!!
    Per­fect! So awesome!!

  2. I’m also sur­prised. — Thank you, Masaru.

  3. Not to be redun­dant, but these pho­tos are spec­tac­u­lar! Won­der­ful to meet your work, thanks to Julian Lennon!

  4. Stun­ning! The Earth is so beau­ti­ful and these pic­tures have cap­tured that beauty.

  5. How would one go about pur­chas­ing a print of these?

  6. As an ama­teur pho­tog­ra­pher these shots blow me away. Some­times the best shots are happy acci­dents. Kudos!

  7. Thank you for shar­ing these won­der­ful images. They are breathtaking.

  8. How do I order a print?

  9. Hi. I found your page thru some­one shar­ing it on Face­book. I would absolutely love prints of these for my home. Do you sell them?

  10. Awe­some (!) pho­tos of the canyon. My cousin Jimbo Sta­ple­ton posted the 1st shot on Face­Book. Any chance I can get that one (or any of these with light­ning) in 1920 x 1080?

    Sedona is such a lovely area — I envy you. As a mechan­i­cal engi­neer (machine designer) I’d have a hard time mak­ing a liv­ing there, but it would be amaz­ing to retire to such a beau­ti­ful desert area that actu­ally has water. We wish you no neg­a­tive effects (water wise) from global warming.

  11. Julian Lennon,One of John Lennons’ sons posted this pic­ture on my face­book or rather he shared it with me,it was stun­ning. I have a faci­na­tion with light­en­ing any­way and this catch was so stun­ning and sav­age and if you’ll par­don the pun illu­mi­nat­ing , really ‚seems it lit up the whole area and exposed some gor­geous col­ors that we might not have oth­er­wise seen. So spur of the moment and fan­tas­tic thanks so much . Just love it. Ella Duhon,Texas.

  12. Thanks to every­body for their com­ments!
    To order prints go to . Under “Prints” you find a down­load of the print options. Just con­tact me with your choice.

  13. Bradley Pinkerton

    September 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Phe­nom­e­nal light­ning shots! You should be very proud of your shots.

  14. great pics and you have a great eye and tim­ing. Like to see more.

  15. Hi there,

    Although I’d love them as prints, right now I’d love a 1600x1200 ver­sion of one of them as a desk­top back­ground. Any­way of acquir­ing those? I’v reg­is­tered to your blog! These pic­tures are awe­some and I love that you posted the cam­era set­tings + expo­sure + lens etc.

  16. The last pic­ture was on the Today Show this morn­ing. The are all absolutely AMAZING pics!

  17. Rolf —

    Your images are incred­i­ble. The power and beauty of nature encap­su­lated. Thank you for going the dis­tance in all kinds of weather to cap­ture the beauty of this extra­or­di­nary land­scape. Sedona and the Grand Canyon are one of my favorite places on earth. My hus­band and I have vis­ited often. Look­ing for­ward to see­ing more of your won­der­ful work. Thank you for sharing.

  18. and they say there is no God.

  19. Just seen your image (last one in this post) in The Times News­pa­per today. What a stun­ning shot. We stayed in Sedona about 20yrs ago before head­ing up to the South Rim of the Canyon. Sedona was an amaz­ing loca­tion. I’m so pleased to have dis­cov­ered your superb work.

  20. WOW! As Mr, Maeder said the Grand Canyons pics were taken near Sedona, AZ. What beau­ti­ful pic­tures and what a beau­ti­ful area. We had a “Girls Cousin Reunion” there just days after this storm, unfor­tu­nately, we missed see­ing the Grand Canyon because there is so much to do there. Sorry we missed it. Oh well, next time, Cousins. Oh, by the way, peo­ple are always won­der­ing “where to stay” in unknown vaca­tions spots…The But­ter­fly Gar­den Inn is a per­fect place to stay (they have a web-site). I promise you’ll love it. Thanks for every­thing Nicole, Frank (own­ers) and staff. And thank you for shar­ing your stun­ning pic­tures, Mr. Maeder. The per­fect end­ing to a per­fect vaca­tion, thanks, again, Rolf Maeder.

  21. Красиво и грандиозно, спасибо за чудесные фото!
    Beau­ti­ful and Grand, thanks for the won­der­ful photos!

  22. Amaz­ing pho­tos!!!! I’m a pho­tog­ra­pher as well and I’m very envi­ous of your shots. LOL!!!! Excel­lent work.

  23. neusa maria gonçalves e castro

    October 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Belís­si­mas ima­gens que rev­e­lam a força da Natureza exu­ber­ante da região. A foto no Moran Poit é deslum­brante! Parab­enizo você, amigo!
    Abraços, Neusa Maria (BRAZIL)

  24. Awe­some long exp light­ning shots!
    I’m just won­der­ing about one thing.
    You seem to be within the same storm cell and you’re not using a very long lens.
    So you’re really not that far from the strikes. And you also seem to be at a higher van­tage point.
    My ques­tion: Weren’t you in a dan­ger­ous position?

  25. awe­some pic­tures, I would imag­ine it would be very scary to be in those scenes

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