There had been thunder the night before, so I assumed that the air might have cleared enough that I’d needn’t worry about the weather forecast. It was after all a BBC weather forecast viewed before I left the UK, so even if it was right, there was still plenty of time for meteorological conditions to change. The forecast was for heavy rain.
Now I know from past experience what heavy rain can mean in these parts. Trying to entertain small children in a Florida theme park that has just shut all of its attractions while a tornado passes overhead is no fun when is literally bouncing inches from the ground.
So when there were blue skies and light clouds on the day in question, and with the precipitation out-of-the-way the previous night, I set out for my day’s adventures in confidence.
It was hot, humid and breezy, just like the other days, and so after several hours of walking I returned to my hotel to change and sunbathe by the pool. But first a bath to soak away the miles, clean my blistered feet, and generally make myself human once again.
I began to drift off, but was rudely awoken by a huge thunderclap overhead followed by several flashes of lightning that even through the opaque and darkened glass of the bathroom looked significant. I rushed to get dry, as the prospect of photographing some lightning was at hand.
Trouble was I had no idea of the best way to do it – try to snap at the right moment? Not a hope. I had to experiment with some long exposures perhaps, and hope that a fork of lightning would make it’s presence felt even when I was shooting on a narrow aperture. Would it help if I applied a neutral density filter? It would give me more time but what if it also counteracted the pyrotechnics. Experimentation was the only option.
Which is how I ended up with this image of the Havana skyline, shot with such a long exposure that during the time the shutter was open, rain droplets covered the window to obscure my view, which then became sheets of running water. The skyline itself was blurred behind wave after wave of driving rain. There was a flash in the distance as something short-circuited. The sky darkened, and then lightened again. Add in the effect of a grimy window and this is the result.
Luckily the rain eased but the storm did not, giving me time to deploy less drastic filters that allowed exposures in seconds rather than minutes. This led to some cat and mouse where the heavens waited for the interval between exposures to strut their stuff and I had some dead certs that looked great to the eye, but not the camera sensor.