Stormy Timelapse Video Captures Triple Lightning Strike in Chicago

It was June 30, 2014. Ominous clouds closed in on Chicago as the day waned and by dusk, rain was falling in sheets and the sky was alive with electricity.

Perched high on a rooftop terrace, videographer Craig Shimala was feeling supercharged, too. See, back in 2010, he had filmed a triple lightning strike to Chicago’s three tallest buildings: Willis Tower, Trump Tower, and the John Hancock Building. And now, four years later, he had just documented the lofty trifecta being zapped simultaneously for a second time by Mother Nature’s fury. Watch his incredible timelapse:

The Beginning

In June 2010, Shimala accidentally discovered a three-tiered secret: (1) skyscrapers are lightning rods, (2) he has the perfect view of Chicago’s three tallest skyscrapers from his rooftop terrace, and (3) on rare occasions, all three skyscrapers are struck at once.

Shimala hadn’t intended to film the lightning that evening; in fact, he didn’t even notice it until long after he arrived home from work and someone asked him if he was watching. He made it up to the rooftop with his gear as the lighting seemed to be slowing down, but he began “randomly” filming video clips anyway, hoping to catch a few strikes. After about 15 minutes of nothing, Shimala reached up to start a new video clip when something incredible happened.

“At the moment I touched the camera, three of the tallest buildings in Chicago were struck by lighting at the same time,” said Shimala. “If you listen closely [in the video], you can hear me lightly say, ‘Yes!’ after the triple strike happens.”

electricity derecho straight line wind strikes

The 2010 triple strike.

The Middle

After Shimala filmed that first triple strike in 2010, he shared his footage on social media—like every good videographer or photographer—and it received a lot of media attention. But as artists, we can probably all guess what he did next: he analyzed all of his mistakes, compared his footage to other lightning strike videos, and decided that he could do better.

The story actually starts when Shimala first envisioned his ideal triple strike shot and actually set himself on a course to capture that image—should he ever witness a triple strike again. He put in the footwork. He watched tutorials and grew in technical skill. He learned how to create timelapses. And every time that a lightning-clad thunderstorm rolled in, you know where he was—up on a rooftop terrace trying to make his vision into a reality.

The End

Many photographers never actually see their “perfect shots” through to fruition, but those who do have to wait patiently for everything to fall into place. Shimala spent four years on his rooftop terrace, taking photos of storms and waiting to witness another triple strike.

You know the rest.

lightning storm thunderstorm strike triple bolt rain thunder stormy timelapse

As if witnessing and documenting a triple strike once wasn’t enough, Mother Nature decided to gift Shimala with his second triple strike in 2014.

To create his stormy timelapse, Shimala used a Canon 7D with an 8mm Fisheye lens, a 50mm lens, a 17-40mm lens, and a GoPro Hero 2.

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One Comment

  1. Lou Ann Bennett says:

    Great article and nice job bringing it all together to experience again & again! Showed this to a loved one and she was actually in Chicago in 2010 to watch this live!! What a gift to witness it again through yours and Shimala’s eyes! Thank you!

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