Chasing Lightning in Fontainebleau by ellie berry

Lightning Storm in Grez-Sur-Loing, Fontainebleau, France

Yesterday was not a day from climbing. It rained. It rained a lot. 
By evening though the place was in a balmy calm, slightly muggy and humid but with a clear sky. Walking back from the showers, I see flashes across the sky. No one else seems to react, so I wonder if it was just someone's head torch. But standing there, I see lightning, buried in far away clouds, flash and flicker. I guess everyone here is used to proper storms. The night before this, I had woken up to the most amazing thunder - the kind that makes me understand why some people claim to be afraid of storms. I felt the force of the bang hit me, both jumping up and into a ball as I was ripped from my sleep. It was amazing. Now, I stand looking at far off lightning dance across the sky and I know I don't just want to sit indoors. Taking my camera, I head off to a river just between the campsite and the town. However, in my haste, I didn't consider the fact that it was night, and that a tripod would be necessary. Sending Carl back to the campsite, I sit and watch the light show. 

Watching, it really dawned on me how it was just a giant ball of static. Just some charged clouds getting too close. And I know how obvious this is, but it's something that didn't quite click, and didn't quite instil the awe it deserved, until last night. 

Of course, even when I get the tripod, I've still forgotten to bring extra batteries, and the clouds are moving just a bit too far away. I decide that if I can make it back to the campsite, grab another battery pack and my bike, I can take a 5 minute cycle to the other side of town and see. If it's all gone, it would just have been five minutes. If not, I'll be happy to be there. 

One of my problems with the town was it's light pollution. A streetlight may be out of frame, but it's light still leaks into the corner and leaves horrible streaks. So I aimed for the open empty fields of the other side, away from everything. Standing out there, chasing my lightening, it felt like I was standing on the outskirts of a muted storm. There was no thunder or rain, just the rustle of long grass, and the flashing sky above me. 

The lightning wasn't huge forks or Harry Potter style bolts, but high high above the clouds, illuminating them from the inside.  When your standing there counting seconds for exposures though, you forget to watch where the storm is going. 
I'm not quite sure what way it was being pulled in the beginning, but at one point I noticed that it seemed to be coming back towards me a little bit. I became absorbed in watching the clouds and guessing when to release the shutter. And then, within four minutes, it seemed to move from being a far off speck, to something on top of me. The calm of the area was ripped apart by winds that caused moving straight to be difficult, and rain that pelting relentlessly. And I was very aware of how in the open I was standing. 

I think that was the most rushed back up I've ever attempted of my camera equipment. I went from chasing the lightning, to being chased by it. Reaching the streets of the town was such a relief, the fact that I was not the most metal object around a comfort. I was a dripping mess arriving back to the campsite. Climbing into bed, I felt so awake and excited I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. There is nothing more humbling and inspiring than witnessing something so much more powerful than yourself. As much as I don't need the storms for climbing, I pray that they come back just for one more night. 

Night train from Paris to Lyon passing lightning storm