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Master of Scaremonies
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Lightning bolt throws photographer in the air
Last updated at 13:51pm on 29th September 2006

When the sky darkened and lightning began to flash, Kane Quinnell grabbed his new digital camera, hoping to snap some pictures of the approaching storm. Not having a tripod, he balanced the camera on his car, parked under the carport of his then Old Toongabbie home, and aimed the lens southward. It never occurred to Mr Quinnell that his new hobby - photographing storms - could be dangerous.

"In the north you could see a few stars and it wasn't raining," he recalled. "The storm looked like it was five to 10 kilometres to the south. I thought it was perfectly safe to be outdoors, taking photos." After setting the camera for a four-second exposure he began shooting pictures, suspecting there was little chance of lightning flashing while the shutter was open.
"I hit the button … and there was nothing. I hit the button again … and nothing. On about the fourth attempt I hit the button again and I saw this lightning and heard the thunder. "It was like a crack. The next thing I was about two metres in the air - it scared the hell out of me."

Mr Quinnell estimated the lightning struck about 20 metres away. "I think it hit the house behind me." Unhurt, but buzzing with adrenaline, he rushed inside to check the photo on his computer. "I was amazed. It was the first storm picture I had really taken."

He emailed the picture to friends and suspects one of them forwarded it to the Bureau of Meteorology, because it called to ask if the shot could be published with 11 other spectacular photographs in its 2006 weather calendar. "Kane," said the bureau's Melissa Lyne, "risked his life to take the [calendar's] August photo of a lightning strike."

Mr Quinnell, an IT technician, said that as a small boy he was frightened by thunderstorms. "I grew up and got over the fear factor and started to really enjoy the light shows," he said. Now armed with a tripod, he hopes to continue with his new hobby. "I am just waiting for some rain. There haven't been may storms lately."

Phil Gordon, a truck driver, farmer and visual artist from Newcastle, said the storm he photographed at Treachery Beach, near Seal Rocks, "was like a living thing". Although it was sunset, the eastern sky glowed so brightly "it looked like the sun was rising". He recalled taking 60 to 80 photographs before he and his son Ryan were forced to run for cover from the 40 knot winds and the rain that flooded their camping ground. Then, 10 to 15 minutes after the storm arrived, "it was gone".


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