Aeroplane pilot Santiago Borja Lopez captured the moment a bolt of lightning struck through the night sky over the Amazon rainforest. In other images shot a storm swirling over Panama city. The powerful shot shows a flash of white illuminating the dark sky, with a sea of clouds ballooning around it.This picture won third place in the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Award.
“I've never seen lightning like this one. What sets the path of lightning?” commented Santiago Borja Lopez after taking this jaw-dropping snap from the cockpit of passenger jet over Colombia Amazonia.
His work for a major South American airline often involves flying over regions that experience amazing natural phenomenon. Mr Borja said he had “never seen lightning like it” before. He had his camera out at just the right time.The pilot was flying on a commercial Boeing 767-300ER en route to Europe when the lightning suddenly struck.
During the flight Mr Borja also captured a range of other images, showing voluminous clouds. He said “looked like a nuclear explosion”. Otherwise known as thunderclouds, cumulonimbus are the only cloud type that can produce hail, thunder and lightning. Although this storm looks formidable, Mr Borja said he never felt frightened while travelling past it.
The base of the cloud is often flat with a very dark wall like feature hanging underneath, and may only lie a few hundred feet above the Earth's surface. Cumulonimbus clouds are created through convection, often growing from small cumulus clouds over a hot surface. They get increasingly big until they represent huge powerhouses, storing the same amount of energy as 10 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs.
Describing the Panama pictures, Mr Borja said: “I felt a great sensation of admiration and respect as I took the photographs. You can feel the great power of the storm as it continuously flashes out the entire sky around it. It is purely illuminated by a single lightning generated inside the storm. The rest of the time it is so dark you cannot see anything but a few stars.”