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Tulsa traveler captures shocking lightning strike in West Plains


A lightning bolt produced late Saturday night by a severe thunderstorm that swept through West Plains was a stroke of luck for an Oklahoma photographer who happened to be in town as the storm passed. 

Damon Platt, Tulsa, of Damon’s Droneography, said he was just beginning his trip back to Oklahoma after visiting West Plains relatives, having kept an eye on Oklahoma weather for possible photo opportunities. Stormy weather was just beginning to develop in West Plains at the same time.

Lightning preceded heavy wind and rains, and it was then that Platt decided to take out the Mavick 3 drone he brings with him on his travels to see what he could get, taking shelter under the awning at the First Church of God off of Wayhaven Drive, across from the fairgrounds. 

The resulting picture was a four-second exposure looking north up U.S. 63; Platt said he was unfamiliar with the area, but thought the bolt hit a fencepost at Newberry Sales. In the foreground of the photo, a row of concession stands is at the bottom left, and a livestock barn is at bottom center, both at the Heart of the Ozarks Fairgrounds. Across the highway from the lightning strike, a cattle truck illuminated with yellow and red lights and exiting the parking lot of Ozark Regional Stockyards can be seen.  

A severe thunderstorm warning was issued at about 9:30 p.m. for Howell County and West Plains, with wind gusts up to 60 mph and penny-size hail, predicted to hit West Plains at about 10:20 p.m. The storm weakened before it struck, causing the warning to be canceled, but it did manage to drop about .86” of rain, according to the National Weather Service. A few other storms passed through Howell and Oregon counties during early morning hours Sunday.   

The Damon’s Droneography Facebook page features weather pictures, many of them in the Tulsa area, and Platt is always looking for storms, super cells and colorful sunrises and sunsets to document. 

Platt emphasized safety while taking weather photographs: “Be safe, don’t get hit by lightning. I’m always sheltered when doing the photos.” 

He said weather is one of his favorite subjects, and enjoys the thrill of capturing those unique moments “that really only happen over the course of 10 or 15 minutes on a particular day,” like sunsets or storms. He still marvels that a drone can be still long enough to capture an image like the long exposure he took Saturday night. 

“Where have you seen a lighting strike like this from a drone?” he wonders.

Surprisingly, though he sells some of his photographs through Pictures Plus in Tulsa, his full-time job is as a computer-aided drafter. Artistically, he has begun integrating his drafting work into photography projects that have a mind-bending quality to them, taking inspiration from the artist M.C. Escher, mathematics and geometry to create works that are somewhat disorienting and surreal. 

One such project on the Damon’s Droneography Facebook page is a 360-degree Tulsa cityscape that Platt says is reminiscent of “Inception” and “Dr. Strange,” where the buildings and streets appear to be clinging in all directions to the inner planes of a folded geometric shape. 

“I do it because of the geometry and perspective behind it. It’s a lot of fun to mess with,” he says. 

The project, and other examples of Platt’s work, can be found at www.facebook.com/damonsdrone. 


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