When a photograph lies by extraction, it is generally based in omission: employing camera maneuvers—composition, crop, exclusion, angle of view, and so forth—to shift meaning. This a inverse specimen. Rather than exclusion, this photographic misrepresentation, if indeed that is what it is, is based on extreme inclusion.
An astonishing lightning storm swept the Lake District in northwest England during August 2020. The spectacle was captured in a photograph taken from the glaciated mountainside at Caldbeck in Lake District National Park.
The lightning image is by Chris Kotsiopoulos. The photographer put his digital camera on a tripod. As lightning punctuated the dusk, he programmed the Canon 550D to shoot 83-minutes of 20-second exposures. Kotsiopoulos then selected 70 distinct 20-second exposures and stacked them to create a composite image of the lightning storm. Viewed dispassionately, we could say this is an ‘unmanipulated’ photograph. All cameras capture time. In this case, rather than seizing 1/125 of a second, this photograph gives us a 23-minute, 20-second slice and, of course, every lightning strike during that time.
There is an additional fact: the photographer did not make his image in England’s Lake District but in early 2011 on Ikaria Island in the Greek Aegean. (A striking side note for a photograph depicting white-hot lightning: Ikaria takes its name from Icarus, the mythological figure who flew too close to the sun and is said to have plunged into the sea nearby.)