Area photographer’s extraordinary nature shots highlight Museum of the Gulf Coast exhibit that begins Saturday

Published 11:47 am Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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Jerry Connally has caught lightning in a bottle.

Or, rather, in a frame.

“I was at Ridgewood Elementary shooting lightning towards Beaumont,” he said. “And I looked and I could see the orange of the sunset glowing. So I jumped in the truck, put all my stuff in the truck and hauled down to the river.”

Once at Port Neches Riverfront Park, he saw cars lined up and down near Neches River Wheelhouse.

“All of the people were outside of their cars with their cell phones because the lightning was going so crazy,” he said. “And I went all the way down to the river and got on the boat ramp and…set up my live composite and took multiple images. That one was pretty much my favorite.”

The photo that won him multiple awards will be on display beginning this weekend at the Museum of the Gulf Coast when “Lightning in a Camera: The photography of Jerry Connally” opens in the Dunn Gallery. There is a Saturday reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“It’s hard to find 25 good photos that a photographer has, truthfully,” said Museum Curator Robert Fong. “Especially if they’ve done other stuff and they don’t like the old stuff anymore. But Jerry — we had a hard time picking the best because he has so many. He’s on the road so much and he sees so many things when he’s on his way home. And he has the eye. That’s the thing, too.”

And that is how he caught the “fog bow,” something Connally nor Fong knew existed.

“I was driving and I kept seeing this bright light to my right,” Connally said. “It was foggy, but I kept seeing this bright light to my right.”

Curious, he pulled over on Texas 73. And the result was a “fog bow” or “white rainbow.”

As a service station technician, Connally drives east to Louisiana, north to Center and south to Galveston. And he always takes his camera with him.

It’s a hobby that started 12 years ago when he bought a small point-and-shoot camera to take photos of his grandchild.

He’s since upgraded.

While visiting his daughter in Austin, she suggested he visit Precision Camera and Video. He knew about Nikon and Cannon, but wanted to learn about something different.

Now he shoots with an Olympus E-M1 Mark III.

The live composite option allows him to photograph lightning.

“It likes darkness,” he said. “What it does is picks up any new light that’s in the picture. The new light is going to be the lightning.”

When photographing lightning, his camera takes a photo every half-second and the images overlay.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky photographer,” he said. “I’m happy to go and lucky to be able to.”

Connally’s exhibit includes all aspects of nature and will be on display through July 29.

Connally is a graduate of Silsbee High School who resides in Port Neches.

— Written by Monique Batson