CRYSTAL BEACH — The call came at the right time for Don Naumann, a local photographer who specializes in snapping lightning storms.
"I was ready to cut back on art shows and was looking for other outlets for my work," he said. "And then I got the call."
The caller was Scott Audette, team photographer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, offering Naumann a perfect outlet for his water and lightning shots: the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, the hockey team's home.
Tod Leiweke, chief executive officer of the team, had read a St. Petersburg Times story on Naumann printed in August and asked Audette to make the call.
The lightning photos might be ideal to hang in the complex, which has recently undergone a $40 million makeover.
The forum will assume a new name, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, on Jan. 1 when the St. Petersburg Times changes its name.
"Scott asked if I would submit some photos to look over," Naumann said, "and he chose six of the nine I sent."
Naumann's scenes depict Florida rivers and inlets with boats, piers and low-hanging clouds beneath brilliant streaks of lightning, some multipronged, others in single bolts. He took all the photos in North Pinellas, standing under a large umbrella. With his tripod, Hasselblad 500 camera and lightning detector, Naumann braved fierce Florida storms waiting for the perfect bolt of lightning to hit.
The six scenes Audette selected for the St. Pete Times Forum walls have been replicated on shiny satin — four of them on fabric measuring 5 by 7 feet, the others on somewhat smaller lengths of satin. Each is attached to six metallic pegs jutting several inches out from the wall on the second tier, the clubhouse level of the sports and entertainment complex. The photos are likely to attract the attention of the nearly 3,700 private guests who typically view games and concerts on the second level.
What viewers probably don't know, though, is how long it took the photographer to capture the exact scene he wanted for any one of those photos. He said it takes months, or even years, to get what he considers the ideal shot.
His most recent photo, for example, was shot in black and white and depicts a boathouse at the end of a pier, its bottom coated with barnacles. Naumann said he thought about the scene for months—waiting for lightning to strike in just the right place. Then it happened. One brilliant bolt hit straight down on an island 3 miles west of the pier and the artist shot it.
Naumann said it is not a matter of just shooting the lightning. The whole composition is important.
"I may get only two show-quality shots a year," he said.
Naumann, who has spent years on the art show circuit, said the purchase by the Lightning has been his most significant sale to date.
"I am so honored to have my work hanging at the St. Pete Times Forum," he said. "It was an opportunity I never expected."