Lightning strikes during an electrical storm in Europe (file image)
Lightning illuminates the night sky during an electrical storm in Germany. Image by EPA

Striking photo of electrical storm not what it’s cracked up to be

AAP FactCheck December 23, 2021

A photograph taken by a local shows an electrical storm at Lennox Head on the NSW north coast in 2016.


False. The image is a composite of multiple lightning strikes taken near Newcastle in 2012.

An Australian Facebook user has posted an eye-catching image that claims to show multiple lightning strikes during a storm at Lennox Head on NSW’s north coast in December 2016.

The caption for the December 5, 2016 post reads: “This pic was taken by a local man at Lennox head this morning.”

But the details are false. The photographer is a man from Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle, and he used photo software to produce the single image from about 20 shots during an intense electrical storm four years earlier in November 2012.

The Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims the image was taken in December 2016 on the NSW north coast. 

While the false claim about the image was initially posted on Facebook in 2016, it’s still being shared five years later.

A reverse image search shows the earliest versions of the photo appeared in 2012 and are credited to Peter Kennelly.

ABC News shared the image on its website and its Flickr account on November 30, 2012. The caption for the composite image reads: “A series of around 20 photos ‘stacked’ on top of each other (each photo is a 30-second exposure) shows the amount of lightning strikes at Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle in NSW, over a 20-minute period during an electrical storm on November 26, 2012. Thanks to Peter Kennelly for the photo.”

Mr Kennelly, who describes himself as an “enthusiastic amateur” photographer, told AAP FactCheck in a phone call that he used the photo blending software, StarStaX, to create the image.

The Lake Macquarie local said the photos were not taken in the morning, as the Facebook post suggested, but from “around 8.30pm” on November 26, 2012.

The following day, the Newcastle Herald posted another image of the storm, which disrupted telecommunication networks (see here and here) across Sydney, the Hunter Valley and Central Tablelands.

Mr Kennelly’s image has circulated widely on the internet. Last year it was used for a Zimbabwean news story about a family who were struck by lightning as well as an artwork for T-shirts on the print-on-demand marketplace, Redbubble.

The Verdict

The image is not a single photograph taken by a local man of a 2016 storm at Lennox Head in northern NSW. It is a composite image of multiple lightning strikes during a storm four years earlier at Lake Macquarie, about 600 kilometres away.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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