You’ve no doubt heard of “the calm before the storm”… but have you ever heard of “the cow before the storm”? Well, you’re about to, because cheekiness aside that’s exactly what photographer Albert Dros captured recently in what he calls a once-in-a-lifetime shot for him.

A very talented Netherlands-based landscape photographer, what first struck us about his “Holy Cow” photo of lightning striking behind a group of curious cows was, perhaps, that it was a total break from his typical style.

This is one of the most popular photos he’s ever uploaded to 500px:

This is Holy Cow:

But the reason we’re featuring the shot goes beyond that. It’s not just a great photo… it also has a great story behind it that speaks to each of our personal journeys as photographers (amateur or otherwise).

Scroll down to find out why Albert says this is a once-in-a-lifetime shot for him:

Now for some people this shot may be pretty normal. I am admiring the stormchasers in the USA and am jealous that they get to encounter such crazy weather on regular basis. I’m a photographer from the Netherlands. We do get some beautiful skies here occasionally, but not that extremely crazy weather that you sometimes see in Tornado alley. I still love to go out though, and yesterday was no different.

From my house in the centre of the Netherlands, I saw the clouds building up and the sun coming through them making some nice rays. It was 2 hours before sunset. The days before that we had one of the hottest weeks in the history of the Netherlands with temperatures above 30°C nonstop (yes, that’s very hot for our little country). The skies were blue everyday with not a single cloud so I was happy the weather finally showed some change.

That afternoon I already heard that some thunderstorms were predicted. I checked the radar but the radar displayed that they would pass our country on the west. I actually didn’t expect to see them from where I lived. So I aimed for a good sunset and went to a place with a little lake and a tree. I had visited this place before but was never able to capture it properly with a beautiful sky. When I arrived at the scene it was about 90 minutes before sunset. I set up my gear and the clouds were already changing rapidly making some nice displays. Nothing extraordinary, but I enjoyed the silence and the feel of a breeze.

Then, in the distance, I started to hear some rumble. I was quite surprised, but still didn’t expect it was coming my way. It did. It started getting louder and I started to see some flashes in the distance. It was coming from behind of me. I first thought I would wait and hope for the storm to come to me so that I could capture my initial scene with lightning, if I would get lucky.

However, things in photography often don’t go as planned. The flashes in the back were getting stronger and by now I could actually see the lightning behind of me. I wasn’t gonna miss some good lightning shots so I chose to reposition. I walked to the country side behind me and the closest thing I could find were some cows. These cows were actually chilling on the grass in the middle of the field, but as soon as I positioned myself next to the field, they started walking up to me.

By now I could see the stormcell in the distance. Some beautiful lightning came out of it and I was probably as happy a Kelly DeLay who captured his ‘shot of a lifetime’ a while back with that amazing supercell of multiple tornadoes. He probably encounters the storms I saw this day on a regular basis but hey! It’s all relative right?

So I snapped a bunch of photos, and caught some good ones with multiple streaks of lightning in the back. I chose my best one but the cows were a bit blurry because of the longer exposure. So I immediately turned my camera to ISO 1600 and snapped some shots of the cows without motion blur.

I blended these 2 shots together which is the final result. If I had a flash with me, I could probably capture this scene in a single exposure, but I hadn’t! That doesn’t mean that this scene is artificial. The cows were in the same position so not much was changed. I just love to have a ‘perfect’ image in the end although I could appreciate the roughness of the original.

5 minutes after this shot it started pouring rain and I had to get out of there as fast as I could to prevent damage to my gear and myself. I ran to my car for shelter. The storm closed in quickly, having lightning flashes all around me with extreme thunder. It was a beautiful display that I had not seen in forever in our country. I felt totally safe in my car and just parked along a field in the country side to observe the show. It went on for about an hour with heavy rain making it impossible to do any shooting.

The rain stopped at about 11 PM, 1 hour after initial sunset. I quickly went to the scene that I wanted to shoot in the first place. I managed to capture some flashes in the back but no spectacular strikes. The unplanned shot with the cows was by far the best result—a result I am extremely happy with and a shot that I would probably not be able to capture ever again!

The photo above might not seem like anything special to a storm chasing photographer, and many of the 500px faithful might prefer Albert’s other work (which is, admittedly, stunning), but we love the message behind this story.

Sometimes a photo is amazing, or incredible, or just plain special for reasons that only the photographer may truly understand. Holy Cow did very well when it was uploaded to 500px, which is awesome, but even if it never broke into “upcoming,” we’d bet the photo would still hold a special place in Albert’s heart.

If you’re brave enough, link your favorite photo in the comments down below and then tell us why it’s special to you.