“Not What You Want To See”

The top photo, showing a flash of lightning that reveals a waterspout approaching an oil rig, has circulated online since early 2008. It is usually accompanied by the caption, "When the lightning flashes, this is not what you want to see." The image is not real. It is a composite of two photographs.

Amateur photographer Fred Smith photographed the waterspout and lightning on June 15, 1991 from his backyard overlooking Lake Okeechobee, Florida. He was taking pictures of a lightning storm when he got lucky and snapped a shot (bottom) of a waterspout illuminated by a flash of lightning. The photo subsequently appeared on a calendar, and in 2001 it became available for purchase online. Soon after it began circulating via email -- usually with incorrect captions that described it as a photograph of whatever tornado had most recently been in the news.

In early 2008 an unknown hoaxer pasted an oil rig into the picture and added the "not what you want to see" caption. This version has been circulating ever since.
Links and References
Photo Categories: Composite Images, Imagining Disaster, viral images, Weather, 2005-Present

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