The internet seems to believe this is a "long exposure photo of a lightning bolt hitting a tree."
Well, it is a long exposure shot, but not of lightning. It's a photo created by "light painter" Darren Pearson (aka Darius Twin
). Wikipedia defines light painting
as "a photographic technique in which exposures are made by moving a hand-held light source or by moving the camera."
Pearson light painted the blue flames at the base of the tree. He then cut-and-pasted the lightning bolt itself into the photo from a NOAA image of a lightning strike
Pearson posted the image on his Facebook page
on Oct. 17, 2013, with the caption "The old Benjamin Franklin trick
So in its original context this was clearly presented as an art photo. It was only when the Internet recaptioned it, that it became a fake (or misleading) photo.
And for the sake of comparison, here's an actual photo of lightning striking a tree.