AUSTIN (KXAN) - Local photographer Marco Gutierrez likened it to Chuck Yeager's 1947 experience when he broke the sound barrier -- when control operators radioed back to say, "Fix it."
"The celebration didn't really begin until you, after you find out what it was you did," said Gutierrez, 36.
The commercial photographer's talking about the money shot of a lightning photo he captured during Sunday's storm -- which then spurred a whirlwind of response on social media after his photo went viral.
"And of course we're in the middle of torrential downpour, lots of lightning everywhere. Back of my mind I'm just like, 'You must be absolutely insane for even wanting to do this,'" he said.
After scooping up thousands of dollars worth of camera gear when he spotted the first sign of the impending light show during his trip home from a movie, Gutierrez had climbed up in pitch darkness through the trail head leading up to the high cliff by the Pennybacker Bridge -- home to many an iconic photo shoot.
"I got here, and sure enough, I'm probably the only person dumb enough to be here during this storm," he said. "And got here ... and then, I just had to wait."
What came after 45 minutes of patience was a spectacular photo he sent in to KXAN News via the Report It feature, captured as part of a three-part series.
"I really want to thank KXAN because this sort of started as, you know, ever since KXAN's been offering the possibility to send your weather photos in," said Gutierrez. "I got to say that it was part of my inspiration to do it. I was like, 'This is the perfect weather photo.'"
He said First Warning Weather Chief Forecaster Jim Spencer showed the photo on air.
"I was beside myself when I saw the response to this photograph," he said. "I didn't expect that at all."
Gutierrez's Facebook page had 40 comments the night he posted the photo, where KXAN's Facebook page had hundreds when initially posting. The next morning, the comments were in the thousands. And on Gutierrez's page, his statistics on views was up some 4,000%.
"I understand it's a danger, but this is the risk we're willing to take as photographers. And that is the way we get images like this. Not everyone can get an image like this," said photographer Maryna Marston, who often works with Gutierrez.
He had already scoped out the area and that it was more of a question of the elements coming together.
Albeit drenched that stormy night, Gutierrez said he was excited when the sky finally lit up. Yet, his first thought after taking the photo: "Did I get the right exposure?"
"I guess you could say I didn't think of it as the money shot at the time," he said. "When I started processing the photo, I thought, 'Wow.'"
The humble, 17-year veteran photographer said he actually didn't think his photo was that great, though he did think it was "a fun one."
"So I posted it on my Facebook page, and my friends started commenting: 'Were you really up there in the middle of a lightning storm with a metal camera and a metal tripod completely exposed, being almost the tallest object out there?' I was like, 'Yes, I was,'" chuckled Gutierrez.
"I think I called as soon as I saw it, and I saw so many responses," said Marston. "I called Marcos straightaway, and my first question was: How did you survive the lightning?"
And at the end of the day, it's something Gutierrez admits he's more than willing to do again.
"I think it's part of the adventure," he said, adding that he would never take unnecessary risks. "I guess I would describe myself as a photographer that's always trying to push the limits of my own knowledge and just take techniques and take it to the extreme. I like trying new things."
Gutierrez said he's already had a lot of requests to do prints of that popular photo, the largest being 40 inches by 60 inches.
The origins of creativity
Gutierrez's experience with nature and risk-taking began during his college days in Massachusetts during a massive blizzard.
When the snow really began pounding on the layers outside, he bundled up with layers inside his dorm and headed out to photograph the first blizzard he'd ever experienced -- much to the dismay of his roommates, who were timing how long it would take for Gutierrez to head back to shelter.
"It kind of started a trend of getting these photographs that most people wouldn't try," he said.
One of Gutierrez's favorite times to shoot is during times where weather edges are present -- when a weather system is either arriving or leaving.
"It makes some of the most spectacular images because the clouds are doing crazy stuff," he said.
Also, people like to shoot during sunset, but there's a time just after that when the sky turns red and is a perfect time to shoot. It's called the Alpenglow, but you'll have to act fast because it only lasts about 10 minutes.
Tips on safety and getting that "it" photo
"It's that sense of pushing your own self-boundaries to keep evolving and becoming