On June 1 at 11:45 p.m., his determination paid off with a photo of a beam that resembles Wisconsin's outline.
"The night I took that picture, there were four or five storms going north," Zimmer recalled. "What I do is go home and look at my computer, I look at the radar and I try to find out how close a storm is coming, or whether I should go chasing it."
He said that it is often an act of balance. If the storm is too far away, the rays are too small in the photo. However, getting too close to the storm presents a different type of problem.
"This is a very scary hobby," said Zimmer. "I've received some very close calls because of this, there have been times when I heard the sizzle before I saw the lightning, you do not get these injections when you go home."
Ready to shoot
To take photos with lightning, Zimmer puts his camera in manual and uses a remote control with timer that keeps the shutter open until you press a button to close it. The camera records everything it sees for as long as the shutter is open.
"A few years ago, in the days of the movie, I had an image that had five separate lightnings in a photo, because the shutter was open during that time," he said.
The night he took the photo of the Wisconsin beam, he kept the shutter open for 21 seconds before shutting it down. The storm was moving fast, so he only received three photos before he had to resign and take cover.
"I went home and put it on my computer screen, and I thought it was a pretty good image," he said. "Later, I put it on Facebook and a man I work with said:" Hey, it looks like Wisconsin. "That's when it took off."
The photo has been shared thousands of times. His lightning photos have been used in television weather reports in the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, Madison and other places.
"My mother totally hates me doing this," Zimmer said. "I never tell her when I go out to take photos in a storm, but this photo was being distributed to many places, I knew I was going to find out, so I told her, now with the publicity that I got with this photo, she wants me to print a big one, so you can hang it on your wall. "
Focusing a camera on a dark night is a challenge, and Zimmer said he often uses a street or patio light in the distance to focus while waiting for the lightning to appear.
"This is a pastime of patience and lack of sleep," he said. "I have this automatic alarm clock in my head, if I hear thunder, I get up and go to the computer to see where the storm is, when the storms develop for the first time, it's when you get the most intense lightning, that's when the power is really On it ".
Eagles in winter
In the winter, Zimmer, who has worked at the tannery in Red Wing since 1980, leaves work at 2 p.m. and often goes to Colvill Park to watch the eagles.
"I've been going to Colvill for at least 10 years," he said. "People come from all over, from Illinois, Iowa and other places to see Colvill in winter, probably one of the best places to get pictures of eagles."
When the river freezes, there are often open waters near Red Wing, so the eagles visit it in search of food, according to Zimmer. Wait for the eagles to fly off the trees before taking their pictures.
"Most people like a picture of an eagle on a tree," he said, "but I want an action picture."
He has taken pictures of eagles, wings back, claws forward the moment they are catching a fish. He captured an image of three eagles in flight with two trying to steal a fish from the third.
"I see them doing this all the time," he said. "They will spend more time trying to steal a fish than trying to catch one on their own."
Once, Zimmer was near Maiden Rock in search of eagles. He saw several cars lying on the side of the road, so he stopped. He saw eagles circling in an updraft and took a picture. Later, at home, he put the photo on his computer screen and counted 95 eagles.
Fireworks in July
For several years, Zimmer has gone to Memorial Park in Sorin & Bluffs to take pictures of the fireworks show on July 4. He has found a place where he can be away from the crowds of people and have a good view of the Red Wing fireworks. Although taking pictures of a fireworks display may be safer than sitting on the edge of a storm, Zimmer said he has battled mosquitoes and poison ivy at these events.
Zimmer has never taken a photography class. Over the years, he learned to use the techniques to get the photos he wanted.
"With photography, you never stop learning," he said. "That's why you see people who have so much passion for that."
Zimmer said one thing on his wish list would be to go to Texas or Oklahoma and take pictures of a tornado.
"I have always been fascinated by storms," he said. "People do not know how hard it is to get images of lightning, I know a lot of guys who do photography, but they do not want to do this."