So, these are the two photos in question:
Or side by side:
The first, in both instances (because it's the same photograph... no really, look, I'm telling you that it is. Please believe me!), has wonderful balance to it. It's symmetrical, and has that little dash of lightning brightening the off center top of the clouds. That little a detail can make or break a photograph. In fact, the more and more I weigh the two side by side, the more I like the first.
That's fine and dandy, Thomas, so what's the problem? Well, my dear viewer, it's not a particularly sharp image. If you zoom in, you'll notice that it's out of focus slightly. Now this is an issue for me, because to the right of these images (that you can't see, it's outside of the frame, not to the right of the webpage, unless you've got lights off to the right, but those wouldn't help me anyways because they weren't out there when I needed them.... not so smat now, are you?), are some city lights that I've used to focus on with live view. They're about at infinity focus for the lens, so you'd assume that they'd be just ass [sic] in focus as the mountains and such that you actually see in the photograph... but for some reason they aren't... even at f/4.
I refocused and got some more shots, which resulted in the 2nd photograph (or bottom/right for the picky folks).
As you can see, this is considerably more in-focus. Thomas made a boo-boo, and he's pissed at himself. It's one of the mistakes I've gotta live with, because I'll probably not get that shot again. Storms like this are rare enough here in the middle of the Australian outback, never mind the luck of catching one.
Call me a liar, that first shot was at f/2.8. Let me go check to see if the center of the image is in focus (sometimes the edges soften if you don't stop down... but this was the 70-200mm... that should still be good!
It's only marginally better. Here's the downfall of using the Nikon D800e, if you don't pry out every bit you can from of your lens and shooting technique, the D800e will rip you to shreds. Wind was blowing, I had the lens hood off to cause less resistance (more shake) for the wind, and another couple of factors going for me, and even though it doesn't seem like it blurred due to shake, it might contribute marginally.
It's all about balance; I must say, I'll take the blurry picture and have something to talk about, rather than the sharp, slightly less effective photograph. It pains me that I blundered so badly with such an incredible opportunity, but I've learned my lessons: "don't mess up" and "fix it faster".
A side note before I write a little more about the evening:
Notice how much I'm zoomed in for those cropped shots. Look at the noise at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, notice how little it is? Sure, there's a bit of grain, but how big do you have to blow it up to be able to see it? And once you do enlarge it that much, does it really look bad? These camera's nowadays... wow, D800e for the win.