Amazing slow motion video of a lightning strike:
Most people have an emotional response to lightning. Growing up, that emotion for me was fear¹. As I got older, the fear gave way to respect, awe, and wonder. Indeed, staring out at an approaching thunderstorm on a warm summer night, watching the constant flashes of light, for me is one of the most mesmerizing sights.
In super slow motion you can actually see the streams of negative charges (often called a stepped leader) branching down from the cloud seeking out the more positively charged surface of the Earth. Generally this happens so fast the human eye can't pick it up. Once one of the branches of negative charges makes contact with the positively charged ground (or tree, or house, or whatever) the circuit is completed, releasing the stored electrical energy and creating the lightning bolt we're all familiar with.