Author Topic: Looking for storm photography tips...  (Read 5324 times)

prairiedust

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Looking for storm photography tips...
« on: April 16, 2012, 11:42:52 AM »
We just had a dramatic weather day in the midwest. I believe 96 tornadoes were reported in Kansas. Wichita sustained quite a bit of damage and five died in Oklahoma.  I was in Salina watching over my mom during the event as three tornadoes took aim on the city.  Luckily, two missed narrowly and one skipped overhead.
I had to stay close by but did venture up onto a dike where I could see a supercell system moving across the eastern horizon.  It was putting on an incredible light show so I put up a camera to photograph it.  The results aren't nearly as good as I hoped.  I set the camera on manual  trying to balance the light of the storm structure, just after dusk and the brilliant lightning flashes.  The images were are pretty badly underexposed so I'm kicking myself now. They could have been gorgeous studies.  It was very difficult to get a usable image out of the one below and most of the structure is blurry.  Part of it is because it was such a fast moving storm and I was using a 6 second exposure to increase the chances of catching lighting flashes, and partly because it was underexposed.

So, my question....   how does one approach that sort of situation.  How can that sort of scene be photographed with any quality, or was it just too dark to be doable?  


« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 12:25:12 PM by prairiedust »
Dave Leiker (PrairieDust)
Exploring the Rural Midwest

keithsnell

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2012, 01:22:32 PM »
Saturday was a dramatic weather day.  I've never heard the weather teams emphasize the danger of the tornadoes quite as much as they did on Saturday evening, especially as the tornado approached Wichita.  I was in the basement watching the track on TV when we lost power about 10 minutes before the tornado was supposed to hit Wichita.  So I sat there in the dark, listening to the increasing intensity of the rain, hail and wind and watching furious lighting flashes through the window.  The tornado passed through the city about 5 miles from our house (give or take a mile or so).  Luckily it was starting to loose steam by the time it hit the city.  Lots of property damage but luckily there was plenty of warning and nobody was killed.

The EXIF for your image shows that it was taken about 8:45 PM, so yes, it would have been pretty dark by that time, and as you said, the clouds were moving through pretty quickly.  I think you might have been more successful if the storm had been moving slower.  Lots of folks that like to take lightening images find that using a lightening trigger improves their chances of catching lightening dramatically.  Hmmm, from the way things are shaping up, that might be a good investment during this year's tornado season. :-)  (Looks like you can pick one up on Ebay for about $117.)

Without the trigger, you basically have to get lucky with your timing.  (Take lots of shots)  You could have shortened the exposure time and gained a better rendition of the storm (if you were lucky enough to get a strike) by shooting at a wider aperture and bumping up your ISO a bit.  Given how far away the storm and horizon are, and the fact that you were shooting at a wide 17mm, I think f5.6 or f4 would have given you plenty of depth-of-field, and I think you could have safely shot at ISO 400 without too much noise creeping into the image.  All that said, your storm images are a lot better than mine. :-)  Kudos to you for getting out and photographing.

Keith

prairiedust

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2012, 01:54:31 PM »
It must be so worrisome when you have children in your care.  Mom's home is very nice but there is no basement or real shelter.  I didn't have a good way to protect her other than to camp out in a bathroom toward the center of the house.  At night with the sirens blaring it felt like the whole place was made of paper.  For myself I wouldn't have cared as much but when others are involved it's different isn't it?

A lightning trigger will be a good investment.  I'll try that, and the other suggestions. Thank you!
 
I'm glad everyone in your family is safe.
Dave Leiker (PrairieDust)
Exploring the Rural Midwest

keithsnell

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2012, 02:03:06 PM »
I'm glad everyone in your family is safe.

Thank you.  Actually Rebecca and the kids were in Texas for the weekend, so I got to experience the excitement all by myself. :-)

sue.pepin

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2012, 02:51:28 PM »
Great shot Dave.  I've always wanted to take pictures of lightning.  You must be fearless to go outside with such weather warnings.  You all need to move to Colorado.  We just had snow!  We should have a side assignment of storms.  It would have to be a long assignment since storms are not that predictable ... except in Kansas.

prairiedust

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2012, 04:45:54 PM »
More witless than fearless, but thank you.   These flashing storm cells are pretty addictive.
Dave Leiker (PrairieDust)
Exploring the Rural Midwest

sue.pepin

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2012, 05:23:04 PM »
I don't know how long this link will remain active, but a friend gave me this link for storm photos.  Pretty amazing.  http://cnnphotos.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/14/professional-storm-chaser/?hpt=hp_c2

keithsnell

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2012, 05:26:42 PM »
Some very cool images.  Thanks for sharing.

prairiedust

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2012, 06:14:04 PM »
Some of these look like the photographer's last photo.  Eeek!
Dave Leiker (PrairieDust)
Exploring the Rural Midwest

Michele

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Re: Looking for storm photography tips...
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2012, 12:21:07 AM »
I know you were grateful that your family was not home but being alone must have been really scary, Keith.  These stories are really freaking me out!  How long does the season last anyways?   

And Sue, those are unbelievable photos on the CNN link.  Very cool.