How to Photograph Extreme Weather

You’ve probably seen the tornado enthusiasts on TV madly pursuing funnel crowds across the American Midwest and you have been motivated to become your own version of a storm chaser. Instead of looking for photographs of the most terrifying sort of storm, however, you would like to simply capture some lightning strikes and dramatic sky events. This is actually a fairly simple procedure, but it does require two key things – patience and luck.

It is impossible to know where lightning will strike, but anyone who has lived in a certain area for any length of time will know the places to sit and watch a storm move in. It is a site such as this that will prove ideal to the true storm chaser. A good opportunity for lightning and storm cloud photography will begin with a few hours of weather forecasts. When it seems obvious that a thunderstorm is going to pass over, the photographer should be ready to head to their selected spot and set up instantly.

To set up quickly requires the photographer to have a pre-assembled assortment of necessary tools and equipment. Naturally, the first is the camera, and if you plan on trying to get lightning photographs on a regular basis you will want to permanently load the manual settings for storms into your camera. These will vary according to the desired effects of the photographer, but will always include a very long or slow shutter speed, an ISO as low as possible, and an aperture that will allow the distant storm to be in clear focus.

Next, the photographer is going to have to use a small tripod for the camera, and whether this is set on the dashboard of their car or near the window inside a building it is going to have to have a good composition in its view finder.

How do you compose pictures of extreme weather? Actually, you would put them together as you would a night time photo with some contrasting foreground or other elements to balance the scene. If your view is over the water, make sure part of a cove or harbor is included. Don’t let the image be entirely sky even though that is the primary location of the storm.

Finally, a remote unit to control the shutter is usually well worth the investment for a dedicated storm photographer. This prevents the camera from shaking during shutter release, and can also allow the photographer to be at a distance from the camera if necessary. Remember that you may have the shutter open for quite a length of time when attempting to capture lightning strikes and the slightest movement of the camera could instantly spoil a great shot.

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

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