Photographing Thunderstorms

Photographing Thunderstorms

  Warmer weather brings all the things that photographers typically love. The flowers are starting to come up and trees are quickly turning green. In this area of the country, it also brings the threat of severe weather. Photographing weather can be a challenging and fun pursuit, but I can also be very dangerous. Before discussing how to photograph storms, we need to spend a little time discussing safety. It is not really possible to take night shots of storms and lightning with out a tripod, and it should go without saying that standing next to a metal lightning rod (in this case: your tripod) and photographing a storm moving through the area is not a very good idea. Then, you still have to deal with strong winds, hail, tornados, and possibly flash flooding. This is one of those activities that you really should not try at home. Here are some stats about the dangers of being out in severe weather: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/hazstats/sum13.pdf Lighting safety here: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/    Basically, if you can hear thunder you are in danger of being struck by lightning. But, I suppose, if you are like me… you cannot resist the temptation to try to get a few shots of a landscape with some lightning in it. Finding a location. Every storm is a little different, but the formula is fairly similar. I usually have best results after dark. I will watch the weather reports to see where the storm is and which way it is moving in from. Almost always the storms move from west to east here. So I am usually looking for some point...
Photographing Bald Eagles on the White River

Photographing Bald Eagles on the White River

The weather has been really crappy here lately. There has been a little too much snow and ice, and now that is has warmed up a bit, there has been non-stop rain. Today was the first day that the rainy trend ended. Clear blue sky day. What better to do than go and watch the eagles? I met up with Jim, and we waited for the fog to lift. The fog finally lifted around 10 am, and the day was perfect. The water was low in the river, allowing us to wade out in the river a fair distance, so that we could line up the shots in nice low angle sunlight.  There was quite a lot of activity, both of the adults were moving around from tree to tree, preening feathers and such…. Great day to be out watching these beautiful birds.    ...
Elk fight in Boxley Valley

Elk fight in Boxley Valley

I went out to Ponca this morning for a day of Elk photography and Fall color shooting. We arrived in Ponca/Boxley Valley area about 15 minutes before 7 am. It was still very dark, We could not see anything really. We managed to find one fair sized herd of elk, but since it was so dark out we could not really tell what we were looking at. One fo the great things about modern digital cameras is their ability to see in very low light. In fact, they can “see” much better in the dark than I can. I had pulled out the camera and tripod and set it to 102,400 iso, just to use the camera as a spotting scope/night vision scope  to see how many elk were in the field. As I was panning through the fields I came across a bull fight in progress and managed to grab a few video frames. This video is shot at 1/30 of a second at f5.6 (wide open for this 400mm lens) and at ISO 102,400. The quality is not good, but I actually got to witness 2 large bulls fighting, I have been wanting to see a bullfight since i found out about the elk here, and I just happened to stumble in to one. Awesome.    ...
Photographing Hawksbill Crag aka Whitaker Point

Photographing Hawksbill Crag aka Whitaker Point

          Over the last weekend I spent a little time in Boxley Valley, near Ponca, Arkansas. One of the most photographed rocks in Arkansas, Hawksbill Crag (otherwise known as Whitaker Point), is a landmark of the Buffalo River and a favorite hike among many. Our goal was to get some Milky Way shots of the famous Hawksbill Crag. The window for getting the shot was very slim, between our schedules, the moon movement of the moon we only had a few days. The weather forecast was initially favorable, clear skies and cooler. As we arrived to the trail to the crag, the clouds started moving in. The clouds hung around for the vast majority of the night, they cleared for about an hour around 4 am, and then came back for sunrise. With heavy overcast for sunrise, we packed up and headed out while it was still cool. Maybe next time. Spending a few days in Boxley Valley area is always awesome, even if the planned shots don’t pan out.          ...