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Storm Photography

All of New Jersey, including those of us at Beach Camera, are bracing to ride out Hurricane Sandy. History Geek, being the upstanding guy that he is, kindly invited the Mrs. and I to stay at his secure facility during the storm. He's got plenty of bread on hand for us and his place is pretty nice, if you like seeing dozens of gaming systems laid out in front of the television and typing on a computer that has multiple different colored LED lights and a cooling system like one I've never seen. Apparently geeks -- especially those of the gamer variety -- have things like this. Regardless, it's nice to have a safe place to be during the storm. I hope that all of you reading this are reading it from a safe location. At any rate, in honor of today's news, today's blog post will be about Storm Photography. Storm Photography is one of the more extreme kinds of photography out there. Ranking on the "you've got to be crazy" scale just below sky-diving photography and taking photographs during an EVA in space, storm photography takes the photographer out of his safe zone and into the teeth of the storm. However, to those who venture much, the gain is great and storm photographers can bring home photos like these:

Before we launch into the discussion: Please do not go out and try this. If you are interested in this branch of photography, find an experienced storm photographer in your area and ask them what gear you will need to invest in and if you can accompany them on a few shoots before attempting this on your own. Storms, especially those with high winds and a lot of lightning, are very dangerous situations and you should not go into them on a whim or unprepared.

Awesome aren't they? Now, if you're interested in trying out this spectacular and dangerous branch of photography, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind besides knowing your exposure, aperture, and ISO settings. First among them: don't be stupid; be safe. Yes, of course, you want to capture the most stunning image of lightning strikes, tornadoes, or storm waves breaking. Do it from a safe location and a safe distance. Take advantage of the fact that there are cameras out there with great optical zoom. Don't be the guy who sets up right next to a tall metal pole. That guy isn't going to live long enough to take a great photo. Also, it should go without saying but don't stay in a mandatory evacuation area. If the local government has told people to get out, then get out. Mandatory evacuations aren't issued for no reason! While you're taking care of your own health and safety, remember to take care of your camera. Weather-proof it if you can. Camera "rain coats" are not that difficult to get. Find one for your camera and carry it with you. The next thing you should remember to do is to take an umbrella. Preferably, a large one that will provide cover for both you and your camera and gear. Consider investing in a sturdy umbrella that is designed for high-winds so that you don't have to worry about it blowing out or away. Also, you'll want one that you can drive into the ground because storm photography is tricky enough without having to worry about juggling your camera and your umbrella. Also, remember to carry your filters and a good lens cloth or twelve. If you're capturing a storm, there's going to be water or dust. Water or dust on a lens means that your images don't come out as well as they could. Carry a lens cloth and use it. Additionally, storms are unpredictable in many ways. You never know exactly what kind of lighting you'll have. Carry more filters than you think you'll use because one of them will come in handy helping you to capture the perfect storm photo. Once you're on location, remember to stabilize your camera. Take a tripod that you can drive into the ground and make certain your camera and flash are fastened in place securely. If you're trying to capture lightning, you need stability. With your camera stable and all of your gear stowed and secured, it's time to capture the storm. At this point, you'll need patience (and a good radio tuned to the local weather station). Storms are unpredictable. You may get a few photographs and then think the storm has passed only to get back to your car and have a deluge slam into you. Be patient and hang around a bit. Even the end of the storm or the period immediately following its passage can have great opportunities for memorable photos. And, the last point is the same as the first point: stay safe. If conditions get bad enough that your gut starts screaming at you to get away, listen to your gut. Better to lose the opportunity to take some photos than to lose your life. -- da Bird  
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