Friday, March 12, 2010

Chasing Storms

Beautiful sunsets and sunrises are probably one of my favorite things to photograph. This is a photo of me taking a sunset photo on Clearwater Beach, in Florida. The gentleman that took it was kind enough to let me download it on my laptop that night. But I also like to chase storms and try to get some dramatic clouds and lightning photographs. This is not nearly as easy as setting up on the beach and waiting for the sun to set and casually snap away with no real sense of urgency. Chasing storms and lightning is much more work, and the success rate for good quality shots is much lower.

 One summer my good friend Scott Hale and I spent quite a few nights chasing storms to try and photograph lightning. The difficult part was getting ahead of them and finding a place to set up so that we could have a good overall foreground scene instead of just photographing lightning in the sky. We chased one all the way up to Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Illinois. While standing on the overlook near the top of the bluff looking out over the Illinois River Valley, we thought we had gotten ahead of it and we would get some dramatic shots. But the very powerful storm had gotten in behind us and we did not see it coming until it blew in right over the trees on top of us. We were running for the car with lightning, heavy rain, and powerful winds dropping trees all around. Our success rate was low, but we had a lot of fun and managed not to get killed.

This photo above I took in June of 2006 on a trip to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. That year Florida had experienced several hurricanes, and one was coming north through the Gulf of Mexico. It turned east and headed inland about 120 miles south of the Ft. Walton Beach. It created these ominous looking clouds and some big surf. The next morning it was sunny and beautiful, just like most Florida days.

We had some nice lightning the other morning with thast first spring storm, but I was to lazy to get out of bed at 2:00am and  try to get any photos. I snapped this photograph a couple summers ago. One of those hot August summer thunderstorms that blowup late in the afternoon. The heavy rain prevented me from getting the real dramatic lightning. The storm was already moving south by the time I could get outside to take any shots. This year I have promised myself I will get some better storm and lightning photograhs. Normally I have my camera on a tripod and use a cable release. This works well at night as I can usually get the shutter open before the lightning dissapears. During the day it is much harder, and the success rate is pretty low. There is a device called a Lightning Trigger. It fits in the hotshoe of your camera and triggers your cameras shutter when it senses a flash of lightning. This works much faster than a human using a cable release.
A really useful device, but it is pricey at $329.00 Here is their website for anyone that might be interested. It is another one of those items on my wish list.

Have a great weekend!



  1. I found your blog thru my friend. Your photos are amazing. I hope to shoot gorgeous sunsets one day too. Tonite as I was driving to town the sunset was stunning on my left, while on my right the clouds were still looming. it was so amazing and I wished for my camera but enjoyed feasting my eyes this time without the viewfinder.

  2. Hi Seasonsmom,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Looks like you too have a great passion for photography. Stop y any time and let me know what you think.