There has been a lot of commotion lately on Twitter and Facebook about the recent battle between The Weather Channel and Directv regarding the decision by the latter to drop the former. Of course this has TWC up in arms as it loses a significant portion of its customer base, so there is a lot on the table for the cable channel...much more than what Directv stands to lose.
From a majority of what I have seen on the net Directv sits firmly in control of this battle in the court of public opinion. Why is this? Oh let us count the ways.....
1. Programming: TWC has dedicated most of their programming to reality shows that have nothing to do with weather. "Prospectors", "Coast Guard Alaska", "Highway Through Hell" are just a few of the shows that are prominently promoted, but have no ties to actual weather. Most of these shows have already been done on Discovery such as "Gold Rush" and "Ice Road Truckers", not to mention the better quality.
2. Inconsistency When Airing: If you like to use the guide from your cable or satellite provider, you will be disappointed to learn that it is useless when it comes to TWC. The guide shows Storm Riders at 8pm? Awesome, except when you tune it at 8pm they are showing temperatures in Florida.
3. Poor Coverage of Live Events: There's a tornado warning in Central Texas and a possible EF-4 is on the ground! TWC will let us know what's going on right? Wrong. The wind in Chicago is blowing and it needs to be covered first.
4. Naming of Winter Storms: Blatent promotional tool. Nobody likes this.
5. The Torcon Index: Although Dr. Forbes does a nice job relaying what areas are most at risk, this is just a dumbed down version of the Storm Prediction Center outlook.
6. The Internet: Weather can be retrieved from literally a million sources these days, and with the proliferation of smart phones that have real time radar and instant conditions as well as forecasts, the usefulness of TWC isn't near as much these days.
Every once in a while I tune in to the channel, but mostly if there is an interesting weather related program. These days that is getting more rare, and unless someone brings it back to its core it may not be an option at all in the near future.
Many chasers will tell you that a tornado isn't necessary to have a successful chase, and that some storms that don't produce tornadoes can be just as beautiful, if not more, than those that do. Well, I'm here to tell you that they are absolutely right! Below are a few photos I've taken over the years that back up this theory.
It's happened to all of us, or at least I'm pretty sure most of us. You get the most awesome opportunity for the best photograph ever and think you've got it....then upload and #fail. What happened? Maybe one of these seven reasons will help explain why. If not, it has happened to me and it will be my chance to wallow in past failures.
1. You didn't use the tripod! Who cares if it's late evening, the sun is mostly down and there is heavy cloud cover. I can hold the camera just as still and it's such a pain in the arse anyways. Actually, a good tripod can be one of the most valuable assets a photographer has, assisting tremendously with sharpness and is absolutely necessary for exposures longer than 1/40th of a second.
2. You treat your ISO like it's the SAT. In trying to overcome #1, you've turned it up to 1600 so you don't need that cumbersome old tripod. The bad news is your photo has more grain in it than a wheat elevator and you'll need some serious noise reduction to overcome it, softening your sharpness and losing a lot of detail. Try to shoot with ISO as low as possible - 100 or so to keep the noise away.
3. Your F-Stop was so-low. You have a beautiful mountain scene with trees and mountains, flower and bears. Photo time! Unfortunately the aperture was set at 4.5 and with a shutter speed of 1/500. This is cool if the bears were running (hopefully away from you) and you're wanting an action shot, but for capturing everything sharply you want your aperture at at least an F11 or higher, depending on your glass for everything to be in focus.
4. Too much or too little exposure. You're shutter speed is slow, your F-stop is low and your ISO is high. Click. Look, a photo as white as this page! Or the opposite, and you get a blank photograph. This happens a lot when you start working with your camera manually, but it doesn't take long for these to go away. I still get them on practice shots because I shoot in manual mode only these days, and haven't perfected the settings I need based on the lighting without some trial and error.
5. Composition is for English majors. You got the awesome sunset picture but the brown dirt field brought it down. Taking a different angle and including a barbed wire fence, a windmill, or even a cow could take it from a nice photo to a great photo in an instant.
6. Everything is turned to plastic. So you found this really cool old barn with a tractor and a pond. It needs a little boost from something but not sure what it is. Lets try this HDR tool....boom! So what if it looks like a space age barn and the colors look like something from a Woodstock acid trip, that's cool! Umm, not really.
7. All we are is dust on the lens. What the heck is that flying saucer above that distant mountain in this photo? Is that a ghost to the left of that tree? Nope, it's a speck of dirt or a water droplet that's dried on the lens. Gotta keep it clean. This has really burned me on storm chases where the humidity hits the cold air and fogs the glass up.
There are plenty more things that can happen from the click of the shutter button to final processing that can blow up a photo. Unfortunately all of these have happened to me in the learning process, but that's part of the fun of learning to be a photographer.
Please share your experiences and let us know what has happened to your photo that left you wanting a re-do!
As we make our way into the beginning of 2014, I thought I'd take a look back at the 2013 storm season and everything that happened in a very eventful and tragic year as seen through my eyes.
2013 started off very slowly as far as the storm season was concerned. There were a handful of days in the month of March that promised severe weather but for the most part it held off. For my part, I chased in North Central Texas on March 8th, and then the Texas Panhandle on March 9th. Both days held little promise of anything more than decent sized hail and they both lived up to their expectations. April brought a bit more activity, taking me to Northern Colorado for a beautiful supercell that wouldn't have an equal the rest of the season in its structure. I stayed the night in Goodland, KS that night at a toasty 73 degrees only to wake up to 26 degree temps and freezing rain due to a cold front that rushed though faster than expected. I spent a good portion of the next day rushing back south to Oklahoma trying to beat the cold front for the next days chase and winning only by about two hours, and ultimately losing because the cap wouldn't break storms loose in Southwest Oklahoma.
A little over a week later I found myself back in Southwest Oklahoma again, this time for a moderate risk setup that had outbreak potential. After chasing a northern cell, I finally dropped south and chased a storm that had quite a bit of rotation and stayed tornado warned for most of its life, but at the end of the day there were no tornadoes produced. I did manage to capture one image that has become one of my most popular photos:
Another month went by with really no opportunity for storm chasing other than a few marginal setups that yielded a few nice photos but nothing more. Then came Mid-May.
The first day of the turn of storm season happened in Central Kansas on May 18th. It was not a particularly impressive setup but chasers (including me) were all itching for something to chase by this time and the hunger was palpable. It was delayed by a stubborn cap and made more than a few people think about their decision to stay put or head north or south. Staying put would be the winning decision this day. It ultimately produced four beautiful tornadoes in the middle of nowhere and provided one of the best tornado photo opportunities since Campo, CO.
The next day brought another opportunity, this time it was in a couple of different places: Southern Kansas and Central Oklahoma. I chose Southern Kansas and came away with a beautiful if not artistic rope tornado.
And then there was May 20th. The day an EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore, Oklahoma that I wrote about in this blog article. Seeing it from birth and moving through the populated area will always be one of the toughest things I've seen.
The next week also provided fireworks. I chased up to Salina, KS only to pick the wrong day to chase Salina, KS. The setup the day before on May 27th held promise for severe weather, and ultimately it did happen but no tornadoes. The next day was the big day though, as what is now known as the "Bennington Tornado" touched down for a good hour and didn't really move the whole time. I regret missing this event.
May 31st, El Reno, Oklahoma. Possibly the most historic day in storm chasing history. I started out chasing this event, starting in El Reno only to end up heading back east to move my family out of the way since it was on a direct path towards my home. It produced the widest tornado on record at 2.6 miles, and killed three highly regarded storm chasers: Tim Samaras, his son Paul, and Carl Young. The news was shocking the day I heard it on the Sunday after, and still hasn't really sunk in fully. The chasing world was and still is devastated and will be felt for a long time to come.
Finally, the season came to a close with a late November setup that warranted a "high risk" to be issued in the Midwest. Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan were in the cross-hairs of fast moving storms (60 mph!) with tremendous shear making anything that developed a destructive machine. Washington, IL took the brunt of the hit that day and is still recovering from the storm.
Overall, it was a year of extremes that etched itself not only the the history books, but in the heart.
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