July 12th, 2010. A large storm moving south out of Woodward, OK makes its way down Highway 183. I'm set up, ready to capture glorious images that I will tell my children's children about. The day I captured the most fantastic storm ever. I got out my Kodak C183 point and shoot camera and began to fire away. The storm moved so slowly, I captured tons of images. This would be an epic day! Then I get home and upload my photos and I get this....
Now, I know what you are thinking. Those are pretty cool right? Well, when I got home and uploaded them, they didn't resemble anything like what I had saw. They captured none of the massive structure, none of the epicness of this day. I was extremely disappointed in what I just captured compared to the way it looked up close and personal.
This day really started my quest to capture what I was feeling and seeing. Now, not everyone has the same goals when it comes to photos. Some like to capture images with their phones and quickly share, some like to take photos to document and keep as a memory. I like to photograph the storms to move people, to make them feel something. But, it's not as easy as grabbing your DSLR camera, driving to the nearest storm and shooting away. It takes planning, coordination, and often quick reflexes, among other things.
We'll take a quick look at planning to photograph at a high level for this blog post and save the specifics for another day. "Well, what in the world is there to plan for? You drive to a storm, turn the camera on and start shooting right?"
Unfortunately that's not quite how it works, unless you're ready to upload photos when you get home and want to be disappointed with your haul. Before one sets out the door, countless hours have to be spent learning your camera. Some questions you should ask yourself before you get ready to chase: What ISO should I shoot in? What aperture will allow for the best sharpness overall? What will my lighting be like, and how will I adjust if needed (And you will need to know this unless you love blurry photos)? Do I have the right equipment to get a great shot?
These basic questions are the foundation for capturing good images of any type. But, for storms they are a must. Some things to consider when answering questions: Storms provide very little light much of the time. Rain falls more often than not. Cloud movement can be relatively quick. Winds can be super strong. Storms don't follow a road, so angles can be tough. The list goes on and on.
But with a little preparation and study, all of the situations you encounter can be dealt with. So, in these cold winter months take some time and read up on how to use your camera outside of auto mode. Find out what it takes to keep your camera still and avoid the shake. Read up on the lenses you may need. There are lots of resources out there ready to be used, and I'll provide some here as well as time goes on.
Bottom line is a little preparation goes a long ways to producing a great photo, especially with storms. Putting in the time now can yield great results in the future.
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