Monday, June 30, 2008
A lesson in flash photography
Living in the southeastern United States, it’s common to see afternoon thunderstorms in the summertime.
They happen during the hottest part of the day when the heated air from the surface rises into the cooler air above it. This causes instability in the air which can lead to heavy rain, lightning, strong winds and hail. (Unfortunately, this often coincides with evening rush hour.)
Not too bad for an amateur, right?
I have always loved watching thunderstorms. My parents and I would stand on the porch and watch the sky as they approached. (We would take cover when they got close, of course).
I love the wind, the way the clouds look and especially the lightning. One of my earliest memories was my dad, brother and I counting the seconds between lighting and thunder to find out how far away the storm was from our house.
A few weeks ago I bought a DSLR camera and was eager to test it out on anything I could find.
Soon, I found the perfect subject: A late-night thunderstorm. Storms in north Georgia usually move from west to east and north to south. This particular band of storms was unusually strong for the time of night and was moving from south to north.
It hit my neighborhood around 1030 p.m. The lightning with this storm was frequent and bright.
So, I did what any good journalist would do: I grabbed my camera and headed for the front porch. It took me quite a while to figure out how to get my camera to take a picture in the dark (no, I still haven’t read the manual.)
New cameras are so automatic they won’t let you take a bad picture. Normally I appreciate that.
That night, I was frustratingly fumbling with the dozens of settings to make the camera bend to my will.
Every few seconds, lightning was lighting up the sky and the time between the lightning and the thunder was getting smaller and smaller. I was running out of time.
Finally I found the night setting, disabled the flash, switched the focus to manual, and started snapping.
I quickly discovered how hard it is to take pictures of flashes of light. Needless to say, my response time was slower than the light speed and I ended up missing the lightning by fractions of a second.
By the time I saw the lightning and pressed my finger on the button, it was gone. I was left with boring pictures of bright sky. So, I decided I would try picture roulette: The art of taking pictures at random.
This method proved more effective than the wait-and-snap method. I took pictures until the rain started and then came inside to examine my work.
The wonderful thing about digital pictures as opposed to film is that you can delete digitals without wasting anything but time and battery power! It’s a good thing too, because I took 40 pictures and only 2 came out worth showing.
They’re a bit blurry, but I thought I would share them anyway. Not too bad for an amateur, right? Luckily I have an entire season of thunderstorms to get good at it.
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-- From Jenni Watts, Producer, Weather FX
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