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.

I have a whole season of storms to get good

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.

What’s the weather like where you live? Every month we have some of the best iReports on the show. Send us your pictures so we can put them on the show. Click here to share your pictures or video.

-- From Jenni Watts, Producer, Weather FX

Monday, June 23, 2008
Fengshen update
Fengshen is now a tropical storm over the South China Sea. It is moving away from the Philippines.

The weather in the hard-hit areas will slowly continue to improve, though it will take days for the water to recede.

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center has the storm tracking to the north and through the Taiwan Strait.

Hong Kong should not be affected directly, but could get some strong thunderstorms in the next day or so.

Northeastern Guandong, Fujian and Taiwan are still within the “margin of error” and could have a direct impact.

According to the most recent forecast, Fengshen is not expected to regain typhoon strength.

Here are some of the rainfall totals reported so far:

Roxas 376 mm (14.80”)
Ninoy Aquino Inter-National Airport 168 mm (6.61”)
Alabat 169 mm (6.65”)
Calapan 170 mm (6.69”)
Tanay 160 mm (6.30”)
Subic Bay Weather Station 149 mm (5.87”)
Borongan 154 mm (6.06”)
Guiuan 167 mm (6.57”)
Tacloban 212 mm (8.35”)
Sangley Point 199 mm (7.83")
Tayabas 184 mm (7.24")

IReporter John Layson Guevara sent these images from the Iloilo City in the Philippines

I spoke with John early this morning. He said they were not expecting the typhoon to hit. He lives in an area usually sheltered from such storms.

Most of the damage is from the rain that came fell on the mountains triggering flash floods, he says. His house was not damaged but there are sporadic power outtages.

Many of the bridges that link the city to outside provinces have been washed away and are impassable due to high water.

John is a professional photographer/videographer.

-- From CNN Weather Anchor, Mari Ramos
Friday, June 20, 2008
Typhoon Fengshen
“The storm has also gone against all computer guidance and tracked farther west rather than turn north.”

-- Ross Hayes Jr, CNN Weather Producer

Not much advance notice here, but Typhoon Fengshen made landfall in the central Philippines late Thursday afternoon.

Maximum sustained winds were near 140 km/hr with gusts of 170 km/hr.

Hardest hit was Samar where torrential rain and the highest winds have been reported. Waves between 4 and 6.5 meters are pounding the shores of Samar, Visayas and Mindanao.

Authorities issued warnings to people living in areas prone to flooding and mudslides. As Fengshen moves generally north across the country, heavy rain will continue to affect the region, including the capital Manila through the weekend.

IReporter Onyl Malaban sent these pictures from Manila yesterday afternoon.

More heavy rain is expected today, and PAGASA is forecasting winds up to 75 km/hr in Metro Manila.

Fengshen is called "Frank" in the Philippines.

-- From CNN Weather Anchor, Mari Ramos
I try not to let rainy days and Wednesdays get me down
I have lived in London for 19 months now and the weather can be described with the following words: Cold, gray and rainy. There are variations. Sometimes it is only gray and cold. But, for the most part, you can almost always count on the rain factoring into your plans in some way or other.

When my friends from the states come to visit me, they think I am completely strange when I carry an umbrella on a clear day. (Those are rare, the clear days and the visits from my friends). Without fail, if I forget some kind of rain gear, I can almost guarantee I will get wet. (My co-workers can attest to the fact I am grumpy when I get wet.) Now, the weather in London isn’t always horrible. We do have a few days of partial sun and temperatures where you can walk around without a coat. But they are rare - just like the clear days and the visits from friends – but I digress.

So, when I was asked to go out with Jenny Harrison and shoot the links to the Weather F/X show I was very excited. It was my chance to get out of the office, get away from the grind, get some fresh air and do something different. I did do something different – in the rain. We hoped, we prayed, we did an anti-rain dance. The forecast looked fine for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But Wednesday – my big day – it forecast rain and they were right. When I left my apartment, the clouds covered the sky and the wind was blowing. I did find some solace that I was shooting links for a WEATHER show, so having an umbrella in a shot would not be the end of the world.

Jenny, my cameraman, our driver and I headed off to the Thames Barrier Park. We didn’t let the gray clouds or impending rain dampen our spirits (so to speak!) But when we opened the car door we hit with a blast of blustery air. This was not going to be easy. When you are on shoots, you have to take into account if the rain is hitting the lens of the camera or if the wind is whistling through the microphone. (You also have to explain to the managers why the camera isn’t working after water seeped into it and that can be really bad, not to mention expensive). So, we had our work cut out for us. The park was a great location. It is 22 acres of lawns, trees and hedges that many call an “urban oasis.”

The park has an interesting history. During the 19th century and into the 20th, the park was formally known as Prince Regents Wharf. The construction of the nearby Royal Docks to the north stimulated the development of numerous Thames wharfs and industries. For more than a hundred years, the site grew contaminated by the various chemicals used by businesses. In 1994, the area was cleared and capped in preparation for its transformation into one of London’s green spaces. In 1995, the London Docklands Development Corporation launched a competition to create a riverside park. In 1998, the first tree was planted there and the park officially opened in November 2000.

Owned by the London Development Agency, the Thames Barrier was built to prevent the possibility of catastrophic flooding in London. The city received a nasty wakeup call in 1953. According to, the worst storm surge of the last century hit the East Coast on January 31st/February 1st of that year. It breached flood defenses, knocked out tide gauges between the Wash and Southend and devastated Canvey Island in the Thames Estuary. On Canvey alone, 58 people died and 10,000 had to be evacuated. The flooding extended into the Docklands but Central London was spared. This prompted the government to set up a committee to study the flooding threat to the capital. Long story short (too late!) after a great deal of study, the Barrier was officially opened in 1984. (They took a long time to really study it). It cost £440 million to complete.

Back to shoot, overall, despite the wind, the rain and cold temperatures – everything worked out well. We managed to get everything accomplished and have some fun in the process. You can check our final product on this month’s Weather F/X. I hope you like it!

From CNNI Producer Mary Davies
The CNNI Weather Team is on call every hour of every day to make sure viewers have the weather information they need. Weather FX goes beyond the average weather segment for an in-depth look at what causes weather phenomena around the world. From hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons to devastating droughts and sandstorms, weather affects all of our lives. Weather FX is an exchange of ideas involving the viewer through iReports and Q&As with viewers. Join the CNN Weather Team as they show you how the world is connected by the effects of weather.
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