Monday, January 28, 2013
"Give me five minutes of great light over three hours of ordinary light"
"Give me five minutes of great light over three hours of ordinary light," is just one of the many quotes I love to share when I teach. After all, "It's not the number of pictures you take home, it's the quality of the ones you keep." And, "It's all about the light." These three standard quotes of mine lead up to the premise of this article—the impact of storm light. Storm light is dramatic, short-lived, and tough to shoot, but it provides unique images. If you chase it, you're guaranteed to spend a lot of futile sessions in the field, but when it happens, they quickly melt away the bad memories.
SAFETY: I realize this is a no-brainer, but should you be one to chase storms, be aware that your tripod is a lightning rod. Storm light is often associated with low light and necessitates the use of a tripod. Stay well ahead of the storm and use common sense before you break it out. Use a long lens to bring the storm close to you rather than go to it. Shoot from the interior of your car to give yourself some protection. Use a bean bag or pillow across the door or window to stabilize your camera. If strong winds develop, be aware of falling and/or blowing debris. If you're ahead of the storm with your tripod set up, be aware that winds could topple your rig, costing you a lot.
GET THE MOST: Here's a laundry list of items to help you get better storm shots: a) Use a telephoto zoom to isolate the most dramatic lighting conditions that unfold; b) Bracket your exposures to prevent shadow detail from blocking up or from losing the highlights. Post-processing in Photoshop can help, but nailing the exposure allows you to get the most out of the file—also think HDR; c) Post-process for drama and punch-up the contrast to give the image impact; d) Keep the tripod low to the ground so wind doesn't topple it or make the image soft because of camera movement; e) Finally, make sure you have all your filters and accessories ready in an instant because storm light doesn't last long.
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