How many times have we heard it’s all about “being in the right place at the right time”?
I’ve heard it too many times to count, but the honest answer is that this saying has a great deal of truth to it. As photographers, we may often times get lucky, as I did with this fantastic thunderstorm at the Moulton Barn in Grand Teton National Park, WY. It is up to us, however, to do our best to make our own luck. Did I know I was going to capture a unique image of an iconic location on this particular morning? No sir. But I was there, prepared technically and creatively to capture magic that morning, regardless of how mundane or exceptional conditions happened to be. If there was a right time and place for this particular thunderstorm, I was there.
The obvious factor that raises the bar on this image of a familiar place is storm light and the accompanying atmospherics. Storm light is nearly impossible to predict, which is why it is both so enjoyable and so challenging to shoot. The extra moisture in the air gives everything an enhanced sense of clarity and color. It is, without question, my favorite light in which to shoot.
So given the unpredictable nature of storm light, how, then, do we go about capturing it? I have included several tips below to help you in your own quest to capture unique storm light images.
1. Be there.
If it looks like Mother Nature is putting on a show, sprint to the best spot and get ready. Storm light is extremely fleeting, and will come and go in seconds.
2. Rely on your technical instincts.
You won’t have time to fiddle with settings. Get an approximate meter reading on the scene in front of you, and then be ready to adjust your exposure hurriedly as the light moves in and out.
3. Forget about your gear.
It’s easy to be concerned about our cameras. They are, after all, expensive and don’t respond well to wetness. That being said, our cameras can take an incredible amount of abuse and keep on ticking. What’s a couple more drops on your camera when it means capturing the shot of a lifetime?
4. Be conscious of camera vibration.
Much of the time, storm light is accompanied by strong wind. Rest your body weight on your tripod, or hang your camera bag from the hook on the center column. If you must, bump up your ISO in order to increase shutter speed.
5. Stick around.
You never know when the heavens will open or close once again. If you have to duck and cover, go find shelter and then wait for the storm to pass. The front and back edge of the storm front are always the best times to shoot.