Capturing the Weather

Learn from the Pros:   How to take Photos of Weather

Photographer  DAVID MAYHEW

Born in the UK, David Mayhew was raised in rural Suffolk in the east of England, close to where Constable created his paintings and where pictorial naturalist photography first came to be under the skillful hand of Emerson. After his private school education David went on to obtain a Bachelor of Engineering in Product Design at Loughborough University.  David was kind enough to share some thoughts on  his weather photography skills.

Storm chasing has primarily 3 elements to it:

  1. Forecasting. The chances of all the ingredients coming together to produce a tornadic storm are “SLIM”, that is:
    – Shear (changing wind speeds and direction with height),
    – Lift (the forcing of a parcel of air upwards from the surface, generally from a boundary like a front)
    – Instability (the ability for a parcel of air once lifted to continue to rise, such as warm air moving into cooler air) and
    – Moisture (providing the juice for the storm!)
  2. Chase Conditions.  Once you figure out where the best potential area is you need to consider a number of factors. Time is always critical.  Can you get there in time?  Will the best potential be during day light?  Geography is another.  Is it a chaseable area or will there be trees, hills or congested traffic to deal with?  For example leaving Chicago after 3pm you know you won’t get far fast!  Does the target area have a good network of roads?  If they are dirt tracks has there been recent rain in the area turning them to mud?  What direction and speed is the storm likely to go and can I keep up with it or will I need to get ahead of the storm to let it come to me?
  3. Driving.  The tedious downside to the chase.  I have done 1,000 miles in a day numerous times.  Plus there are hazards to be aware of.  Hydroplaning in the rain.  “Yahoo” chasers that drive like idiots and put others at risk.  Debree, including downed power lines if you are following behind a storm.  The most important thing for chasing is having a reliable vehicle that can not only get you there, but get you away from a storm.  And you have to expect the unexpected – this year my engine ceased up in the direct path of a rotating supercell storm that had been dropping tornadoes.

Spring is the prime season for chasing due to warm moist air coming off the Gulf and cold are aloft rolling off the Rockies, but tornadoes happen all year round given the right conditions.  Like the tornado near Rockford a few weeks back.  I dedicate the entire month of May to chasing and get out when I can after that.  August is also a great month for Lightning.

On the photography side the higher end equipment you have the better quality you will get.  When I edit the images I increase the contrast and saturation to draw out the detail in a dynamic tonal range that can print at over 40″x60″.  With a low quality image you can not do this without bringing the flaws in the image.

I have 3 lenses that range from 16mm wide angle to 400mm zoom.  The better I get at chasing the more I use my wide angle lens – I do get a bit close at times!  I have lost my rear windshield to intense winds.  A tripod is also recommended.  With the adrenalin rush and strong winds in low light conditions it helps!  Also needed for lightning shots.  Lightning is easier to capture at night since you can leave the lens open and do a long exposure.  Personally I just curse the heavens and press the shutter!

Why the Sky?  It is forever changing and light filters through in different amounts producing great patterns, formations and changing colors.  It is a subject that I will never get bored off.  The sky also conveys great emotional qualities from the drama and intensity of a severe storm to the dynamic serene colors of a sunset.  The sky is associated with the Heavens and divine inspiration, even the Greek Gods were housed in Atlantis in the clouds.

I shoot the sky with an artistic eye to capture mesmerizing images of beauty.  My photography is fine art for the home or office, bringing fascination and a new “atmosphere” to any room!  You can see my vast selection on my website including my storm chase log plus you can follow and interact with me on my Facebook blog

David Mayhew, Photographer

Photographer Jim Bayne

Jim Bayne moved to Chicago  from Denver six years ago.  He previously worked with the Denver Post as an Editorial Cartoonist and was a ticket designer for the Denver Broncos.

Moving from Denver to the big city was a big change.  The shear VOLUME of people in  big city is overwhelming.  He described his impressions, “EVERYWHERE you look, there’s somebody!”  To get away from the crowds, Jim started his days early.  He gets out to the lakefront at dawn, ALONE . . . and his passion is born in the sunrises of Chicago.   Well, over the years, he’s captured (most) every visible sunrise from Chicago for the last 5 years + (a bit over 1,100 now)

Check out his work, and be inspired!

Jim Bayne, Photographer


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