Storm Chasing and Photography

It seemed that almost every time there was a thunderstorm I would head out with my camera in hopes of catching some lightning. Never would I have thought to actually chase a storm. Until I meet a fellow photographer and friend. She introduced me to storm chasing. I have always been interested in the weather especially storms; I could sit and watch a thunderstorm for hours.

Well this hasn’t been the most active storm season in Manitoba, unlike in Saskatchewan which had more tornadoes in the month of July then the entire USA had this season. Manitoba still managed to get a couple of good thunderstorms.

The first storm of the season was one that I mostly missed out on. I left the house too late and only caught the tail end of the storm (too busy watching the Stanley Cup playoffs!). I did manage to get a good lightning shot. It did take quite a bit of shots to get the one good lightning shot, but worth the effort. I was photographing the lightning manual using a remote release. Trying to photograph lightning this way is tricky, you have to get a rhythm down and I hadn’t manage to get a good rhythm down that night. After that night I decided it was time for a lightning trigger which I was happy to get for a birthday present.

The first time that I went storm chasing with a fellow photographer we ended up in North Dakota, USA. Winnipeg is a two hour drive to the border.  We had planned on heading to Grand Forks because the forecast said there was a potential for severe storms. We ended up chasing a storm that was before Grand Forks. Unfortunately the storm started to die out and was starting to break apart. We stopped at a park which had a dam in it to take some shots of the storm. I did manage to get the following shot of the storm as it was breaking down and the sun rays were starting to come threw the clouds. Crossing the border was interesting, and I’m quite sure the border guard must have thought that we were nuts when he asked what we were up to.

Our next adventure took us to the Doppler radar station in Woodlands, MB. Woodlands is about 30-40 mins north/northwest of the city of Winnipeg. We saw the front of the storm as we were about 15 mins away from the radar station. The front of the storm had amazing texture!

We set up a camera at the radar station and waited for some lightning, but unfortunately the lightning wasn’t over the radar station but in a field across from the station. This was not the night for me to catch lightning everytime I would give up on a spot and move the camera that’s when the lightning would strike.

On July 29th Winnipeg was hit with a severe thunderstorm. It had a lot of rain and wind. The wind gusts were around 90 km. I had to stop by the gas station before we could head out chasing. I could barely get the door open to get out and pump the gas. By the time that I had finished pumping the gas I look like a drown rat! We headed out southeast towards Steinbach, MB as that was were the storm was heading. There was some amazing lightning in this storm unfortunately we were able to capture any of it because it was raining out! We managed to catch to the storm just south of Steinbach and ended up set up near a farmers field. The storm appeared to have stalled. I was able to capture this shot of the storm front during the sunset. I had my neutral density filter on to make it easier to photograph the lightning.

I had my lightning trigger on and for the first time I managed to fill up two 16 gb cards! The lightning trigger works by triggering the shutter when there is a flash of lightning (or any other light!) I managed to get some great lightning shots!

On Aug 1 we headed out to HWY 6 and found a nice wheat field to set up at for the approaching storm. We went back and forth about whether or not we should stay and wait out the storm and then chase it down again. We decided to wait it out. This storm had a hail core which you could see in the distance as well as heavy rains. The hail was only pea sized and we were just at the edge of it so we didn’t see a lot of hail.

Once the rain died down I headed back outside and set up my camera with my lightning trigger. I got a great lightning shot! It filed the frame nicely as it goes from one end of the image to the next.

There wasn’t a lot of lightning so we headed out to see if we could catch up with. On our way to our next location we ended up stopping again by a wheat field(we do live on the prairies!) to capture a rainbow that appear to be coming threw the clouds.I managed to capture this shot of the wheat field after the storm with the setting sun back lighting the wheat field.

By the time that we caught up to the storm it had gone a bit to far east. Which normally isn’t a problem but in Manitoba the further east from the city of Winnipeg you go you end up in a forest! Not the best for storm chasing as its very difficult to see the clouds and lightning.

I have learned a lot about storms this season so far. I now know that only 5 % of super cells will drop a tornado. An interesting statistic from NOAA – About 100,000 thunderstorms happen every year in the USA alone and only 10 % of those storms end up being severe thunderstorms.  Whether it be from talking with my fellow storm chaser or watching the storm chaser live streaming on TVN. I still have a lot to learn about what storms, I am even considering taking the storm chasers course with the University of Manitoba(best part about that course is you actually do some storm chasing in the states for 7 days!)





One thought on “Storm Chasing and Photography”

  1. Wonderful review of an eventful summer on the road… maybe I’ll join you in that course… let me know when registration opens up…


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