The Best Gear for Storm Photography


I first grew to become occupied with storms once I was a boy rising up in Texas, the one state within the US that experiences tornadoes, hurricane and blizzards regularly. I constructed a scale mannequin of a supercell thunderstorm inside a transparent plexiglass field utilizing cotton and a lightweight bulb for lightning, and received first place within the climate class at our native science truthful. Then I obtained permission from my mom to climb onto our roof and construct a climate station.

Once I was 12, I took my first storm photograph: an enormous, fats bolt of lightning shot on a Kodak rangefinder via the window in our kitchen. In 1993, I based StormStock, a group of premium storm imagery together with lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes and different lovely and dramatic climate. You possibly can see a few of my work in a brief movie I made titled “Wakinyan” (Thunder Spirit).

Through the years, folks have usually requested me what sort of gear is finest for storm pictures. Though I spend most of my time capturing climate imagery on movement image codecs for use in films and TV commercials, I do additionally take stills. That’s the medium I’ll deal with right here.

Quite a lot of of us ask me to counsel a “finest” digicam or lens for pictures. My first query is all the time, “What are you taking pictures?” That’s as a result of totally different topics require totally different gear. The extra distinctive your topic, the extra you might have to specialize. For instance, one of the crucial demanding sorts of pictures is quick motion sports activities. It usually requires lengthy and quick lenses. Lengthy and quick. These two issues don’t go collectively simply and require massive, heavy, costly lenses – which is fairly specialised.

The excellent news is storm pictures is simply considerably demanding. The most original issues about it are comparatively low gentle and lightning. Lightning is an uncommon factor to {photograph} as a result of it exists solely for a fraction of a second. Plus, you’re pointing your digicam at one thing that doesn’t but exist.

The finest method to talk about this matter is to divide storm pictures into two classes. Basic storm pictures and lightning pictures.

Basic Storm Photography

Topics: Storm clouds, rain, blowing mud, sunsets, tornadoes.

Storm topics are typically darkish slightly than vivid. This may occasionally sound apparent, however know that storms can typically be exceptionally vivid when sunlit. Given the truth that low gentle is extra widespread, a digicam and lens that performs properly in that surroundings is mostly most well-liked.

Lens focal lengths that I like are likely to fall within the 24-105mm (full-frame) vary. That’s the reason I just like the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L a lot. The newer model of this lens is the Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II.

If a storm may be very shut, then I’ll go extensive with one thing like a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a full-frame sensor.

For a digicam, I might counsel a full-frame or APS-C sensor digicam. That’s as a result of they have a tendency to provide much less noise in low gentle than smaller sensors. Though…an iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 can take some very good storm photographs. I exploit my iPhone actually because it’s all the time in my pocket, and storm gentle could be fairly fleeting.

Naturally, in low gentle a tripod could be useful. Nonetheless, I hardly ever use a tripod for common storm pictures as a result of they’re cumbersome and sluggish, and have a tendency to shake within the wind. As a substitute, I exploit a quick lens/digicam mixture handheld.


Topics: Day and night time lightning.

I separate lightning into day and night time as a result of they require considerably totally different strategies. Day lightning permits for solely quick exposures whereas night time lightning affords the possibility to seize a number of strikes throughout an extended publicity.

One factor is definite, a tripod is obligatory for lightning pictures (and astrophotography). That’s as a result of the digicam should stay regular for lengthy exposures or photographs shall be blurred.

One other machine you’ll need is one thing to activate your shutter remotely so the digicam continues to stay regular. You need to use a wise cellphone distant app or a devoted remote trigger for this. Use the one you belief most.

For day lightning, you would possibly be capable of get away with a ¼ to 1 second publicity by reducing your ISO, reducing your aperture dimension, and using a impartial density (ND) filter. You need your publicity to be lengthy sufficient to “catch” a lightning strike, like utilizing a much bigger web to catch fish. However, not so lengthy that you just overexpose. You may as well make use of a nifty piece of know-how referred to as a lightning set off which senses the strike and opens the digicam shutter simply in time to document it.

I counsel an aperture setting of about f/5.6 for “dim” lightning, and about f/11 for “vivid” lightning. All the time use the bottom ISO hone you may. Publicity period and your aperture will compensate for low gentle.

At night time, you should utilize the bulb setting in your digicam and wait for a strike, or set your digicam to take a collection of 20 or 30 second lengthy exposures. Regardless of the case, I wouldn’t exceed 30 seconds as a result of that is when numerous cameras start to introduce noise into the picture.

Lastly, be protected whenever you {photograph} lightning. It could kill and injure. Keep away from tall objects, fences and water. The most secure place to be throughout lightning is inside a tough prime automotive, or inside a properly constructed constructing with wiring and plumbing. The rubber tires on a automotive don’t make it protected from lightning. It’s the metallic that protects you. The metallic? Sure. It really works solely if you’re surrounded by the metallic with some house in between, aka the “Faraday cage,” named after the English scientist Michael Faraday who invented it in 1836. Extra on storm security beneath.

Best Digicam and Lens Pairings

Sony a6000 on as much as the a6600. Light-weight APS-C cameras with good noise management.

Pair with: The Sony 16-50mm “kit” lens (24mm-75mm FF equal), Sony Vario-Tessar E 16-70mm f/4.0 (24mm-105mm FF equal), Rokinon 21mm f/1.4 (31.5mm FF equal), or a Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 (18mm FF equal).

Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mk II, Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 5D Mk IV. Throughout good performing full-frame sensor cameras.

Pair with: Canon 24-105mm f/4 L, Canon 24-105mm f/4 L II, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 EF, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 EF.

Sony A7s Mk II. This can be a “see at the hours of darkness” full-frame digicam. Nothing touches it for low-light efficiency.

Pair with: Sony 24-70mm f/4.0, Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 for Sony E, or a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 for Sony E.

Nikon D5300, Nikon D5500 and Nikon D5600. These are pretty cheap APS-C cameras that shoot lovely footage. The Nikon D5300 could be bought new for just a little greater than $400, or for much less used.

Pair with: Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED (25.5mm-82.5mm FF equal), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR (27mm-157.5mm FF equal), Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G (52.5mm FF equal), Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS for Nikon F Mount (24mm FF equal), or a classic NIKKOR AI-s 28mm f/2.0 (42mm FF equal), one in every of my favourite lenses.

An iPhone. Smartphones are good throughout storm pictures choices. The solely factor they don’t do properly is lightning. Take into account pairing them with an app like ProCam 7, which lets you management ISO, shutter velocity, and so forth. Taking pictures with a smartphone is a pure and easy sort of pictures. It’s straightforward and liberating. If that is all you utilize, then deal with content material and composition, and also you’ll have some lovely footage.


If you’d like one thing easy, however stronger than an iPhone, think about a Nikon D3300 with a Nikon 24mm f/2.8D AF lens (36mm FF equal). The combo is light-weight, straightforward to make use of, and pretty cheap contemplating the nice footage you may take with it. You received’t have to zoom, and the focal size is fairly common. It’s principally a really good “level and shoot.”

Be aware: When utilizing an autofocus lens with no marked, guide focus possibility, you need to grow to be aware of set the lens to infinity, particularly for night time lightning. I choose guide focus for storm photographer, however autofocus is okay so long as you know the way to regulate it.


Light-weight, sturdy tripods are finest. Take into account the Prima Photo Big Travel Tripod, Davis & Sanford TR654C-36 Traverse Carbon Fiber Grounder Tripod with Ball Head, or the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 054 Magnesium Ball Head Kit. You need one thing with quick deploy legs and a simple to regulate head. Frankly, you should utilize any tripod that’s regular so long as you observe setting it up and taking it down beforehand.

Lightning Set off

Hahnel Captur Pro Module


On the very least, you need to have a UV filter connected to the entrance of your lens merely to guard it. Taking pictures outdoor with out a protecting filter is like working round bare. Since that’s not a fairly sight, I all the time purchase a UV filter with each lens buy.

Take into account including a impartial density filter to your package for publicity management in addition to a round polarizer and grey graduated filter to deliver down these overly vivid skies. I particularly like Formatt-Hitech filters. They’re properly made, arrive clear, and are hand signed by their QC technician.


All the time get further batteries. My expertise is the digicam model batteries are the most effective.


At this level, I’m assuming you ARE going to get a protecting filter for all of your lenses. Good. When you’re taking pictures harsh climate, you’ll discover your gear getting fairly soiled, largely with mud.

Do NOT use canned air to scrub your filters, lenses, viewfinder or LCD display. That’s as a result of that stuff shoots an oily substance. As a substitute, use a bulb blower just like the superb Giottos Rocket Blaster to take away mud after which a really clear material like a Zeiss Microfiber Cleaning Cloth. Examine rigorously earlier than utilizing a material to make it possible for all grains of mud are gone to keep away from scratching these treasured surfaces.

We spend numerous time cleansing gear after a storm shoot. It’s a ritual.


The Tenba Messenger. I exploit the small, olive inexperienced mannequin. It’s powerful and properly thought out.

Being Protected

Earlier than you strive your hand at storm pictures, I have to make a press release about security. I don’t encourage anybody to movie something that’s probably harmful. I’m not telling you to go shoot storms. I’m detailing photographic ideas as they relate to storm pictures. You possibly can apply my ideas to different topics akin to astrophotography which is far safer.

Please perceive that storm pictures requires not solely information of photographic approach, however extra importantly, an intensive understanding of extreme climate, the way it evolves and keep protected. I wrote a ebook about extreme climate security titled “The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide.” Studying the ebook will assist, but it surely takes way more than a ebook to actively pursue storms in a protected method. You possibly can see folks on YouTube doing it and assume it’s protected to only soar in your automotive and try to “chase” a storm. It isn’t.

My suggestion is you go along with an skilled if you wish to {photograph} storms. Take time to pick a real skilled as a result of some who name themselves “consultants” are the identical folks on YouTube who’re driving into tornadoes and huge, harmful hail whereas yelling and laughing. Would you get on an airplane with a pilot who exhibited these traits? I didn’t assume so.

Lastly, whether or not you go exterior to shoot storm images, or keep safely inside, you need to be climate conscious when storms are close by. Get a NOAA Weather Alert Radio or a great climate alert app for your sensible cellphone. Should you reside in an space the place tornadoes are frequent, think about buying a manufactured EF5-rated storm shelter or construct your individual utilizing free FEMA shelter design plans.


Storm pictures could be enjoyable. Simply do it safely with consultants, use the correct instruments, and observe.

Concerning the creator: Martin Lisius is an award-winning Texas-based photographer and cinematographer. His work could be seen in characteristic movies, TV commercials and in documentaries such because the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Reality.” He licenses his work via his StormStock assortment, and affords storm chasing expeditions to photographers via Tempest Tours, which he based in 2000. He just lately created a high-quality artwork retail print assortment specializing in storms referred to as StormShots. You possibly can observe him on Facebook. This put up was additionally revealed here.

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