Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Pilot

The Pilot
The Pilot

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Prairie Storm

It always amazes me how photography is so sensitive to time…a matter of a few minutes and in some cases a few seconds can make the difference between getting the shot or missing it. That’s what happened to me one morning. I left Tulsa at 4:45 am so I could be on location at the Tallgrass Prairie by sunup. The sky was broken and as I got closer to the preserve it started to look like it was going to be a spectacular morning. It was…unfortunately I was about 15 minutes too late to capture the best of it…at least at the location I wanted to capture it. I did manage to snap a couple quick shots before I lost the moment…but I had to rush and shoot by hand…not sure what the images will look like.

When I finally arrived at my favorite morning location, the best of the morning show was beginning to wind down…I did get a few shots…but bit my lip all morning knowing that if I had only left a few minutes earlier I would have caught one of those perfect lavender mornings on the prairie.

Within minutes after I arrived…it clouded over. Within an hour it began to rain…a few minutes later a classic prairie storm blew in…thunder, lightning, and torential rains…it was fun to experience. The once bright morning sky grew almost black within seconds…just before the main rain event erupted…Man what a treat!

Prairie storms in Oklahoma are an amazing event to experience...especially when you are caught out in it. On a previous trip up there I managed to arrive just as one storm was finishing. During the drive up there the pre-dawn light was lit up by dozens of lightning bolts exploding all around me. Right at first light most of the storm had passed on to the east so I hiked a few hundred yards to the top of rise so I could feel the wind and experience the remnants of it in person. It was amazing...it was also rather foolish. As I stood on top of that rise...exposed as I was...I realized I was the tallest object inside of 500 yards in either direction. Lightning was still flashing off in the distance, so I wasn't too concerned...until one bolt ripped the sky apart just a few hundred yards away. I jumped about six feet when the boom hit me. A short time later I retreated to the safety of my vehicle.

On another trip, I followed a particularly severe storm up there and arrived well before daylight.  By the time I arrived the rain had moved on to the east, but the wind was gusting upwards to about 40 mph.  Again, lightning was exploding all around.  I sat my camera on a tripod and positioned it on the lee side of my Jeep to block some of the wind.  Attached a wide angle lens and set the shutter release to Bulb which when used with a cable release, allows the shutter to remain open until you let go of the release button...then pointed it toward the most lightning activity.  Took several tries but managed to get one good shot of a flash across the prairie landscape.

Storms on the prairie are one of natures most exciting events to experience and can provide some of the most unique photo opportunities...but they can be dangerous and caution is the better part of valor in most cases.

Got any storm stories...loved to hear about them.

Keith Bridgman

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