By Cat Lever
On any normal day, young father Jase Hickson can be found working as a journalist in sports media. But when the weather turns wild, he’s out the door in a flash.
“When a storm starts rolling in, most people head indoors,” Jase says.
“But there are many South Australian photographers who do the opposite and head straight to a vantage point”.
Meet SA’s camera wielding storm chasers, who say no amount of preparation can prepare you for sky-splitting lightning and the rumble and tumble of thunder.
As for getting the shot? Well that’s up to Mother Nature herself, as well as a bit of luck and a lot of bravery!
“I had been running around in the storm for a few hours trying to get a good shot with little success”, says Nick. “I eventually got this one in the early hours of the morning. It was December, so it was a warm enough evening, however, this storm came with a lot of rain, and I was soaked while sheltering under a tree by the end.
“Chasing a storm is exhilarating, frustrating, tough and rewarding all at the same time. Many times I’ve ventured out late on a cold winter’s night in chase of a great lightning shot and came home with nothing but soaked clothes and frustration. There are so many elements that you have to get right to get a great lightning shot, so when they all come together and you get that shot, there’s nothing quite like it!”
Jason remembers: “I was sitting inside and a mate came in and said ‘look at this cloud formation!’ We watched the sky as it was darkening, then suddenly the lightning just went off! I’m usually already watching the weather for lightning strikes, but I’ve been caught out before as the lightning flashes through the window.
“It’s awesome seeing the sky go off and would be nice sometimes to put the camera down and just enjoy it, but that never happens – it’s all through the lens! When you have thunder rumble so close that you tremble from how loud it is, you just feel lucky to have not been struck by the lightning! While I love the storm chase, after 12 or so hours out in the cold with my camera I’d rather hear the wind and the rain from my cosy bed.”
“I had chosen this spot to shoot a lightning storm months earlier and I had just been waiting for the storm,” Benjamin says. “A big one was forecast on this particular night and I immediately went to this spot and set up. The weather was very hot and sticky, but being out there is worth it – there is such a combination of excitement, fear and awe in chasing and capturing one of nature’s most powerful shows.”
Location: Port Vincent on the Yorke Peninsula
Camera: iPhone 7
Kristy remembers: “We were in a unique position sitting on the verandah, with the storm rolling in on the other side of the peninsula. We could see the lightning but we were quite protected and out of the rain, so luckily we were able to just watch. I love a storm, and lightning is brilliant – the electricity in the air just makes it all the more exciting. I only wished I had a better camera – we were just trying to get some photos of the amazing sunset and we got lucky!”
Location: Port Neill on the Eyre Peninsula
Camera: Canon 6D DSLR camera
What’s it like to chase a storm? “It is a rush!” says Luke. “You definitely know you’re alive when you are out chasing a storm. I had chased this particular one all the way from the outskirts of Port Lincoln up to Port Neill, approximately 80km away. It was a fairly large storm front that was sweeping across the lower Eyre Peninsula, and there was a lot of lightning but also torrential rain, which was making it hard to get the shot.”
Location: Near Penneshaw, on Kangaroo Island
Camera: Canon 80D, Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 lens
“Thunderstorms on Kangaroo Island are not that common so when they happen you have to move quickly,” says Greg. “It really gets my pulse going seeing the power of nature, and I love the thrill of the chase! I enjoy long exposure photography so I was semi-prepared for this shot. I took it on my wife’s family property, which has been farmed by the Bates family for six generations. Thankfully, the weather was fine and there was very little rain.”
Location: Glenelg North
Camera: Canon 5D Mark ii, 24-70mm 2.8 lens
“Living on the esplanade at Glenelg North, I was lucky enough to spot the storm rolling in across the gulf as I arrived home on this night,” says Dan. “So all I had to do was walk across the road and down to the beach. The success of the shot was largely accidental as I hadn’t attempted any lightning shots previously, so I think I got lucky.
“The weather wasn’t too bad … the storm was in the distance for the most part but i definitely started to get nervous as it drew closer and I became aware that I was standing out in the open next to a metal tripod!
“It’s exciting waiting for the next strike, not knowing what the shot will look like and hoping to capture that moment knowing the storm will quickly pass.”
Location: Huntfield Heights
Camera: Nikon D500, Sigma ART series 18-35mm F1.8 lens
“It was a humid night, and I could feel the air changing as well as the clouds appearing from nowhere. I had little warning, but I am always up for getting some spectacular lightning if possible. I took these just out the front of my house and while I was prepared to take shots, I was not prepared for the shots I was taking. The storm produced these rare stellar forks of lightning which touched the water and surrounding areas.
“I get giddy like a kid when I’m out chasing a storm. It’s a surreal feeling of excitement and a little bit of fear. I tend to shake when I see lightning appear in the distance, especially if it’s not raining. It’s something I always look out for and I’m always excited to see it.”
Shav Bird also snapped the header image.
Location: Glenelg Beach
Camera: Panasonic Lumix
Jase Hickson is lucky enough to live right in the heart of Adelaide’s most famous seaside suburb. “It was a hot and humid summer’s night, and I could hear and see the storm coming,” he says. “I took the shot right on Glenelg Beach, you can see the shipping poles and Temptation yacht just 500m from the shore!
“At the time I didn’t have a DSLR so this was with a little Panasonic Lumix – not really designed for that sort of thing. It was a very fortuitous shot trying to anticipate lighting!
“I love the outdoors and that includes wild weather. I’m always the one standing on the end of the jetty when it’s being bashed by waves, and with this storm I could see it coming, hoping it would get close. That strike was like someone turned the lights on! It was only a few hundred metres from the shore and after I got it decided that was close enough.”
Camera: Canon 5DMK3, Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens
“I’ve tried many times in the past to catch lightning but with no luck at all,” says Steven. “So it was certainly a pleasant surprise to not go home empty handed – getting a good lightning photo takes a little bit of luck, especially when it’s as windy as it was on the jetty”.
If you are interested in purchasing prints from any of these amazing photographers, you can hit them up on their social channels. If you’re a storm chaser in SA and you’ve captured some brilliant shots, let us know!
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