Tornado watches, tornado warnings and oops my camera is set wrong :(

We had a terrific storm blow through our part of the world yesterday evening.

By 5:00 p.m. Environment Canada was issuing tornado watches and then a while later, tornado warnings. I wasted no time in grabbing my gear and heading out of town to see if I could get on the outside of the approaching storm and get a few interesting shots. I had driven about twenty minutes until I was on higher terrain overlooking the city. As I listened to the radio and watched the occasional lightning strike in the distance, I decided to try and capture one of the strikes so I set the camera on the tripod, changed my usual camera settings to what I thought would be good for lightning and waited.

Nothing happened but the storm was getting closer and moving westward, away from where I was. I hopped in the Rav and went down the road until I saw an interesting formation. The clouds were moving quickly so I snapped a few frames and headed westerly. That is where I saw what looked like the bow of a boat cutting through the sky. It was incredible with different layers going higher and higher. As I snapped the wind increased and the occasional drop of rain hit me. I continued following and shooting what looked like a supercell really happy with what I was seeing.

The storm was now leaving me behind and I got back into the Rav and drove northwest. It seemed to be going faster than I was as I could start to see clearing skies behind it. Stop again and more shooting. Then it happened. I looked at my camera settings and realized that instead of shooting my bracketed exposures, my camera was set for a single exposure. Arrrrgh!

I changed the camera back to how I normally shoot and realized that I now had four duplicates of the exact same shot since I had tried the lightning shots. How would they turn out I wondered as I continued to follow the clouds until the sun had almost set?

I got home and looked at the early frames. There were some tremendous looking clouds but the ground beneath was black or severely underexposed. I tried processing them and none of them looked good. Sheesh! It goes that way sometimes. I haven’t had that happen to me in a very long time.

The shot at the top is a bracketed photograph. None of the individual frames had all of the information that I wanted. The difference from highlight to shadow is in the extreme. The lighting that you see is natural. There is no burning or dodging to lighten or darken the sky. That’s pretty much how it appeared to me as I stood at the side of the road.

I’ll spend some time later this week trying to see what I can salvage from the early shots but I’m not hopeful that any of them will ever see the light of day.

Some days things just don’t work out the way you’d like them to.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on July 24, 2012.

9 Responses to “Tornado watches, tornado warnings and oops my camera is set wrong :(”

  1. Oh Dan, I’ve got a thousand stories of the one that got away… :-)

  2. So, in a circumstance such as this, I am assuming that the best efforts to dodge, burn, and process in LR still would not compare to the bracketed exposures? LR4 has some mighty good recovery tools, but perhaps not for extremes…

  3. @ Rick, in some ways it is like fishing and I used to fish a lot when I was younger. Too much in fact. Having the big one get away was always incentive to return to my favorite spot on the creek. Same thing for photography I guess.


  4. @1107, I use a very good RAW converter to bring in my photos. My first attempts with last nights shots weren’t encouraging. I might be able to burn and dodge to get something similar but upon closer inspection, it still does not look as good. Maybe I’ll try and make black and whites from them. Part of the problem with storms like this is that there is an extreme range from the horizon which is often clear to the darkest parts of the clouds and foreground. Even bracketing sometimes doesn’t get both ends. I’ll try later this week when I’ve distanced myself a bit from shooting them.

  5. Sorry to laugh (-: but I’ve done the same thing at times! Either I forget to reset the ISO or turn of the bracketing exposure. Almost all of the time I realize what is happening & and reset everything.

    Hey, I feel your frustration!

  6. @ Rick, no need to feel sorry about laughing. I think that it’s pretty funny now too. That’s how it goes. More great weather this evening is forecast. :)

  7. Sorry, Dan, but I’m a bit confused. When I set up my camera to take a series of exposures it will shoot those frames as fast the camera can as long as I keep my shutter pressed. When it reaches the number of frames it will stop shooting. So if I set it for one stop exposure and 5 images, it will shoot all 5 then stop. I can also select the sequence. My preference is to have the first frame at metered then the next frames the bracketed.

    I have done the opposite and forgot to set it back to single frame and lost of few images because of that. I like this image as it does look natural and what we usually see. So, you’re a storm chaser also?

  8. @ Monte, I have my camera set up so that I can continually expose images. The camera doesn’t stop after the brackets unless I stop pressing the shutter.

    I press the shutter for each exposure. I don’t always want them to go one right after another. Sometimes there will be a gust of wind that I don’t want captured so I wait until things have settled before the next exposure. Other times, it’s bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.

    I’m not a storm chaser in the serious sense. If I see clouds that interest me, I might follow them.


  9. That was funny, but you are not alone. I am beginner, and do it very often. As usual, beautiful capture.

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