Photo Storm Chasing

by Christopher Cates, Mike’s Camera Sacramento

Over the past couple years I’ve become quite passionate about storm photography. Storms just make me tick. When I see the possibility of a great weather event my heart rate increases and the adrenaline starts pumping. Recently my wife, who’s also a photographer has gotten into it too, which is great family fun.

The excitement builds as I start the chase. My mind races with thoughts of what it will be like and hope builds that I get a great shot. It’s fun because I may get an amazing shot, and I may not. If not, no loss, the chase is always a blast and I know there will always be another storm.

I’ve put together a few of my favorite shots that I’m very excited to share with you – and hopefully you also share in my excitement, even if you just appreciate viewing them, and not chase them like my wife and I. Be sure to see my top ten list for freshmen photo storm chasers at the end of the post.


There’ nothing like a sunrise or sunset during or just after an epic storm. I hope you enjoy my photos and are inspired to go out and chase down an amazing storm photo of your own.

The first supercell I capturedLMy first supercell. Roseville, CA  May 5, 2014. Captured with my Canon 50D with a Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens, on a tripod with a wired trigger. ISO 100, f 18, 1/20th sec.

Supercell SunsetLSupercell Sunset. Roseville, CA  May 5, 2014. Captured with my Canon 50D with a Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens, on a tripod with a wired trigger. ISO 100, f 18, 1/20th sec.

Baby ThunderstormLBaby Thunderstorm. Sacramento, CA Sometime late summer 2015. Captured with the Sony A7 with the 28-70 kit lens.

tornado excitementLTornado excitement. Roseville, CA  March 26, 2014. Captured with my Canon 50D with the Tokina 11-16 2.8 lens, on a tripod with a wired trigger. ISO 100, f 16, 1/500th sec.

ladder to the heavensL

Ladder to the heavens. Sacramento, CA February 28, 2014. Captured with my Canon 50D with the Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens, on a tripod with a wired trigger. ISO 100, f 4, 1/1000th sec.

challenger storm2LChallenger Storm. Roseville, CA June 5, 2015. Captured with my trusty Canon 50D using that cool wide angle 11-16 2.8 lens.  It was super dark and my camera is terrible in low light, so I was forced to shoot at f 2.8, ISO 400, 1/100th sec.

The MothershipLThe Mothership. This was such an amazing night and it was extra cool that my wife was out there to enjoy and photograph it with me. This is known as a shelf cloud and it came down from the Sierra’s June 5th, 2015. I shot this with my trusty Canon 50D, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens, mounted to a tripod with a trigger. My settings were ISO 200 (because my camera is bad at higher ISO’s), f 2.8, 1/800th because it was moving quickly.

ElectrifyingL

Electrifying. This was from that amazing June 5th evening back in 2015. I must have shot about 30 consecutive frames and got 3 lighting shots. I developed this in Lightroom, pulling out all the color except for the purple and fushia of the lightning bolt. This photo was also a finalist out of 40,000 entries in the Weather Channel Photo Contest in 2015. I shot this with my Canon 50D, Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens, mounted to a tripod with a trigger. My settings were ISO 200 (because my camera is bad at higher ISO’s), f 2.8, 1/640th because it was moving quickly.


Top Ten List For Freshmen Photo Storm Chasers
  1. Download a radar app with mesocyclone warning. It will tell you where the exciting storms are and where they’re headed. Many are free and for a couple dollars a year you can add lightning notifications and expand features on many of the apps. I use Storm Alerts Lightning & Radar by Mark Eads on Android.
    Best Storm Chasing Apps for iOS
    Best Storm Chasing Apps for Android
  2. Full tank of gas
  3. Fully charged and extra batteries
  4. Extra memory
  5. Extra camera
  6. Tripod
  7. Trigger (manual cable-type preferred)
  8. Polarizing filter
  9. Rain Gear; personal and provisions to protect camera gear
  10. Patience

If you’re in Sacramento stop in and see Chris, he’d love to chat!

Chris is on Instagram: @capturesbycates

Check out his wife’s too @capturesbycatesphotography

You may also like