Folks in Christchurch, New Zealand, must still be talking about this week’s spectacular electrical storm, described by one meteorologist as a once-in-10-years event, producing severe hailstorms and hundreds of lightning strikes that set the twilight aglow. It was a dream night for weather photographers and Aaron Campbell made the most of the event, capturing a series of stunning images that look almost unreal. Campbell, who is new at storm chasing and whose Facebook page has been blowing up as a result of the images, allowed four of his shots to be used in this post.
With the storm approaching he pondered whether to grab his camera and head out because he did not realize how severe of a disturbance it was becoming. But when his wife, Kazumi, pointed out “the deepest black cloud color I have ever seen over the southern suburbs,” Campbell was out the door.
Listening to radio reports, he knew the storm was headed his way.
“I heard a radio station in Addington describing a massive and deafening hail storm they were experiencing on their studio roof,” Campbell said. “With three kilometers between us and the storm coming my way, I just pulled the car over, fumbled for my tripod, and set up on the street between two large infrastructure repair sites … neither of which I wanted in frame.
“Another resident walking his dog was taking images on a camera phone on the other side of the road; we both described our impressions of what we were seeing and he soon came and joined me.”
The storm was violent. Hail struck buildings with such force that it sounded like gunfire, and ripped holes in rooftops. “I’ve never seen a hail storm like this before. I didn’t realize how much damage it could do,” resident David Clarkson told Stuff.com. “Our cars were in the garage so they’re OK, but I imagine a few people will have some dents and paint chips this morning.”
Campbell used a Nikon D800 with the 14-24mm Nikkor lens. The two top images were run through a High Dynamic Range (HDR) program that brings out more vivid and dynamic colors. Campbell achieved the star-like effect with the street lights because of multiple blades on the internal aperture ring.
“The sunset and dark clouds created a wide lighting contrast and the job of capturing an image was challenging,” he said. “The lightning strikes were intense but brief. The bolts spilled light all over the surrounding clouds, but where I was, most [strikes] didn’t seem to contact the ground, and whether I was preoccupied or not, I wasn’t shocked with a thunderous roar each time a strike occurred.
“I clicked away repeatedly, pausing to review an occasional image, change a setting or two in the camera and keep on clicking … review, change… After 15 minutes the storm was over us to the east and west, but only a few drops of rain fell during that time. My lens was dry. Yay!”
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