Tracking Storms with the Fujifilm X Series

· 21.September.2018

It is early April and the Doppler radar images set up by the Indian Meteorological Department in Calcutta India are already showing signs of cloud buildup in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, India. A plateau named Chotanagpur acts as a frying pan of very high temperatures. Throw in warm air coming from the Bay of Bengal and cold air from the mighty Himalayas in the north and what do you get? A peculiar pattern of localised storm cells called the norwester or “Kalboishakhi” in my native language. These are very powerful storms systems gusting at over 70-90 kilometres per hour. Packed with extreme lighting and rain they can create havoc over the areas they pass.

But why am I writing all of this? Because I love to photograph them.

My name is Debarshi Duttagupta. I am an official Fujifilm X-Photographer from Kolkata, India. Extreme weather excites me and that is what I love to photograph. When Tomash asked me to write about predicting weather and planning for a shoot I immediately said yes, so here it goes…

There was a question in the FujiLove Readers’ Group regarding weather prediction. I feel that it is one of the hardest things to do, as the weather itself is, well… unpredictable. However there are certain ways and methods which might help you in being at the right place at the right time. This will also be country specific as all countries across the world will not have the same level of weather prediction hardware.

To predict the weather (clouds, storm systems, fog, or the light) you will require good realtime reporting of weather data from your local weather centre websites. Keep in mind that not all countries report the weather in real time. This includes India where our main weather website is updated every 4-5 minutes. One of my favourite websites, which also has an app version, is www.ventusky.comIt helps you to understand the current weather positions including cloud placement and wind datas. Do fiddle around with the options of this service and you will find out how it works. The position of the clouds coupled with the position of the sun in different times of the year will affect the quality of light during sunset and sunrise. Sunrise will give you more of subtle colours while sunset is often more dramatic. The magic hour – as we, the landscape photographers call it – is truly dramatic in nature. To find out the location of the sun at a specific time use apps such as www.photoephemeris.com and www.photopills.com.  They will help you pinpoint the location of the sun and the moon, sunrise and sunset times, as well as the moonrise and moonset times of a particular location. Planning this is advance will help you to be at the right place at a time much before the sunset or sunrise so that you can scout for a good location before the magic begins.

As far as fog is concerned, I would suggest, if possible, that you visit the location for a couple of days to see it first hand and take notes as to when and how much fog is setting in. This is the best way to gauge the location and the pattern of the fog.

Shooting and tracking storms or cloud systems will again depend upon proper reporting by the local weather department. Follow their updates and drive safely to a location from where the storm is predicted to pass. Chances are there that the storm will change its path and move elsewhere. That is the thrill of storm chasing. But be careful. These are destructive forces of nature.

We (I am part of the Kolkata Cloud chasers – probably the only storm chasing team in India) always plan an exit route before we enter the core of the storm. Remember: it’s safety first, your photographs can wait. Please remember how precious you are to your friends and family. You have to both chase the system and also think about good compositions for the final images that you will be making. This is a very tough job, but once you get the frame you like, the satisfaction is just enormous. I wish the photographer with the query all the very best and I’m sure we would be seeing some stunning images in the coming days.

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