outback storm

 It was the start of January 2007,  the weather charts and model prognosis had a possible cut off low forming in the Vic/SA Mallee region and it potentially meandering up through the NSW and Qld outbacks. So I set off on a 1-2wk stormchasing trip through the regions. The first night saw late storms develop in a line with a spectacular lightning show in the Riverina, just over the Vic-NSW border. The following day I positioned myself quite well for an exciting day’s chasing further north in the lower western district with a massive line of storms developing over the incredibly dry plains of the Ivanhoe-Hillston ditrict of NSW. The raised dust and ensuing squall line complete with gustnadoes passing overhead as I outrun this wall of menace on a 80km dry weather only ‘road’ west of Hillston – how much more fun can it be ?

 The following day saw me kind of stuff my days chasing up by a bad road choice and staying too far south. This particular day saw falls of the 150mm range fall just south of Bourke in the upper western district of NSW. The following morning I was determined to get back on the pace and get my forecasts right again which meant pushing a long way north. This meant a lot of km’s to get under the belt early in the NSW outback with all the roos out and about. With this period of several hundred km’s of featureless outback driving negotiated I got into Cobar early and refueled and re-stocked on food. This left the 200km scrubby and ‘viewless’ drive to Bourke. Just south of Bourle there was some impressive flooding crossing the Hwy in several place with that spectacular red tinge of the outback soil. A number of drivers were too unsure to push through them but it all looked pretty simple to me – so onwards I pushed.

 Bourke is not a place that I ever really want to stick around for longer than refueling and that’s all it was. Around midday I was approaching the NSW-Qld western border – with little communications or data available I knew that I was on track and was now on the north side of the low and I could see some signs of convection to my NW.

 Finally at Cunnamulla there was a road option to the west which I readily took towards a developing line of juicy storms and the odd supercell… A very organised storm just to the south of this road had me doing another no no – chasing down a dirt road in the outback, not a suggested practise as they turn to slippery slop at the hint of rain ! From a position on this road I watched and photographed a sepctacular storm leaving it to the last seconds to retreat… So once again I raced the rain back north up a dirt road. I knew I could leave it late due to the storms pushing eastwards but slightly ladding west further north. Back to the bitumen just in time as the next storm in the line hit and it took some more serious driving to get back in front of this one as 50km’s later I was still under the core in Cunnamulla again – dumping 3cm hail and lashing winds with spectacular CG lightning all around I finally got a bit of ground on the storm and a clearing some 30km’s east of Cunnamulla.

 Paused on an outback plain of red dirt the now outflow dominant storm had a spectacular gustfront and booming pink hued CG lightning spectacularily crashing all around – what a sight !

  So with ‘GUNSHOT’ CG lightning crashing only several hundred meters away with too much regularity for comfort. I snapped this beautiful scene of a CG strike blasting it’s way through the gustfront on it’s express journey to the red outback soil on a 35mm rotating drum lens camera with a 1:2.5 ratio on a 1 second exposure – GOLD !  If anyone has ever seen or used these type of cameras you will know there is usually no lightmeter and only a handfull of shutter speedsand apertures to choose your exposure from. With punishing lightning smacking down all around there is very little time to get your image ‘right’ when on chases such as this.

The next day I had to push north again and found myself experiencing some more nice storms in the Tambo-Blackall region of outback Qld. I had then wanted to explore the Mount Moffatt area of the western central highlands of Qld but all these storms flooded the roads and there was no access this trip…I could not complain though with 5days of spectacular storms.

 I’m at home tonight looking through some older images and I came across some work from this particular trip and thought that I would share this one even though it is an older low res scan from a  few years ago.Perhaps I should dig up some more photos from this trip and other stormchasing adventures…  Geeze it would be nice to see some decent convective storms again !

outback storm II

‘ outback storm – velvia 100 ’ 


~ by Tony Middleton on August 2, 2009.

24 Responses to “outback storm”

  1. Wow Tony his is a stunning image and one you should be very proud of. I can only hope I get to see and capture something just as spectacular as this storm. Great shot.:)

  2. awesome Tony.
    never seen a storm front such as this- looks like an amazing sight to see!

    how do you know so much about the weather?? are you involved in the meteorology industry or is it simply a hobby?? i’ve been fascinated in weather for a few years now but still wouldn’t have a clue about reading charts enough to predict anything like this!
    basic basic guessing is just about all i’m good at 🙂

    i’ve never heard of one of these camera’s you used but sounds like it makes this an even more special “capture” of the lightning in action

    • hey Stephen,
      I’ve always loved natural phenonems etc and the internet gave me a ticket to learn more about them I guess… I think almost everyone stops to look at a thunderstorm or lightning show…so I wanted to learn how to put myself in a situation to be able to experience the power of nature more often.

      Well this is a latish afternoon shot….so imagine the cahnces of scoring a bolt like that in a 1second exposure when you are not shooting frame after frame as one might do with digital.


  3. What an incredible storm image and story Tony! Loved it, and the photo is a piece of art, stunning. If I ever get half as good a storm capture I will by happy.

    Like Stephen, I am curious, have you worked professionally or just have a keen interest in the weather?

    • hey Flem,
      Glad you love it this one – outback plus some more…hehee
      I guess I have been chasing storms for 10yrs or so now – though have not done a ‘proper’ chase such as this one for a couple of years. A ‘proper’ chase is one where you do forecasts etc and head off for a few days as opposed to local/semi local reactively chasing storms outside normal life routines… If that makes any sense ?


  4. Hi Tony,

    A fantastic story as the others have said and yes, an amazing story.

    Jamie Paterson

    • Hi Jamie,

      Thanks for the link on your blog and I’m stoked that you like this one so much !


  5. Great story to go with the image mate, what a great capture of an awesome storm.

    • hey Tom,
      thanks mate…this one was a lot more typing than my usual posts and I had to search back to find some of my old chasing notes a little to put the post together.


  6. Mate, this is awesome. Fantastic read of your adventure but the image is something else. You must have sold this image many times over?

    • Hey Andrew,
      This is just one of numerous adventures and chases I should dig up some more perhaps…
      No sales from this image to date I don’t think…hopefully that can change !


  7. mate this is unreal!!! very very very nice work!!!!

  8. Looking at this again, it is incredible, truly spectacular capture. I have seen lesser work than this at a stellar price in galleries in limited editions like 50 prints or something. This really is a one in a million shot!

    • Cheers again Flem – It’s great coming from someone that understands the complexities involved.
      It is frightening what crap some people sell and for what price…I guess the buyers are the real wonder though…

  9. why don’t you submit this to the B.O.M? I think that they do a weather calender every year. Should generate some exposure for you……..that would be one of the best storm shots going around.

    • Yeah the BoM do a calender each year – sometimes with slightly different themes…I’ll have to re-read their terms and rights etc. and how that may effect my future use with this and other images I have.

      thanks Andrew !

  10. wow! What can I say, but… impressive image! Sounds like it was action packed road trip. The storm chaser!

    • hi Luke,Storm chasing can be brilliant or a bust…this one paid off daily, but was a lot of hard work and km’s – all good fun though !

  11. tony, this photograph is superb!! i’ve never been storm chasing, it looks like fun
    looks like winter might have finished up here in melbourne(?) maybe next winter i’ll go storm chasing 🙂

    p.s thanks for your comment, i replied via email 🙂

    • hi Chloe,
      Yeah it can be fun when it all comes off ! I still think winter has a numbers of stings in it’s tail yet… Spring or summer are the best times to see some good storms – best of luck 🙂

      thanks for the comment and email too.

  12. really impressive Tony, esp at 1 second. it provides me with a measure of what effort is required to capture something like this – knowledge of weather patterns, a decent vehicle, balls to setup exposed, an understanding of the distances involved. just one question, does the barrel distortion (if that’s what it’s called on these rotating cameras) bother you or are you happy to publish as shot?

    • hi Cain,
      yeah on longer pro-active chases like this there is plenty involved ! there are also certain risks and risk management you need to asess and take into account.
      The cameras don’t have lens barrel distortion as such (mine has a 50mm lens) it’s more so if you don’t have te horizon level and centre then as the lens rotates the horizon can dip or bulge as the lens rotates on a straight plane within the camera…I hope that helps?
      I’m more than happy with it – this actual scene was slightly undulating country to begin with and when you consider the amount of post processing manipulation about these days I have no problem with this type of work being published – in fact many guys deliberately use these cameras to get the bulged or dipped horizon effect (ie Ken Duncan etc). It’s shot on velvia 100 with an original frame size of 24mm x 56mm so a decent high res scan of it would be more than adequate.

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