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Safety Issues When Photographing Severe Weather


Sometimes, ok a lot of times, photographers tend to ignore personal safety to try and "get the shot." When it comes to taking pictures of storms, you cannot afford to ignore the safety issues. Severe weather such as hurricanes has produced many opportunities for dramatic photography over the years. However, there is also a high risk of damaging your camera and personal injury when photographing severe weather.

Personal Safety

Let me be very clear on this point. There is NO way to guarantee your safety if you venture into or near severe weather. There is also NO way to guarantee your safety when you venture into an area recently struck by severe weather. The professionals who do this type of photography on a regular basis often use reinforced vehicles and still get severely injured. If you insist on putting yourself in harm’s way there are some basic safety rules that always apply.
  • Protect your eyes! Safety goggles aren’t a guarantee of safety but they are a start.
  • Watch out for power lines - remember that after a storm power lines could be anywhere
  • Flying debris can happen in deceptively light winds
  • Hail is a danger – wear head protection
  • Lightning can strike approximately 10 miles from the parent storm and some strikes have been recorded as far as 50 miles away. That means it can strike you even if you haven’t heard thunder.
  • Standing water after a storm can hide disease, dangerous snags, and dangerous reptiles
  • Water over a road doesn’t have to be deep to sweep a car off the road or a person off their feet. Water over a road can also create dangerous washouts that can’t be seen until it is too late.

Camera Safety

Cameras are even more fragile than humans to the elements. To give a camera a chance at survival during a severe weather event you only have a few options.
  • Keep it inside. Don’t shoot in the weather itself. Shoot through a windshield or window.
  • Use an underwater housing. They are big and bulky but they are protective environments for your camera. They are meant to protect from water, not from impact but it is better than nothing when sand is blowing at 50 miles an hour.
  • Use a rain hood. Almost every camera store carries raid hoods for cameras. Be sure to find one with snug fittings to help protect against blowing rain.
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