There is no denying that Australian thunderstorms are a sight to behold. Even those that have lived in Australia their whole lives will run to grab a camera to get a picture of a thunderstorm rolling in, or a massive shelf cloud on the horizon. While they’re all spectacular in their own way, this storm happened to drop baseball sized hail. Somehow, we came away unscathed.
Baseball sized hail
I apologise for the American reference (10 years on and I still can’t shake it). On two occasions since moving here a decade ago, thunderstorms have been violent enough to drop baseball sized hail, damanging houses, cars, and the heads of those unfortunate enough to be caught out in the open. Hailstorms like these cause millions of dollars in damage, and have even initiated changes in government regulations around how cars and houses are insured for such events.
When to catch Australian Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms in Australia are most common during the summer months which, for you Northern Hemisphere folk, is from around December through to February or March. In Sydney, you’ll find that the storms tend to originate over the Blue Mountains. Over the course of the afternoon, they will move towards the coast and the city center. The Hunter Valley is also prone to severe storms, as the landscape lends itself to the formation of towering thunderheads. Quintisentially Australian when paired with a glass of Semillon and Kangaroos grazing nearby.
Out on the patio we’d sit,
And the humidity we’d breathe,
We’d watch the lightning crack over canefields
Laugh and think, this is Australia.
What lens to use?
Dark, foreboding, and dangerous. Thunderstorms can quickly build into a storm that you do not want to be caught out in the open during. If you’re storm chasing, be aware of your surroundings and exit strategy. When watching from the safety of shelter, remember to unplug electrical devices and remain away from windows if the storm turns violent.
If you’ve taken the necessary precautions, snap away! A wide angle lens is your best bet. I prefer my 14-40 f/4 lens on a full frame camera. A lens with this focal length will best capture the towering clouds and surrounding landscape, allowing you to add the drama and effect that these storms have. Don’t forget to check the weatherproofing of your lens and camera body. You don’t want to get caught out in the rain and have your equipment damaged. Consider using a weatherproof casing over your camera equipment.