timelapse captures beauty and fury of supercell storms

timelapse captures beauty and fury of supercell storms

Storm-chasing photographer documents his ‘obsession’ in spectacular movie

It’s been a while since we featured a storm cell timelapse, but this spectacular three-minute movie storms, and adds: “The project started out as wanting to be able to see the life-cycles of these storms, just for my own enjoyment and to increase my understanding of them. Over time, it morphed into an obsession with wanting to document as many photogenic supercells as I could, in as high a resolution as possible, to be able to share with those who couldn’t see first-hand the majestic beauty that comes alive in the skies above America’s Great Plains every spring.”

Take The wide view

Want a quality landscape lens? We compare eight top wide-angle primes.

Like optical shoehorns, wide-angle lenses help you to squeeze more into the frame. When you’re outdoors, either – when you’re photographing interiors of buildings and have your back literally against the wall, a wide-angle lens enables you to pack everything in – including, if needed, the kitchen sink. For this group test we’re looking at two Nikon lenses and six Nikon-compatible optics from other manufacturers, and these non-Nikon lenses are also available for other makes of DSLR, so whichever brand you shoot with we’ve got a lens for you here.

Apart from specialist fisheye lenses that give a specific creative effect, there are very few wide-angle prime lenses available for Nikon’s DX-format

(cropped-sensor) cameras. It’s a great shame because, while ultra-wide zoom lenses provide versatility in terms of focal length, there’s a lot to be said for going for a prime lens. Image quality is often superior, and many photographers only tend to use ultra-wide zooms at or near their shortest focal length anyway.

A wide range

When it comes to FX (full-frame) Nikons, however, most manufacturers offer an extensive range of wide-angle primes in a variety of focal lengths (and it’s worth remembering that FX lenses can be used on DX cameras). Compared with standard zooms at their widest focal lengths, advantages of wide-angle primes can include reduced barrel distortion, better sharpness towards the edges of the frame, reduced colour fringing and less vignetting (darkened image corners).

What to look for…

1 Lens hood
The samyang 14mm and sigma 20mm lenses have built-in hoods and therefore no lter attachment thread. All other lenses are supplied with a bayonet- t, petal-shaped hood.

2 Filter threAd
All lenses on test have internal focusing, so the front element neither extends nor rotates, and all but two (the Samyang 14mm and the Sigma 20mm) have a lter attachment thread.

3 Auto/mAnuAl FocuS
the nikon and Sigma lenses on test have ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, which is fast and whisper-quiet, with full-time manual override. the irix, Samyang and Zeiss lenses are purely manual focus.

4 WeAther SeAlS
the Samyang and Sigma lenses have no weather seals, the nikon lenses have a rubber seal on the mounting plate, and the irix and Zeiss lenses have full weather seals.

5 FocuS ring
manual focusing is possible with all of the lenses on test. however, the rotational travel of purely manual focusing lenses is typically much greater, which enables more precise focusing.

6 Aperture rAting
Aperture ratings are usually quite ‘fast’ – between f/1.4 and f/1.8. the irix, Samyang 14mm and Zeiss lenses are a little slower, between f/2.4 and f/2.8.

It’s worth noting that with FX standard zooms (as opposed to primes) these problems tend to be at their most apparent at the shortest focal length, which in most FX standard zooms is 24mm. At 28mm or 35mm, the effects of distortion and vignetting are likely to be reduced, and corner sharpness improved. There’s therefore less of a need to swap to a 28mm or 35mm prime lens to optimise image quality. For this test, we’re therefore concentrating on lenses that have a focal length of 24mm or shorter. The aim is either improved image quality at 24mm, or a significantly wider viewing angle, or both.

There are of course some excellent ultra-wide zooms on the market which keep problems like distortion and vignetting to a minimum, but they tend to be bulky and expensive. A small, light and less expensive prime lens can therefore

be preferable when you want to go wide. Prime doesn’t always mean small, mind you: Sigma’s new 20mm Art lens tested here is a beast of a lens. The question, then, is if the bigger build pays dividends in terms of image quality.

Half the lenses on test only offer manual focus, but that’s not as much of a drawback as you might think. Wide-angle lenses deliver a big depth of field, so focusing accuracy generally isn’t critical. Depth of field markings are often included for use with the focus distance scale, enabling zone focusing and use of hyperfocal distances. This is often preferable for, say, street photography and landscapes, as it enables you to preset the focus distance so you can concentrate on shooting. And all the manual focus lenses on test will still trigger the focus confirmation lamps in your viewfinder.

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