March 26, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 54°F


A response to National Geographic’s piece on storm chaser Tim Samaras

In the August issue of National Geographic, an article was featured by photojournalist Carsten Peter and Journalist George Johnson, who followed a dedicated lightning chaser, Tim Samaras. Samaras is on a mission to go beyond the standard lightning photo. He’s attempting to photograph the perfect moment; capture lightning when it first comes from the sky.

What makes this technologically possible is the “Phantom” camera from the Cold War. This camera is able to take an impressive 10,000 frames per second. However, the main struggle for Samaras is the speed with which he can capture and process the image. He has to start before the lightning strike and then wait a long 20 minutes for one image to upload, clearly a tedious process. Although this wouldn’t quite work for sports photography, this amazing technology creates beautiful lightning images.

Instead of summarizing more of the technical information, you can access the article on National Geographic’s website. What I find interesting is his determination. As of today, the best storm season is coming to an end, and while he can’t be shooting, he’s working on improving his camera to reach his goal. Whether Samaras is doing this for photography, science, or both, the same message can be interpreted. Photography and Science should be about pushing the boundaries and pushing yourself. Samaras is doing just that, and not only is he doing it but he’s not giving up, and hasn’t for six years.