This image was taken in 2010 on the 10th of October between 19:57 and 20:07 PM. A mere 10 minutes. So it’s a bit of a 10/10/10/10 situation. This was a very fast moving storm which first hit from the North West Province in South Africa and was so intense I could not photograph it as it started raining very hard and very quickly. Once it has just passed over my farm house I dashed with my cameras into the car to chase the storm front from behind and managed to find a spot to capture 33 frames in total before it started fizzling out in the distance. I only realised while editing this image 6 years later, the 10/10/10 part. The images were taken just outside the scenic little town of Magaliesburg in the North West region of South Africa. Magaliesburg sits in a bit of a grey area, half of it is situated in Gauteng and the other half falls under the North-West region of South Africa.
The technique I use here is called image blending or composite blending. It’s a Photoshop technique of stacking several images together and merging them into one final image. I started out with all 33 images which each get processed and colour corrected so that they match each other as closely as possible in exposure and colour. These individual 33 images are then imported into Photoshop and then starts a lengthy process of selecting the final images that will be used. I ended up only using 11 in this final picture. There is numerous reasons for this. Simply stacking all 33 images together more often than not looks utterly horrible and very untrue to the scene and creates a very messy looking image. In some of the images there might have been a very close strike or an overhead strike which will lose a lot of detail in the sky and with other images there may be strikes falling in the same part of the frame as another which end up obscuring each other. So it’s a matter of carefully selecting the frames to be used. Thereafter the image is blended using layer masks which help to “mask” (just like masking tape) off areas of the images that are interfering with each other. Most of this masking is in the sky part of the image. I’ve been working on this image over a few days. I would work on it for a few hours, end up not happy with the results and then a day or two later I would start it all over again from scratch.
Today on my 3rd attempt at this composite I was finally happy with it. My goal was to capture one of these extremely fast moving storms and show their utter prowess. Doing it in one frame is often impossible. You next question is probably going to be … Why did it take me 6 years to finally process it? Well, I have so many images and just never enough time to ever process them and this is especially true with my lighting images. This set of images I actually almost forgot about until I was sorting my catalogs a few weeks back and thought to myself now I must finally get this one done. I was very excited with the final image, especially after having given this blending job several attempts already and ditching each attempt after spending several hours of working on them. Finally today it all fell together perfectly.
Photographer: Andy Jones
Location: Magaliesburg, South Africa
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