Australian Weather Calendar
December: 'Fifty per cent preparation, fifty per cent luck'
Victorian amateur photographer James Collier was prepared when a 'whopping big thunderstorm cell' developed suddenly over Avalon Airport near Port Phillip Bay on 14 March 2012. It tracked over Corio Bay not far from his home in the bayside city of Geelong.
James, long interested in star trails and other night photography, had recently set his mind on shooting some time-lapse lightning photography. He'd missed one opportunity that evening—the action was too far away—but the Avalon storm which appeared on the Bureau of Meteorology radar sent him driving to the waterfront. He missed one powerful bolt while setting up to shoot from the relative protection of the open rear of his station wagon. With cable release now ready, he thought he'd missed his chance. 'It was calm, almost surreal ... I was clicking off 10-second time exposures when all of a sudden it let go. I really jumped and nearly fell out the back of the wagon. I wasn't sure I had pressed the button and had several seconds of anxiety before I confirmed that I had it.'
His dramatic shot was used by TV and print media, and widely shared on Facebook. James, a purchasing officer at a Geelong hospital, has been hooked on photography since his parents put a camera in his hands when he was eight. 'It's 50 per cent preparation, 50 per cent luck,' he says
The isolated, intense thunderstorm cell caused an abrupt increase in wind, with gusts jumping from around 30 km/h before and after the storm to 117 km/h as the storm passed nearby. Strong wind gusts such as these are one feature of severe thunderstorms.