Storm Chaser - Highlife Magazine-8Café owner by day, storm chaser whenever, Warwick’s Chris McFerran has received weather photography’s highest accolade in Australia – to have an image included in this year’s Bureau of Meteorology calendar.

The Bureau of Meteorology Calendar’s month of February has Chris McFerran’s ‘Van Gough’ photograph capturing a super cell forming over Boonah in December 2014. Aptly named, the photo is reminiscent of an impressionist painting with boiling storm clouds menacing a peaceful rural landscape.

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Chris became hooked on weather photography 14 years ago, when thanks to digital technology, he could shoot then instantly review lightning strikes on a Panasonic DMC-FZ3 which he still has and loves. Ten years ago he caught the storm-chasing bug, driving far and wide for the perfect shot, no matter what the time of day or the conditions. “I love the thrill of it – keeping ahead of a storm, and when the chase is on, it’s on. Usually, the storm is chasing me! It’s important to keep well ahead of it in order to photograph the structure, shelf features and gust fronts associated with severe storms,” he says.

When the rest of us run for cover at the rumble of thunder, worried about hail damage to our cars or wet laundry, Chris heads out, equipped with a very sturdy Manfrotto tripod and a Kestrel 3000 pocket weather station for temperature readings, humidity, dew point and wind speed measurements. With an EOS App on his iPhone, Chris can remain in the safety of his car, driving the camera’s shutter using WiFi.

The last decade of hard work, early mornings (some of the best shots are taken just before dawn) and extreme patience has paid off with an image in the BOM calendar and one also featured in The Weekend Australian Magazine. “Originally storm chasing for me was to witness and photograph Mother Nature at her finest, her most dangerous and also her most destructive.”

And the area around the Southern Downs and Granite Belt does not disappoint, as it is a brewing ground for storms. The resulting images are surreal, with intense colours and amazing light. Chris currently uses a Canon 6D camera to catch nature’s ephemeral moodiness. “The high ISO capabilities mean that in very low light I can boost the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to capture storms after dark.”

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Chris was delighted when approached by the BOM to submit for the 2015 calendar. “I felt honoured and a great sense of achievement. Over 60,000 copies are sold each year and I have already been invited to submit images for 2016.”

And when not behind the lens or the wheel, Chris can be found at Christo’s Coffee Shop in the Warwick Hospital. He credits his staff for being able to successfully juggle his business with his passion – they hold the fort during storm season.

Chris’s latest images can be viewed on his Facebook page, SE Queensland Weather Photography, Flickr and at Higgins Storm Chasing which provides storm warning and observation services.

Words Janet Kieseker Images by Chris McFerran