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Context

I won't be doing it anytime soon but I might consider traveling to places during the rainy season to get pictures. What I'm afraid of is if it might develop into a thunderstorm or related.

Question

Is it safe to carry a metal tripod during the rain/thunderstorm or is it safer to just leave it and get to shelter ASAP? Assuming the tripod is struck, is it still usable?

  • A much more important question to answer is whether it's safe to carry your camera around during a rainstorm. They're much more expensive! ;) – HamishKL Mar 1 '16 at 10:09
  • I'm sure that's what the weather proofing and sealing is for. If tripods were weather sealed I'm have no problem with it. ;) – unsignedzero Mar 1 '16 at 21:07
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Is it safe to carry a metal tripod during the rain/thunderstorm

Having a collapsed tripod strapped to your bag is unlikely to be a problem. Holding an extended tripod over your head in the middle of an open field during a thunderstorm is definitely a bad idea. Then again, simply standing in an open field during a thunderstorm is also a bad idea. If there's lightning in the area, seek shelter immediately.

is it safer to just leave it and get to shelter ASAP?

It's safest to have enough situational awareness that you're not caught out in the open when lightning is a real danger. But things happen, and you should use your best judgement. If lightning is an immediate concern, run like crazy for the nearest building, car, etc., or make yourself very small. If that's the level of danger, I think my choice would be to leave the tripod, the camera, and anything else that might slow me down. But again, try not to let it come to that.

Assuming the tripod is struck, is it still usable?

Probably not. A lightning bolt can discharge up to 300,000 amps in a very short time -- that's 1000 times more juice than you get out of a medium sized welding machine. If you can even find the tripod after a direct hit, there's a good chance that it will have been scorched, melted, warped, and/or fused into something other than a functioning tripod.

On the other hand, it's not like the metal will have been poisoned by electricity. Have a look at it after the storm passes and it if still works, dry it off, fold it up, and put it back in your bag.

What I'm afraid of is if it might develop into a thunderstorm or related.

Don't let fear of a thunderstorm prevent you from taking a tripod on your trip. As discussed above, you should avoid putting yourself at risk for a lightning strike whether you have a tripod with you or not. Just keep an eye on the weather. If you hear thunder or see lightning, put your tripod away and seek shelter.

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Lightning storms are not going to be influenced in any way by you or your tripod. You're entirely too small and insignificant even in the middle of nowhere for a storm to care.

The purpose of a lightning rod is in the event lightning does strike, by chance, on a structure then it attempts to route the lightning in as safe a way as possible to the ground. Basically, if lightning is going to strike down near you then its going to strike down near you, and your tripod could in theory then act as a lightning rod though its unlikely.

If strikes are occurring close enough for this to be a concern then metal tripod or not you should be seeking shelter.

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    There is vastly better advice about dangers of lightning. See for example, NOAA National Weather Service srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning_faq.htm – WayneF Mar 1 '16 at 1:16
  • @WayneF not sure if you're the one who downvoted, but I think my answer and that link are in agreement. – RyanFromGDSE Mar 1 '16 at 1:20
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    I voted this answer up because it is correct. A tripod alone will not change your chances of being struck by lightning. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time will. – Mike Sowsun Mar 1 '16 at 3:04

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