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Blue Canyon

Never edited this guy back from September 2017 up at the Grand Canyon…mostly because of a big water spot, but I cropped it out and decided it was worth posting! This was the end of a wonderful 24 hours up at the Canyon, my best time up there in six years of trying. The day before there was lightning in the afternoon, then sunset and finally later at night right out over the ditch. I slept in the truck knowing more storms were set for the next day and sure enough, severe cells with hail exploded and moved across the Canyon during the late morning, capping off a fantastic trip.

Chuar Butte

The Grand Canyon has been an elusive prey. I’ve made countless trips up there the past few years trying to get lightning on a good storm and been skunked every time. Last year I finally got a downburst right in front of me…but no bolts. A few years before I got some strikes out on the Little Colorado plateau, but nothing in the Canyon itself. Always a long trip to come home with little success.

Well that all finally ended Friday, and it was with this shot that I didn’t even know I had captured until I was going through images in Lightroom. A perfect thunderstorm with a beautiful little strike hitting smack in the middle of an island plateau on the eastern side of the Canyon. I squealed a little bit when I saw this 🙂

The time-lapse of this storm exploding and dumping rain will be cool too, super stoked to have come away not only with some great stuff, but to have spent the entire day with my kiddos as well was well worth the time and sunburns!

Salome

I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset...west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.  That's a good strategy out here in Arizona...lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren't sure where it's going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you've upped your chances at capturing something.
I love this shot mainly because it was the only lightning bolt that I saw come out of this little cell and it took about 15 minutes for it to happen. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but nothing else was happening around me and so I decided to just aim at the spot the rain was falling and hope to get lucky. And boom, this gorgeous strike right after sunset…west of Tonopah along Salome Highway.

That’s a good strategy out here in Arizona…lightning can do anything for the most part, but if you aren’t sure where it’s going to happen, aim at the rain shaft and you’ve upped your chances at capturing something

Clear Air

Sometimes it's obvious where you aim your camera when you photograph lightning in Arizona, mainly near the rain shaft is generally where you'll see the most. But when one fires behind it and it's super close...you turn your camera and hope to get lucky again. I caught two more, this was one. A gorgeous, clear air strike out over the dry lake bed near Willcox, Arizona on July 11th, 2015.
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/9.0, 10 sec // buy prints)

Sometimes it’s obvious where you aim your camera when you photograph lightning in Arizona, mainly near the rain shaft is generally where you’ll see the most. But when one fires behind it and it’s super close…you turn your camera and hope to get lucky again. I caught two more, this was one. A gorgeous, clear air strike out over the dry lake bed near Willcox, Arizona on July 11th, 2015.

More to come from this past summer!

Symmetry

These two bolts almost appear to be mirror images of each other at first glance. Of course they are very different...but it's what fun about lightning photography. Finding the hidden shapes and nuances to what you capture.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/8, 6.0 sec // buy print)

Two nights ago near Wilcox, Arizona…on my way home from being in New Mexico for two days…some isolated cells kept popping up near here as the sun went down, so we hung out a bit to capture a couple of sweet strikes before continuing on to Phoenix.

This storm was funny though…you can see the rain on the left, which had already moved past me…there appeared on radar to be another cell straight ahead, but no rain…but I saw another bolt here prior to this, so I aimed this way and caught two of them. I normally would have panned left towards the rain where I’d normally expect to see one.

But I LOVE clear air bolts…don’t seem to get a ton of those!

On Approach

Approaching
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/5, 1/200th, 8-image stitch // buy print)

After seeing that amazing supercell near Booker, Texas…it’s tough to imagine anything looking more ominous. But this storm was close. This is a big, 8-image panoramic, so things look further away than they actually were. The wall cloud was rotating violently, and we stood there in awe of what we were seeing. You can see in the darker area of the wall cloud how low the base is to the ground. Incredible.

This storm was marching on Denver International Airport and while a few tornadoes were reported, there was no real evidence of any on this day. But this was the second best wall cloud I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait to get back out on the plains next spring!

Double

Double
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/10, iso 100, 15 sec // buy print)

Oh you know I love lightning. Here’s some more from that September 15th storm over Eloy that may have dropped a brief tornado.

The End

The End
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4, f/4, iso 400, 1/500th, handheld 9-image stitched pano // buy print)

The summer monsoon in Arizona came to an end this past weekend when a major transition event in the form of a intense trough moved through the state and caused flooding and tons of damage. We storm-chasers live for these events, which don’t seem to happen but every 4-5 years. There was a tornado risk as well, which is obviously unusual for our state.

As timing would have it…I was actually shooting a wedding on this day. I thought about chasing in the morning, but the storms were too far away to risk not getting back in town in time. So I watched what all my buddies were doing from my office as long as I could, then packed up and went to shoot a wedding that I was pretty excited about. As luck would have it…I was up by Pinnacle Peak where the bride was getting ready when the storm started to move into the West Valley. It was time to leave to go to the venue and as I headed south, the most incredible shelf cloud I’ve ever seen in Arizona was rolling over town.

I waited until I had the best possible view I could from the 101 freeway, pulled over and snapped this quick 9-image pano.

I didn’t care about composition or where I was, or the fact that Best Busy is right there in the photo. I only wanted an image of this scene to have forever.

Simply amazing.

Pinchers

Pinchers
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/10, 20 sec // buy print)

Wow, I had a spectacular show in front of me last night near Eloy! Tons of incredible bolts as the storm went right by me to the southwest. This was actually a severe thunderstorm that had rotation on it, strong inflow and my buddy Bryan Snider saw successive power flashes at one point. A train also had 35 cars derailed about 10 minutes before this image was captured. Glad I got out of the way in time to sit safely and take some shots.

The remnants of hurricane Odile will make their way into AZ over the next 72-hours, it’s going to be nuts! Will be chasing non-stop…you can watch me right here on my Live Chasing page.

Fingers

Fingers
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/10, iso 200, 15 sec // buy print)

Judging from the light on the little hill on the horizon plus the 35mm lens I was using, this bolt hit fairly close to my position…maybe a mile or two away.

This was another shot from July 31st out near Wickenburg along Highway 74. That night was one of the most intense lightning chases I’ve ever been on. More to come, even a couple that actually hit that little hilltop!