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The Observer

An incredible, severe thunderstorm late in June, which is early for the monsoon to really get going, explodes over the Santa Rita Mountains. The storm itself looked like a plains supercell at times, even with a brief wall cloud. This lightning bolt is hitting on Mount Hopkins near the Lowell Observatory. The title comes from the little bird somehow flying up high in some crazy intense winds...seemingly having no earthly reason for being there.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 160, f/8.0, 15 sec // buy print)

An incredible, severe thunderstorm late in June, which is early for the monsoon to really get going, explodes over the Santa Rita Mountains. The storm itself looked like a plains supercell at times, even with a brief wall cloud. This lightning bolt is hitting on Mount Hopkins near the Lowell Observatory. The title comes from the little bird somehow flying up high in some crazy intense winds…seemingly having no earthly reason for being there.

Lightning over Billings

I had to hold my tripod down as I was being blasted by 40-50mph winds up on the ridge above Billings, Montana. A fantastic light show...major thanks to my friend James Langford who is from Montana, for passing on this location to me!
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 100, f/11, 8 seconds // buy print)

On May 31st, I drove all the way from Denver to Billings with the idea that I’d be chasing storms in central Montana the next day, but it turns out all I’d end up chasing would be the night I got there smile emoticon

Thanks to my buddy James Langford for telling me about the “Rimrocks” above Billings…when this storm rolled through I had the perfect spot to shoot it. I had to hold my tripod down as I was being blasted by 40-50mph winds the entire time! A fantastic light show!

Tonopah

For me, there is nothing better than an isolated thunderstorm at night. But this storm...it had the moonlight shining down to really show the structure and to top it off, the updraft was actually rotating, which is somewhat rare for Arizona. You can see circular motion in the tower. which adds some drama to this shot. Really added to the scene for me, maybe it a bit more special than normal.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f1.2 l, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

For me, there is nothing better than an isolated thunderstorm at night. But this storm…it had the moonlight shining down to really show the structure and to top it off, the updraft was actually rotating, which is somewhat rare for Arizona. You can see circular motion in the tower. which adds some drama to this shot. Really added to the scene for me, maybe it a bit more special than normal.

Lots more to come from this guy…the time-lapse should be amazing, can’t wait to start putting together Monsoon II later this summer. If you haven’t seen the first film, here’s the link!

Over the Hill

Beyond the Hill
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 100, f/5.6, 25 sec // buy print)

A massive release of electricity explodes over the town of Whetstone, Arizona…with the cities of Huachuca and Sierra Vista off in the background. Taken along Highway 90 on a night where I dragged all three kids with me to southern Arizona when the wife was out of town haha.

It was an amazing night overall. Before this I photographed a lightning storm with the Milky Way in full glory for over an hour. You can see that time-lapse at the end of my Monsoon film released two weeks ago.

Pinpoint

Pinpoint
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 100, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

I’ve been on a mission this year to capture some lightning landing in mountains or hills or whatever I can. It’s been tough because I don’t just camp out waiting for hours, I chase the storms so it’s just something I hope happens. I definitely went for these last night knowing the storms were over some ranges, so the chances were good.

But about 3-4 minutes before this photo, the lightning was on the OTHER side of the mountains, off in the distance and I was about to pack up when a bolt exploded from the sky only 2-3 miles away. This was the second one a minute later and it’s about five miles away.

Shot with my 50mm, that’s my favorite focal length for lightning…so pumped to get this one last night. Nothing better than seeing where a lightning strike actually hits. Gives such dimension and a sense of distance.

Filaments

Filaments
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8.0, iso 100, 13 seconds // buy print)

My favorite focal length to shoot lightning with is 50mm. I dunno what it is…but if you get a bolt that fills the frame, it’s pretty much the perfect distance for me. You see the filaments more than if you are using say a 200mm or even a 135mm. That closeness to the storm and to the strike gives you that much more.

This was taken last night north of Sierra Vista, Arizona. We got caught in some epic downpours in town, but were finally able to get out of the rain and find dry-ish area to shoot. It was still raining on me a bit, but thankfully the 50 has a deep lens hood that helps a lot.

First lightning bolt of the 2014 monsoon

Over the Chiricahua Mountains
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/5.6, iso 400, 20 sec // buy print)

Nothing is better than snagging that first lightning strike of the monsoon season. I honestly didn’t think this would happen, as I sat on another story before this, and saw strikes on radar, but nothing actually hitting the ground.

And this storm was 50 miles to the east moving away from me, but I raced east anyways, put my camera on the roof of the Runner when I was finally in a spot to shoot. I had a tall fence in front of me, so I had to get the camera up high. Thus my aim was off and I had to crop this shot to get it to work right, but I love it! The ISO was a bit high because the lightning was mostly off in the distance, but I like it anyways.

This was a long ways off in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. My first time shooting lightning over these hills…was pretty amazing.

A great start to the season, cannot wait to get back out there.

 

The end of the road

End of the Road
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/8, iso 125, 15 sec // buy print)

I love middle of the road shots…but rarely do I get a chance to have lightning bolts striking at the other end! I sat here for a good 15-20 minutes capturing bolt after bolt…and this turned out to be the best of the bunch.

This was back on August 18th out in Buckeye…a night I’ll always remember because of the amount of lightning that I captured in a span of two hours within a 10 square mile area. I barely moved the entire evening.