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Thor’s Landing

An early morning thunderstorm over the Superstition Mountains on July 3rd delivered a couple of magical lightning strikes. This one in particular is one of my favorites...a single, powerful bolt landing at almost the highest point of the mountain. I'm a huge comic book fan and if anything looked like the arrival of Thor from Asgard, this is it.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 160, f/9.0, 10 sec // buy prints)

An early morning thunderstorm over the Superstition Mountains on July 3rd delivered a couple of magical lightning strikes. This one in particular is one of my favorites…a single, powerful bolt landing at almost the highest point of the mountain. I’m a huge comic book fan and if anything looked like the arrival of Thor from Asgard, this is it.

Wilaha

A distant thunderstorm rumbles and throws down tons of bolts west of the small community of Wilaha in northern Arizona.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/5.6, iso 500, 25 sec, 6-images stacked)

I spent yesterday afternoon up in northern Arizona, hoping to grab some lightning at the Grand Canyon, but of course…that’s an elusive goal and once again it didn’t pan out. But I did see quite a few rotating storms, drove through a great hail storm east of the Canyon, then witnessed a beautiful rainbow over the Little Colorado canyon there, followed up by a gorgeous sunset from Moran Point and then this little isolated storm on my way home towards Williams. It blew up in the distance west of Wilaha, moved closer and closer to me, the bolts were great, but sadly no good west roads and it died out before I was hoping.

Decided to do a 6-image stack of this storm…because it was so distant and any single bolt didn’t seem to do it justice!

For Mary

This was a magical evening and I discovered later that perhaps there was a special reason for it. When I returned home after these storms died out...I discovered that a kind lady named Mary Kathleen Johnson quietly passed away around 5pm that day. This photo was taken two hours later. She was a lover of weather, of storms and of living beneath the gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains. She was a huge fan of storm chasers and would watch myself and countless others as we live stream our chases. She was such a blessing to everyone. She would help us when we weren't sure of the road network near her house. But mainly she had sent me countless messages of support, not about only my work, but about me personally and my family. I'd like to think that as she left this place, her gift to me at least was this storm and this lightning strike. And so I dedicate this image to you Mary...man you rest in peace.

Last night was a magical evening and I discovered later that perhaps there was a special reason for it. When I returned home after these storms died out…I discovered that a kind lady named Mary Kathleen Johnson had quietly passed away around 5pm that same day . This photo was taken two hours later. She was a lover of weather, of storms and of living beneath the gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains. She was a huge fan of storm chasers and would watch myself and countless others as we live-streamed our chases. She was such a blessing to everyone. She would even help us when we weren’t sure of the road network near her house.

But mainly she had sent me countless messages of support, not about only my work, but about me personally as a father and my family. Here’s one of her final messages to me, just a month ago:

“Hey Mike, Just wanted to say, 1st video that I had seen that you posted over on Vimeo back in 2011 or 12, took me by surprise & took my breath away. Had to watch it a couple of times,saved it then sent it off to Jeff Beamish.
My best captures could never compare to (if you ever made one) to your worst.

Can’t express enough to you the appreciation, not just me, but so many others of the stunning gifts you provide re nature via your captures.
Respect yourself, Jina and what you have been gifted with.

Thanks again kid, you’ve got it stay on course, pleased as heck for you.”

I can’t believe she’s gone just like that. I’d like to think that as she left this place, her gift to me at least was a beautiful storm and this lightning strike.

And so I dedicate this image to you Mary…may you rest in peace…with the occasional thunderstorm.

Microburst out by Gila Bend.

Microburst
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8.0, iso 200, 1/1000, lightning trigger)

Yesterday as I was time-lapsing a few cells rolling by, I look over to the southernmost one and I see a giant ball falling from the rain. There had been talk from the NWS and the SPC of wet microbursts…and I’ve seen them before, but never like this.

This was just west of Gila Bend over farm lands. The storms were moving to the north, and this back cell was building as I was standing there shooting. And then boom, I see this clump of rain falling. It was incredible to see. It had speed too. Even on video you could really see it going. The shot below gives you a better idea of the “ball” look as it was halfway to the ground…but I like the above one because, well, there is a lightning bolt there 🙂

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A strike over Eloy

Lightning over Eloy
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/10, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

I had a lot of luck with lightning last summer…here’s another one from a crazy early night in July when this storm rained down bolts for well over an hour in the general vicinity of Eloy and Casa Grande.

 

Lightning south of Casa Grande

Lightning over Casa Grande
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 125, f/9.0, 25 sec // buy print)

This particular night out near Casa Grande in early July was spectacular. I’ve already posted one image from this general area, this is a second one. Sooo, so many lightning strikes over the course of an hour. Twice this summer I’ve been blessed with storms that moved very little but kept popping out lightning for a long duration.

The lights belong to the city of Casa Grande and the bolts were landing just to the south of it beyond Interstate 8. You can see blowing dust to the right of the bolt as well. I really dig the two little filaments coming out of the cloud in the upper right…because you know they are connected to the main strike, but split way up further in the clouds.

Still have a ton of storm images from the summer to share but we’re starting wedding/family portrait season and things are going to get busy!

Near Cordes Junction

Near Cordes Junction
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8, iso 100, 15 sec // buy print)

I’ve discovered a love for lightning up north of Phoenix between Sunset Point and Camp Verde. The storms always seem intense up there and the lightning was crazy again last night.

I arrived a bit too late for the entire show, but I managed to capture a couple of strikes over the hills northeast of Cordes Junctions.

Usually I want to find an area with a clear view of landscapes without any man-made objects in the way…but you can always help that and I actually dig the way the powerlines balance out the bottom of the image above.

 

A dance at sunset

Arizona Monsoon Lightning
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/10, iso 160, 8 sec // buy print)

Two nights ago I was incredibly frustrated with the futility of capturing lightning. Storms were popping up everywhere, in bad spots, I couldn’t get to them in time and even when I did, they died out before any shots were had.

Last night…wow, what difference a day makes.

I sat in one spot for nearly two hours and captured hundreds of strikes. I am not even sure what to do with them all. I’ve never been on a storm that produced that much electricity over a general area for so long. And I’ve never come home from an evening storm chasing with that many photographs of lightning.

There was so much that I started experimenting with using my 70-200mm at full zoom to capture the bottom thirds of strikes just for fun to see how it looked. That never happens. Usually you are in such a hurry to capture whatever you can before the storm dies out that you don’t get to play around too much.

This was just one of the images. Five strikes to the ground in an 8-second exposure. The sunset behind it…the powerlines giving scale…the strikes themselves…definitely one of my all-time favorites already. I rarely do these panoramic crops, but it felt like it was called for here.

More to come!

 

A hail core near Douglas, Arizona

A hail core near Douglas, Arizona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm 1.2, iso 50, f/16, 0.5 sec // buy print)

I’m super bad at chasing storms ahead of time. What that means is…I usually wait until I see them start firing up and then I go. Sometimes when you are busy with work, life and that kind of stuff, you can’t drive 3 hours somewhere and risk that nothing will happen.

But yesterday I said screw it and we left early in the day for southern Arizona, hoping to catch some storms that would eventually fire up around 3pm. And sure enough, we got near Sierra Vista and they started crossing into Arizona.

We ended up east of Tombstone and caught up with a line of storms that were just exploding everywhere. But this one cell in particular just north of Douglas caught my eye. It started lookeing fierce, so I found a clear spot and watched it. The right side evolved in such crazy ways it’s hard to believe. But eventually it looked like this. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen such a strong blue hail core on a storm in Arizona. It was amazing. Yes, the photo has been edited with some contrast through Luminosity Masking, but that color was real and legit. I was mesmerized by it. The movement in the clouds was astonishing for a monsoon storm.

It made me realize…these storms probably happen in Arizona all the time…maybe once or twice on a daily basis when it’s a good day. You just have to leave ahead of time in order to get them when they fire off like this.

The shutter speed on this was 1/2 a second because I was hoping for lightning, so the clouds may be a TAD on the soft side because of how fast they were moving.

Hoping to post the timelapse of this guy tomorrow!

Some lightning down on the Rincon Mountains

Lightning over the Rincons
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, 50mm, iso 100, f/5.6, 25 seconds, cropped // buy print)

I am not sure I’ve ever made a panoramic lightning image before, but this one naturally called for it.

Back on July 1st, I set-up here just south of the Rincon Mountains and waited for a storm to come my way. And the timing was perfect…the sky got dark and the lightning finally started moving over the tops of the mountain range. I had  field day and literally have 10-15 more shots from around this area. Was insane.

This was cropped to a panoramic of course. I loved the symmetrical curve of the mountains the way nature of the lightning bolt started way on the left and landing in three spots on the far right. Such a unique looking strike and I dug the illumination of the mountain as well.

More to come from this stuff and the monsoon season thus far!