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Power

A heavy downburst of rain explodes outwards as it hits the ground, sending dusty outflow headed for Casa Grande. Lightning shoots out of the front of the rainshafts slamming in the ground.

Drove 45 minutes for about 14 minutes worth of shooting and that was it…but what a way to kick off Monsoon 2017 four nights ago just northeast of Casa Grande. Storms moving southwest towards that area weren’t dying out like expected, so the kids and I went into emergency drill mode and got everything in the car in record time, and bolted to McCartney Road just off I-10 and watched some crazy bolts flash before us.

Asher was our spotter on the way down, and hopefully I’ll post some short video later of his enthusiasm every time he saw a “flash” haha.

The storm itself was different, not sure why. Bolts were arcing out away from the cell over and over which seemed unusual…and I thought I saw some striations up in the cloud base briefly, but was hard to tell. Definitely a lot of drama with the downburst and dust exploding southwestward. That area is one of my favorites for that very reason…all that dust and flatness just adds so much to an image.

Barrage

Barrage
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 25 sec, f/8 // buy print)

I’ve stacked lightning a handful of times. Stacking means when you basically merge multiple photos together to create a new image. In this case, I stacked near 30 images to get this one photo.

I don’t normally go this route for lightning…I like the solo strike, the power of less instead of much, much more…but sometimes when lightning is so far away that a single image just isn’t good enough, I like to see what happens when you stack ’em.

I photographed soooo much lightning on this night, in that same area (as you can see), so I had to give a stack a try. In fact, this is actually “Stack Number Two” from the night…the first one can be seen here. That one only had a few strikes, where this one includes everything that came after that. This image includes about 26 minutes worth of lightning. It’s kind of incredible to see what can happen in that short amount of time. The focus of the storm just raining bolts down in a general area.

Nature is amazing.

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!

A distant battle

Distant Battle
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, f/8, 15 sec // buy print)

A few nights ago in Casa Grande I tweeted out something about a lightning bonanza happening down in that area. I started shooting from this very spot at around 8pm and left an hour later. And the lightning was in front of me the entire time.

It was easy pickin’s.

This is a stacked image of eight separate photographs. Because it was such a wide angle lens, I knew right away that I was going to do some stacking…because for me at least, a single strike would have to be utterly AMAZING to stand by itself. But a bunch of them together…that would be awesome.  Also…this was sunset, so the purple in the sky was ridiculous. And the bubbly mammatus on the upper right…well, we just don’t see that all the time. I couldn’t believe I could get these kind of shots with that kind of sky…was too good to be true.

A bunch more coming from this night…including another stack at this very spot with the same lens that has even MORE lightning strikes. Cray cray.

 

Lightning near Casa Grande on July 6th

Lightning over Casa Grande
(please click to view on black // canon 5d3, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 125, f/9.0, 25 sec // buy print)

A friend named Sarah texted me last night about a completely other subject, and then added something about beautiful, huge clouds over their area…which was Queen Creek. I opened my front door from downtown and saw a monster cloud looming over the Sacaton area. Pulled up radar and wow, storms had just popped up out of nowhere down there, all the way to Picacho Peak and Marana.

Threw my gear and daughter in the car and blasted south. I sat in this one spot for about an hour and just photographed lightning as it was almost stationary for the entire time. It did get a bit closer towards the end, and this is one of the images from that time.

Those are the lights of Casa Grande and I’m sitting just north of there. You can also spot some blowing dust on the horizon where the strikes landed.

A bunch of stuff from this night, more to share at a later time!

Reflections of the Monsoon

Monsoon Sunset Reflected
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/8, 1/15th // buy print)

If you follow my work, you may remember this epic looking, isolated thunderstorm from last year and also the timelapse that went with it. The storm was seen all over by tons of people…cell phone shots of the “UFO” cloud were sent in to all the news stations.

This is kind of the aftermath when it was fading away to nothing…but right as the sun was going down, when that gorgeous anvil cloud captured perfectly the colors of the sunset. We had a bit of a rain storm the day before so there was this massive puddle on the side of the road. Had to use it of course. You don’t get many chances for reflection shots like this in the middle of the desert.

It’s still one of those storms I wont soon forget and I’m dying to photograph some real weather again. The good news is that the monsoon season start date is just over a month away. Hurry on up already!

A micro-dust-burst-haboob something or other

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/9.0, iso 100, blend // buy print)

I was shooting a timelapse of the dust storm in the opposite direction when I turned to look behind me and saw this. A  towering monsoon thunderstorm, a strong downdraft (potential microburst) and an approaching dust storm/haboob all creating one crazy scene.

The dynamic range was intense though as you might be able to tell. The sun was hidden by clouds except at the top of that thunderstorm where it was so bright that if exposed correctly, made the rest of the image almost black. I rarely go into post-processing talk these days, but this guy was kind of tough. As I’ve gotten away from doing HDR, I am doing more blending using luminosity masking (LM). I use LM on almost all my processing these days (other than B&W), I find it a lot of fun with more natural results. But blending something like this was tough for me and I’m still learning how to do it correctly.

Whatever the processing method…it was still an amazing sight. Usually storms build up along the outflow of a dust storm, not way out in front like this one. So it’s rare to get a scene like this with an incoming dust wall and a large downdraft out ahead.

A wall of dust hits Casa Grande

Before my tire went flat from some unseen predator buried in the Arizona desert, I timelapsed this wall of dust as it crossed Interstate 8 and rolled into Casa Grande. It also came up Interstate 10 behind me and spread into Phoenix.

Another year of the haboob out in Arizona…crazy how many of these storms we’ve had.

More severe weather on tap for today, I’m hitting the road right now.

A lucky lightning strike at sunset

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 200, 1/1000th // buy print)

If you watched my timelapse last week, then you’ve already seen this image. I also posted it it on 500px, so you may have seen it there too. But I felt like this still frame deserved it’s very own post on my blog because I absolutely love it and it’s why I am so obsessed with storm chasing.

One thing that’s always been true for me when I’m out chasing…is that I tend to get my best images where I least expect them. Last Thursday my goal was to blast down to Tucson right at sunset to shoot some lightning. That was my whole reason for going. And yet, I was stopped just short of Casa Grande when I saw this cloud turning into something amazing right before my eyes. Whatever I had planned down in Tucson suddenly evaporated and I knew this was the best thing going on at that moment.

It’s kind of what I dig about chasing the monsoon. And it also makes it hard sometimes. I leave the house a lot completely unsure of myself. Will I get anything tonight? Will it be a bust? How can I get something new or different? What if last season’s lightning barrage was it for me?

And then as I’m driving I see a cloud like the one above and I remember why I do this and how it usually works.

Just to speak about the image for a second. This was part of the timelapse as I said. So at this point in the capturing process, I was taking a photo every 4 seconds. The shutter speed was 1/1000th. I shot for around 40 minutes. And in that time I saw less than three lightning strikes.

And somehow…I got lucky enough to get one here. I mean…4 seconds apart at 1/1000th! The odds must be incredibly high. It makes me so incredibly proud of this one!

So thrilled to get this last week…on only my second day out chasing. Going to be a fun season!

A dying monsoon sunset near Casa Grande

(watch full screen if you can. there is musicon this one, in case you are at work)

Last night I was heading down to Tucson late in the day with the specific goal of catching some lightning from lingering thunderstorms. If I had actually stayed on course, I think I would have captured some cool shots down there.

But as things usually turn out when I chase storms, something better comes along. I saw this cloud building up as I was driving and it didn’t look amazing at first. But it increasingly kept building up and then the top started spreading out. The beauty of it was the isolation. All by itself, framed against the evening sky.

I checked the radar before starting to see the movement of the storm, and it was basically sitting in one spot. Amazing to shoot this for around 40 minutes and have it just get bigger and not really move in any direction.

You will likely notice a lightning strike right after the 11-12 second mark. Catching that was unbelievably lucky. At the time the shots were 4 seconds apart at 1/1000th speed. I only saw 2 or 3 bolts anyways the entire time, so I’m not even sure how I got that. It looks great on a still that I will share later.

Hope you enjoy…the colors and the cloud were so amazing in person, I wish you could have stood there with me.