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Imminent

Imminent
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/125th, f/8 // buy print)

Nothing I love more than an ominous, impending haboob rolling towards me across a great landscape. This was taken back on July 3rd, 2014, on that big day that ended up being the kickoff special for the monsoon this summer. I snapped this along a dirt road south of Highway 387, which is about five miles or so north of Casa Grande, just east of Interstate 10. It didn’t look like much about 10 minutes before this, but as it neared, the intensity picked up and it became fairly robust looking.

We chased this from its birth south of Picacho Peak, to here along Highway 387, north to Riggs Road and finally as it hit downtown Phoenix. This is also a still frame from a time-lapse I shot, which will be part of my annual summer monsoon film coming out next week hopefully!

 

Positive

Positive CG
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm (cropped), iso 400, f/5.6, 6.0 sec)

One of my favorite kinds of lightning bolts are the ones that exit out the top of a cloud and have a long ways to go before they hit the ground. I feel like I must have known this before, but either way, thanks to Jeff Beamish down in Tucson, I now know these kinds of strikes are “positive cloud-to-ground” bolts (more info here).

I’ve caught one or two during my storm chasing adventures, but I’ve really been craving one from a distance. It was goal this year. That way you not only get the whole strike, but the cloud structure and maybe some sky…in this case…a few stars as an added bonus. If you aren’t sure what I mean by all of this…you can see in the photo above at the top of the cloud, there is a real BRIGHT part where the bolt exits the cloud. If you can picture things in a 3D environment, the bolt is likely coming towards us a bit before heading downwards.

Below is another example of one I’ve caught in the past (2012). It’s not so powerful as the one above, but you can see it coming out of the top of the cloud, making its way to the left and then down to the ground. Gives you more of an idea of what the bolt in the above photo might have been doing.

Stoked to nab this before the season ends.

From top to bottom

Sunset on the Beeline

Sunset on the Beeline
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/10, 1 second // buy print)

I’m a storm chaser through and through…that’s just what I do. I have a hard time going anywhere and just waiting for something good to happen. I’ve wanted to do a few trips this year, one mainly to a spot on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, just to camp for a few days and get some epic shots.

But it’s not in me to do that. I love the chase. The unknown. What will I end up with tonight?

This photo is a prime example of that. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but what it shows you is that beauty can be found anywhere, even though you don’t expect it.

This was from July 6th of this year. I saw a big line of storms moving in off the White Mountains and thought I might get in front of them right when it got dark and could destroy some lightning shots over the hills. But as it neared me, the storms started dying, the lightning wasn’t coming my way.

As I sat there bumming, this glow slowly appeared in the sky…and I wasn’t expecting it. The clouds were so thick everywhere, I had no idea the sun could possibly make it all this way.

But then the clouds  ignited and I couldn’t believe the color. It was intense.

Sunsets are weird in a way. It’s like you know a storm is great because there is wind and thunder and rain, and you can “feel” it. A sunset though…it’s like something so amazing and powerful, but it’s utterly silent. You look up and see an explosion of color, but there are no trumpets playing, no orchestra…just quiet.

Makes it all the better.

 

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!

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.

Thunder and Stars

Thunder and Stars
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, iso 4000, 16mm, f/2.8, 20 sec // buy print)

I’ve been chasing storms like crazy for almost six years now. During that time I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way just hanging out with a thunderstorm brewing nearby.

This past Saturday I pulled off at a favorite spot, got out of the car and saw the Milky Way just up there, hanging out, watching some lightning. Blew my mind. And this thunderstorm to the left was going nuts. I’m almost always out at night to strictly photograph lightning, but I knew I couldn’t pass up this amazing opportunity, so I started time-lapsing the whole thing.

I haven’t posted it yet, I may save it for my end-of-year film…but suffice to say, I’m stoked about it. The stars of course were awesome. But the lightning was non-stop. I took about 450 photos for the time-lapse, all at 8-seconds, and there was some kind of lightning flash in every shot. It was unbelievable how active these storms were.

Stuff like this is why I love chasing storms. I’ve been out hundreds of times over these past six years, and still I get to see something new on a regular basis.

 

15 Seconds

15 Seconds
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, f/11, iso 200, 15 sec // buy print)

July 31st was a pretty amazing night for lightning. This storm just exploded over Wickenburg and didn’t move much and didn’t send any outflows at me. I just sat around for almost an hour capturing bolt after bolt.

This was only a 15-second exposure, but there are six strikes plus maybe a seventh off-camera. An amazing display of power…it’s the kind of lightning-fests I live for!

Answered

A Bolt at Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/16, 2.0 sec // buy print)

Sometimes when you get such an amazing sunset going on and a storm is right there in front of you…a prayer escapes your lips. Please God…give me a lightning bolt right where I need it to be. Make it awesome.

And that’s what I did while standing here last night.

Thanks for the answered prayer.

A sunset south of Sheffield, Texas

Sunset south of Sheffield
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, f/5.0, iso 200, 1/125th // buy print)

Sometimes the light and the sky after a storm passes is just as good as the storm itself. This was south of Sheffield, Texas, after we photographed and timelapsed a bunch of gorgeous shelf clouds and hail cores. These clouds were moving fast overhead and the light from the setting sun created this moody sky.

I still love being in the middle of nowhere, having a beautiful sky like this and walking out onto a road to snap a photo. It’s something about the silence of no other cars, city sounds or anything else. Just a rumble of thunder and the snap of a camera.

Can’t wait to get back to storm chasing next week! The monsoon is almost back.

Over the Top

Over the Top
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/5.0, 1/5th, lightning trigger // buy print)

Another gorgeous lightning strike from my time in the plains this past April. Yes, Over the Top is because of the movie about arm-wrestling…if this was only tomorrow, I could make it a “Movie Title Wednesday” which harkens back to something I used to do on the blog that a few of you may remember! I saw this and thought “Across the Sky”…the song that I only know because of that film haha.

This was captured north of Scott City, Kansas, with a Lightning Trigger IV, which I recently purchase. Loving it. Heading out to the plains tomorrow for FIVE days of chasing…cannot wait. Going to be absolutely amazing!