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An Arizona hail core

Severe storm near Douglas
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/13th // buy print)

I remember this storm like it was yesterday. I was even live streaming it and couldn’t have been more excited for the people watching to see a storm like this in Arizona. You can even see a timelapse of it right here.

This area had storms all over…to the left, to the right…but something about this one looked different. I was watching an area of intense rain when suddenly you could see the blue a lot clearer and the clouds started making some crazy looking shapes, especially on the right side of the image above. It almost looked like a wall cloud and there was some insane upward motion. Insane for this state that is.

I got so lucky last year to be on two storms like this that looked so unusual for Arizona. Hoping for more of the same in 2014!

A timelapse of the hail core near Douglas, Arizona

This storm evolved so fast that I wish I had been timelapsing it from the first moment I saw it. The right side looked like a shelf cloud at first and then changed and warped into this rounded shell appearance and suddenly the blue hail color really took over.

As the cell died, it sent an outflow towards me and it started raining, so we packed up. You can see the outflow clouds hit me in the first clip of the timelapse.

I’ve rarely done two timelapses of the same cloud, but I was trying to shoot lightning at the same time. I ended up pointing the 50mm towards the inflow section of the storm and locked down the shutter release. This actually got me frames faster than once per second, so it looked incredibly smooth. Also, for the first time ever I used the “Twist-lens” method with the Canon 50mm 1.2 and wow, that works beautifully. No flicker, even at f/18. A wonderful thing.

Plus there is a ton of lightning in that second clip…very cool.

This kind of motion in a monsoon storm is rare to see…I’ve never gotten anything like it before. It was incredibly beautiful and awesome and a wee bit nerve-wracking. Although I knew it wasn’t tornadic or anything, I figured the outflow winds could be super strong. Plus a lightning strike hit just in that field about 1/4 mile away when I was packing up!

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!