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A lightning strike over Tucson

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 39mm, f/10, iso 200, 20 sec // buy print)

My frenzy to catch up on what I missed last week has left me sleeping basically 7 hours the past two nights. I arrived home around 1am this morning from a long drive to hopefully catch up with a lightning barrage in far southern Arizona, but it proved to be a #fail.

But earlier in the evening was fun. I arrived in Tucson as the sun went down and a severe storm developed just to the south. I was struggling to find a place to shoot in the city because I don’t know it well at all and all the little hilltops have buildings and it makes it tough. Luckily I spied this short “mountain” that was very close (A-Mountain), and I drove up to the top and had this amazing view of southern Tucson.

Hopefully I get to shoot here again, it was such a great location. Downside is the park ranger came by to announce the gates were closing right around 8:30! A bit too early, but luckily I grabbed this one before I had to bail. I also met another photographer up there who has been shooting lightning around Tucson since at least 1991.

The image above, when zoomed in on the full resolution version, shows the impact point of the lightning on a building. Nothing I love more in a lightning photo than to see where the bolt lands.

 

A thunderstorm near Sunset Point

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

Being gone from Arizona for seven days usually means you miss a heck of a lot of sunshine. But last week was different. Sky Harbor Airport received measurable rainfall FOUR straight days. That hasn’t happened since 2008 per my buddy Royal Norman. The storms were nuts, all over and I certainly missed out on a killer start to the monsoon season.

But vacation was great, it was needed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

That being said, when I landed last night at 10pm, and saw storms going nuts to the north, I decided to watch things a bit to see if I could actually chase. Around 12:30am I headed out and ended up around the Sunset Point rest area. The lightning wasn’t earth-shattering awesome, but one of my favorite things is being able to see an entire storm cloud get lit up at night. Things had been pretty quiet in this direction for about 20 minutes and then suddenly the cloud got intense and strikes started happening.

This is one.

Glad to be back, can’t wait to make up for lost time!

 

A lightning strike near Eloy

A lightning strike near Eloy, Arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 250, 5 sec // buy print)

July 3rd felt like the first real day of storm chasing. We were out late in the afternoon, watched a cell build up and drop a bunch of rain near Casa Grande, even helped some people who flipped their car they hydroplaned on Interstate 8.

Yeah, that accident was a bit surreal to say the least. We missed it by roughly 10 seconds, and by the time I pulled over to help, the couple was crawling out of their vehicle. But their Honda was upside down in the median. Crazy. The girl called her mother first, so I called  911. They were totally fine.

Later on, the sun went down and the sky got dark. I had planned to hit Tucson, but the storms right here in Eloy were perfect. Finally was able to shoot some lightning via long exposure for the first time this year. Always a good feeling.

Got a couple of okay images, nothing earth shattering, but here’s one from the night.

Hoping to get a few more days in before Sunday when we hit our week-long vacation to Missouri.

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.

A wall of dust from Jomax Road

Dust Storm Haboob Jomax Road Arizona

Just a quickie shot from Jomax Road at around 8pm on Wednesday evening. Dust storm rolled right across the entire Phoenix area and out the northwest side.

Loving that 14mm Rokinon lens I purchased not too long ago. Super wide fun.

 

A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

Cellular

Cellular - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 125mm, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

Amazingly, I still have lightning shots from last summer that I haven’t posted yet! If you grabbed a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, you’ve likely seen this already.

This was an amazing night with some spectacular lightning strikes hitting all around Casa Grande. I was so stoked when I saw the first strike from the truck and knew I could stop and line it up with this cell phone tower.

Cannot wait for this season…have a major hankering for some lightning chasing.

Hole in the sky

After the Storm - Arizona Monsoons

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/80 // buy print)

I’ll always remember this day as one of my favorites of the 2011 monsoon season. I had gotten away by myself, alone on the road, not a soul with me, no one tagging along…just me going where I thought the storms would be. It felt liberating for some reason.

It also turned out to be the second day in a row where I found myself on a tornado-warned storm. The structures from the midwest weren’t there necessarily, but the exploding tops were gorgeous, the lightning vicious and the clouds magnificent. I kept an eye out for funnel clouds, but never saw anything. Still, the thrill of the chase was why I loved it so much.

This was a stretch of State Route 79, looking south at the Catalina Mountains. I loved the darkness on the left in a juxtaposition to the gorgeous blue sky on the right, plus the bit of sunlight on the mountain range.

Hillside

(please click to view on black and fit your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

We had some winter storms blown through the state last night, and there was even lightning strikes south of Phoenix in Casa Grande. Needless to say, it got me impatient for the monsoon season to arrive this summer. So I dug up this shot from last July. For those that have a copy of my stormchasing book, you’ve likely already seen it!

It was one of my first experiences shooting lightning down in Tucson and especially the Catalina Mountains. The strikes are just so intense there.

I love this shot. Depending on your monitor and how it’s calibrated…you’ll either see the lower right cactus really well, or not that well. I loved all the layers I got, starting with the Saguaro, then going to the mountain, the strikes, the lower clouds and the flowing ones at the top.

I said it above, but sometimes that text it’s hard to see. These portrait compositions on my blog are HUGE, so click on the image to have it fit your monitor!