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Approaching

Approaching
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, iso 100, f/5, 1/100th, handheld 7-image stitch // buy print)

Wow, yesterday was amazing…with this being the grande finale. An approaching severe thunderstorm with a leading shelf cloud edge. These use to be a rare sight in Arizona it seems like, but this monsoon has been completely insane. Beautiful structure and amazing storms. This looks like a plains-like supercell despite not really having a rotating mesocyclone.

This was south of Glendale road just west of the 101 in the west valley. I time-lapsed this beast from around this point until the blowing dust (you can see some around the base) hit me. You’ll be able to see it at the end of the year unless I get antsy to post it sooner.

Severe storm with rotation near Picacho Peak

I actually didn’t learn this was a severe storm until a few minutes later, but I could tell it was nasty just by looking at it. Very strong downdraft that appeared to be hail, then the dust could be seen exploding in all directions…and the base of the storm itself looked like a very tiny wall cloud in a way.

Suddenly as I’m timelapsing, I notice a curious area of rotation that looks like a funnel up in the cloud. It could have been one, or not…but I did confirm with meteorologist Royal Norman that this storm indeed had rotation on it.

You can see the back end of the cell rotating…then you can see the the funnel feature appear on the top left area of the video towards the end.

(note, a minor editing mistake on the video after the slow-mo title, gonna fix when I can)

The electric man

Lightning Photo in Memphis

You know how you look at clouds and see shapes and animals and people and anything else that somehow pops into your head?

I almost never do that, and when it comes to lightning, this would be the first time. But in looking at this strike I shot in Memphis, I feel like I’m watching some giant man walking right to left, with a bunch of spindly arms stretching everywhere. If only I had captured him before he walked behind the tree!

The monsoon season has “officially” started here in Arizona and while it’s unbelievably hot already (115 this week), it’s also crazy dry and no storms are in the forecast until at least the middle of next week. And that’s just an outside chance.

I’m getting antsy though. It’s hot. It’s blue skies. It’s unbearable to be outside. I haven’t shot anything non-portrait since the 12th.

I’m begging you storms…get here. I need the clouds, the sunsets, the rain, the lightning, the contrast with the Four Peaks…gimme, gimme, gimme!

Have a great Friday everyone!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/5.0, iso 100, 25 sec)

Static

I’m kind of anal when it comes to the composition of lightning shots. I like a certain look, a certain kind of strike, a certain kind of framing and if I don’t have it, I’ll just throw out the image. Examples are capturing only HALF a strike. You were aimed in the general area but the bolt obviously has a lot going on off-camera that you missed. That’s not good enough for me.

Anyways, this bolt has a pretty intense tendril going off camera, but for the most part, the entire strike is in the center of the frame. It’s definitely not my favorite lightning shot of all time, but the reason I’m posting it is how amazed I am at all the small details. If you look closely towards the top (and anywhere really) you can see tons of faint lines of less intense tendrils going everywhere. I love it. I don’t think my shots from last year had this much detail in them and I’m stoked to see what happens this summer.

I find this stuff just utterly fascinating. This was shot just a few weeks ago in Memphis. The official start to the Arizona monsoon season was yesterday, but so far the outlook is at LEAST 2-3 weeks away before we start seeing that seasonal storm flow begin. I’m getting antsy.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 100, f/5.0, 20 sec)

Superman

Clouds in the sky from an airplane

(click to see this a bit larger with a darker border)

Perhaps it may surprise you, or maybe it makes total sense, but when I was a kid and thought about what it would be like to have the powers of Superman…I didn’t care about x-ray or heat vision, or super strength, or super-breath or even super-speed.

No, it was the flying. And the picture above is kind of what I dreamed about seeing if I was ever given the gift of flight. Soaring through the clouds, getting to look at them up-close…it was awesome to think about.

So of course I had to link this image to Superman for Movie Title Wednesday. I actually don’t have the love for the movie like you might think considering I was three years old when it came out. When I did get around to liking superheroes and saw the film…it probably already seemed a little bit old to me. Regardless, the first big screen version of Superman was awesome and Christopher Reeve will always be remembered for it. The rest of the films haven’t been that amazing and the latest entry, Superman Returns, was ugh. I absolutely LOVE superhero films, so I’m praying the next release puts Superman back up there with the Iron Man, Spider-man and  Batman franchises.

This of course is another image from my flight to Little Rock a few weeks back. You may remember the previous one I posted, it’s similar to this one, but I think I like this one better. You’ll laugh at me for knowing ahead of time that we’d be hitting Oklahoma around late afternoon, severe weather was in the forecast, so I sat where I sat to get a nice view north. It was all still luck, but when I was looking out the window and saw the dark clouds looming ahead…I felt like I had set this up perfectly!

I’ve never had a flight like this and I dunno if I will again. But if I ever win the lottery or something, I’ll probably hire my own airplane to become my stormchasing vehicle and start shooting this stuff from the sky. Landscapes from the sky are just so epic and breathtaking…it would be fun to do more often.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/7.1, iso 100, 1/250th)

 

Triple Threat

(Click to see a bit larger, with a nice, dark background)

I’ve had the Canon 5D Mark II since around February and while it’s obviously an awesome camera, it’s going to be a lot of fun when it comes to lightning photography. Fun not just in the lack of a lot of noise for long exposures, but also with the full sensor allowing you a lot more freedom in cropping.

Because of all those megapixels…it’s a lot easier to fix a shot when the lightning appears off-center and not in a good way. For example, this shot was taken with my wide angle when I really should have been using the 50mm or even the 85mm. But the storm had just come over top of the house so I left the camera under the umbrella outside shooting shot after shot, and didn’t realize how far it had gotten away from us before it was too late.

Either way, a little bit of a crop and boom, you’ve got this awesome triple-strike bolt that all seems to originate from one spot.

Goodness I can’t wait for monsoon season out here! Need me some storms, the boring blue sky and 106 degrees is killing me!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 24mm, f/5.0, iso 100, 30 sec)

Up in the Air

Clouds storm updraft airplanes

(Click to see the image full-sized or so it fits your monitor)

It’s another Movie Title Wednesday and this one comes from the sky and a Southwest Airlines window seat. I can’t tell you how lucky I was to sit on this site of the plane…the other side I believe didn’t get to see the action in the clouds that I did.

First off…Up in the Air. A fantastic film starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. It’s such a brilliant film and really tells the story of what it’s like for some of these guys who are constantly and always traveling. It kind of resonates just a teeny bit with my frequency of work trips to Vegas lately. They never are home enough to even have a home, so their apartments sit empty aside from a few items and their main concern in life is how many miles they’ve collected. The job Clooney has is a brutal one and I can’t image ever doing that. I loved the film. Kendrick was brilliant as well, never really noticed her before until this movie. Check it out if you haven’t.

There is a memory I have from sometime in the past, maybe when I was younger, of being in a plane and suddenly passing by a towering thunderhead off the wing of the plane. There is something about your aircraft being 37,000 feet (or so) in the air and then passing by something that makes you feel so small. I’ve always remembered seeing that cloud and everytime I get on a plane, I’m wishing for that to happen again.

So of course, last week was awesome. The plane weaving through these treacherous skies, giant clouds exploding all around us. This one above was absolutely beautiful and could have been a supercell. Hard to tell from the ground, but the height was impressive.  I love this photo with just a bit of the wing making an appearance in the bottom right to get you an idea of scale.

Something that kind of befuddles me though. The shot is at ISO 100, but there is a lot of noise in the clouds. Might have been because of shooting through a window, but it’s still a bit strange.

I actually like the noise. And I’ve learned to accept a bit of grain in my images. I’ve noticed a few times when I’ve printed an photo with noise, it really doesn’t show up as much as it does on my computer screen. Also…using any noise reducer would have destroyed the gorgeous textures these clouds have going on.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/320th)

 

 

First lightning of the year

Lightning strikes in Memphis

I knew it would work out this way. After spending three days driving 2200 miles stormchasing the midwest…and getting essentially nothing…all it took was a vacation to Memphis and standing outside on the patio to get my first real lightning shots of the season. I did get a few in Nebraska two weeks ago, but they were from pretty far away and don’t really measure up to my standards *tee hee*

I actually did take my bro-in-law’s car and drove about 1/4 mile down the road to a more open area to get the shot above, but most of the stuff just came over the house for 2-3 hours and it was easy pickin’s.

One thing I did learn last night: I love my Canon 85mm 1.8 lens for shooting lightning. The photo above was with that lens and it’s uncropped. If you zoom into the full-sized version, you can see even more lightning trails. LOVE IT. Clear, crisp…wonderful. Can’t wait to use it this monsoon season.

As always, you can click on the image to see it larger!

(exif above: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/5, iso 100, 25 sec)

(exif below: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5, iso 100, 20 sec)


 

Figures

Storms from the air

Oh I’m on vacation, need a nap, don’t want to be on the computer too much, but I took a couple of shots of some severe weather in the midwest as we twisted and turned in the air to avoid all of it.

No matter what I see on the ground…there is something so majestic about flying close to a towering thunderstorm. It’s hard to compete with that. If someone gave me the power to fly, I think that would be the first thing I’d do. Find me a storm and fly alongside it.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!