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Intensity

A new image I never edited from September 5th, 2017…one of the most spectacular monsoon scenes I’ve personally experienced…the light was so intense from the setting sun, so magical…the color out of control, that I just stood there in awe. Toss in a rainbow, gorgeous desert cactus and shrubs and a strong downburst over Organ Pipe and it was almost too much haha.

Missing this stuff.

Castle Rock

A favorite image of mine from this past summer that I’ve been saving for whatever reasons, but figured I’d post it finally. Sometimes you like an image so much you are afraid to post it thinking others wont feel the same…silly, but it’s real.

Captured this about 3 miles from the Mexico board in the Coronado National Forest west of Nogales, while on a workshop with Paula and Karen. It was quite the show and shocking to us that this storm that seems to be dropping rain on the other side of the mountains, was putting down lightning strikes on OUR side. That hill got hit at least two other times and it was quite amazing to see from up so high.

This area seems so non-Arizona, it was almost like we WERE in another country for a little bit. Green mountains that definitely have more of a central America look to them. Such a gorgeous part of the state.

Bathed in Light

I must be learning how to be more patient these days, or at least, maybe finally realizing I can’t be on every storm, so might as well do the best I can with what I got. I was way down south yesterday, near Santa Rosa and Pisinemo with some really nice storms, but I had a bad feeling that they wouldn’t last into the night. At the same time, I see a nice line moving into Phoenix and realized I’m probably hosed.

In the past, I may have turned around and raced back home in a panic, but yesterday I stuck it out, got in front of the storms moving towards Organ Pipe and saw some of that magical monsoon light that shows why it’s special to chase out here.
Only captured two lightning strikes yesterday, this was the first and made the entire trip worth it. The rain was cresting the peaks, the sun was blazing on the desert landscape and it was all stunning. There is a little rainbow behind the left saguaro, plus an even fainter second one near the bolt. That Organ Pipe area has really grown on me this year. Always something awesome happening out that way.

And now it’s bed time. I had a time-lapse/photo gig at PIR shooting DC Solar construction lighting equipment at 1am this morning and got home around 5:30. Haven’t slept at all! Time to crash!

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.

 

Filaments

Filaments
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8.0, iso 100, 13 seconds // buy print)

My favorite focal length to shoot lightning with is 50mm. I dunno what it is…but if you get a bolt that fills the frame, it’s pretty much the perfect distance for me. You see the filaments more than if you are using say a 200mm or even a 135mm. That closeness to the storm and to the strike gives you that much more.

This was taken last night north of Sierra Vista, Arizona. We got caught in some epic downpours in town, but were finally able to get out of the rain and find dry-ish area to shoot. It was still raining on me a bit, but thankfully the 50 has a deep lens hood that helps a lot.

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 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!

Flash floods in southern Arizona

Friday afternoon and Saturday were some pretty eventful storm days for southeastern Arizona. I was down there both days chasing storms, lightning…etc…but something I wasn’t really thinking about were flash floods.

The deserts are usually very, very dry, so when you get a massive downpour of rain, it doesn’t seep into the earth. It just runs downhill. And if you have mountains and hills nearby, it all adds up to quickly form flash floods.

In the first two clips of flooding, the storm that dumped the rain was severe warned and even had rotation on it…which I kind of captured in this other video. We wanted to chase it, so we got off on Red Rock Road, only to find these low points in the road completely covered in rushing water. I am pretty sure my Vera could have made it…but with all the emergency vehicles that crossed the water after we stopped…it seemed like it could have been worse further up. Plus I didn’t want to get stuck with Lyla in the back!

The third clip in the video was from Saturday and was again the sight of a wash after a severe/tornado warned storm went through the area.

Also…enjoy some pictures of my little girl from Friday’s chase. She’s my little buddy, my stormchasing co-pilot and she’s also becoming very adept at spotting lightning. That’s all a father can ask for really.