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Power

A heavy downburst of rain explodes outwards as it hits the ground, sending dusty outflow headed for Casa Grande. Lightning shoots out of the front of the rainshafts slamming in the ground.

Drove 45 minutes for about 14 minutes worth of shooting and that was it…but what a way to kick off Monsoon 2017 four nights ago just northeast of Casa Grande. Storms moving southwest towards that area weren’t dying out like expected, so the kids and I went into emergency drill mode and got everything in the car in record time, and bolted to McCartney Road just off I-10 and watched some crazy bolts flash before us.

Asher was our spotter on the way down, and hopefully I’ll post some short video later of his enthusiasm every time he saw a “flash” haha.

The storm itself was different, not sure why. Bolts were arcing out away from the cell over and over which seemed unusual…and I thought I saw some striations up in the cloud base briefly, but was hard to tell. Definitely a lot of drama with the downburst and dust exploding southwestward. That area is one of my favorites for that very reason…all that dust and flatness just adds so much to an image.

Haboob over Organ Pipe

I always knew southern Arizona near the border gets interesting weather…I think I saw a brief landspout down south of Three Points last year, it seems like supercells occur more that way as well, so with some shear in place yesterday and models hinting at storms popping in that vicinity, I waited for a few hours until things started going. Wow once they got going, they exploded. Big hail cores, supercell structure, severe warnings, pea-sized hail hitting the truck. One of my favorite chases here in AZ, culminating in this epic haboob with a stacked shelf cloud rolling over the stunning landscape of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This is a 9-image panorama just to get the entire structure of thing thing in one frame. I have a couple time-lapses I’ll be working on later which should be pretty awesome…definitely up there with my favorites of all-time out here!
And rad to meet up with my buddy Trey Greenwood down there for this chase, we were pretty stoked to see this yesterday…although I have a feeling this kind of thing may happen down there more than we realize!

More Wynnewood

A strong EF4 tornado spins across the fields near Katie and Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016

This tornado! Never get tired of it 🙂 I’ve been wanting to take some frames from the time-lapse of this guys and do more fine turning on the editing…so I’m finally getting around to doing that. This was one of the first few frames I shot when I got to this spot south of Wynnewood, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016.

You can see the time-lapse of this at the end of Vorticity, but it’s cropped a bit so you miss out on the beautiful structure above that twister.

Part of doing the fine tuning was removing the powerlines, because while it’s too difficult to do in a time-lapse, I really disliked them and wanted this to feel more in the middle of nowhere. If you can’t tell, I’m dying to get out chasing. Just about three weeks until my schedule is open and I can head out!

Ackerly

A gorgeous supercell slowly moves over the farmlands of Texas near the town of Ackerly.

Another image from May 31st when we were chasing marginal storms in west Texas hoping for something good and then a boundary collided with a storm near Lamesa and it exploded into a gorgeous supercell for about an hour.
This is near the town of Ackerly as it began to slowly die out, but not before it gave us some stunning lightning, structure and beautiful colors.

Swisshelm

A smattering of lightning bolts slam into the Swisshelm Mountains in southeastern Arizona

This will go down as one of my favorite chasing storms in Arizona this past summer. I didn’t end up with my best photos of all-time or anything, but it was just the night itself. I sat here watching gorgeous mammatus light up at sunset and as it got dark, the lightning started blasting on three sides of me, and I watched it slowly march over the Swisshelm Mountains to my east.

This was with the 135mm so I was super tight on the mountains hoping to get some close bolt action. I love how they are just destroying the mountainsides here while a powerful downburst is creating an exploding wall of dust that end up hitting us soon after.

The bolts were just so intense, it’s one of those nights shooting lightning that you live for.

Erupt

An isolated supercell south of Paducah, Texas, explodes upwards in an eruption of cumulus.
Other than the Wynnewood tornado day, this isolated gem from June 14th south of Paducah, Texas was probably my favorite storm of the spring.

This is a frame from the time-lapse I shared in my film Vorticity. I had gotten on it earlier on the north side but I knew it was all wrong. The storm started moving more east/southeast, not northeast, so I bailed through some dirt roads and drove south until I got into a position where I though the storm was moving right towards me.

And boy did it. I sat here for around 50 minutes, which is a long time for me when I’m time-lapsing a storm. This beast was exploding upwards with such ferocity, it was incredible. During that entire 50 minutes, the storm never moved off course, it came directly at me and eventually right over my head.

There is nothing quite like an isolated storm. And the crepuscular rays were insane. Definitely a highlight of the spring!

Near Lamesa, Texas

Outflow boundaries collided near Lamesa, Texas and despite it being a marginal day, we ended up with a gorgeous supercell for about 40 minutes.

The third day of my Plains Chase Tour this spring was a marginal one, we woke up in Garden City on May 31st and by mid-afternoon we were in Lubbock chasing storms to our south. We got on one that was okay, but then a storm near Lamesa formed and we noticed an outflow boundary headed for it from the east. We hoped it would give it some extra juice and by the time we got down there, it certainly turned into a full-fledged gorgeous supercell for about an hour.

This was southeast of Lamesa and wow did it look stunning. All the dust churning underneath and the teethy low clouds on the left side. One of my favorite storms from this spring and all on a marginal day!

Obliterate

Something like hellfire rains down on these mountains west of Phoenix, with a massive bolt landing right atop Courthouse Rock.

Last night didn’t appear to have much promise, but me and the kiddos followed the storms from near Whittman all the way west of Tonopah and set up near Salome Highway and Interstate 10 to time-lapse a stormy sunset. But the storms didn’t disappear, they hung around, built up and as a new cell started dropping rain closer to us, the bolts began to crash down. Couldn’t believe it.

This was the best shot of the night…the left peak is one I always notice when I head west out of Phoenix. Just learned it’s called Courthouse Rock and on the right are the hills near Triple Eye. I wanted to turn around and go home a million times yesterday, especially with only 3 hours sleep and with ALL three kids with me, but you never know what’s going to happen.

Vorticity: A new time-lapse film

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Song by Kerry Muzzy: “Found” (Available on iTunes and Amazon – please support him!)
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Blood. Sweat. Tears. Joy.  That’s what this spring was for me. The miles, the grind, the failing, the epic days missed, the lack of sleep, the jubilation, the friendships strengthened, and the time away from my family. And when the chasing was all done…wondering, was worth it all?

Heck yeah it was.

I had three goals this spring: Get a tornado on time-lapse, capture the best footage I possibly could, and chase as much as my schedule would allow. That ended up totalling 18 chase days. 20,000 miles driven. Almost 60,000 time-lapse frames shot. Nine total states. Hours and hours and hours of editing. All between April 15th and June 15th.

And the tornado? Not only did I get one, but I got six more. On April 15th, the very first day out, I saw two tornadoes in the Texas Panhandle. May 9th was Wynnewood and Sulphur in Oklahoma (both in this film), as well as Trinidad on June 13th in Colorado. And while most tornadoes will be obvious in the film, you’ll have to use a keen eye to spot the first two, which appear at 2:08 and 2:13. The Wynnewood tornado, which you will see at the very end of the film, was one of the most surreal moments of my life. I was so focused on keeping up with the storm that day, that I barely realized that I had captured what I’d been working so hard to get. I texted my wife a few photos and simply said “Baby I did it“. It wasn’t until she responded “Babe, it’s beautiful. I’m so happy for you” that I completely lost it – live stream going on in the truck, people watching, and tears streaming down my face.

But that’s how much this spring meant to me, and how hard I was going. Most of the time exhausted. My typical routine would be to leave Phoenix sometime in late afternoon, drive all night, sleep an hour or two in the truck and then chase the next few days. And then drive home all night again. I did whatever I could to to minimize the time away from my family. Heck, I once even shot a wedding all day, left the venue, and drove all night to chase. I didn’t want to miss anything this spring.

What’s awesome to me is that some of my best stuff came from marginal days, where it took some effort and crazy luck to get sick storm structures. Those were the surprises – amazing clips worthy of the final product despite the chase day starting out subpar. Combined together with everything else, I think it’s some of my best footage to date!

Technical note…this film marks the first time I used my Canon 5DSR and 11-24 for time-lapse, which I bought right before the spring started (Thank you Martin Heck for the help!). I’m not 100% sure of course, but I believe the tornadoes in the film may be some of the first ever captured in 8K resolution. The 50 megapixels that camera offers was huge for being able to zoom into certain shots and still maintain fantastic quality and sharpness. Couldn’t be happier with that beast. I also used my trusty 5D3 for the tighter shots, with the 35mm, 50mm or 135mm.

I have to mention Kerry Muzzey here…he has surpassed being kind to me. This is the 3rd or 4th time he’s donated a song to one of my projects and I’m forever grateful. His music is powerful, haunting at times, and always, always perfect for the story I want to tell. This year I knew right away that “Found” was the song I would use. Please visit the links below to support his work!

There are a lot of names to thank which are listed at the end of the film. I owe them all so much for helping me this spring. Nowcasting, making me turn around when I was headed to Montana, teaching me about forecasting, helping me choose the right new camera, editing input, and just being good friends. I am very blessed to have some amazing people around me!

Most of all to my wife, Jina. She knows…every year I’m gone longer. I’m sure next year could be worse. But through it all, even when it’s really tough, she’s always right behind me. Making things work when I’m away. There are never enough words to cover how amazing she is.  But she knows and I know – this film wouldn’t happen without her.

I think that’s about it! Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support all year. I truly hope you enjoy this one! On to Monsoon 3!

 


Technical Details:

Captured with A CANON 5DSR, CANON 5D3, Canon 11-24mm f/4, 16-35mm, 35mm, 50mm, 135mm
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

Most clips available in 8K resolution, as well as 4K.

Near Ackerly, Texas

A gorgeous supercell hovers over the farmlands near Ackerly, Texas

May 31st was one of those days where you would have been happy to see just about anything. Marginal, not much hope…and we had woken up early in Garden City, KS and drove all the way to Lubbock, Texas just for a shot.

We got on one storm early, but as it died out, a southern storm near Lamesa was growing and an outflow boundary was headed right for it. Once they merged, the storm went full-blown supercell and it lasted for around an hour…such a treat on a day when we were worried we wouldn’t see much!