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Fingers

Fingers
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/10, iso 200, 15 sec // buy print)

Judging from the light on the little hill on the horizon plus the 35mm lens I was using, this bolt hit fairly close to my position…maybe a mile or two away.

This was another shot from July 31st out near Wickenburg along Highway 74. That night was one of the most intense lightning chases I’ve ever been on. More to come, even a couple that actually hit that little hilltop!

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.

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.

Storm chasing in May

(NOTE, all photos in this post are those of Shane Kirk)

It’s almost like Disneyland or maybe your 21st birthday, or something you’ve always wanted to do but it’s still a month away and you feel like you’re going to explode from what feel like an eternity to wait.

That’s sort of what is going on inside of me right now. All I see are storm photos flooding in from the weather this week in the midwest all the way to the east coast. And all we have here are sunny skies!

I have big plans this summer. The biggest is chasing the monsoon here in Arizona, but that’s another blog post for another time.

The more immediate event is storm chasing next month somewhere in the midwest with my friend Andy and perhaps a few more people.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am. The idea of chasing storms and lightning is so much fun for me NOW living here in Arizona, but to go to where the monster storms are, the real weather…the supercells and wall clouds and tornadoes and hail and endless strikes of lightning…oh man.

Shane Kirk

We’re not sure when we’re going yet. The forecasts are good sometimes 7-14 days out, so we’ll be looking in early May to see when the weather looks to be the best. Then we’ll fly out to a good city, drive all day, stay in crappy motels, process photos and then hit the pavement again the next day.

Four days of storm chasing fun! And don’t worry, while I may be nowhere close to a weatherman (although I pretend to be), Andy knows his stuff plus we may have an actual meteorologist with us anyways.

The plan is to keep up with all the real storm chasers are headed, like Reed Timmer over at Tornado Videos or Dick McGowan, another Facebook friend of mine.

My other friend Shane Kirk from Kansas may meet up with us too. He’s the guy who is probably responsible for inspiring me to get out and photograph lightning. He takes brilliant shots, not only of the strikes themselves, but of monster storm clouds. The photos to the right are all his work.

Shane Kirk

One of the storms he calls the best he’s ever seen is also to the right…the spaceshape shaped, circular looking stormcell. Amazing looking…simple amazing. More shots of this incredible storm are right here.

I urge you to check out more of his work, it’s absolutely amazing and some of the best stuff out there when it comes to storm chasers. He’s also quite skilled and nature photography.

So that’s the big plan for May. I will be Twitpic crazy I’m sure…and try to post a couple of the best shots every night. Although I’m sure we’ll be plenty exhausted from non-stop driving and adrenaline rushes from what will hopefully be some powerful storms.

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