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Bubbles

Bubbles
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 400, f/5.0, 1/40th sec // buy print)

Our third day of storm chasing ended up being the biggest challenge of them all. We ended up being nailed by a haboob/whale’s mouth near Tucumcari, and then spent the next 3 hours or so trying to get south of the storm to no avail. We ended up in Texas and were constantly on the east-southeast side and the inflow was so strong and so dusty, we couldn’t see the road at times, much less the sky.

But on a few occasions the dust cleared and we had this beautiful view of heavy mammatus clouds hanging over us. In Arizona, we get these from time to time, but they don’t look like this…a vast and expansive ceiling of bubbles stretching on for miles.

And the lightning that flashed above seemed to weave its way through the bubbles like a snake. This was taken somewhere near Friona and Hereford in Texas.

Faintly on the horizon in this photo you may get the idea of blowing dust. It was going from left to right and being pulled into the storm like it was being sucked up by a giant vacuum cleaner. I’d never seen anything like it. Just getting this shot took me holding the tripod down as well as being low to the road. Intense winds.

A few more images yet to come from our trip!

Storm of the Apocalypse

Storm of the Apocalypse
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 640, 1/50th, f/8 // buy print)

No one is more amazed than I am at the way my timelapse of the Booker supercell took off. For me personally it was a huge moment to capture a storm like this. So I was crazy proud. But I had no idea it would be something that soooo many people would find utterly awesome and want to share it everywhere. Even over a week later it’s continuing to be shared on various blogs and websites, and still going strong. As of writing this it has almost equaled the number of Vimeo plays as the July 5th, 2011 Haboob video of mine that also went viral.

It’s been an insane ride once again. Thank you all for the love.

So of course I will be posting various views of the storm over the next few weeks since we observed it over the course of 30 minutes and WOW do storms like this change quickly. It’s simply unbelievable to watch how it evolved over the course of 24 minutes or so.

I love this one in particular. I chose to create a print out of this capture mainly because of how it looks like a tornado or something has appeared on the right side. I had a meteorologist email me and he believes this was actually a tornadic storm and while we couldn’t see a clear funnel, a tornado  touched the ground at some point.

Either way…it was mesmerizing and amazing to watch. The orange sky behind it was creating this spooky backlight. What I also loved…was not only did the clouds and rain and dirt all look hellish…the ground itself was a field of plowed (or cut down) corn stalks…it looked almost like a landscape from the end of the world.

More images to come from this storm…can’t wait to share them all!

A supercell near Booker, Texas

The Booker Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 640, 1/50th, f/5.6 // buy print)

There are no words really to describe the moment we saw this storm. We (My buddy Andy Hoeland and I) had been driving through rain and hail, always on the wrong side when we finally make a gamble to just push south through the storm and get on the far side if we could. When we finally left the rain behind and had a clear look to our west…our jaws dropped. We stopped on top of a hill, got out of the car, set up the cameras and started recording this monster.

Seeing something like this has been a longtime goal of mine. This was my fourth year chasing in the plains and I’ve never come CLOSE to this kind of structure. Pictures don’t do it justice. This was with a 14mm lens. It seems like it’s far away and safe, but in reality it was crazy close and we were ready to bail at any moment.

When I finally had all the cameras going and sat back to just take it all in…tears filled my eyes. I yelled with joy at the top of my lungs, I gave Andy a big hug, thanking him for picking this spot almost a week before as our target location. We heard other chasers nearby hooting and hollering as well. It was a magnificent moment.

This image is actually about 20 minutes or so after our first stop. We never could stay long in one place because the rain was just to our right and bearing down. This was when the supercell started really spinning at the base and pulled up dirt from below.

I will never…in all my life…forget this day.

Different views of this thing, a timelapse and a lot more to come from our trip!

 

The Twilight Zone

The road ahead
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 500, f/18, 1.3 sec // buy print)

Nothing I like better than a spooky, dark, cloudy scene when it’s storming. Here is one of my favorite roads in all of Arizona…it’s popular of course, for obvious reasons. The long road extending downwards towards the Superstitions in the distance.

One of the cooler spots in Arizona.

I captured this back in February of last year…a beautifully dark winter storm was blowing through and thus I hit the road as per usual. The one thing that seems to pop out in this image to make it extra-special to me is that one headlight. Something about it is ominous and when I looked at it again this morning, the title “Twilight Zone” just popped into my head.

Ahhhh, I’m dying for some stormy weather…monsoon season just over a month away.

An old house in Colorado

The House - Colorado Thunderstorm Mammatus

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, 1/320 f? // buy print)

Here’s another image from our brief trip to the central plains for a little bit of spring stormchasing.  An amazing display of mammatus was headed our way and I was on the lookout for something special to capture in the foreground. Sure enough, we stumbled upon this old house just beckoning us to include it in our compositions.

I’ve never seen mammatus clouds like that before, so it was kind of a thrill to get them on camera finally.

I used the Rokinon 14mm on  his one, which not only is manual focus, but also has a manual aperture ring, so I have no clue what I shot this at. It was handheld, so probably wider than f/8.

A fun trip, I still have a few more images to share at some point!

The hand of God

The Hand of God - Oklahoma Panhandle Thunderstorm

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/400th // buy print)

When we saw this thing explode along the dry line in the Oklahoma panhandle…it was a sight to behold. It’s weird how stormchasing works. You setup in some location, the skies are clear and you wait. Your forecasting buddies have told you that a dry line will be moving eastward, hitting moisture and instability, and somewhere west of Woodward, OK…storms should start firing off in the next hour.

And then boom, clouds go nuts.

I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to predict weather even with all our technology, but at the same time, I marvel at how much we do know.

This storm ended up being the cell that produced that massive anvil in a photo I posted last week. The scene above was about 15-20 minutes before that.

The way the anvil starts spreading at the top right of the cloud reminding me of a giant hand reaching out. And with an angelic light behind it from the sun…who else could it be but God?

A giant anvil in Oklahoma

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 125, 1/400th, f/8 // buy print)

This was a storm that had a ton of promise when it first exploded out of nothingness…we watched the entire thing happen in front of us. But it just kind of sat in one spot, looked pretty for a bit, but eventually got busted by a weather term known as a “cap”…a lid on the atmosphere that prevents storms from getting any higher and thus more severe.

A tough image to process from a single exposure…lots of harsh light from behind the cloud. I’ve been using nothing but luminosity masks and levels adjustments in Photoshop lately for all my landscape/storm processing, plus RAW adjustments in Lightroom. Still learning…I love the results compared to ways I’ve done it in the past.

A Colorado gust front

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso400, 1/250th // buy print)

Gust fronts are pretty cool to see. What you see in the photo above is akin to a tidal wave that has passed over you, heading for somewhere else. That hard edge is the front and all the creepy clouds behind it are in its wake.

These are also known as outflow boundaries, which is what we see A TON of here in Arizona during the summers. Except ours usually include a giant wall of dust to go with it. Out on the Colorado plains, there was some dust, but mostly you just had crazy strong winds and a wicked sky.

My wife Jina loved this image and picked up on something I didn’t…the juxtaposition of the green wheat and the dead field on the other side of the road.  I was there, so it didn’t stand out to me as much as the clouds did. I find it hilarious what I can miss in my own images…God bless my wife.

Not too long ago I picked up a cheap-o Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens to use for timelapsing while stormchasing this summer. With an extra body now for weddings, I’d like to be able to timelapse and take normal photos with two wide angle lenses at the same time. Shouldn’t have sold the old Tamron 17-35, but I did when I bought the Canon 17-40.

Anyways, since this lens is not only manual focus, but also a manual aperture, I don’t remember what f-stop I was at for this! But regardless, I love the lens…so crazy wide, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

 

Timelapse of a little Colorado supercell

This was our first stop last Saturday after flying into Denver to storm chase for a few days. We made our way to the southeast portions of the state and pulled off onto a dirt road 10 miles north of Springfield. Radar showed a small supercell with rotation heading northeast.

We must have hung out here for around 90 minutes. Gave me enough time to set up a timelapse and capture this supercell emerging from the gloom and racing across the horizon. When it finally pops out, you can really see the rotation and some intense updrafts happening even as it starts to die out at the end of the clip.

Some technical timelapse notes. This was 65 minutes of real time, 1300 images, 3 seconds apart.

One issue I always seem to run into is what is always my problem: Slowing down. When I storm chase, I tend to rush around, toss gear here and there, no worries for anything in an attempt to get the shot. And that leads to forgetting things. Whenever I timelapse, the one thing I fail to do is put white balance into a manual K mode. I tend to forget it and leave it on AWB. That can cause problems…mainly a bit of flicker and color variances.

That’s just a heads up to myself and anyone else wanting to learn this. Gotta remember…EVERYTHING in manual.

This is in 1080p, so enjoy full-screen goodness.

A little Colorado mothership

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 200, f/8, 1/250th // buy print)

When it comes to stormchasing, one thing that Arizona lacks 95% of the time is iconic storm structures from supercells. Don’t get me wrong…they are beautiful and fun to photograph. But in Arizona, our storms tend to build up, drop a ton of rain and lightning, and then die out. If you don’t know what a supercell is…sometimes a storm cell is so intense and powerful, that it almost becomes it own entity. It’s rotating, pulling in gobs of moisture…and most of all, it moves across the land like a low-flying spaceship.

Which is why every spring/early summer I try to get out into the central plains to chase these unique storms, because the structures are just so amazing.

This past Saturday I flew to Denver along with a couple of buddies…Matt Granz and Andy Hoeland. We had a whirlwind two-day adventure which saw us drive almost 1500 miles across three states. We started on Saturday in Colorado where severe storms were set to explode over the eastern portions of the state.

We got lucky enough to see the storm above. We waited patiently for it to get closer to us, because the roads out there were a bit scarce. It was overcast and a bit gloomy, so it took a bit of time, but finally the cell we were watching on radar emerged from the dark and we got a good view of it. You can see in the center portion of the image…clouds that look like striations from right to left, going upwards. That indicates rotation in the storm. Also, below those striations is a low hanging cloud…probably just the base, but I think there is a little wall cloud in there too. Hard to tell.

For me…this was the kind of thing I have been trying to photograph. It wasn’t monstrous or epic…but it was fun to watch. I also have a timelapse of this entire scene…so stay tuned for that. You’ll get to see the rotation I’m talking about, and also how the cloud kind of flies low across the ground.

In the upcoming months I’ll be showing more images from this day and the next!