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First view of the Booker, Texas supercell

First view of the Booker Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 500, f/8, 1/6th, blended image // buy print)

I’ve told the story of the Booker Supercell before quite a few times in various places, but it’s one I never get tired of telling. It was such a pinnacle moment for me in my life, or at least, as a storm chaser…that I wont soon forget the feeling of seeing it for the first time.

My buddy Andy and I had landed in Denver earlier than morning and drove towards the CO/KS/OK border meetups. I made the first mistake of going northeast instead of south when we got into Kansas and we ended up stuck in rain and hail for what felt like a very long time.

We finally knew we had no choice but to go back towards the storm and then go south to get out of the rain. We knew what we were doing but being out there with a rotating storm coming at you…well, it’s nerve-wracking for those of us from Arizona where storms don’t necessarily try to kill you.

Finally…we broke free of the rain and to our west…the supercell above was just sitting there over Texas. And yeah, we had no clue but in our race to get out of the rain we ended up in Texas. We’d find that out a bit later. I was driving so I couldn’t look too much, but I could see it anyways and was determined to find a good view. I saw a dirt road and took it, heading up a hill and then down the other side where we had a perfect downslope in front of us to see this storm.

I tried to maintain steadiness as I set up my cameras. No one else may understand this…but as a storm chaser, this was the thing I’d been chasing for four years. It was overwhelming. I was shaking. I knew that I needed to be methodical in taking my time setting up the timelapse. I couldn’t screw it up. Focus. Manual white balance. Clean memory card. All ready. And so I started the timelapse. And then I used the other camera on a tripod to take stills like the one above.

And after the timelapse was rolling and I had gotten shots with the other camera AND had tweeted out an iPhone photo saying “We did it”…I sat back and looked at the thing. And tears filled my eyes. I ran over to Andy and gave him a huge hug.

One of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever beheld. And pictures don’t do it justice. I wish I could go back and live in that memory over and over.

If you missed the timelapse, you can view it here

Lightning near Booker, Texas

The Leading Edge
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, f/6.3, iso 500, 1 second // buy print)

Chasing storms in Arizona as compared to the plains is just so different. What I love about the plains is how you can chase a storm for long time…it evolves, moves, recycles and can cover a lot of ground. In Arizona…the build up, die and rebuild somewhere else from outflows. You aren’t actually “chasing” individual storms as much as you are trying to stay ahead of the next convection.

When we finally got on the Booker supercell (timelapse here), it was 6:07 pm. This was taken an hour later and it’s the same storm…just losing energy and gusting out. But it was such a blast to just stay ahead of it and keep shooting the different stages it went through. Even this one, towards the end, was absolutely beautiful.

I’m already dying for next spring haha…I’m definitely hooked again and can’t wait to get out there.

 

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!

 

A Nebraska supercell after dark

Nebraska supercell after dark

(Click to enjoy the storm a little bigger, almost like you were there. Okay, not really)

Whew. It’s around 9am right now and I just landed in Phoenix a bit after 7am after flying out from Oklahoma City this morning. A long trip, I added around 2200 miles to the lovely Hyundai Santa Fe I rented and slept in the car two of the three nights for a total of five hours. I did actually rent a hotel on Tuesday night and it was some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.

The bottom line from the trip was that I didn’t really see what I wanted to see. I was hoping for beautiful, isolated supercells with gorgeous cloud structure. Ehhh…not this time. That’s okay though…I had a blast, got to spend a day with an awesome stormchasing photographer named Shane Kirk that I’d never met in person before and I saw so many beautiful places I’d never seen before.

I have a ton of stories, and a video I’ll be putting together of my few adventures…but right now I’ll talk quickly about the photo above.

The photo above was taken in the NW corner of Nebraska on Monday night. The beautiful storm clouds you see in this shot had just passed over this road from the left side. This was a fairly intense supercell that was tornado warned and had a vortex signature on it. The fun part was I had come down this road doing about 95mph so I could not be slaughtered by the thing. Basically it was akin to walking really slow across some railroad tracks as a massive locomotive comes barreling down at you. The train barely misses you, but you get slammed with all the wind anyways.

As I was coming down the road at one point, I thought I saw stuff blowing across the road up ahead and figured it was a funnel and I was screwed. But it was just some nasty RFD (rear flank downdraft) that rocked my car all over the place.

When I finally got to a safe spot, I turned around and aimed my camera at this cell. It was just gorgeous. The photo can’t do it justice. The thing was flashing non-stop and it was something to behold.

I have a few more lightning shots I may post down the road, but this was one of my favs. The first good shot on a crazy stormchasing trip.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.6, iso 200, 8 sec)