May 24th of last year was an amazing chase day. Last week I posted some supercell photos from earlier in the afternoon and this was one of the final scenes of the day. We knew there was a potential for tornadoes east of us but chasing in the dark and catching up with them seemed impossible, so we say back and took in this breathtaking scene. I’d never seen mammatus like this in person before and it was incredible to behold. The day was almost over, but we still had an awesome lightning storm headed our way that we’d enjoy for a few more hours yet!
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 8 sec // buy print)
A long, lonely highway of roughly 70 miles separates Merriman and Hyannis in western Nebraska. When you are low on gas, have no internet access and are praying that Hyannis has a working gas station, you don’t really want to stop too much. But when you see something like this, you have to. A huge MCS had come through here, leaving behind it wet roads and a gorgeous sky filled with mammatus clouds. A bit of lightning snakes around on the left side of the storm.
Was a great way to end the day…and yes, some kind strangers stopped by and confirmed a gas station was up ahead!
Sometimes you do all you can to get in front of epic supercells for those amazing structure and lightning photos…only to find out that a retreating cluster of storms at sunset can be equally as beautiful.
This was from last week on Interstate 70 on Colorado’s eastern border. We were chasing these storms in hopes of getting to the other side for some lightning imagery, when we realized we just had to stop for a few minutes. My dash Sony Handycam, that does my live stream feed, was bringing out some contrast that we couldn’t see with the naked eye too well.
And when I walked out and took a shot with my 5D3…wow, it really popped. It was almost like the camera could pick out the separation between two storms right there in the middle of the road. More than I could see with my own eyes.
Glad we stopped.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 25 sec, f/8 // buy print)
I’ve stacked lightning a handful of times. Stacking means when you basically merge multiple photos together to create a new image. In this case, I stacked near 30 images to get this one photo.
I don’t normally go this route for lightning…I like the solo strike, the power of less instead of much, much more…but sometimes when lightning is so far away that a single image just isn’t good enough, I like to see what happens when you stack ’em.
I photographed soooo much lightning on this night, in that same area (as you can see), so I had to give a stack a try. In fact, this is actually “Stack Number Two” from the night…the first one can be seen here. That one only had a few strikes, where this one includes everything that came after that. This image includes about 26 minutes worth of lightning. It’s kind of incredible to see what can happen in that short amount of time. The focus of the storm just raining bolts down in a general area.
Nature is amazing.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, f/8, 15 sec // buy print)
A few nights ago in Casa Grande I tweeted out something about a lightning bonanza happening down in that area. I started shooting from this very spot at around 8pm and left an hour later. And the lightning was in front of me the entire time.
It was easy pickin’s.
This is a stacked image of eight separate photographs. Because it was such a wide angle lens, I knew right away that I was going to do some stacking…because for me at least, a single strike would have to be utterly AMAZING to stand by itself. But a bunch of them together…that would be awesome. Also…this was sunset, so the purple in the sky was ridiculous. And the bubbly mammatus on the upper right…well, we just don’t see that all the time. I couldn’t believe I could get these kind of shots with that kind of sky…was too good to be true.
A bunch more coming from this night…including another stack at this very spot with the same lens that has even MORE lightning strikes. Cray cray.
(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!
(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!
(click on the images to view in lightbox)
This season of stormchasing has been amazing so far. July is now in the books and yet the stuff I’ve seen already this summer has been just awesome. A lot of that has to do with just BEING out there more than last year, but I feel like there have just been some epic scenes that I’ve been lucky to witness. For example, last night I had planned to stay in town and just shoot lightning if it moved into Phoenix in the evening. Our daughter has been sick and Sunday was pretty rough. Not a lot of sleep for anyone in our little house. So when she finally went to sleep and I saw this massive storm approaching town, I was happy that I was in town and not out chasing in the deserts. Beauty exists everywhere, even in the middle of a giant mess of buildings and asphalt. I visited a new parking garage last night, a taller one with very friendly security guards who were more concerned that I get good shots than caring if I was up there at all! Almost a 360 view of Phoenix from the top, so I’ll probably check it out a few more times. I shot a timelapse of this sunset and will be processing it sometime soon. You’ve got some simply stunning colors, mammatus clouds, and a dust storm on the left horizon. I’m including a bonus lightning shot from last night because I’ve captured so much lightning already this year, there is no way I’ll be able to post them all this summer. Also, you’ll notice it’s in B&W and I plan on writing about that sometime this week. (top image: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1.6sec. bottom: canon 85mm 1.8, f/8.0. iso 200, 20 sec)