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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!

 

A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

Some timelapsing in New Mexico

A few weeks ago there was a nice little severe event that happened in southern New Mexico. I had always told myself if there was a chance of good storms, maybe even a tornado, in New Mexico, I’d make the drive over. It’s only a bit over four hours to Lordsburg, so I figured why not?

Sadly, I’m not a forecaster and the storms started going nuts before noon. We got there just after 1pm and saw some great stuff, but things started dying out a little bit after 2:30. At least where we were.

I found a couple of spots to do some timelapsing, the first two clips above were of a severe warned storm and then after that is mostly just some cloud development and movement.

Planned to stay in a hotel that night, but since things ended early, my daughter and I headed back to Phoenix. A long day, many miles, but it was just nice to get out and see some weather!

Nothing earth-shattering in these timelapses, just some beautiful cloud motion, which I love.

An early spring dust storm – May 9th, 2012

I got hit by and outraced this dust storm three times. First time I saw it and got hit was down by Eloy. I sped ahead of it on I-10, pulled over on highway 387 and shot it while looking west. I loved the juxtaposition of the cloud moving west while the dust storm moved north-northwest. That’s the first half of the timelapse.

Then I raced up I-10 again and pull over on Queen Creek Road as it rolled into Phoenix. When you watch, notice the little “gust-nadoes” spinning along the front of the dust wall!

Hope you enjoy! This is only May for the love!

Update: Here’s a zoomed in look at the gustnados. Those cars and that sign are Interstate 10.

Cellular

Cellular - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 125mm, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

Amazingly, I still have lightning shots from last summer that I haven’t posted yet! If you grabbed a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, you’ve likely seen this already.

This was an amazing night with some spectacular lightning strikes hitting all around Casa Grande. I was so stoked when I saw the first strike from the truck and knew I could stop and line it up with this cell phone tower.

Cannot wait for this season…have a major hankering for some lightning chasing.

Hillside

(please click to view on black and fit your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

We had some winter storms blown through the state last night, and there was even lightning strikes south of Phoenix in Casa Grande. Needless to say, it got me impatient for the monsoon season to arrive this summer. So I dug up this shot from last July. For those that have a copy of my stormchasing book, you’ve likely already seen it!

It was one of my first experiences shooting lightning down in Tucson and especially the Catalina Mountains. The strikes are just so intense there.

I love this shot. Depending on your monitor and how it’s calibrated…you’ll either see the lower right cactus really well, or not that well. I loved all the layers I got, starting with the Saguaro, then going to the mountain, the strikes, the lower clouds and the flowing ones at the top.

I said it above, but sometimes that text it’s hard to see. These portrait compositions on my blog are HUGE, so click on the image to have it fit your monitor!