Returning from a storm interception last night (June 10) and watching the sky from a red traffic signal, I saw a brilliant rainbow glowing against the dark background of clouds. The receding severe thunderstorm was rolling off to the east and the late evening sun was shining through clearing skies in the west. I hoped I could reach Medina’s Public Square before the rainbow faded, since there was the possibility of shooting landmark buildings with a rainbow above. I parked and trotted with my camera across the Square’s green and in light rain, with occasional cloud-crawling lightning overhead, I found my spot. That late sunshine was lighting the bright red top of the city’s old Town Hall and Engine House, dark sky in the background, and — yes! — that brilliant rainbow with a companion arc making the picture. I stood there for a while, shooting the rapidly changing lighting and rainbow intensity and when the sun went away, so did I. I’m very pleased with the resulting picture, which The Medina Gazette published today (at unfortunately low resolution), and I hope it brought a smile to many people who saw it.
It’s “shelfie” season: the time of year when springtime convective weather generates strong thunderstorms and picture-worthy shelf clouds. The popular term for shelf cloud photos, playing upon the term used for smart phone self-portraits or selfies, is shelfie.
May 10 was the first opportunity. I took up position and awaited the storm’s arrival in the parking lot of a public park. As the storm approached I could see only the separated top of the shelf above the treeline; that gave it the appearance of a wall of cloud (not a wall cloud) looming in the distance. The feature came closer and finally made visual separation from the trees and I knew I wasn’t about to be swept away!
The storm was silent, no thunder, until it drew closer and I could hear the roar of wind in the treetops. A 34 mph peak wind was plenty strong, however, and ushered in a steep temperature drop. I was glad to have a jacket with me.
Another photo-op presented itself with a squall line of severe thunderstorms on May 14. I thought I’d given myself enough time to reach a selected observation point in a city park in Lorain County but as I drove I realized I wouldn’t make it in time. So I bailed to a rural road and found a likely spot: a farmer’s access drive from the road to an wide-open field. I parked, got out of my car, and there it was! There was thunder and lightning with this one so I had some concern; nearby objects were better targets than me so I told myself I was okay. The shelf rolled over my location quickly. Intense rain arrived with 43 mph winds. And then it stopped. The rain and wind simply stopped. That was a very intense, concentrated line that moved along very quickly. A strange experience.
A Great Blue Heron has occasionally been seen perching on a branch of a nearby dead tree. Yesterday I spotted the bird in time to grab my camera and, as discreetly as possible, shoot photos of it. I watched as it sat, then preened a bit, stretched, then took flight down to the edge of our pond. Frogs, fish, and other prey attract the random heron, and our neighborhood Red Shouldered Hawk.
Our local Red-Shouldered Hawk alighted on a tree near our pond Sunday as it has been doing of late. The raptor — this one or a lookalike — has regularly rocketed across our front yard, staked out our bird feeder, bagged itself a Mourning Dove, dined on a bullfrog, easily earning the Murder Bird reference.
Deadly though it may be, this bird is beautiful and interesting to watch. It stayed for a long time on the tree branch, looking around, probably hunting from its perch. I’ve shot some photos of the hawk as it perched in other spots but never got shots of it in flight — they’re just so fast! Patiently waiting helps but this time I had a good vantage point with some space and, therefore, time to react when the bird launched. Murder Bird stretched its tail, stretched each wing, scratched itself, and faced the wind.
Off it went! I was able to shoot only a few frames and most were not very clear as I pushed to catch up with the hawk’s fast-accelerating movement; one shot, the one above, was decent enough to show. Our Murder Bird is a vicious predator but absolutely gorgeous and thrilling to watch.
We’re near, rather beyond the time when I withdraw my bird feeder from use leaving the birds to fend for themselves over the warmer months.
The bird feeder has been busy. I have not been busy. So I shot a good number of photos of birds at or near the bird feeder, only a few feet from my office window.
Several larger birds have escaped me because they cannot fit inside the wire fence cylinder that protects the feeder from squirrels and deer. The bigger birds show up and quickly leave, seeking treats elsewhere; they include Bluejays and a Red Bellied Woodpecker. The woodpecker has landed on the cage occasionally and used its pointed beak and long tongue to retrieve a morsel or two but he’s usually here and gone before I can grab my camera.
The night of April 7, 2020 looked interesting to me. An approaching squall line bearing very active thunderstorms was moving rapidly toward us, approaching from the west-northwest. I hoped the storms would provide me with excellent chances at lightning photography. I was mistaken.
Shortly after I recorded what would be my only decent lightning photo of the night, my phone went crazy with emergency alerts: TORNADO WARNING! The city’s tornado warning sirens sprang to life.
I grabbed the camera and fled indoors.
Once inside we opened and occupied the only space we deem safe against storms — an office closet occupied by file cabinets and shelved storage.
Timidly I peered through an office window ready at any second to duck back to the closet to avoid flying debris, a falling tree, watching for a tell-tale funnel cloud. The wind bent neighboring trees farther than I though they could stand. Rain pummeled the side of the house, the anemometer registered 49 MPH at peak. A distinctly-blue flash lit the horizon from the direction of downtown — a power flash!
I continued hearing the roaring sound as it changed focus from northwest, to west, to the south. I never saw a funnel cloud but I heard the storm’s passage: it was a localized source, likely the tornado.
Looking at the radar depiction of the severe-warned thunderstorms a distinctive and ominous shape emerged from the colorful pixels — a hook — the signature of tornado activity. I realized the thing had passed quite close by!
But how close?
We stayed awake for an hour or so, too excited to sleep. Winds, rain, and thunder continued for a while, and slowly abated.
Finally to bed.
The next day I took a walk to survey the damage. I made a number of photographs, relaying them to the National Weather Service along with street locations hoping to help in their damage survey.
Broken branches and fallen trees were common along a path about two blocks south of our house. Fortunately deciduous trees were not in leaf, helping them survive the winds. Evergreens, with their limbs full of greenery and shallow roots, took the brunt of the damage and inflicted most of the damage I saw.
A small yellow house with a green metal roof and brand-new siding was damaged when a large pine tree was uprooted and blown over. The tree lay broken across the little house, whose owners suffered loss of the improvements but also mourned the loss of their grand tree.
There was much more damage around town: the root balls of toppled trees pulled up sidewalks and gas lines, smashed into houses, blocked streets.
To no one’s surprise, the National Weather Service determined the cause of all the mayhem was a tornado: Category EF-1, 100 MPH winds, 100 yards maximum width. Along the nearly 12-mile path the storm damaged other homes, left a scoured path across a field, and tore the sheet metal roof from a large pole barn. Much damage reported. No lives lost.
How close was the tornado to us? Too close.
Early in April the planet Venus made an approach and passage through the Pleiades star cluster, also known as the Seven Sisters. Many, even most nights were cloudy but we had a couple of clear evening skies that allowed a bit of astronomy and picture-taking. It’s notable that Venus makes the Pleiades transit only once every eight years so this was a limited opportunity to view and record.
Our Moon was also quite lovely the nights of the transit though it did provide quite a lot of bothersome intrusive light. Nonetheless, Moon remains a favorite target of mine….