May and June bring stormy weather and stormy weather often means dramatic skies. The evening of June 1 saw strong storms moving across Northeastern Ohio and when I saw an outflow boundary showing up strong and clear on radar, I headed out to see what was happening. I had not driven very far when I reconsidered my original observing destination and headed for the nearest open area I could find. Sweeping toward me over the treeline was a very impressive line of cloud; the line was so long I quickly shot several images using my trusty iPhone SE with the idea in mind of creating a multi-panel panorama later.
Once the outflow boundary rolled over me, I continued my trip seeking the cleanest storm edge I could find; several appeared to be headed my way but the line of storms seemed to be changing direction. After a good bit of moving around, I decided to head to the Wellington area in Lorain County as my best chance at a storm intercept. I discovered a farmer’s field access drive off a rural road and waited, surrounded by open fields, for the weather to come my way. And I waited. And waited. While I waited I photographed the changing cloudscape and wound up with my favorite view of the day — the last light illuminating a field as stormy clouds closed in. A complex and brilliant bolt of persistent Cloud to ground lightning convinced me my time in the open was done. Not set up for lightning photography, I watched from inside the car for a bit and headed into rain and home.
On a visit to Northwest Ohio yesterday (May 30) I stepped outdoors, looked to the west and spied a beautiful sight… the ragged edge of a line of clouds in the distance.
I strolled out, beyond a treeline to get a better look and saw an impressive gust front running ahead of cold air rolling over the area! I quickly shot a series of photos of the scene using my iPhone but realized my big Canon DSLR camera was in the car. I quickly retrieved the Canon and returned to my vantage point.
Seeing how quickly the line was moving, I race-walked seeking a different view and shot a few more photos before rain drops warned me I’d better get to shelter.
Normally I drive miles to intercept phenomena such as this gust front but this time it came to me — a surprise but a convenience — saving me the trip!
Photographed and Written: September 16, 2018. Published February 25, 2019.
The weather has been so often uninviting this summer that it was a pleasure to have a nice day Sunday. It was hot but too pretty to stay indoors, so we drove to the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve in Huron, on Lake Erie.
It’s migration season for birds but we rarely think of Monarch butterflies … they migrate too! It’s hard to imagine such delicate creatures as butterflies flying hundreds of miles but we have seen seeing them lately heading south. One of the first beautiful things we saw at the preserve was a Monarch picking up nectar from bright yellow flowers along the path.
We were also delighted to see an American Bald Eagle swooping down over the shallow waters of the marsh trying to catch a fish! As far as I could tell, the eagle missed the fish it was after when I spotted it. Some other visitors told us that they saw the eagle catch a fish but that it got away; it turned out to be a young bird so perhaps it needs to work on its technique! We didn’t even know there was an eagle’s nest at the nature preserve, so this was a real treat. At one point the eagle flew right overhead and that’s when I got my best pictures of it.
We watched a Great Egret, though we couldn’t get very close to it. The egrets are brilliant white with dark legs and only a little color: their orange beaks and a tiny greenish patch next to their eyes. They are so bright in sunlight that they are hard to photograph without special camera adjustments. The Great Egrets are sometimes harder to find than Great Blue Herons but are also wonderful to watch and I’ve gotten a few nice pictures of them over the years.
The main walking path at Sheldon Marsh is not very long but because of wooded areas, the wetland area, and the Lake Erie shoreline, offers plenty of wildlife spotting.
Speaking of spotting, I saw a feather stuck in the bark of a tree along the path! The feather was black with white spots. I don’t know how or why the feather was in that place but I suspect someone found it and put it on the tree. No matter, really, there it was! It turns out the be a wing feather from a Downy Woodpecker – beautiful, small black and white birds that often come to home feeders. I’ve found a Downy feather before but on the ground, not on a tree trunk.
The earliest fall colors are beginning to show up. Among them were some brilliant red leaves from a vine growing on a tree. The afternoon sun was shining through the woods, lighting up the leaves: perhaps my favorite way to look at them!
Among the other things we saw was a pretty Garter Snake – though it was too quick for me to get a picture – and a beautiful little Wood Duck that was quietly paddling around the marsh, just off the trail.
It was a beautiful day but as I said, it was also hot. We were walking slowly and mostly in the shade but we were dripping sweat so we headed home. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon.
I’d been reading articles about Comet 46P/Wirtanen and how it was making one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years “…the brightest comet of 2018.” It certainly wasn’t a spectacular, or even very prominent comet: bright, with a long glowing tail. Others’ images showed a small, pretty, green glowing ball. Still, a comet’s a comet and most of us don’t get to see that many in a lifetime, so I thought I’d give it a try. The trouble was the weather. We, in Northeastern Ohio, have been experiencing an unusually long stretch of cloudy and overcast days and nights and the night of Wirtanen’s close approach (Dec. 16/17) was no exception. The night of December 28, however, was to be clear but (there’s always a but) the Moon would be bright and not far from the comet’s position in the sky. You’ve gotta go with what you’ve got so I set up my ancient but solid Orion telescope mount managing very good polar alignment.
Piggybacking a big DSLR camera atop a telescope, I waited til 10 PM so that Wirtanen would be high overhead where the atmosphere is thinnest. The night was cold –about 24ºF– but quiet. As feared, that Old Devil Moon had lit up the sky making dim celestial objects invisible. And waiting til my target was near the zenith may have made sense technically, aiming the camera straight up was literally a pain in the neck. Thank goodness the camera has an articulated LCD panel so I could examine results without having to twist my neck or move the camera.
Starting out, I adjusted the camera settings so as to not overexpose due to lunar and terrestrial light pollution. It turns out those first two exposures were very useful. Then I blindly aimed the setup and shot about 10 exposures at wide angle. I re-aimed and shot 10 again. (For best results, astrophotographers often shoot more than 10 times that many exposures of the deep sky.) Then I tried zooming in, hoping greater magnification might isolate my quarry. I peeked at the camera’s LCD panel for a preview. Oh. It looked like we had jumped to light-speed! The zoom lens, pointing straight up, had slowly slipped from around 85mm to 24mm during the multi-second exposure. It’s a really good lens, a Canon L-Series, but I normally don’t point it up like that. Gotta get myself an 85mm prime (non-zoom) lens. The lens did hold at 105mm so I shot a few exposures at that focal length.
Feeling I’d done what I could to record a comet invisible to my eyes, I aimed the camera at constellation Orion’s belt and sword region now just above the trees, made a few exposures, and with cold fingers packed it in.
As it turns out, I think I did image the comet but with all of the challenges and some inexperience at shooting “faint fuzzies,” the results were less than impressive: a hint of a glowing ball is all I got of dear, departing Comet 46P. The camera recorded far more stars than I could see in the far-less-than-perfect sky.
I did get a pretty nice shot of Orion, which helped make the effort worthwhile.
Otherwise, not much to show for it but it was fun trying!
Working on my annual photo calendar for family and friends, I realized I missed posting here a few shots I love from 2018. This shy male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) we spotted in the wooded shallows near the path in the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Huron, Ohio. The bird soon paddled deeper in the wetland wood disappearing completely from sight. September 2018.
It was worth braving the 24°F temperature to pay a return visit to Public Square Wednesday night, camera and tripod at-hand, to shoot some holiday pics! The recent official tree lighting was fun but, with the large and excited crowd, not a good time to set up the camera for long exposures. I’m hoping one of these, or other of my non-holiday shots will be published in the city’s bicentennial book.
Besides the brilliantly-lit iconic gazebo, the buildings around and near Medina’s historic town center are outlined in white lights, lights are strung in the branches of sidewalk trees, and most businesses have decorated their storefront windows. It’s a little early in the holiday season but the sights were worth cold fingers and feet.