I love shooting shelf clouds — clouds that form a line or arc along the leading edge of a gust front in a thunderstorm. They are awe-inspiring, scary, to me they’re just beautiful in their power rugged symmetry. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now (apologies to Joni Mitchell) and discovered something at least as impressive; clouds of chaotic shards and pieces, tumultuously flowing together as a mass. I saw this configuration with a severe thunderstorm that dropped a tornado a few weeks ago, and I saw it again today in another severe thunderstorm — after the shelf cloud passed. I still love photographing shelf clouds (called “shelfies”, a twist on self-portrait “selfies”) but…
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.
A well-defined line of storms was headed our way and looked like a good possibility for shelf cloud photos, so I headed out in the early evening to intercept the storm.
Things don’t always work out the way one expects and that may be especially true with weather. The rule proved true but I wasn’t terribly disappointed because of the way things worked out.
I could hear rumbles of thunder to the north and caught a glimpse of two lightning bolts: one from cloud to ground, the other within a gap in the clouds. But as the line of storms came nearer, the sun was sinking lower reducing the energy driving the weather. While the prospects of strong storm images dimmed, the developing sunset lit the roiling clouds in beautiful and unexpected ways.
Storm clouds moved and swirled as they passed across the western sky and rolled overhead, changing from minute to minute. No shelf cloud to be had but the show was wonderful.
All but ended, clouds closed in ending the evening’s show, the conclusion of a glorious sunset storm.
A group of storms spread across the Northern Ohio area June 9, so I went out to watch the arrival of one particularly active area. My panorama depicts the sheer expanse of the approaching weather with turbulent clouds overhead and an enormous roll cloud (or shelf, I’m still not sure) approaching. The features ushered in moderately high winds and torrential rain.
This photo shows a small portion of a tremendous structure but fascinatingly shows a folded space where lines of cloud converge. A larger structure, a gigantic roll cloud, lurks in the background. My favorite camera for landscapes was unavailable but I’m pretty happy with this image.
I love photographing scenes that include dramatic weather and clouds and that often involves “storm chasing” or, as I prefer to refer to my activity, storm interception. I try and anticipate where interesting scenes will develop and be there when it happens. I’ve had some success.
Springtime brings its share of weather drama, even in Northeastern Ohio. Thunderstorms can be powerful, even dangerous, and produce impressive sights as they balance heat, cold, and moisture.
On May 26, watching radar for coming opportunities, I spied an area of interest in the area between Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, and so headed in that direction. As I approached Wellington, I could see I needed to head a bit north to meet the approaching storm head-on but it came on faster than I expected. In the LaGrange area I realized I needed to stop and set up right away! I wound up on a county road, facing west, as the storm developed outflow clouds, a shelf cloud formation, as I watched.
Thunder rumbled in another storm to the north of me, in the Oberlin area, I saw but one flash — no lighting photography for me this day — the drama of the storm overhead was satisfying. The outflow quickly overtook me and I scurried back to my car, got inside as sprinkles fell, and then came torrential rain. It was a fine intercept.
A couple of “catch-up” images follow:
And while we’re at it, here’s yet another storm seen this month, a real beauty!
Due to poor timing I missed shooting a spectacular shelf cloud that passed over our area yesterday; it was an epic view, maybe not once in a lifetime but certainly an uncommon sight in this region. I felt terrible, having seen the shelf cloud in all its glory but missing the opportunity to photograph it. Today’s weather, though not as amazing, gave me another chance at impressive cloud structure and I’m feeling much better for it!