I stayed up late, anticipating the arrival of a powerful storm system the night of June 13. The MCS (mesoscale convective system) tracked to the south of its predicted path, leaving me at the northern end of storm activity. I thought I was out of luck but saw some lightning and decided to try for some photos. My persistence and resulting sleep deprivation was rewarded. I witnessed several impressive displays of “anvil crawler” lightning — cloud-to-cloud discharges along the cloud base — but missed a couple. At midnight, however, this amazing crawler filled my visual field and the view from the camera. The strong horizontal bolts steal the show but look closer. Even in this reduced-resolution web version of the photo, streaks of lightning reach up and down across the bottom of the storm cloud. I remember seeing the motion of the light, almost like an advertising sign, luminescence racing along those fine lines. The MCS blasted across our region, downing trees and utility poles along its path. Here, the storm passed dropping only a little rain here with virtually no wind, allowing me to make this capture (a single exposure). The local newspaper surprised me by using the image — full-frame, in color — huge on their front page! It’s hard for newspapers to hold the finest details in print but the e-version looks pretty good.
A line of thunderstorms was bearing down on our area the night of July 24 and it looked like it might be interesting — it has been a while since I’ve made any lightning pictures. The storm progressed slowly from Southeastern Michigan and Northwest Ohio and across Lake Erie finally beginning its arrival here around midnight. As the storm overran the area, I watched it for lightning potential. Ducking outside and looking up at one point, I was treated to a beautiful “anvil crawler” display nearly overhead!
I rushed to my office and quickly assembled my gear: Canon EOS 6D Mk. 2, wide-angle lens, and tripod. First to the northern side of the house. After some waiting and a couple of “teasers” the storm let loose a magnificent crawler — brilliant lightning crossing the cloud bottoms, branching off to the sides. Turns out, that was the shot of the night though I didn’t know it at the time since I was unable to preview my images. Light rain began to fall and with not enough shelter, I moved to the south side of the house.
It took a while for the storm to progress southward enough for me to see the dwindling cloud-to-cloud lightning flashes but they eventually came. I spent maybe 90 minutes watching the storm, aiming the camera, waiting for the automatic trigger to capture the ephemeral brilliance. Thunder, this night, rolled across the dark countryside for many seconds after each flash before fading away — something I’ve not experienced in quite some time. It was lovely. My sheltered spot on the south side kept camera, lens, and photographer dry throughout, which isn’t always the case. Rain prevented me from aiming the camera as high as I’d have liked. Just a few drops on the camera lens, combined with a bright lightning flash, produces an unusable image.
The storm petered out so, sometime around 1:45 a.m. I went back indoors, and reviewed the images via the camera’s display. Yes! Beautiful stuff! Editing the photos after sleeping for a few hours was the highlight of my Sunday morning.
In future I really need to find a sheltered place, or at least a place where I can park and shoot from my car at night, a spot that has an open view of the countryside and/or town. In the mean time, results from the Saturday night storm were worth the sleep deprivation.
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.
A train of strong thunderstorms rumbled through Ohio late Monday night. In some areas the storms were declared severe, even dropping a tornado or two, damaging trees and homes. Here, we were treated to needed rain and a brilliant light show.
Most of the lightning discharged somewhere in the clouds, the bolts unseen but lighting up the sky in brilliant repeated flashes. The sparks themselves could occasionally be seen and a few were spectacular.
Over the course of an hour or so, I managed to capture several cloud-to-cloud strikes, most of which were fairly ordinary for such an active storm. I did see work from another photographer, who has a perch overlooking Lake Erie, in which twisted arcs fill the sky and reflect from the lake waters. I do miss Lake Erie.
For all of us not asleep, the storms brought a lightning-brightened night and an opportunity to witness and record something of Nature’s power.
With storms, you never know. Usually, when I am shooting lightning photos my sessions are cut short by the storm’s winds and rain. Friday night, however, was a golden opportunity as a fairly compact thunderstorm producing plentiful lightning passed just to our north. As the storm approached, moved through, and departed I experienced only a light breeze and no rain at all. Wonderful! And so I was able to shoot a good number of lightning pictures, only missing a couple when I had to re-aim the camera. Here are my favorites from the shoot…
A powerful thunderstorm rolled through the area the night of February 24 – quite unusual, as was the general weather, for winter in Northeastern Ohio.
The storm approached from the southwest and, as it rolled in it was dry at first. I set my camera up in a sheltered patio area and waited for the occasional flash of lightning. Then, as so often happens, rain started and drove me indoors.
There, thanks to a beautiful new picture window with excellent glass, I was able to continue the shoot from the dry safety of my living room! Unfortunately, most discharges were out of my line of sight or low to the horizon; I did, however, get a couple of decent images.
I enjoy photographing lightning. Most of the storms that visit this part of the country arrive with wind, rain, and then lightning and are too “wet” for me to shoot. Those storms that arrive “dry,” with lightning first, seem rare. We had two of those dry, photo-op storms recently. The first, on July 8, I documented here earlier. The second, the night of July 13, didn’t give me much time between its approach and the arrival of rain but did give me an excellent image. Appearances can be deceiving but the spectacular lightning bolt shown here may be the most powerful I’ve ever photographed. Before you say anything: yes, I am careful and shoot only from protected locations!
The night of July 8 started out with my wanting to photograph the Moon and Jupiter together in the western sky. There they were, hanging in the dark with a wisp of cloud lending mystery to the scene. It was lovely.
Then clouds began to obscure Luna’s bright crescent. Thicker and thicker came the clouds and then, above the horizon, clouds lit up with flashes and thunder rumbled… a thunderstorm was coming! I was expecting storms to arrive later but there I was, all set up and ready to record the show!
I looked to the south and not yet reached by the approaching weather was the beautiful sight of brilliant planet Mars and the stars of constellation Scorpius. Lovely to see but about to be upstaged!
I made a lot of exposures, mostly showing clouds illuminated by hidden lightning though after the fact I discovered there had been faint streaks in the open all along. Sometimes the whole sky seemed to light up.
As the storm grew closer, the lightning grew more intense until nicely-placed lightning bolts appeared and I got my best shot of the night. Only moments after that final good exposure the wind grew and rain began to fall, forcing me indoors.
In the waning minutes of sunset, a thunderstorm was moving into the area. As the leading edge of the cloud shield floated overhead, rumbles of thunder could be heard. Looking up, I saw the sky was alive with cloud-to-cloud lightning, much of it crawling across the cloud surfaces and readily visible, illuminating the coves and knolls of the storm. Fortunately I had my camera and tripod at hand and quickly set up in the parking lot behind my car. Quickly making rough camera settings I shot frame after frame, composing as best I could from a less-than-ideal vantage point. I would have shot a lot more images — there was lightning all over the sky — but my session was cut short by rain, threatening sky-facing lenses, forcing me into the car. It was quite the show, that spring lightning!