A thick bank of cloud was approaching from the west while rain showers passed to the northeast over the flat farmlands of Northwestern Ohio. I watched as intense spots of sunlight swept across the landscape — a dramatic contest between light and shadow.
Lately, when I travel to visit relatives, I’ve been taking the slow road — state highways instead of Interstates — as a sort of “road trip.” The slower pace and varied scenery of a road trip removes the sameness from regular travels. On the return leg of this weekend’s drive, I made a stop along the way for dinner and was rewarded with a pretty nice view of sunset-lit clouds over open fields in Northwestern Ohio.
Photo hikes in nature can present one with surprises. We visited the Lorain County MetroParks’ Sandy Ridge Reservation hoping and expecting to see an assortment of birds native to that wetland. What we did not expect to see along the way is, well, what you see here: a couple of small snakes literally hanging from and on trees! The first was a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) stretched out along the skimpy branch of a tree along the trail. When we first saw the dark-colored reptile, a spot of sun was shining on it from between the trees; perhaps it was catching some rays to warm its cold blood. The snake allowed fairly close approach and did not move at all during the “photo session.” On the way back from enjoying the birds — there’s a long hike through a heavily-wooded area between parking lot and wetland — we spied another little snake. Snake number two had hung itself vertically on the trunk of a tree, head curved out parallel to the ground. The tree-hanging Butler’s Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri), like the water snake, held perfectly still during our entire time watching and photographing it. Snakes alive, what a surprise!
Stirring in my bed this morning, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I heard a severe weather alert tone from my phone. Looking at the screen, then checking radar, I was surprised to see a compact and intense area of heavy rain coming our way. It had the hallmarks of a storm that might offer visual drama! So I threw on some clothes, grabbed my trusty camera, and headed out to meet the monster at the city limits.
It’s wonderful having access to high-resolution weather radar in near real-time available on-the-road via iPad. Though I had no problem getting through from one side of the city to the other, the storm was fast coming. Looking around I spied a road I’d never explored; it looked like it offered a wide view to the west so I made a turn and parked at the curb. Yes, a very nice view and just in time!
Rolling in from the west was one of the most beautiful storms I’ve seen: It featured layers of smooth clouds, separated by striations and trailing off into graceful waves. The morning was quiet, the storm silent as it approached. Until the rain pushed in.
I could see above the treeline a soft, curved cloud feature below all of the other layers, slightly glowing in morning light. I began to hear a sound in the distant trees. Wind? No, rain! The outflow cloud was running ahead of a torrent! I shot a few additional frames, calmly walked to my car, got in, and the rain arrived. I headed home.
It was a wonderful way to start the day!
Storm clouds flowed overhead at the edge of a storm seen from rural Medina County (Ohio) but light could be seen on the horizon. “Even in the midst of the storm the sun is still shining.” ― Dayna Lovely
The first storm (above) was one I intercepted based upon radar tracking the evening of June 20. The gust front or outflow boundary was being pushed along by strong gusts of wind, probably peaking at about 30 MPH, followed in due course by moderate rain. Photos from others, in neighboring Lorain County, Ohio show that by the time the cloud formation reached me it was beginning to dissipate. Fun to watch and, as the gusts rocked my parked car, an exciting experience as well.
The image below was a target of opportunity. I driving to Portage County the evening of June 24 when, from the Ohio Turnpike, I watched a storm developing and dropping beautifully silhouetted rain streamers beneath dark clouds and against a bright horizon. I was frustrated that there was nowhere safe to stop and record the view so, as soon as I exited the toll road, I pulled over and shot what I could. Maybe not as dramatic as my highway views but an interesting sight, nonetheless! This photo is an assemblage of several individual images to create a panorama.
Since moving here late last year, I’ve wondered if the pond drew more than ducks and geese to feed, rest, and nest. This morning we spotted this beautiful Great Blue Heron perched on a tree trunk! I shot pictures as I slowly moved closer; the heron was aware of my presence. It wasn’t until the bird had enough of me that I learned, hidden below the edge of the bank was another Great Blue Heron! Hate to admit it: I was totally unprepared for the pair taking off together over the still waters of our pond. Still, I’m pretty happy with this portrait.