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!
Taking advantage of a recently-rare pretty day, we paid a visit to the Lorain County Metro Parks’ Sandy Ridge Reservation – a haven for nature lovers and, especially, birders. A long trail through swampy woods connects the reservation parking lot with a large, open wetland area. While most speedily hike the trail in an effort to get to the open area (or away from resident mosquitoes) there is much to be seen in those woods. The excitement began as we heard an unusual (to our ears) bird call — a Plieated Woodpecker noisily announcing itself as it dropped to the forest floor in search of insects in and among the decaying logs there. This particular bird seemed especially large even for a Pileated Woodpecker. We watched and photographed for a couple of minutes as it powerfully plunged its beak into soft wood, hopped from spot to spot, and then took off deeper into the woods. A Most Impressive Bird!
Along the shores of the shallow open waters of the wetland, we spied a Great Blue Heron. Expecting it to take flight at any moment, we were surprised when the heron tolerated our close approach; it was fully focused on hunting for fish. The bird, either fearless or (more likely) naive, slowly paced along the shore, wading in very shallow water, stopping when it sensed prey nearby.
This particular heron enjoyed three successes while we watched, snagging small fish and then swallowing them whole. Someone commented that the woodpecker was a beautiful dinosaur and, while that may be true, Great Blue Herons make me think of Pterodactyls every time!
The Sandy Ridge Reservation is a haven for Great Egrets; I see more of the big white birds there than anywhere else we roam. The egrets hunt, squawk at each other, fly from spot to spot, providing lovely contrast to the largely darker, more subdued wetland scene.
The wetlands of Northern Ohio with their crops of cattail reeds are ideal homes for Red-Winged Blackbirds. We enjoyed the blackbirds’ songs and raspy calls, and the shiny black plumage of the males with their colorful shoulder patches. More subtle, less visible, but wholly beautiful are the female Red-Winged Blackbirds with their streaked bodies and warmly-colored heads; they are a delight to discover.
We saw yellow warblers, water snakes, many Great Egrets, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Great Blue Herons, a nesting Bald Eagle, dragonflies, squirrels, Tree Swallows, chipmunks, turtles, and during our wood-lined exit, a little Gray Treefrog, all on our walk in the woods. It was a day full of wonder.
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!
Not long ago, She Who Must Be Obeyed called me to the window. “There’s a hawk up there,” she said, “and he’s eating something!” I took a look and, sure enough, perched on a low branch was a big bird pulling at something it had caught. I grabbed my camera, put on the big lens, and returned to the window. There, in graphic detail, I could see a Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) pulling, dismembering, and eating a bullfrog it had captured by our pond! I shot a number of photos: the hawk standing, the hawk with bits of meat in its sharp beak, the hawk pulling at guts. I normally don’t publish such graphic photos here because, well, it somehow doesn’t seem right. I know, hawks are birds of prey, beautiful, though natural-born killers, and what they do is how they live. I may add a photo later showing a bit more of the action though, over the past week, I’ve reconsidered several times. For now, I’ll post the photo shown above — the beautiful hunter with just a bit of the carnage — and leave the rest to your imagination.
This Sunday afternoon was chilly but the sun shown brightly, so I ventured out on a photo walk. I was seeking Sand Hill Cranes that had been sighted at the wetland restoration area of Buckeye Woods Park, Medina County, Ohio. I saw no cranes but did enjoy a flyover by a beautiful Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a loud concert by Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata), and the sight of a tree full of migrating Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). A nice way to spend an April afternoon.
Sunday night, March 18, was to bring a lovely sight to our western sky: a conjunction of a very thin crescent Moon, with planets Venus and Mercury. I arrived at the Medina County Park System’s Letha House Park, where I have after-dark privileges, about half an hour before sunset. I was a bit disheartened when I saw the entire western sky covered with a mixed pattern of cirrus clouds. I thought, “Oh, well, even if I can’t see the Moon and planets, it should be a spectacular sunset!” I need not have worried.
While I waited I was delighted by the evening songs of hidden birds. That sense of peace was shaken by Canada Geese, jostling for nighttime position, squawking and chasing each other in the air and on the waters. The geese provided me with entertainment and some lovely scenes of sunset-lit ripples and splashes.
As the Sun sank below the horizon, the clouds thinned considerably leaving some streaks floating in the light, reflecting in lake waters. The sunset, while beautiful, wasn’t as spectacular as I might have expected but suddenly the Moon became visible, then Venus, and finally tiny Mercury — and brighter than expected.
So, I shot many photos, changing exposure and composition, and captured a few images I rather like. I was a bit surprised and disappointed with the captures from the Canon 7D Mark 2 camera (a “crop sensor” camera) — they came out “grainy,” even though I stayed with ISO 400 for the whole shoot; that’s the camera I typically use for wildlife shots, not scenics, and I normally don’t see the grain. The full-frame Canon 6D performed very well (its images are typically “smooth”) though I wish I would have increased my exposures — too many were too dark and not recoverable — I’ll blame that on trusting the camera’s built-in LCD panel whilst judging exposures. The LCD, of course, looks brighter in the dark tricking my eye!
Still, in all, a beautiful night for a gathering of Moon, planets, and sky.