A Stormy Landscape. A large and dramatic shelf cloud approaches over rural Medina County, Ohio. Now possibly my favorite shelf cloud photograph, it’s an image made using my Apple iPhone.
After a long period without rain, Friday saw heavy rains and thunderstorms across the region. Most of it was a big wet mess, not well organized and not interesting to look at — at least not close to home. In the afternoon things changed.
I could see, via radar, that a promising area of activity was approaching but I had to move fast. The storm was approaching quickly and I had made my decision a little late in the game. I grabbed my phone, and one DSLR camera and rushed out the door.
Radar image shows the approaching strong storms. The blue circle indicates the photographer’s position.
Once cleared of city traffic, as I drove towards my target observation point I glanced to the south down crossroads. In the distance I could see a dark sky close to the horizon and … a light line running through the clouds parallel to the earth. It was big and it was close. A singular bright bolt of cloud-ground lightning held promise of exciting visuals, and not a little danger. I was also running late; I had to cut travel time.
A panoramic view of the approaching shelf cloud and storm over rural Medina County, Ohio. Made from several DSLR frames. Photo by James Guilford.
I changed destinations to a favorite site nearer home, pulled off the road, and unpacked the camera. I had arrived only just in time. Hurriedly shooting smart phone photos — a quick image insurance policy — I then shot a few via DSLR: a huge and beautiful shelf cloud was moving in from the southwest.
Fortunately, the lightning activity came to an end* and except for a quickening breeze and crickets in the grass, passage of the shelf was quiet. Only a few more shots and rain drops began. The tell-tale sight of approaching white sheets of rain sent me back to shelter in the car, and my photo shoot was over.
The results of my minutes-long efforts were surprising. The iPhone produced one of the best shelf cloud landscapes I’ve ever made; and a seconds-long video, also shot on the phone, drew use requests from cable stations: The Weather Channel, and WeatherNation. A big surprise!
*Safer without it but a lightning bolt during the video or, miraculously in the still image, would have been spectacular.