Bolts in the Blue. A nearby thunderstorm fills the sky with lightning.
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 Sky Full of Electricity. A nearby thunderstorm fills the sky with lightning. Photo by James Guilford.
Closed-Circuit. Or “U-Bolt”. U-shaped discharge with an oval shape inside!
Shelf cloud panorama shot May 28, 2017 in Grafton Township, Ohio
I have loved weather-watching since I was a young boy and I believe that love has grown as I have grown older. I am now located in an area where, with a little head start, I can reach open country — away from town — to observe and photograph weather phenomena. My current favorites are lightning, and shelf clouds. (BTW: I don’t shoot lightning from open country!) Lately I’ve had two successes resulting from interpretation of weather radar that allowed interception of storms. I drove to places in the path of oncoming storms, waited, and photographed the developing scenes. In each case, once the storm shelf clouds appear, there are a very few minutes to set up the shot, record images, and then duck out of the rain as it arrives fast and furiously! The first picture (below) did not turn out as well as I’d have liked. I simply cannot seem to process the image in a way that pleases me and represents what I saw; and it’s way too blue! The second picture (above) is much better, in my opinion, depicting the leading edge of a thunderstorm as it barreled towards me. Both experiences were exciting, great fun, and rewarding in themselves. I’m working on photo techniques that will better depict the wondrous scenes.
The leading edge of a thunderstorm – May 21, 2017.
Approach: A Cold Front Arrives
Scattered thunderstorms were roaming the area. Watching radar, I spied a “gust front” — the leading edge of encroaching cold air — that could be visually interesting. So I headed out to a favorite spot with a fairly good view to the southwest and over Medina. I thought I was well ahead of my target clouds but arrived at the site with clouds already overhead. In this shot a “roll cloud” can be seen in the distance — the actual leading edge of the front. As it passed overhead winds picked up from a breeze to probably 25 MPH and higher … and chilly! My burgeoning interest in weather has led me to get National Weather Service Skywarn Spotter training and, because I had to guess the wind speed I’ve ordered a handheld anemometer. Yeah, I love this stuff!
Radar Image of April 27 Storm Activity – Cloud photo was from a site on the south edge of an area of heavy rain, near West Salem in this image made earlier.
Last Light – Sunday Afternoon
Storm clouds engulf the last remainders of clear sky.
February Thunderstorm – Cloud-to-Cloud
A powerful thunderstorm rolled through the area the night of February 24 – quite unusual, as was the general weather, for winter in Northeastern Ohio.
Lightning arcs in February Thunderstorm – Cloud-to-Cloud and Cloud to Ground in the same space of time!
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.
Lightning arcs in February Thunderstorm Bursting forth and spreading along the underside of the cloud – a “crawler.” The crawler was weaker, not as bright, as other flashes.
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.
Sunset Towers – A storm builds in the light of the late-day sun.
UPDATE: A small giclée canvas print of this image was contributed to the annual “In the Pink” show and raffle hosted by Hudson Fine Art & Framing Company in Hudson, Ohio. Proceeds from the sale benefit The Gathering Place, a local organization; their mission is to support, educate, and empower individuals and families touched by cancers through programs and services provided free of charge. I am pleased to have been a part of the show and fundraising effort! For more information on The Gathering Place please visit www.TouchedByCancer.org.
This started out to be an excellent year for photography. In addition to my still work, I was preparing to make my first nature film. Then we decided to buy a house and move. I look back at this blog now and fully realize how fully I dropped my artistic efforts. Finding, buying, and preparing a poorly-maintained house took the balance of summer and, now, the best of autumn. I hope it will be worth it. I do want to share here a photo I have come to love: it is both realistic and dreamlike; it is my remembrance of the seasons passed.
Hot Shot: A Very Intense Bolt of Cloud-to-Ground Lightning
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!