Shelf Cloud Panorama
We have had a few days recently when heat and humidity-driven storms have roamed the region. On Tuesday, August 20 we saw a long line of powerful, even severe-warned, storms develop to our west. Though the line appeared to be moving at a leisurely rate, I arrived at one of my favorite observation sites with just enough time to set up before a broad shelf cloud appeared on the horizon.
The leading edge passed over my location and, as is expected with these things, heavy rain immediately followed and I retreated to my car. After a quick splash of intense rain, the precipitation stopped! I got back out of my car and shot a few photos of the areas about to be visited by the storm. One view in particular from behind the shelf cloud: from a spot spared rainfall was this view of the dark clouds overhead, curtains of intense rain drenching the area, and brighter skies being engulfed.
Here Comes the Rain
Ah! Stormy weather!
A Most Impressive Shelf Cloud
It surprised me. We were expecting rain and thunderstorms but the approaching weather looked disorganized and “wet” — that is, plenty of rain leading the way and blocking views of the storm clouds. Suddenly I got indications from observers to my west that something was cooking, so I fired up my radar access and saw a well-defined monster of a storm approaching. I grabbed a camera and headed out, knowing I couldn’t get far before meeting the storm.
Under the Shelf Cloud
Finally getting through town and out into the countryside, I saw on the horizon hints of the approaching line. I quickly located a farmer’s field access path and pulled off. I got there just in time to watch the shelf cloud develop, roll toward me, and pass overhead.
Deluge: The Rain Arrives
As the ominous clouds passed overhead, I knew to what to watch for: torrential rain! I strolled to my car as the wind began to rise, got in, and enjoyed the arrival of the downpour from dry, air conditioned comfort!
This was possibly the most impressive shelf cloud I’ve seen; bear in mind I don’t chase in the Great Plains. I nearly missed this one and, as it turns out, I grabbed the wrong camera — could have done with the wide-angle lens left behind!
Thanks to the unnamed property owner who drove over to see what I was doing and generously allowed me to stay put on her drive!
Shelf cloud photographed July 2, 2019 in central Medina County, Ohio. Note the area of heavy rain to the left, the “clear” area bearing strong winds to the right.
I love shooting shelf clouds — clouds that form a line or arc along the leading edge of a gust front in a thunderstorm. They are awe-inspiring, scary, to me they’re just beautiful in their power rugged symmetry. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now (apologies to Joni Mitchell) and discovered something at least as impressive; clouds of chaotic shards and pieces, tumultuously flowing together as a mass. I saw this configuration with a severe thunderstorm that dropped a tornado a few weeks ago, and I saw it again today in another severe thunderstorm — after the shelf cloud passed. I still love photographing shelf clouds (called “shelfies”, a twist on self-portrait “selfies”) but…
Tumult. A chaotic storm cloud behind a shelf cloud.
A male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) shyly paddles in the wetlands of Sheldon Marsh.
Working on my annual photo calendar for family and friends, I realized I missed posting here a few shots I love from 2018. This shy male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) we spotted in the wooded shallows near the path in the Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve, Huron, Ohio. The bird soon paddled deeper in the wetland wood disappearing completely from sight. September 2018.
Thunderbird. Clouds of the approaching storm spread across the western sky.
A well-defined line of storms was headed our way and looked like a good possibility for shelf cloud photos, so I headed out in the early evening to intercept the storm.
Radar Image of the Approaching Weather – My Location Near Center
Things don’t always work out the way one expects and that may be especially true with weather. The rule proved true but I wasn’t terribly disappointed because of the way things worked out.
Evening Flight. Sunset colors illuminate the clouds. A tiny dot in the upper right-hand area of this image is an airliner on an evening flight.
I could hear rumbles of thunder to the north and caught a glimpse of two lightning bolts: one from cloud to ground, the other within a gap in the clouds. But as the line of storms came nearer, the sun was sinking lower reducing the energy driving the weather. While the prospects of strong storm images dimmed, the developing sunset lit the roiling clouds in beautiful and unexpected ways.
Fiery Wave. A swirl of storm clouds lit by sunset.
Storm clouds moved and swirled as they passed across the western sky and rolled overhead, changing from minute to minute. No shelf cloud to be had but the show was wonderful.
Maw of the Storm. Colors fading and clouds closing in.
All but ended, clouds closed in ending the evening’s show, the conclusion of a glorious sunset storm.
Darkness Falls. Clouds cover the sky and the blue of nightfall tints the scene.
Catching up on postings, I’ll start with last night’s efforts watching for meteors. While waiting for the sky to darken, I enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the lake at Letha House Park West, a Medina County (Ohio) Park System property. (I have after-hours access.) I’m glad I arrived early even if the wait for darkness was all the longer.
A Showy Sunset made Waiting for Meteors a Pleasure.
The annual Perseids meteor shower was highly-anticipated, not only because it reliably produces many bright “shooting stars,” but because Moon was in its new phase August 11 — no natural light pollution! Unfortunately, with thin haze and clouds overhead, human-produced light pollution from Medina, Ohio was quite bad! Still, we did see several “fireball” meteors — flashes brighter than the planet Venus — and I did capture a few. Best of the night showed two, yes two (2) meteors glowing at the same time! This is a stack of two sequential 15-second frames and both meteors appear in both frames at different stages of their burn! Close-up viewing of the streaks shows faint lines leading to the flares of these little fireballs heading generally left to right (east to west) in this crop from a 15mm fisheye lens field of view.
Pretty Pair of Perseids: Two Perseid meteors glow high in the southern sky over constellation Sagittarius.
Now, I’m assuming these are meteors; there’s something odd about the timing and appearance of the streaks and flares. There would have been a one- or two-second delay between the end of the first exposure and the beginning of the second, which seems long for a meteor. No Iridium satellite flares were predicted via Heavens Above. Time was 10:30, Saturday, August 11.
Meteors became a bit more frequent around midnight, which is typical, but the atmosphere was playing havoc with our observing. We left the observing site at about 1:00 AM with clouds building ever-thicker and lenses fogging up. It was a fun night watching for meteors… even if, or maybe because, they were a rare sight!
Into the Light. A Northern Water Snake seeks sunlight from its woodland perch.
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!
Hanging out (literally) on a tree is this Butler’s Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri).
Lightning over Medina County, Ohio, September 4, 2017
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.
Clouds, Rain, Lightning over Medina County, Ohio, September 4, 2017
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.
Final Shot of the Night: Lightning over Medina County, Ohio, September 4, 2017
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.
Radar Image of Line of Storms. September 4, 2017
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.
“Even in the midst of the storm the sun is still shining.” ― Dayna Lovely
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