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.
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.
There’s a Change in the Weather.
I was heading towards home this evening when I noticed the skies darkening in the southwest. Some relatively compact but intense thunderstorms had been driving through the area and it looked like this one was headed my way. In fact, as I turned south I could see the dramatic leading edge of the storm rolling towards me. I pulled off into the first open area I could find, whipped out my camera and started shooting. I did one series of shots with the intent of creating a panorama of the amazing scene. Then some rain drops started falling. I got back into my car and had traveled no more than about a quarter-mile when the deluge began! The area was pummeled by extremely intense rain driven by strong winds. Within half an hour the rain had stopped. An interesting way to end the week.
Wind-Driven Rain Pummels the Area
Open fields of Hopkins Airport allow a view of the expansive storm in the east.
Driving home can be an adventure. Exiting the parking lot this evening I looked to the east and a huge and growing pile of clouds — a thunderstorm was brewing! So I adjusted my route to keep as much open sky around me as possible and headed out. The best vista afforded me was a grassy knoll just off the road, a short driveway for public access conveniently located nearby. The site overlooks Cleveland Hopkins International Airport so there was plenty of open space between me and the photogenic clouds. I popped from my car, hiked to the top of the mound, and made my exposures. I was aware of a second storm building and coming on from the west — behind me — but didn’t worry about it until I heard some rumbles of thunder. There I was, atop a rise and near an open area with a thunderstorm about to overtake me. Time to move! So, it was back to the car. Light rain had set in and my route now carried me into tree-lined streets and suburban settings not well-suited to sky photography. I’d planned a stop at Heinen’s Fine Foods so headed down a busy four-lane street. The storm rolled over us!
Sheets of wind-driven rain keep people in their cars.
The light rain became a deluge. Winds picked up and rocked the trees. Nearby lightning with immediate thunder came like shots. What fun! Traffic was slow and visibility just good enough so I felt safe the entire time. Making it to the grocery store parking lot, I pulled into a space, rolled down a window facing away from the wind, and caught a few shots of the sheets of wind-driven rain hitting the cars and pavement. It was only a few minutes after I’d moved my car to a more suitable parking spot that the rain diminished enough for me to go inside and get some groceries. When I was done and exited the store (oh, maybe 15 minutes had passed) the rain had stopped and sun was brightly shining in a clear western sky!
A slice of the monster.
The eastern sky, however, was now filled with the towering clouds that had just unleashed such chaos. Near home I made one more weather-related photographic stop. From a parking lot overlooking church lot below I tried to take in the scope of the storm clouds now passed; it was still too close, too large to capture in one shot. So I give you this image of one slice, exposed for the clouds with the sky turning an unnatural deep blue. Yes, a simple drive home can be an adventure.
Stepping out the back door produced a wonderful view.
Lately the sky has often been a splendid combination of open and cloudy. Great, puffy cumulus clouds bloom all around and, with enough open sky between me and them, offer wonderful profile views as they evolve against a blue background. Today was especially interesting as thunderstorms passed to the north and south of my vantage point. I ducked outdoors to shoot portraits of the towers drenching towns to the south. At lunch I made for the Lake Erie shoreline mostly, I must confess, to see if I might glimpse waterspouts. No waterspouts but a heavy storm was away out over the lake and the water had a strong green coloration. Beautiful cloudy skies and a green lake made my day a happy one.
An intense thunderstorm passes to the north.