A thick bank of cloud was approaching from the west while rain showers passed to the northeast over the flat farmlands of Northwestern Ohio. I watched as intense spots of sunlight swept across the landscape — a dramatic contest between light and shadow.
Lately, when I travel to visit relatives, I’ve been taking the slow road — state highways instead of Interstates — as a sort of “road trip.” The slower pace and varied scenery of a road trip removes the sameness from regular travels. On the return leg of this weekend’s drive, I made a stop along the way for dinner and was rewarded with a pretty nice view of sunset-lit clouds over open fields in Northwestern Ohio.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stirring in my bed this morning, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I heard a severe weather alert tone from my phone. Looking at the screen, then checking radar, I was surprised to see a compact and intense area of heavy rain coming our way. It had the hallmarks of a storm that might offer visual drama! So I threw on some clothes, grabbed my trusty camera, and headed out to meet the monster at the city limits.
It’s wonderful having access to high-resolution weather radar in near real-time available on-the-road via iPad. Though I had no problem getting through from one side of the city to the other, the storm was fast coming. Looking around I spied a road I’d never explored; it looked like it offered a wide view to the west so I made a turn and parked at the curb. Yes, a very nice view and just in time!
Rolling in from the west was one of the most beautiful storms I’ve seen: It featured layers of smooth clouds, separated by striations and trailing off into graceful waves. The morning was quiet, the storm silent as it approached. Until the rain pushed in.
I could see above the treeline a soft, curved cloud feature below all of the other layers, slightly glowing in morning light. I began to hear a sound in the distant trees. Wind? No, rain! The outflow cloud was running ahead of a torrent! I shot a few additional frames, calmly walked to my car, got in, and the rain arrived. I headed home.
It was a wonderful way to start the day!
The first storm (above) was one I intercepted based upon radar tracking the evening of June 20. The gust front or outflow boundary was being pushed along by strong gusts of wind, probably peaking at about 30 MPH, followed in due course by moderate rain. Photos from others, in neighboring Lorain County, Ohio show that by the time the cloud formation reached me it was beginning to dissipate. Fun to watch and, as the gusts rocked my parked car, an exciting experience as well.
The image below was a target of opportunity. I driving to Portage County the evening of June 24 when, from the Ohio Turnpike, I watched a storm developing and dropping beautifully silhouetted rain streamers beneath dark clouds and against a bright horizon. I was frustrated that there was nowhere safe to stop and record the view so, as soon as I exited the toll road, I pulled over and shot what I could. Maybe not as dramatic as my highway views but an interesting sight, nonetheless! This photo is an assemblage of several individual images to create a panorama.
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…
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.