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…
May and June bring stormy weather and stormy weather often means dramatic skies. The evening of June 1 saw strong storms moving across Northeastern Ohio and when I saw an outflow boundary showing up strong and clear on radar, I headed out to see what was happening. I had not driven very far when I reconsidered my original observing destination and headed for the nearest open area I could find. Sweeping toward me over the treeline was a very impressive line of cloud; the line was so long I quickly shot several images using my trusty iPhone SE with the idea in mind of creating a multi-panel panorama later.
Once the outflow boundary rolled over me, I continued my trip seeking the cleanest storm edge I could find; several appeared to be headed my way but the line of storms seemed to be changing direction. After a good bit of moving around, I decided to head to the Wellington area in Lorain County as my best chance at a storm intercept. I discovered a farmer’s field access drive off a rural road and waited, surrounded by open fields, for the weather to come my way. And I waited. And waited. While I waited I photographed the changing cloudscape and wound up with my favorite view of the day — the last light illuminating a field as stormy clouds closed in. A complex and brilliant bolt of persistent Cloud to ground lightning convinced me my time in the open was done. Not set up for lightning photography, I watched from inside the car for a bit and headed into rain and home.
On a visit to Northwest Ohio yesterday (May 30) I stepped outdoors, looked to the west and spied a beautiful sight… the ragged edge of a line of clouds in the distance.
I strolled out, beyond a treeline to get a better look and saw an impressive gust front running ahead of cold air rolling over the area! I quickly shot a series of photos of the scene using my iPhone but realized my big Canon DSLR camera was in the car. I quickly retrieved the Canon and returned to my vantage point.
Seeing how quickly the line was moving, I race-walked seeking a different view and shot a few more photos before rain drops warned me I’d better get to shelter.
Normally I drive miles to intercept phenomena such as this gust front but this time it came to me — a surprise but a convenience — saving me the trip!
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.
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.
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.
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.
All but ended, clouds closed in ending the evening’s show, the conclusion of a glorious sunset storm.
A group of storms spread across the Northern Ohio area June 9, so I went out to watch the arrival of one particularly active area. My panorama depicts the sheer expanse of the approaching weather with turbulent clouds overhead and an enormous roll cloud (or shelf, I’m still not sure) approaching. The features ushered in moderately high winds and torrential rain.
This photo shows a small portion of a tremendous structure but fascinatingly shows a folded space where lines of cloud converge. A larger structure, a gigantic roll cloud, lurks in the background. My favorite camera for landscapes was unavailable but I’m pretty happy with this image.
I love photographing scenes that include dramatic weather and clouds and that often involves “storm chasing” or, as I prefer to refer to my activity, storm interception. I try and anticipate where interesting scenes will develop and be there when it happens. I’ve had some success.
Springtime brings its share of weather drama, even in Northeastern Ohio. Thunderstorms can be powerful, even dangerous, and produce impressive sights as they balance heat, cold, and moisture.
On May 26, watching radar for coming opportunities, I spied an area of interest in the area between Wellington and Oberlin, Ohio, and so headed in that direction. As I approached Wellington, I could see I needed to head a bit north to meet the approaching storm head-on but it came on faster than I expected. In the LaGrange area I realized I needed to stop and set up right away! I wound up on a county road, facing west, as the storm developed outflow clouds, a shelf cloud formation, as I watched.
Thunder rumbled in another storm to the north of me, in the Oberlin area, I saw but one flash — no lighting photography for me this day — the drama of the storm overhead was satisfying. The outflow quickly overtook me and I scurried back to my car, got inside as sprinkles fell, and then came torrential rain. It was a fine intercept.
A couple of “catch-up” images follow:
And while we’re at it, here’s yet another storm seen this month, a real beauty!
I usually don’t care much for winter cloudscapes. Snowy days tend to be overcast, shapeless, dull. Yesterday was different.
I was visiting relatives in Northwestern Ohio, driving from one town to the next, when clouds near the horizons caught my eye; it almost appeared the clouds were collapsing on to the farmland below! The wide, open views of flat farmland, along with isolated areas of falling snow and graupel produced fascinating scenes.
Bands of dark cloud swept overhead while, lit by the late afternoon sun, the falling streams of snowy precipitation shifted with the wind kept me stopping on the quiet country roads of Henry and Fulton Counties, hopping from site to site, making me late to my destination.
I couldn’t help it; the sight was so out of the ordinary.
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.