Category Archives: StormChasing

Storm Chasing Olympia Style

Olympia Severe Warned Storm

The Olympia doesn’t get many severe warned storms, but we had one this year

If you have followed me and my photography at all you will know that severe weather is far and away my favorite photographic subject.  I was chasing storms before I knew that storm chasing was actually a thing and knew that when I moved back home to the Pacific Northwest back in 2012 that having severe warned storms here was going to be a somewhat rare occasion.

Since we moved to Olympia back in the spring of 2012 we have had one severe warned storm come through the metro area.  We have had a few in the general area, usually to the south of us, so I was pretty excited when everything lined up in early May for what ended up being a pretty epic storm.

This image was captured after the severe warned cell passed over my head.  I sat in 14.5″ an hour rain.  For those that don’t know, 14.5″ an hour is a crazy amount of rain.  Shortly after this storm passed over me, near the Olympia airport, it travelled to the northeast, over Lacey, WA, where it developed into a wet microburst that did an impressive amount of damage.

I am looking forward to making a trip or two to Arizona over the next month or two and hope to get some Arizona monsoon chasing in, it is one of the things from Arizona that I truly miss.

Also posted in Photography

Mothers Day Northern Lights

Mothers Day Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Olympia, WA on Mothers Day weekend

People always seem shocked when they see images of the Northern Lights over the Puget Sound area in Western Washington.  I constantly get comments on social media like “I didn’t know they could be seen this far south” for my personal favorite, “I have lived here all my life and have never seen them.”

The fact of the matter though is that the Northern Lights are not all that uncommon, you just need to know when to out out and look.  Ok, you also need a clear sky and that is sometimes a challenge here in Puget Sound area.

This image was made during a solar storm over the Mothers Day weekend.  I shot this from the Washington State Capitol grounds.  This was actually very early in the evening and the storm faded from view for quite awhile after this.  Sadly I packed up and left for home about 15 minutes before the storm intensified and put on a display that puts what you see in this image to shame.

So, you might be wondering what makes the conditions favorable to see the Northern Lights here in the Puget Sound area.  As I already mentioned, you need a clear sky, clouds will kill your chance before it even starts.  A moonless night also helps, but isn’t always a deal breaker.  Most importantly though, the solar conditions have to be just right.  The best resource that I know of is www.spaceweather.com.  When you visit the site you will see a sidebar on the left side of the page.  Scroll down to section that starts with “Current Auroral Oval” and look for “Planetary K-index”.  In order for the Northern Lights to have a chance of showing up here in Puget Sound, that number will need to be at least 6.  7 or 8 are even better, but it was 6 when I made the attached image.  The second number you need to look at is right below the Kp number and is the Bz.  In this case it isn’t so much the number you care about, but the polarity of that number, you want it to indicate that the Bz is to the South, not the north.  It is also important to remember that these numbers will vary though the night so you will want to be patient.

In any case, I hope you enjoy this image, and hope that it motivates you to get out and enjoy the lights the next time they show up.

Also posted in Photography

Hey, it’s over there

Over There

Image of a photographer shooting in the wrong direction while trying to capture a lightning bolt

Since moving to Washington State back in the spring of 2012 I have made it a point to get back to Arizona at least once every summer to chase the Arizona Monsoon.  During those trips something of a tradition has developed where I make a storm chasing trip to the northern part of the state with two of my friends, Bryan Snider and Chris Frailey.  I was during that trip last summer that I made this image which I simply titled “Over There” for what is a somewhat obvious reason when looking at the image.

For Monsoon 2015, our trip north ultimately took us to the Petrified Forest National Park.  For those that have never been, the Petrified Forest offers some of the most beautifully stark landscapes you will come across anywhere.  Even though there aren’t a lot of roads in the park, it really is a great place to capture weather images, the contrast between the storms and the desert, IMO, is captivating.  The downside to there not being a lot of roads in the park, there are not a lot of places to be able to pull over the capture those images.  You are generally limited to scenic vista points and the roadside pullouts near trailheads.

This particular shot was captured at one of those highway wide spots with pull off parking.  The storm was due south of us and the only place to shoot from was on the north side of the road meaning that we were actually shooting across the highway.  Generally speaking this wasn’t much of a problem other than having to try to time shots between passing cars, fortunately traffic was fairly light when we where there.

While the three of us were setup and shooting the storm to the south, a very nice couple pulled up, got our of their car with their cameras and asked us about capturing lightning.  We explained the basics to them and really assumed that the woman would shoot from beside us.  As you can see from this image, she took a different approach and walked to the other side of the highway and started shooting.  I am not really sure that she actually captured a bolt of lightning, she was shooting hand hold and would concentrate on where a strike had previously occurred kept missing the real action.  As I said, she was actually quite nice, and when we pointed out that she had jumped right into our shots she moved, but I do think that there was a bit of mother nature’s justice in that she was constantly point in the wrong direction and the lightning was always “over there.”

While I have at least 100 other lightning images from that day alone, I suspect that this will be the last one that I share from the 2015 monsoon.  I am really looking forward to making at least one Arizona trip for Monsoon 2016 and for the annual trip north with Bryan and Chris but before I finish this blog post I thought I would share one bonus image of two good storm chasing friends that I captured with a humble iPhone.

IMG_1591.jpg

Bryan Snider and Chris Frailey storm chasing in Northern Arizona during Monsoon 2015

 

Shelf Cloud Ligtning

Shelf Cloud Lightning

Lightning strikes in front of a shelf cloud over northern Arizona during the 2015 monsoon season

Today’s image of lightning in front of a small shelf cloud takes us back to a storm chasing trip to the Petrified Forest in northern Arizona this past summer.  For those that follow my work, you might recognize  this location, it was shot from the same location as this image that I shared recently.

Petrified Forest Lightning

A lightning strike over the petrified forest in Northern Arizona during the 2015 Monsoon Season

A lightning strike over the petrified forest in Northern Arizona during the 2015 Monsoon Season

Earlier this week I had posted on social media that I would be updating both this blog, but also my personal (non-photo) blog as well.  Technically I succeeded, but I really thought both posts would be much earlier in the week.  In any case, I guess it was better late than never to get this lightning image from the Petrified Forest in Northern Arizona posted.

This image was captured while on a storm chasing trip earlier this summer.  You can see other images from that trip here and here.

When we moved “back home” to the Pacific Northwest from Arizona, my storm chasing really took a hit.  Obviously I just don’t have the opportunity to get out and chase the storms, especially the monsoon, like I used to, so I really appreciate the times that I do get out.  I have also discovered that some of my favorite lighting images, and I have been shooting lightning for at least 20 years, have been made since I moved away from Arizona.

Oh yeah, curious as to the blog post over on my non-photo blog?  I am building a deck. :-)