Category Archives: StormChasing

Late Night Lightning

Lightning Over Phoenix

Lightning strikes over Phoenix during a late night storm

I recently did a blog post, and shared an image, of some lightning near Camp Verde, AZ.  That shot was captured while on a storm chasing trip to the Grand Canyon area of Arizona with some long time storm chasing / photography / all around good friends.  This image of late night lightning was captured hours after the Camp Verde image after we had returned back to the Phoenix area.

For a few years now my friends Bryan Snider and Chris Frailey have gotten together for an epic day of storm chasing, normally in Northern Arizona, and this year we invited Jon Stolarski into the fun.  We had an epic day or chasing, had a lot of fun, and when all was said and done got some great images.  This trip each year has turned into a tradition that I really look forward to.

As this years trip was winding down, and it was late at night, we had just finished dinner and noticed that a storm was starting to pop up west of downtown Phoenix.  We decided to head over to one of Bryan’s goto photography places to see if we could capture the storm with the Phoenix Skyharbor control tower and the city of Phoenix in the foreground.  While we were shooting this storm, which is featured in this image, a storm popped up to the south of us so I started setting up a camera to shoot that direction, at which time I wasn’t really paying much attention to the camera that was aimed to the west.  I got the camera pointing south setup and turned my attention back to the camera pointing west just as this image was captured.

What I didn’t know at the time, and discovered later, was that while I was setting the other camera up some wind blow a bunch of rain onto the front element of the lens, and every shot that I got after that had the water spots that you see in the above image.  Initially I was pissed that this had happened, but after I was able to re-group and cool down a bit, I got to looking at the images and ended up really liking the water spots.  IMO they add another level of interest to what I hope is an already interesting image.

I have a lot more from that day chasing that I will be sharing soon, but in the meantime I hope that you enjoy this image and please feel free to click on it to see a larger version.

The Electric Desert

The Electric Desert

Lightning strikes over the central Arizona desert near Camp Verde

If one were to go by the frequency that I have shared new images to this photoblog one might think that I haven’t done much shooting in the last few months.  That wouldn’t be true though, I have been shooting quite a bit, the problem is that I haven’t had a lot of time to process and share image.  I hope to change that, starting with this image, which I titled Electric Desert.

I have mentioned before that one of the things that I really miss about living in Arizona is chasing the annual Arizona Monsoon, and specifically shooting lightning.  Since moving back to the Pacific Northwest back in 2012 I have managed to make it back every year, with the except of 2016, so it was great to be able to get back this summer and chase some storms.

My trip this year was a little later in the monsoon season, and while there weren’t as many storms as I would have liked, I did have a great trip to the Grand Canyon with some storm chasing friends, which I will detail in an upcoming post, and got enough “keeper” images to keep me busy for awhile.

Stay tuned, and I promise that the frequency of blog posts here will pick up.

Also posted in Photography

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.

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