Archives for June 2010

Storm Chase 2010 Day Three…Outwitted

With the possibilities of storms to our north and even greater possibilities of BIG Super Cells to our east we had a decision to make…go for a nice storm, a sure thing or go for the glory. We (like most of the other storm chasers) decided to go for the glory. So, off we went in hot pursuit to the east. We headed across Nebraska moving in closer to the building updrafts only to have them reach the upper levels of hot air and deflate…one after the other. Then a new updraft would form and deflate again until we were in Iowa and reaching a point where it would be dark by the time the storms hit…if they were even going to…(which, by the way they did in eastern Iowa and Illinois). We conceded to mother nature and headed to Columbus, NE for the night and to regroup.

It’s all part of the game of weighing the odds, reading the weather predictions and going for it…sometimes you win and sometimes you simply have a long, scenic drive. No worries, we have several more days to find more storms and we had a nice sunset to end our day…

Image captured with Nikon D300s, AF-S 18-200mm VR on Lexar Digital Media.

Storm Chase 2010 Day Two

After yesterday’s excitement we were grounded until we could get out windows repaired. What first was going to be a slight delay in our departure turned into a series of unfortunate events and we were unable to get the van back until 3:00pm which gave us a late start for chasing the cells heading east through Wyoming towards Nebraska. I have to say that our storm chase team, Brian Morganti & Keith Brown gave it their best shot to catch up with the storm. It looked promising at first as the storm was moving due east at about 25 kph and we were gaining on it. But, then it took a turn to the southeast and picked up speed putting us right in the core of the storm which is not where you want to be. We were slowed down by pouring rain and yeap, more hail. We were a little gun shy of hail after yesterday and it was getting bigger, so we turned south trying to out-run the storm to no avail as there was a southern cell that was catching up to us. So, we turned back to the north and headed to Yuma, CO to re-group and figure out a strategy. It became apparent that we were not going to be able to get ahead of the storm and it was getting late so, we decided to hang back and get the back side of the storm and position ourselves for tomorrow. We began heading north and shortly the rain stopped, the clouds began to break up and we were treated to some beautiful Mammatus clouds…

Fran found some hail left over from the storm…

Photographing nature can be a slam dunk like yesterday when we were on tornados within a couple of hours of leaving Denver or, you can get skunked like we did. It’s never a total loss…we had a great time chasing the storm and were able to capture some beautiful cloud patterns of the back of the storm. We are in a good position to chase today’s storms…stay tuned!

Images captured with Nikon D3S, AF-S 70-200mm VR II on Lexar Digital Media

Tech Tuesday…Proper Hand Holding Technique

While using a tripod is the single most useful way of getting the sharpest images, there are times when using a tripod is not possible. So, today, I will cover the proper way to hand hold your camera for sharper images. First off spread your feet slightly apart for a steady stance then grip your camera in your right hand (firmly but not a death grip as that will cause shake), hold your left hand out, palm up and bring take hold of the lens then bring the camera to your eye and press firmly to your eye (this is where an eyecup comes in handy to cushion your eyebrow), tuck your elbows into your body for stability and gently press the shutter release…

If you use this technique for hand holding your camera, you will find that you are able to shoot at surprising slow shutter speeds and still get a sharp image. You become a human tripod!

Storm Chase 2010…3 Tornado Day

Normally our first day is simply a staging day. We look at the weather and determine where the best options for storms are and head that way. The conditions were good for some sever storms but, there was a cooler layer of low clouds from the previous night’s storms which would dampen the storms…or, so we thought. We got up near Chugwater, WY heading towards a good cell when Keith (one of our storm chase experts) looked at the clouds ahead of us and said the magic words… “I see rotation!” In less than a minute the first tornado touched down. We found a spot to pull over and were in great position to see the next two as they formed and touched down…

What a spectacular sight to see! We no sooner got the second tornado when I hear a thumping sound. I looked up and said “Look at that…” Keith took one look at the hail splattered on the pavement and told us to get in the van. Some big hail was coming out way. Without hesitation, we jumped in the van and sped off as the hail reached us. We were pelted with baseball sized hail as we tried to out run the storm but, the size of the hail and the power of the storm was relentless pounding the van. It sounded like someone had a baseball bat and was hitting us over and over. Keith saw a huge barn and made a quick turn into the farm. The Farmer, Virgil Jackson, saw us coming and quickly u jumped into his truck and pulled up so we could fit in. We sat out the storm for the next hour listening to the hail slam into the metal roof. It was so loud we couldn’t hear each other even when we shouted. When the storm had passed we took inventory of the van and counted 21 hits to the windshield and a blown out rear window…

With the damage to the windows too great to continue on, we headed back to Cheyenne for the night. Score: Storm chasers…3 tornados, Storm…2 windows and lots of dents to our van!
The rest of the week shows promise of more storms. Once our windows are fixed we will head back out to see what we can find. Stay tuned.

Images captured with Nikon D3S, AF-S 24-70, AF 16mm Fisheye, D300S, AF-S 18-200mm VR