Archives for May 2012

Musings Of A Fellow Adventurer…Storm Chase

 

My name is Don Loken and I am very happily retired.  Most of my working life was in technology starting in the information technology world in the 1970’s.  I have been interested in photography since my 9th grade General Science teacher helped me build, take and develop photographs with a “pin hole” camera.  I was bitten by the bug and tried to learn every technical piece of information I could grab on to, (figuring it was a science not an art).  When I retired about 6 years ago I went to workshop where Laurie was one of the instructors.  At that time I thought I knew a lot about photography. After 3 days I found out that I new nothing. Of course I new the “techie” stuff  and how it worked but realized I had no clue how to use it to create something other than a snap shot with very expensive equipment.  I knew I needed to shoot more and attend more workshops and over the last few years I have worked with Laurie on 7 different occasions.

I was drawn to Laurie because of her style of creating artistic images that are not just technically correct but speak to you in a uniquely pleasant way.  That is what I knew that I wanted.  I have always had an artistic side but no real way of expressing it – I can’t paint or draw and my violin playing days were over a long time ago. (No it didn’t stay with me).  This is my fourth “Excellent Adventure” with Laurie.  Once to Churchill to photograph Polar Bears and three times storm chasing; something I have come to look forward to each spring.  The draw of Storm chasing is watching and recording Mother Nature at her most beautiful and “gnarliest”.  It’s called storm chasing not tornado chasing since very few thunderstorms spawn tornadoes – they do make a nice bonus though.  The chase covers many miles each day and there are occasional “artsy” stops to photograph “ghost towns”, old cars, bottles cans; you name it we photograph it .

This year looked to be a very difficult year for finding storms so we started out on the artsy side and stopped at several “ghost towns” for a little fine art grunge.  The window and shutter were taken near Clayton NM there were several other subjects there, but this is my favorite because of the colors, the small rip in the screening and the “picture in a picture” reflected on the fabric behind the screen…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f9.5 @ 1/500

 

The next two images were taken in a small New Mexico town of Folsom..

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f5 @ 1/350

 

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f6.7 @ 1/60

 

We had some sort of metrological activity almost every day between the “artsy” stuff.  Lightening  and beautiful structure near Rexford Kansas…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f11 @ 1/20

 

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f11 @ 1/30

 

Beautiful mammatus clouds near Great Bend Kansas…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f4 @ 1/1000

 

And of course tornados in Kansas.  The little rope tornado was near Varner Kansas…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f5.6 @ 1/90

 

This larger tornado was on the ground for about 16 minutes. Unfortunately from where we were view the tornado there was little contrast, but we were still able to make some decent images.  The image that looks like a second funnel is actually a rain shaft…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f5.6 @ 1/90

 

The final treat was being able to view and photograph the partial solar eclipse from our viewpoint near Gutherie Texas…

Nikon D3, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f11 @ 1/125

 

So it may be called Storm Chasing, but there seem always be other photo opportunities and every season brings something different making this one of the most exciting “Excellent Adventures”.  I would like to thank my fellow chasers JoAnn and Craig and of course Laurie who orchestrates this entire trip and make our lives much simpler.  I also want to thank Tank and Brian for finding and getting us on the storm in such a was that we have the best photo opportunity possible.

Excellent Photo Adventures…Storm Chase 6

Our final day of chasing and there is a slight chance of thunderstorms in southwest Kansas/northwest Oklahoma so we headed in that direction.  By late afternoon updrafts were starting to form.  We found a wonderful old barn with rows of hay and our first cell to target…

 

After pausing for a bit to see what the storm would do we hit the road in pursuit of our final storms of the week.  I have to say that Brian and Tank gave it their best efforts to get us in position for the best photo opportunities of any storms in the area but, sometimes it’s just not meant to be and today was no exception.  Updraft after updraft soared into the sky only to simply fizz out as if a pin was stuck in them getting all mushy with little to no structure that is needed to make a storm.  We traveled down the highway, mile after mile with no storms materializing…

 

We ended up near Guthrie, TX and gave up on the storms.  Brian had some solar glasses and it was nearly time for the solar eclipse to begin so, we piled out of the van to take a look.  Tank pulled out his camera, attached a Hoya ND400 filter and began making some images.  I took one look and even though his filter was too small for our lenses, asked to borrow it.  We each held it up in front of our lenses and made a few clicks…

 

It was certainly an unexpected treat to be able to photograph the eclipse and we kept taking turns with the filter until the sun dropped lower in the sky and the atmosphere acted as a filter allowing us to photograph the eclipse without the filter in place…

 

The partly cloudy skies and warm colors added a nice element to our eclipse images…

 

All too soon the sun set and as dark descended on us we headed to our last hotel of the week with our hearts and hard drives filled with memorable images.  Thanks to Brian and Tank for making it such a successful storm chase and to my fellow adventurers for their enthusiasm and commraderie.  Time to head home and begin preparations for my next adventure photographing coastal brown bears in Alaska.  Stay tuned.

Images created with Nikon D800, AF-S 24-124mm f4 VR, AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR and Af-S 70-200mm 2.8 VR II with TC20E II (in order)

 

 

 

 

Excellent Photo Adventures…Storm Chase 5

Today was the highest risk day for severe weather so after a quick orientation we headed off towards what Brian considered the area of greatest risk due to wind direction, moisture, weak cap and other storm ripe conditions.  We did the usual driving to get into a good position to move as the weather developed with a stop for lunch and then later another stop for ice cream as we waited it out.  Finally the weak, flat clouds began to get juicy and start to updraft, a good sign.  We had a storm brewing right near us and another one further to the south.  Now comes decision time.  Do we head south to what may be a better storm or hang with one that is a given…

Brian evaluated radar and the other data and based on an educated guess and a gut feeling decided to stick with the storm at hand and the chase was on.  We stopped every so often and got out of the van to make some photographs and look at the storm.  Mammatus clouds were filling the sky, ripening it for the upcoming storm…

 

When chasing it is crucial to keep a constant watch on the radar as well as out the window both to get in the best position possible and for safety.  That’s how we saw the beginnings of the first tornado when Brian called out that there was a funnel cloud forming…

 

We quickly pulled over and jumped out of the van in time to capture our first tornado of the day.  It was a bit rain wrapped and low contrast but, it’s still an incredible thrill to see and photograph one…

 

It was short lived so we jumped back in the van and continued on to get in better position for photography when our second rope tornado began.  This one had a bit better contrast and showed up nicely against the brighter area of the sky…

 

To say we were thrilled was a complete understatement.  We were expecting severe weather but the risk of tornados was so slight that no one expected to see one today.  When storm chasing it is important to keep moving in order to stay out of the core which is full of rain and hail both for safety reasons and to make good photographs so, back in the van we went to keep up with the storm.  I was watching out the van window when I saw a dark column about six miles out and asked Brian if it wasn’t another tornado to which he replied affirmative…

 

Initially we weren’t sure if we were seeing two tornados side by side but after reviewing the film and video we decided that it was a concentrated rain shaft.  This tornado was also rain wrapped and low contrast but, we enjoyed watching it morph before our eyes.  First it was a fat stovepipe tornado, then it pulled up into a cone shaped tornado pulling dirt and debris with it before getting fat and stovepipe-like again…

 

It’s amazing to see a tornado in action.  It’s a true wonder of mother nature.  When chasing it is crucial to be ready at all times as some weather phenomena only lasts a brief instant so, I had my D800 with the AF-S 14-24mm 2.8 and my D4 with the AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR at my side.  Back at the hotel we learned that several tornados had touched down in the area.  One report claimed nine.  Luckily the damage was not significant and no one was injured or killed in this series of storms.  I can safely say that we all went to bed tired and happy.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Excellent Photo Adventures…Storm Chase 4

As the week has progressed so has our chances of getting on a severe storm.  After going over the models and radar and looking ahead to the next days predictions we loaded up and headed out to see what we could find.  Brian made a great decision and got us on the only severe storm in the area by late afternoon.  We had lot’s of lightning, the problem, once again, was where to aim our cameras…

Nikon D4, AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR...100 ISO f9.5 @ 1/20

 

Nikon D4, AF-S 24-120mm f4 VR...100 ISO f9.5 @ 1/20

 

As the storm moved off we jumped back in the van and gave chase into the Sandhills.  It’s tougher chasing in the Sandhills due to the hills and limited visibility at times.  But, Brian and Tank got us into position to photograph the last of the storm as it moved off into the rain…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...140 ISO f6.7 @ 1/8

 

Turning around 180 degrees there was a break in the clouds near sunset.  I loved the layering of colors and the structure of the clouds…

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...140 ISO f16 @ 1/8

 

We made our way back to North Platte, NE for the night.  As we neared our destination the rain stopped and a light show in the clouds was interesting enough to check out so we headed out of town a few miles and set up.  Most of the lightning was in the clouds but it lit the sky up beautifully.  In order to capture the structure of the clouds without blurring them as they were moving quickly, I increased the ISO and opened my aperture..

Nikon D4, AF-S 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR...3200 ISO f3.5 @ 1/3 sec

 

Another storm was approaching in the distance so, we hung in for a little longer and were rewarded with some brilliant CG (cloud to ground) bolts.  My lightning Trigger was busy photographing in a different direction so, I went with the “BULB” method of capturing lightning holding the shutter open until a bolt struck before releasing the shutter and then clicking again.  I managed to capture 7 great bolts this way…

Nikon D4, AF-S f3.5-5.6 VR...200 ISO f5.6 @ 22 sec

 

The forecast for Sat shows the greatest chance of severe storms.  Stay tuned.