The Chase, Chapter Two – Serendipity
Sometimes the Chase can take me hours, hundreds of miles and still no sight of a storm. Other days, the Earth, Moon and Stars align and it all comes together. That to me is Serendipity!
Such was the case on Saturday, July 20. The chase begins with trying to figure out what is happening now and how that will effect what will happen later. As I looked at all of my forecasts and weather charts, I went for gasoline and would factor in the real time observations of what does it look like now. I got out there and saw clouds growing tall in the southeastern skies. The radar seemed to confirm that there was convective activity in the neighborhood. In fact, it would be the same neighborhood that generated the storms and images from the night before (visible in my previous post) and it is a wonderful area, rather rural and wide open views of the (hopefully) gloomy sky!
The other direction that I was trying to decide about was East to the Superstition Mountains. I agonized over the decision but soon found myself headed east. Sometimes we need to listen to our inner voice or intuition! The Superstitions won! I had a really good feeling about this. They are a bit closer and I am very familiar with the area. Combine that with the idea that there will be storm cells behind the hills, if everything stays on course as well as there was a series of cells moving in from the southeast. Now lets get there! It’s been a while since I have captured some time lapse! Thats where I will begin today, time lapse it is!
As I get out there, I find the local skies are pretty much blue and clear of clouds, a unique sight in the summer monsoon months in Phoenix. The rest of the year that is pretty standard. Blue skies and no clouds are our norm. I so look forward to the character and beauty of the monsoon sky. Today will be a treat. I can relax in the 105 degree sunlit day and capture some time lapse clips until the atmosphere starts churning up the evening storms. Hopefully everything will follow my interpretation of what will happen later in the day.
I first stopped at an old mining town called Goldfield. As I drove up to a high point, I looked to the east and northeast and saw that the sky was pretty clear with an occasional cumulus cloud here and there. As I turned and looked north, Four Peaks mountain range was getting covered by various levels of clouds. I figured that this was a wonderful place to begin. I reached for my Infrared converted 5D Mark III and mounted my 24-105 mm f/4 IS lens. I then mounted the camera to my ReallyRightStuff BH-55 ball head atop my Induro C-314 carbon fiber tripod. After attaching my intervelometer, I began a quick time lapse as the northern sky started to churn.
As I looked over at the Supers, I could see that the clouds were starting to build behind them, separating the hills from the blue sky. In infrared, it provided nice separation from the black sky. Before too long, the skies started mixing and moving and the clouds were building right over the Supers! I was already on my fourth time lapse. This final TL would go until sunset, capturing the violent looking sky as it became clear that this was the place to be!
As the stormy sky started to mix up, it seemed to envelope the dust storm that was hanging out on the distant horizon. Instead of the dust storm wiping everything out, it seemed to sail up and above the supers! What a surprise! There was now a brown cloud hanging and churning over the mountains providing a unique look to the sky!
All system were go for my prediction of a collision of the two different storm systems! It got rather windy suddenly. I anchored down the two cameras capturing time lapse, one color in my Canon 5D Mark III and the IR converted Canon 5D Mark II and began to look into the western sky as the sun was teasing us that it might pop thru a tiny opening on the western horizon. My buddy Ron Pelton Jr had caught up with me and we were wishing that the sun would be able to warm up those cold (yes, in color and a lack of light, even though we are in the summer desert!) hills to the east. To our surprise, we could see some moisture falling from the sky to the left of the Superstitions. Ron and I looked at the rain, then the sun started to peek out the bottom of the opening in the clouds and we both said, “I feel a rainbow coming on!” Before you knew it, from a small sliver of prismatic colors grew a complete 180 degree, now double rainbow supporting the rain curtains within as the sun popped out and fully bathed the Supers in that late warm light, contrasting with the cool, steel blue clouds above.
What a gorgeous sight to see. It was memorizing! We stood there, enjoying the unique composition and of course, willing lightning to go off within the rainbow! Well, our prayers fell on deaf ears. The sight was still amazing. The show in front of us ended as soon as the sun sank below the horizon. So sad. But wait! Looking west one more time found that the rain filled skies that surrounded us were now alive and ruby red with the sunset color kicking up on them.
What a remarkable day this had grown into! I was so happy to have listened to that intuition! It’s nice when all of the decision making, mixed with a generous sprinkling of luck, pays off in dividends!
Most people would think that this was the finish to a lovely afternoon! Think again. This was just the appetizer portion of the program. Way in the distance, I started to see lightning make a faint appearance!
Ok, batten down the hatches. Now it’s going to get crazy as lightning started hitting within feet of us. The rains, gentle as they were, were starting to cause us to cover the cameras as the thunder clapped right above our heads. Here was the main act, illuminating the now dark landscape and sky. I’d like to share a few of the stars that emerged from the remarkable light show!
As I finally had a minute to check the radar, I found that we were soon to be finished for the day! What a day it was. I will remember this for a long time as it proved to be the Trifecta of desert summer storms! I certainly am happy that I was able to stay in the same location for 6 hours shooting as the storm chased me and came to provide a spectacular Saturday nights entertainment! Chance favors the prepared mind. A lot of storm chasing is doing your homework and figuring out just where to go, and when!
As I count my blessings for Saturday, I want to remind you that there are still a few spots open in my next Lightning and Monsoon Workshop coming up on August 9-12, 2013 here inn Phoenix. Why not treat yourself to see this phenomena before this season is over until next year!
Tags: lightning, storm chasing, workshop