7-11 Lightning

July 5, 2014 by
Filed under: Summary 

Norman OK

SHORT: Highly electrified twilight storms near home.

LONG:
If one can define a “storm chase” as deliberately driving away from home in pursuit of the experience of storms, this was my shortest chase on record. I have several vantages pre-selected in the Norman area for viewing and photographing the sky under various situations–day, night, lightning, arcus, rainbow, mammatus, sunset, sunrise, east, west, north, south–views not available from my largely forested property. However, none are as close as the one I used on this day–a previously unused, ad-hoc perspective less than a linear mile away. I typically don’t post these short “chases”, but this is a worthy exception.

Seeing a large storm erupt on an outflow boundary to the SE, and flickers of lightning within, I didn’t know how long it would last, so a SE vantage several miles away wasn’t going to do. I exited my neighborhood and headed to a hilltop that–while not ideal due to a rather cluttered acreage in the foreground–offers the advantage of speed of access. It also would help as new storms developed to the SW–convection that would have been much more distant and less photogenic from even farther E.

First, the sky to the SE offered a rich, deeply textured and rapidly evolving panorama of convective, stratiform and electrical tones. To get a fuller idea, please see this Javascript time lapse of the full series of still photos of that storm. [You may need to tell your browser to enable Javascript if it doesn't come up automatically.] What a wonder that was, and all in the soft blue ambiance of early twilight!

As that storm was weakening, I started packing my gear, when I noticed flashes in weaker convection to the SW and SSW (along the same boundary). The updrafts looked skinnier and not as intense, yet suddenly…BAM! A discharge brilliantly flung well away from its originating cloud area. Time for action! I hurriedly twisted around the tripod and camera, realigning, re-aiming, hoping and wishing for more. I started interval-shooting too, which caused me to miss a few of these spectacular “bolt-from-the-blue” discharges, but which also allowed for two more very brief time lapses. For once, I also managed to capture the most amazing stroke of the whole sequence.

Consider my photographic desires fulfilled. The cells kept blasting forked strokes far out through clear air, out of upper reaches of the convection, while also splendidly illuminating the cloud structures from within!

One of the most dazzling lightning strikes I’ve ever captured on film or digital media then burst forth from the opposite side, forking for many miles across clear air between cloud and some very unfortunate ground target. That left me exuberantly breathless, mouth agape, absolutely astounded that a “mere” summertime multicell could put on such a dazzling performance. Its thunder, though originating many miles away, reverberated through the air, felt within while echoing from laterally and behind. Finally, the storm had one more electrical javelin-throw in its arsenal before weakening.

Those two short time lapses I promised? The first is here, and the second is here, containing each of the strokes pictured above, but in larger format whose animation you can adjust.

The trip back home took all of two minutes. The “chase” yielded the only Image of the Week that I posted within less than an hour (the site goes by UTC time, hence the “12″ date), and it’s not hard to understand why so little deliberation was needed.

Comments

2 Comments on 7-11 Lightning

  1. Rick Daulton on Sat, 5th Jul 2014 6:14 pm
  2. Roger,
    Pretty spectacular! What are you using to trigger the camera? I’ve been debating about buying one…… Updated the Canon camera not too long age.
    Thanks,
    Rick

  3. tornado on Sat, 2nd Aug 2014 6:52 am
  4. Rick–I do have a lightning trigger, but wasn’t using it on this evening. These instead were “old-fashioned” short-time exposures of several seconds each at high f-stop, on a bulb setting.