Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 10 from 2011

It's been a tradition of mine for a couple of years now to put myself through the trouble of skimming down the list of the thousands of photos that I took over the last year and somehow pick out my favorite ten, and then post them on here with a little nostalgic blurb about the moment. That time came again today. So, here they are, in no particular order other than the random order that they get uploaded, are my top ten photos from 2011. There are certainly photos that received more positive feedback from others that did make the list, but for whatever reason these are my favorites.

April 10 2011, Lake Shabonna. On one of the rare beautiful days this past spring I managed to sneak away for an evening walk around the lake. It was early enough in the season that I essentially had the entire place to myself aside from a few fishermen out on the lake. I snapped this photo just as the sun was setting below the horizon behind me along my favorite trail.

April 15 2011, Williamsville IL HP supercell. Witnessed a small funnel cloud and unconfirmed tornado south of Springfield earlier in the afternoon, and then watched this ominous core approach as the day came to a close miles to the north.

February 21 2011, abandoned house south of Champaign. This was another one of the old high school regular spots that I revisited last winter. I was hoping to do a star trail image over the house, but those high level clouds ended that idea. However, the distant glow of Champaign-Urbana and a full moon helped create a surreal scene.

January 4 2011, Block IL revisited. The first stop along my high school favorites list was this railroad crossing down in a valley south of a cluster of houses that go by the name of Block. This place has an erie calm about it that keeps me coming back.

July 26 2011, Sky drama north of Philo, IL. When thunder roars, head outdoors. While sitting inside on a muggy summer afternoon, thunder began to rumble gently outside. I grabbed my camera and hopped in the car and went out to see what all the fuss was about.

August 22 2011, looking the wind farm in the eye. Gilbert Sebenste from NIU gave me a call this afternoon and asked if I wanted to join him and a friend as he did some maintenance on top of the old AT&T microwave tower. The tower was right in the middle of my favorite spot in DeKalb County, so I of course obliged.

August 13 2011, collapsing updraft. I spent the entire afternoon photographing strong to marginally severe thunderstorms with my brother in southern Champaign County. As we photographed each scene thinking that it would be the cherry on top, the sinking sun cast an even more beautiful light on the quickly evolving sky. It was hard to pick just one photo out of this set, but went with this collapsing thunderstorm with an expansive precipitation area gliding across the soy bean field.

August 13 2011, daytime lightning. Okay, well by 'pick just one' photo from the aforementioned date I apparently did not do that and did end up selecting two photos. This is the first time I ever had actually mentioned to capture a day time lightning bolt. The staccato bolts were just so frequent and close, and my brother and I were continually out-foxed by the lightning's sporadic behavior. However, on one bolt we both let out an exclamation as we realized we'd caught the bolt with our cameras.

August 10 2011, Villa Grove fire. A major downtown fire in the town of Villa Grove south of Champaign was probably my favorite event to photograph this entire year. Shooting the sky will never be replaced, but spending hours watching these guys do work, and interacting with them as they fought the blaze was an experience I won't forget.

October 24 2011, aurora over the midwest. This is probably my favorite photo of the year, for several reasons. I was alerted earlier in the evening that there was a marginal chance at the northern lights making an appearance during the night, but to not waste my night on it. I was then given a phone call by fellow photographer / storm chaser just across the border in Wisconsin saying the sky had gone crazy. I scrambled to gather the camera and managed to capture this image just across the street from my house in DeKalb.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Shabonna Twilight/Star trails/Moon rise

Had quite a fun little solo-excursion to Lake Shabonna this evening after cabin fever set in around 3 PM. I got out there at an awkward hour, right as the sun was setting where the lighting is at kind of a useless point. It's too bright for any twilight imagery, but too dark for any real landscape photography. That being the case, I walked the length of the dam on the south end of the lake and watched the sun go down, and then slowly walked back as it got darker. Once I got back to my car, I decided to drive around to another area where I shot star trails on my first ever trip out there a couple of years ago. (Flickr set from that first trip) That very last photo is what I was looking for.

Apparently I overshot the target location, but stumbled upon an area that I had either never been, or never appreciated. I found what would be a great sunset viewing location, and what turned out to be a great place to shoot a few twilight photos of a little bend in the lake. The geese were insane, flying over in huge clusters while I tried a few photos from this platform.

Eventually I made my way down to what I thought was going to be a little peninsula in the lake where I could walk out and start shooting star trails. I didn't find that, and ended up finding a little trail that led into the woods, and eventually into a big clearing with a nice view of both the main portion of the lake, and that little inlet that I was shooting moments before. I once again high-fived my ability to ignore the sounds in the darkness as I grabbed my flashlight and set off into the woods in the falling darkness. By the time I headed back to my car it would be completely dark outside.

I found a nice angle for shooting star trails, looking over a picnic bench and some trees, with the very bright Venus slowly setting toward the horizon. I only shot for an hour or so, before I got bored with the spot and started walking around some more. Eventually the cold reached my core, and it was time to start heading back to the car. I was literally ten feet from my car when I saw something red coming up over the trees way across the lake, and soon realized this was the massive, almost full moon. It's ridiculous how many times I set out on these photo trips, whether they are weather, sky, or landscape related, spend multiple hours out shooting what I think is what I set out for, only to happen upon something that completely steals the show just as I have called it a day. The moon slowly rose above the trees, casting an orange and red glow on the partially frozen lake as I danced a happy dance to stay warm. I ran around the shore for a few minutes looking for additional angles, before deciding that I had enough and was ready to return to the warm car to start thawing. I was home in thirty minutes with a mug of hot cocoa with cinnamon, and began going through the photos.

I spent some time yesterday updating the actual website, namely creating a 2011 accounts page with all of my weather related excursions, and in doing so realized how little I had posted this fall. It's definitely time to get the winter astro-photography season started. I'll be heading back down to Champaign-Urbana on Tuesday, so I'm sure a few visits to Block are in store.

This is that first platform where I shot the twilight over the inlet. There's a big wooden deck with a couple of benches and a picnic table.

 Moonrise time!

 Star trails over the lake. Venus is the brighter spot just above the lake in the middle.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I miss this...

I'm not a big fan of winter, or anything below 60 degrees (unless it's a crisp 50 degree night and I'm in my tent under the stars). I also realize it's only the end of November and has yet to even snow substantially. That said, I much prefer this kind of thing.

I really need to get out and get the astro-photography season started. Tonight should be clear, but temperatures dropping into the 20s with 45 mph wind gusts isn't what I'd call an ideal situation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Earth from Space - Incredible Time Lapse!

I generally try to keep my posts specific to my own ideas and work, but this was too fascinating to not share. Check out this compilation of time lapse clips shots from the International Space Station high above the Earth. Seen are the lights from various cities around the globe, lightning flickering inside of thunderstorms, and the Aurora Borealis!


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shallow Convection

A deep upper level trough worked through the midwest during the middle part of the week bringing much colder temperatures and overall unpleasant weather for this summer lovin' fella. However, during the day on Thursday, very cold upper level temperatures created lapse rates that were steep enough to kick off isolated areas of shallow convection across northern Illinois. Most of these little areas were having trouble getting their precipitation to make contact with the ground before evaporating due to the very dry lower levels. This in turn led to some photogenic 'virga'. I sat looking out my window for a while as I did some work on the computer thinking to myself that it might behoove me to grab the camera and go for a little drive. This ended up being a fairly decent idea on my part.

I immediately gave pursuit to one little cluster that had just moved through the DeKalb area that had a very photogenic precipitation shaft extending from its base, again, with much of it evaporating before reaching the surface. At one point, the slowly setting Sun cast a vibrant rainbow. I was unable to get to a worthy foreground however, before this disappeared.

I did still manage to have a little fun as daylight waned, and will slap a couple photos in the space below.

Attention is already beginning to turn to a potential major storm system at the end of the coming week. At the end of October, I'm always game to turn my attention to something well into the future to take my attention off of the gross weather currently in place. I'd like to get out and get back in the star trails game, but it seems we are back in that pattern of sunny days with a nice deck of upper level clouds moving in during the overnight that block out the stars. One can't complain after the northern lights display that I caught the back end of earlier in the week, I suppose.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Aurora borealis returns!


After a good six year drought, a brief but dramatic display of the northern lights returned to the region. Scott Kampas had notified me earlier in the evening that the chance existed, but was minimal so I went about my evening. While relaxing at home an hour or so later, Scott Weberpal called me and left a voicemail saying that the northern lights were going insane at that moment, so I sprinted out the front door and looked up, greeted by a big red glow. It's extremely rare to have them almost directly overhead this far south into the middle latitudes, especially considering that it was a marginal CME in the first place. The last time I was treated to a display such as this was back in May of 2005. That one takes the cake however, as the show persisted for almost the entire night versus this brief display.

Luckily I did not attempt to drive out into the open country as I would have missed the show for the most part. There happens to be an open area with a drive leading down toward a water treatment facility across the street to the north of my house, so I simply set up shop in the middle of that big drive and started popping off shots.

The foreground could have been a little better, but who's looking at that, anyway?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Wisconsin / Shabonna

With a weekend essentially free of plans, I decided to escape northward for what is probably the last trip to the family lake house in 2011. Scott Weberpal had the day free on Saturday so we made plans to meet at my family's place during the afternoon. I was treated to a nice comeback victory by the Univ. of Illinois football team which actually ended the moment that I pulled in the drive. I arrived a very tired soul, so I power napped upright on the couch until I heard a car pull in the drive and went out to greet Mr. Weberpal. After relaxing for a bit, we headed to a local bar/grill on an adjacent lake and watched his Badgers take on Nebraska, ending in an easy victory for his guys.

Afterward, we headed back to the house and grabbed the cameras for some night photography. Conditions were about as perfect as they get... the stars were popping and the wind was dead calm. There was a bite in the air, but it wasn't too cold. We walked down to an old boat launch where there was a large beach area where we could walk around and play with different angles. I used this location to shoot a couple of my favorite star trail images last August. After an hour so, Scott was on his way home and I went back inside to relax. I'd had minimal sleep the last few nights so I was ready to take a coma. I was about two seconds from bringing the tent up there that weekend, but I probably wouldn't have even bothered at that point because I was just ready for a nice warm bed.

Temperatures dipped into the lower 30s overnight causing a neat layer of steam as we played with star photography around midnight, so I can imagine things were still cooking around sunrise. I set an alarm for sunrise, but was way too tired to even bother. I'm sure the steam devils were going crazy, but at that point sleep won out. Last year's adventure will have to do.

Sunday was spent relaxing outside with some quality Andrew time. I really couldn't have cared less if the water temperature was in the middle 50s... after breakfast I ran down and jumped in. The water was pins and needles cold, but felt incredibly refreshing once the air returned to my lungs! I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening just traipsing around outside, before watching the sun go down over the lake during the evening and then eventually making my way back home.

Beautiful fall weather with warm temperatures finally returned this week, after five solid days under a cut off low that just spun away bringing periodic rounds of heavy rain and clouds mixed in with cold temperatures. With yesterday's temperatures sitting in the middle 70s without a cloud in the sky, my home girl Ellen and I decided something needed to be done outdoors. I hadn't returned to Lake Shabonna since returning to northern Illinois this fall so I vetoed her idea to visit a local nature trail and drove us out that way. There wasn't much time before the sun hit the horizon so not much trotting around was done, but we did find a nice place to sit and enjoy the quiet (excluding the geese sharing their dumb stories). I did a double take at a picnic table behind us thinking it was a deer, only to then have a couple of young deer run out into the open a moment later.

Well, of course these images are horribly out of order. I think it was Dann Cianca suggested a way that I can fix this issue but I've completely forgotten where that was at this point. Anyway, during my last hour up north I decided to take a couple wide angle shots of the actual dock / beach area at my family's slab of land on the lake. The water was like glass... perfectly relaxing. Who wouldn't want to just jump in... temperature is nothing but a number!

The stars were just popping.

Sunset along Highway 82 as I made my way back home on Sunday evening. This is about 10 miles west of the lake.
Now we're on to Monday evening back at Lake Shabonna outside of DeKalb.
Ellen admiring some spiders that had made webs on the plants.
And I guess to throw in a little bit of weather related material, here's a water vapor view of the cut off low that spiraled overhead for the better part of the week. There are some incredible loops hiding out in the open on the internet that I should probably track down and post, but...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wisconsin in the fall

Another update for the sake of updating. The weather has been pretty hit or miss lately around these parts so the camera has been sitting idle. I did finally get the engine problems taken care of on the ole yellow Mazda. It was exactly what I had suspected, with a bad front cylinder coil pack, but ended up costing me about 1/4 of what I was expecting to shell out. It looks like the only decent day this upcoming week will be Tuesday, and I have major exams on Wednesday and Thursday so it looks as if I'll be waiting a bit longer for anything photo-wise.

When I get bored at the computer I often find myself digging through the old photo folders on my hard drive, which is the same way I found all of the photos that I displayed during the "overlooked photos" series back in February. I will go out and shoot between 30 and 200 photos on an outing, and upload maybe an average of five. Mostly because the other photos sucked a lot. But sometimes a decent one sneaks by, and I happened to find one I liked quite a bit from the lake in Wisconsin last October. I shot the photo from a canoe while Scott Weberpal tried his hand at fishing.

Saturday afternoon I attended the Wisconsin vs. Northern Illinois football game at Soldier Field, which didn't exactly go the way I had planned. My plans did not include an NIU victory, but they certainly didn't include a 49-7 loss that had us headed for the exits at the end of the 3rd quarter. Normally I'm completely against leaving games early, but given Chicago traffic leaving the stadium, the Illinois football game being in a couple of hours, and us being down 42 points to a legitimate national championship contender, I was willing to head for the exits. I shot this panoramic shot on my droid during the first half. Since both schools share the same primary color of red, there was plenty to go around. It was hard to tell who was rooting for who until one team did something decent, which ended up not being us most of the time.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wisconsin Paralysis

A new first, as I didn't take one single photograph on my entire stay in Wisconsin this past weekend. I don't think that has been accomplished since I got my first film camera as a kid. I was accompanied by David Bellmore who made the trip up separately from Champaign.

The trip was fairly uneventful, which was perfect! The weather was flawless, so I came back with a healthy dose of Vitamin D. The water temperature was down to about 72F which was refreshing at first, but felt amazing.

The most eventful part of the trip was probably the bout of sleep paralysis that I had while in my tent on Saturday night. For those who aren't familiar, here's an interesting read.

Essentially, you're awake while your brain is still in a dream state. Your brain still thinks your asleep, so your body remains paralyzed, but you become aware of your surroundings. "Sleep paralysis was first identified within the scientific community by psychologist Weir Mitchell in 1876. He laid down this syntactically old-school, but accurate description of how it works. “The subject awakes to consciousness of his environment but is incapable of moving a muscle; lying to all appearance still asleep. He is really engaged in a struggle for movement fraught with acute mental distress; could he but manage to stir, the spell would vanish instantly.”"

Anyway, this used to happen to me somewhat frequently around ages 11-15 for whatever reason, but hasn't happened since. You'd swear there was a time zone change between the real world and "at the lake" world, because we always retire early for the night. We watched the Notre Dame/Michigan football game and then decided to call it. I went to my tent around 11 and was almost instantly asleep. For whatever reason, I woke up a couple hours later around 1 AM feeling completely refreshed, almost like my body took a nap and was ready to go again. This was a problem. Luckily a friend of mine texted me shortly after and kept me company for a while as I lay awake in the tent under the bright moonlight. I wasn't exactly pissed, as being out in nature on a beautiful clear night with temperatures in the middle 50s is a pretty good place to be unable to sleep. I talked to my friend until after 3 AM before deciding to go for a walk. I have absolutely no reservations about being out in the wilderness or in rural areas in the middle of the night completely alone. I was never an easily scared kid, and what reservations I had before have probably been erased in years of spending nights alone shooting photos, whether on a storm chase or simple night photo outing. You eventually learn that the only thing you have to fear is your brain. In time you learn that the thing that is making the crunching noise in the brush behind you that sounds huge, is probably no bigger than a football and could be punted about 40 yards if you felt so compelled.

I made my way back to the tent and decided to try that sleeping thing. At one point I heard something sniffing around outside my tent and briefly contemplated smacking the side of the tent to startle it and send it running but the idea that it could potentially be a skunk had me thinking better of it. The next thing I knew it was sleep paralysis time.

I don't remember ever falling asleep, which perhaps added to it seeming so real. My mind had awakened in a dreaming state, my body still paralyzed but my conscience becoming more and more aware of my surroundings. I was 100% convinced that there was a snarling wolf first directly outside my tent, but then actually inside my tent grabbing my left arm.

Fast forward to 0:38 and that's almost exactly what I heard. That slow, low snarling noise. This lasted what seemed like maybe a minute or two, all the while I was unable to move anything but my eyes. It's almost like a lightswitch is flipped when it ends too. I immediately became aware of what had happened. When I was younger I wasn't overly aware of what sleep paralysis was, but when I came to this time and realized the "wolf" was really my blanket bunched up in the corner of my eye I immediately knew I'd been had by Mr. Paralysis. It was just odd that it had been so long. Ah well. Like I said, I can't remember the last time I was even a little bit afraid while out at night, but this had my heart racing for several minutes afterward just given the realness of the situation. When I was a kid it seemed to come more under the guise of the alien abduction scenario that is frequently reported. I would simply 'awaken' unable to move a muscle, but knowing something evil was in my room before I would quickly regain complete awareness and be able to look around and see my empty bedroom.

Anyway, I guess that was the final motivation I needed to get to sleep because after that I didn't remember a thing until the sun was well up in the sky and my tent was quickly becoming an oven. The rest of the day was spent on the lake and manning the grill before we headed back down south during the evening.

As I said, I didn't take any photos this trip but I do have a photo or two from the last week or so that I could toss up here. They're inevitably going to be from the wind farm, but if you're reading this blog you've grown to expect that crap.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Miscellany update

Well, I'm back in DeKalb. I'm not sure if I've updated since that transition was made. I've reunited myself with the lovely Lee/DeKalb wind farm, and actually just returned from there an hour or so ago. Oh right! I forgot about the tower photos from last week. Indeed, I have updated since I returned. Anyway, I've made a few random trips in the last week and figured I would post a couple of the photos. It's all honestly part of a larger picture that I'm working on. I've already mentioned that I won't be putting out one of my annual storm chasing dvd's, so the PWX 20XX series will have to skip a year (unless the fall brings insanity to the midwest or something). To make up for this I will likely be putting together a little time lapse project. There have been some incredible time lapse projects coming out on Vimeo.Com. This will be nothing near as cool as those, but it's something to challenge and occupy myself with!

Anyway, a couple of photos...

It's been a good couple weeks back in the DeKalb area. It probably is no secret anymore to my four loyal readers, but the lovely Tia and I decided to end our five year relationship back in the spring. That largely explains my absence from the blogging/photographing/chasing world, which was a real bummer. Not letting something like that affect your daily life is easier said than done, but the summer did me well. It was not a hostile deal at all, which I think at times made it harder. We did it with the idea of simply remaining best friends. ...speaking of things easier said than done. While we still are not on bad terms, she and I did decide recently that perhaps it would just be easier if we only interacted if we really needed to. We'll always have each others back, but for now we'll leave it at that. She's a great kid and will do amazing things in her life in spite of all the obstacles she has overcome in her life.

Anyway, this isn't meant to be a downer of a post, but rather the opposite. I made several posts in prior weeks about feeling completely comfortable in myself again, finally. Tia and I shared our entirely lives with each other, and for me that included storm chasing / photography adventures. While I loved spending essentially every chase and many photography trips exploring new places with her, I spent most of the summer regretting it thinking now that it wouldn't be the same and hating that all of those chases were now filled with memories of happier times with her. But that isn't how it needs to be at all. Simply part of the adjustment process I suppose. Driving around the country looking for cool clouds is what makes me who I am, and I simply needed to be a whiner and hate on things for a while before I realized that and got back out on my horse and started spending all of my money on my gas tank doing those things that made me happy again. Once again I am at peace standing out in the corn fields of Illinois watching the wind turbines turn while listening to the subtle whooshing noise of the blades, or pulling off the side of the road with a mind full of ideas as a thunderstorm blossoms in front of me. When I think back to all of the chase days that I shared with Tia as my passenger I no longer feel regret and the desire to go back and do it alone, but see happy memories spent with one of the best friends I have ever had.

Again, I didn't mean for this to come off as a pity party because I honestly feel amazing. I was certain I would spend the rest of my life with that one person, but that's exactly how life goes. If I wanted pointless attention I'd post emotional song lyrics or complain about how unfair life is via Facebook status or something. I was simply doing some thinking while I watched my barely-moving wind turbines tonight and figured some writing would do me well, and my much smaller, but ever loyal blog audience would be a decent outlet. What I dealt with this summer, everyone out there has or will deal with it at some time or another. One of the biggest leaps that I took in the pitiful grief recovery process occurred on the day that I first saw video out of Joplin, Missouri following the EF5 tornado that obliterated that town. This guy is sitting here down on himself over a relationship change, while others are dealing with their loved ones being blown out of their homes and killed. While in a sense I was losing a loved one of my own, I couldn't hardly feel sorry for myself at all when thinking about how my situation paled in comparison to what any number of people in the world are going through at a given moment.

Gah, I feel like I'm simply ranting and am losing readers by the minute. And I'm in an amazing mood too, tonight. The last two weeks have been a perfect return to DeKalb and Northern Illinois University. I've been out late "doing Andrew", running around town meeting new amazing people, hanging out at the wind farm, and learning annoying new mathematical formulas to explain why the cool clouds I'm after every year are there in the first place. Live freaking life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking the wind turbines in the eye

Yesterday evening I received a call from Gilbert Sebenste with a photographic offer. His friend, Steve, would be doing maintenance on top of the old AT&T microwave tower about 150 feet in the air, right around sunset, in the middle of my favorite place in the state - the Lee/DeKalb wind farm. He told me to think about it, and that he'd call me back in about ten minutes with instructions. Thirty seconds later my phone rang again with him asking if I could leave immediately. Of course, I was doing nothing with my evening at that point so I was out the door.

The tower is probably a 10 minute drive outside of DeKalb and the Northern Illinois Univ. campus. After unlocking 5 different padlocks, we were finally in the tower. The sketchy looking elevator wasn't responding, which I was certainly okay with, so we climb the nine flights of stairs on foot. Then, it was two rusty ladders to the roof of the tower.

The view was unreal, but I'll let the photos do the story-telling on that one. We stood up there for a half an hour or so while Gilbert and Steve debated on whether or not it would be a good idea to ride out a severe storm in the tower, until the sun dipped below the horizon and Steve finally got to work on his radio maintenance.

The last ladder to the roof of the tower, looking up.
Gilbert joining the club at the first platform.
The elevator shaft that I was not disappointed to not be using.
Looking to the north at a little farmstead and some turbines.

Back on the ground. The farm stead on the right side was burning a little something.

Hanging out with my shadow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 13th Incredible Sky

Another day, another slight risk for severe weather in the region. Would it be another typical 2011 bust in this area, or would we have a repeat of Monday evening? I had the luxury of a lazy Saturday to keep an eye on the sky (or radar, in this case) as numerous thunderstorms developed to the west and north and moved toward the area. One little cluster looked to be developing into a small line segment as it approached the area, so with the dry conditions we've experienced in this region I hoped perhaps we'd get some dust kicking up along the gust front. That was my vision upon leaving the house, anyway. My 16 year old brother, Wil has taken up an inthttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giferest in photography and often asks to come along on these little atmospheric adventures but is usually in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of non-chasers don't quite understand the difficulty in arranging someone else coming along at last second. When it's time to go, it's time to go, and I'm gone. Anyway, I knew well enough in advance that I'd be heading out locally and extended the offer. Once the storms were about 30 miles out, we headed off, both picking up a couple of fountain Cokes as I gassed up and headed out.

As the line approached, the storms quickly tanked and went downhill fast. What was left of an ugly shelf cloud quickly dissolved. Not sure whether the time lapse I shot of this will be interesting or just depressing. I told Wil that sometimes you just have to be patient, and the early portion of playing with a storm can often suck, and if you stick with it through the suck you are sometimes rewarded with some not so sucky scenes.

I dropped south of Philo ahead of an ugly (and not the good kind of ugly) shelf cloud. What was weird was how early the actual gust front winds slammed us and began kicking up a little bit of dust in the field outside the car. The shelf cloud was nowhere near us, and there was no real sign of the winds coming in advance. Not sure if this was the same situation that the were faced with at the Indiana State Fair last night with the same thunderstorm complex.

Still bummed about the lack of photogenic convection, but not wanting to head home yet, I dropped southeast toward, you guessed it, Block Illinois. I ventured to the same grain bin / barn on a hill location that I shot the star trails and Milky Way Galaxy a couple of weeks ago. That's when the day finally turned around.

A rain free (though we were anything BUT rain free at the time) base emerged to our southwest and a little tail cloud quickly developed from some scud and began racing to the southeast. Rapid fire cloud to ground lightning began slamming out of the updraft region. We were in heavy rain being driven by northwest winds that pelted the passenger side of my car. Like a true pro, my brother quickly scurried from the passenger seat to the back seat on the driver side so he could shoot the base of the storm while being shielded by the rain. We made note of the incredible lightning activity and how we hoped to time it just right to catch one of them in a photo. It had to be less than a minute later when another bolt flashed and we both let out a "AH!" as we both realized we had caught the same lightning bolt on film. This would be a lot less exciting if shooting lightning at night, but during the day when you consider that your camera shutter is open for only a fraction of a second, the difficulty in capturing a daytime lightning photo is largely luck based. To both have caught the same bolt was pretty gratifying and pretty awesome. We both high fived, and continued shooting before the storm overtook us.

During the core of the storm my car was rocked by 50 mph sustained winds, perhaps with a gust or two at severe levels as it took down some small branches in the trees up the road. At the rear of the storm some pea sized hail finally began falling. Hail seemed to rule the day as far as severe weather reports went, so I was beginning to wonder when it would show up.

The rest of the evening was pure sky bliss. The sun sank down toward the horizon, and the numerous updrafts in the region simply came alive. We saw several full double rainbows, and countless sunlit updrafts spitting out lightning and dropping hail across the fields.

High resolution flickr set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/prairiestormmedia/sets/72157627307383633/