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...