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.