Friday, October 12, 2012

Photo update

Wow, I really let this thing go over the summer. There just wasn't much to talk about! As much as it seems the opposite, I have been busy with my camera, I have just been sharing the quick tidbits on the twitter feed more than actually writing up posts here.

A quick catch up session:

I made a little time lapse video with some clips from the summer that I was obviously not going to find another use for, mixed in with some older stuff dating back as far as 2007.

I have been trying to work a little more with the portrait/people photography. My very photogenic friend Melanie and I chugged some red bull and frolicked in a field a couple of weeks ago, and that set can be found here.

And then this past weekend I was able to shoot engagement photos for one of my best friends from NIU.

It looks like a stormy couple of days across the country, but I will be sitting much of it out. I do think there is a shot at a tornado somewhere from se Colorado into the TX Panhandle this afternoon, and same goes for Oklahoma and Kansas tomorrow. I will be enjoying the warm weather back in Illinois on Saturday hoping for maybe a stray lightning bolt or two while having a drink with some friends.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I haven't updated this thing for a while, but it seems this will be a summer of drought conditions so there really has been little to share. This weekend was spent back in DeKalb as I acted as the on-site meteorologist for the Bike MS charity ride, which hosts 2500 cyclists camping out in tents during the night, and riding the country roads during the day. My job was simply to scare off any rain drops, which was really hard to want to do in a summer like this. It was a pleasure working with that crew for the second summer in a row. I could get used to that whole being paid to forecast the weather deal. Anyway, I'm just going to go through my recent photos and throw up anything that I haven't posted from the last several weeks. There isn't much.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lightning insanity

I sat around most of yesterday hoping for thunderstorms to pop during the afternoon. I kept watching storms further to the west near the Mississippi River, but nothing was going on down here. Eventually the sun set, and I figured I was hosed for another day. I saw an outflow boundary surging toward Champaign from the earlier storms up north and to the west. I had the night free hoping that I'd be shooting thunderstorms, so I just decided to grab the camera and head out and shoot some more boring night sky time lapses. I wondered if perhaps the outflow boundary would be something kind of neat to watch on a time lapse as it scooted over Champaign, but figured I was just getting out of town to relax for a bit.

The second that I started shooting the time lapse, this happened.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Illinois sunset

Another down evening with beautiful weather, so I went and visited probably my favorite spot in Champaign County, south of town. Nothing exciting to share, so I'll just post the photos.

Been doing a ton of star trails, but really just because I've been shooting a ton of time lapse.
This is really about as Illinois as it gets.
Cell phone shot of the four things that I love in life.
I caught an alien space ship landing behind the farmhouse too.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunday Slop

Pretty depressing convective setup for mid-May, but I'm not too good for anything. It was a warm one during the afternoon with temperatures in the middle to upper 80s, but surface dew points were relatively meager for mid-May, sitting in the middle 50s. This got us about 1500 j/kg of mixed layer cape, combined with absolutely no wind shear. Not even weak shear, there really was essentially zero flow for these storms to work with. I sat at home until things began to pop about 10 miles outside of town, grabbed my brother and headed out to take some photos locally.

I went to one of my usual spots south of Urbana (which would have been a fantastic spot to view the Champaign area tornado from a couple of weeks ago). Stuff just really did not look very fun at all and my camera remained in my bag for quite some time. Eventually I noticed a good updraft going up to our south, which did eventually become a substantial cell as it progressed northward slowly toward us. I figured why bother moving and just let it overtake us. Just before reaching us, the updraft of the storm collapsed, kicking up some dust on the leading edge of the outflow as it raced toward us. The core finally overtook us with some sub-severe hailstones and some gusty winds, also below severe limits. Even so, it was fun to ride out a core.

I noticed two outflow boundaries were going to collide on the west side of the county. This was the only time during the entire outing that I bothered to move the car. I drove us about 10 miles west to where these boundaries would collide, and set up shot. I shot a little time lapse of the two boundaries, but unfortunately I was a little bit late on the actual collision.

The coolest thing happened when the boundaries did meet though. While standing out there watching the boundaries overhead, a little cluster of intense dust devils began to kick up about 50 yards in front of us in a bare farm field. These things became intense enough that you could actually hear them in the field in front of us. Looking up, there were a couple of little 'swirls' in the base of the cu. We were likely almost in the right spot at the right time for a landspout tornado, but it never quite rooted itself. It eventually moved over a field with much less dirt and debris and we lost the circulation.

The rest of the evening was spent in this very spot on the side of some road in flat Champaign County. Eventually the boundary collision led to more numerous thunderstorms in the area, and it became a lightning effort. Called it quits around 9:30 as the cluster of storms congealed into a big rainy blob, making it about 4 hours out in the same little spot.

Here's the time lapse from Sunday... really didn't have it setup early enough, and unfortunately didn't have the storms erupting out of frame following the collision.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Wisconsin star trails

I went up to the lakehouse in Wisconsin for a couple of days last weekend, and after catching up on some much needed sleep the first night, I spent the next two nights shooting star trails and sleeping out in the tent. I could not have asked for better weather, with barely a cloud seen and daytime temperatures in the middle 70s. At night the stars were vibrant, and temperatures cooled into the 50s.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tuesday High Based Convection

Late on updates again, but got a great show from the sky on the 15th. With temperatures in the middle 80s and dew points all the way down in the middle 40s (I think DeKalb was even 85/38 at one point around 2 PM) I didn't expect much. With a so much dry air present in the lower part of the sounding I figured some dry downbursts would be possible, but I didn't expect much convection to be present. Went out with Heather Brinkmann and was treated to an amazing show as high based convection reflected the light from the setting sun creating a sky filled with vivid colors. It wasn't long before one of the brightest double rainbows I have seen popped up in the middle of the scene. We drove around the south of DeKalb and photographed another cluster of storms that erupted just after sunset. Looking at a chance for more disorganized thunderstorms this evening, likely blocking out what would be a partial solar eclipse. Flickr set from earlier Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Engagement dust storm

I'm way behind on posts, but I'll get an update going on the most recent happenings. Been extremely busy with academia lately, trying to get this whole meteorologist thing finalized. Sunday afternoon I was scheduled to shoot engagement photos of my friend Morgan and her fiance Kyle. As the time approached, thunderstorms began erupting all around the area, potentially threatening our shoot. We were scheduled to get together around 5 or 6 PM, so around 3 I decided to head out to the area we would be taking the photos, and just play around with the storms until they were ready for me. There was nothing to see at all, as one would expect with high instability but no wind shear to speak of, aside from the aid of a couple of boundaries floating around the area. I got a phone call from Morgan letting me know they were ready when I was, so I began heading back that direction. It was on my way that I noticed some runaway outflow that had long since outrun it's parent thunderstorm that was kicking up a huge plume of dust. The dust plume was right in my path, and I actually got a text from Morgan wondering what was going on as they were right in the thick of things at that moment. I drove directly for the outflow and was soon in the midst of a pretty fun little Illinois dust storm. I actually wound up getting slammed by a tight circulation as a gustnado spun up and moved right over me, kicking up field debris and tossing my camera/tripod as I was rolling video. As I have been busy, it has been slow going on getting through any photos, but I figured I would share a sample of what I have at this point. And, here's a link to some of the dusty video from Sunday evening. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Aurora and iridium flare

Got a phone call from Chris Allington ( and moments after I said 'hello' I realized why he was calling me. I wasn't home and did not have the camera gear on me but a quick run home and a short jaunt north of DeKalb and I was ready to go. Shot mostly TL of the green arc that remained stationary on the horizon for almost an hour. I did manage to grab a shot of the aurora and an iridium flare to the northeast!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where it all began

That title is actually stupid misleading, because I was obsessed with the sky well before this date in 1996. That said, 16 years ago today I pretty well solidified the fact that the remainder of my life would be spent looking up rather than at the ground. I was afraid of thunder for maybe the first two years of my life. I remember there being one particular night that the fear just stopped. My grandpa was a pastor at a Lutheran church in Aledo, a rural western Illinois town near the Quad Citi My family would get together at the parsonage where they lived next door to the church for family gatherings. There was a really great front porch with chairs and a swing where we'd sit outside during the summer. One particular night when I was maybe 2 or 3, I was apparently quite distressed about a storm that had rolled into the area. My parents took me out on the porch to watch the storm, and since then...

As an 8 year old kid I would always nag my dad for information regarding potential severe weather in central Illinois. The second my dad would walk in the door I would stop and ask him if we are "in the slight risk today", referring to the Storm Prediction Center's convective outlooks. Friday April 19 1996 was forecast fairly well in advance, though there was some debate early on whether or not it would actually be a tornado outbreak, and not just a heavy rain event. By the time the day rolled around though, I found myself in a High Risk, with an impending tornado outbreak likely.

Back around this age, me and my best friend from across the street, David Bellmore, would ride out bikes to the school yard around the block to watch the sky. I'd bring a binder that had various county maps that I would draw all over, keeping track of storms on radar and what watches and warnings were in effect. I remember riding out to the school yard that evening and he and I agreeing on one thing - we would see a tornado tonight. I'm not sure how we came up with the conclusion, but it was the only time we made such a forecast. Clearly at 8 years old I wasn't basing this off of some in depth weather analysis, but it's still pretty fun to think about. Eventually it started getting dark so we rode our bikes home for the night. It was a Friday night, so my family was just hanging at the house. I mainly paid attention to the weather, while my family did typical Friday evening things. We had the X-Files on, back when it would air every Friday night on Fox. That was and still is one of my favorite shows!

Eventually, the storm was near. After producing numerous damaging tornadoes as it progressed down Interstate 72, aptly named the 'I-72 Supercell', hitting both Springfield and Decatur on it's way. A warning was soon issued for Champaign County as the supercell took aim on Champaign-Urbana. The original mesocyclone that was producing a very large tornado near Monticello, IL looked to miss the city. However, meteorologist extraordinaire, Ed Kieser at WILL saw what was happening. In a classic mesocyclone hand-off, the Monticello tornado finished it's business and a new circulation developed and moved into southeast Urbana. Ed is still thanked to this day for the comments he made on the air on WILL that night as he warned residents in Urbana about this new circulation before a warning was issued and had many people under ground.

While sitting on the couch watching the X-Files, the outdoor warning sirens began to blare. I was instructed to head to the basement, but of course resisted as long as I could. My dad remained upstairs, hanging out the back door. The core of the storm passed and things grew still. I remember him saying several times that he didn't see anything, before suddenly yelling "Funnel cloud!". I'm willing to bet that in all of the years living in that house, I never once made it up those stairs faster. I'm pretty sure my mom objected, but I didn't care at the time. I joined my dad in hanging out the back door as a ghostly white funnel cloud about half way to the ground glided by our backyard, illuminated by both the city lights and the incredibly frequent lightning. The tornado passed only about a mile away from our house, but at the time we could not confirm it was on the ground. As the storm moved off to the east, still illuminating the night sky like a strobe light, emergency vehicles began racing by our house heading in that direction. It became obvious that what we had seen was not simply a funnel cloud, but that a substantial tornado had actually ripped through the sub-division to our southeast.

We made the obligatory phone calls to family and friends in the area and luckily everyone checked out. There was actually only one fatality with the entire outbreak of tornadoes, unfortunately being caused by the same supercell moments after it hit Champaign-Urbana as it blew a semi off Interstate 74 while producing the monster that hit Ogden.

While the tornado did do F3 damage in town, Champaign-Urbana escaped fairly well, considering. Both the Monticello and Ogden tornadoes that formed before and after hitting Champaign were much larger tornadoes that would have created a wider damage path than the relatively small Urbana tornado. The subsequent Ogden tornado was almost a mile wide, devastating most of the town. Had this, or the original Monticello tornado moved through Champaign-Urbana, potentially hitting the University of Illinois campus on a Friday night could have been disastrous.

That said, no one was killed or seriously in town, this sky addict had his first tornado.6

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 14 2012 Tornado Outbreak in Kansas/Oklahoma

Managed to get on a couple of cyclic tornado producing supercells in central Kansas just south of Interstate 70 on Saturday afternoon/evening. The first storm came into view near Timken, Kansas and initially looked unimpressive, and even as the structure ramped up the radar representation was still very weak. Almost became a little mini-supercell actually.

This storm collapsed and eventually we dropped south to intercept the next supercell to the south near Great Bend. It took us some time to get a view of the rain free base as we came in from behind the storm. We got word from Jarrod Cook that there was a wedge tornado in progress, and soon enough the monster came peeking out from the rain. You could easily tell this was a violent caliber tornado, but it did a very good job of not hitting any structures. We passed an area where the ground had been scoured which is shown in the video below. Trees also had that violent tornado look, with only the core of the tree remaining. Preliminary survey had that wedge near Langley at an EF4. Apparently it did decimate one farm stead unfortunately, and scoured pavement somewhere very near where I saw the scoured vegetation.

This supercell did us all a huge favor and leap frogged Salina, KS, taking a breather after the wedge before producing intermittent tornadoes northeast of Salina.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chasing Today! (April 14th)

Getting ready to hit the road now with a likely central/eastern Nebraska target. Follow the twitter for frequent updates!!/PStormImagery

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weekend outbreak potential

In case anyone is worried or concerned, I will be spending some serious time with the sky this weekend.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wind farm pit stop

Never a dull moment with my turbines. I returned to DeKalb County around 10 PM last night after spending the Easter holiday with my family in Champaign. I started noticing around the Mendota area that the undersides of the clouds had some really neat textures. There was some really eerie low hanging stuff over Mendota but I didn't have an exit nearby to stop, otherwise that probably would have been pretty cool. I decided to take the scenic route from that point on and took US 30 across the southern part of the county passing by Shabonna Lake. I decided to stop off at their maintenance facility where the bright lights were illuminating a couple of turbines. The sky wasn't nearly as cool before, but with the bright foreground and the turbines actually being off at the moment giving them minimal blur I decided to take a couple of photos.

I'm eyeballing this coming weekend for potential storm chasing opportunities, as are many others.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Rogue svr / spin up in northern IL Tuesday?

I'm weirdly excited about convective chances tomorrow afternoon (technically later today now). There isn't much shear to speak of, so supercells are not going to be a potential threat, and that would pretty well eliminate tornadoes. That said, there will be plenty of instability, with LI's around -7 bullseyed over northern Illinois to the south of a slowly southward sinking boundary during the afternoon. It looks like things could stay capped for a majority of the day, but given extremely strong surface convergence we should see scattered thunderstorms erupt around 5 PM.

Tomorrow looks like a potentially big downburst day with scattered damaging wind reports with any storms that go up, as indicated by the inverted-V soundings found across the area. Strong vorticity along the boundary near the surface with strong NE winds colliding with warm SW flow lead me to believe that a landspout tornado or two is possible early in the development of convection. This isn't a given, and the odds of me or another person looking for such a thing are extremely slim.

Tuesday's are my most free day of the week, so I'll be keeping an eye out locally. If things had been more dry I'd hope for some photogenic dust plumes along any potential downbursts, but I'm not sure that will be the case.

Whether or not I head out to try and find some convective fun depends on how quickly the boundary begins sinking southward. A stagnant slowly sinking boundary will lure me out a lot quicker than if that things starts surging south earlier in the afternoon. I'd like to setup somewhere near Interstate 80. How about Moline to Ottawa for initial development around 4-5 PM, slowly sinking south through the evening? I'm not at all in "chase mode" yet, but given the right look to things I might be lured out on a wild goose hunt.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Amazing early morning lightning

With warm air advection storms slowly drifting our way, even after minimal sleep the previous night, I decided to stay up and wait for things to roll in. The storms were very unimpressive on radar so I wasn't initially sure that I would even leave the house. I'd spent the previous three days in Des Moines, IA for the Iowa NWA Severe Storms Conference and just arrived home that night, so I was worthless pile all evening and didn't want to go anywhere really. Around 2 or 3 I got up and looked out the window in the living room and immediately saw a nice bolt of lightning snake through the sky. That was enough motivation for me, sleepy as I was. I grabbed a can of Coke out of the fridge and hit the road. I got out to my usual sitting spot and began popping off photos as lightning crawled across the sky behind the turbines.

I ran back home once rain began to fall at my location, and the lightning had died out. I was probably only out there for 15 minutes or so. Right as I got home the sky began lighting up again, but this time with actual intense and close cloud to ground bolts that shook the entire neighborhood. I decided the perfect end to the night would be just sitting on the porch with my feet kicked up watching the light show and torrential rains (hoping for a little hail!). That said, once this storm cleared the area I noticed a third cell intensifying to the west. The wind farm had already been done, so I decided since I was even more tired than before as it approached 4 AM that I'd just drive up to campus and use the parking deck up there. The lightning was a little bit less impressive this time, but was still a great end to a surprisingly electrified night.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jenn and the abandoned house

I went out and did another modeling shoot with my friend Jenn last weekend, the target being my favorite old abandoned house in rural Champaign County. I was initially under the impression that it had burned to the ground during a fire mid-last week after I had just made plans to go back and shoot it over the coming weekend. Luckily I was able to determine it was a separate house that had burned down, and that I was still in business. My friend Jenn is also into photography, and is great with the entire modeling/portrait realm so I recruited her to help me out on a Sunday adventure. She's a posing pro and made my job quite easy!

Here's the entire flickr set...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Even more time lapsing

Had another round of thunderstorms move into the area down in Champaign on Saturday evening. I was able to shoot about an hours worth of time lapse of the two intersecting boundaries surging toward me until it finally started raining at my location and I had to pack things up.

Youtube has been acting weird on my end, so I tossed the TL on vimeo.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Time lapse of nocturnal convection

Some little cells began pulsing along an outflow boundary that was surging toward town. Originally I thought about going to the moraine south of town where I'd have a clear view to the west. When I started driving out of town I could see all kinds of cumulus being illuminated by the city lights. I immediately changed my plan and decided that I'd time lapse the convection being brightly illuminated by the light pollution. Eventually lightning began popping off. I was in sky heaven!

Here's a little time lapse snippet.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nikki and the rogue severe thunderstorm

I went down to visit with an old friend today, and I knew for a fact that she was a girl who loved having her picture taken so she let me use her for another rough go at portrait photography. We tossed around a couple of location ideas, but ultimately just ended up using a couple of old barns near her family's place. I'll have a bigger flickr set in a few days, but for now I'll throw a couple of photos below.

Afterward while having dinner with her family, a couple of rogue thunderstorms erupted to the southwest and went severe warned. I think the closer of the two storms produced 1.50" hail at one point. Anyway, catching wind of this I quickly went outside to take a peak and decided that I would need to intermittently pop out of the house to snap a few photos. It was quite spectacular during the twilight hours as it died, with the Venus and Jupiter conjunction overhead.

One of my best friends is getting married on Friday so I won't have time to think about my camera for a couple of days, but I'm told the weekend into next week look fun storm wise in the middle part of the country.