Ready for storm season…

No new photos lately. I think the last time I was actually outdoors with my camera was last November! With starting shift work north of Fort McMurray a few months ago, my time off is devoted to being a Dad. With that being said, storm season is getting close. I have 3 weeks off in July to hopefully document and photograph a few storms (no ridges!) and I am excited. I have had the worst luck in photographing lightning over the years with working long hours in the oilpatch, becoming a Dad and just bad luck when I was out trying. I hope to change that this summer with the time off I have and the lightning trigger I ordered that recently came in. I am also looking forward to getting my hands on the 2014 Weather Guide Calendar that comes out in July that has one of my Alberta storm images in it as a monthly image. We’ve had this calendar hanging in the house for years, so its pretty cool to be a part of it and to be included with many other great storm photographers from North America is pretty cool too. See you in July…

wx guide 2014

A few favorites from 2012

I thought I would blow the dust off of my blog and put together a post showing a few favorite photos I took in 2012. It’s been a busy year outside of photography for me. Since I became a Dad in February, my camera hasn’t been much of a priority and it’s stayed in the bag more this year than ever. And that doesn’t bother me a bit because when I do get out with the camera, I enjoy it a lot more. My main focus for photography is storms. This summer I wasn’t able to get out to see storms as much as I have in the past due to a busy July at work and my baby boy. The same goes for landscapes as well. I have, however, taken many portraits! A photography related highlight for me in 2012 was the Telus World of Science in Edmonton using a few of my storm images in their new Environment gallery. They did a great job with the gallery and I recommend checking it out. I’ve also been shooting this last year with one lens, the Canon EF 24-105mm IS. It’s just not quite wide enough for me! I moved to a full frame body and had to regretfully sell my Tokina 11-16mm lens, which was the best wide angle lens I’ve used. I woke up Xmas morning with the Tokina 16-28mm lens under the tree so I am eager to get out and try it. I’m sure I wont be disappointed as I like the Tokina brand and this lens stands up to the Nikon 14-24mm and the Canon 16-35mm in some online reviews. Not to mention its almost $1000 less in price compared to those lenses. Anyway, I hope to be out a little more in 2013. I’ll have my traditional 2 weeks off in July for storm observing and will be based out of Beaumont, Alberta as we just moved up here from Red Deer. Here are a few favorite photos of mine from 2012:

july302012wimbournethunderstormpano©July 30/2012. While staying with and ahead of this severe warned thunderstorm, I knew I was approaching the Ghost Pine wind farm near Trochu and knew I had to try to make a panorama with it and some wind mills. This storm was tornado warned earlier when this storm was north of Sundre. Work prevented me from getting on it during initiation, but I’m happy I got to eventually see it.

november22012mtmichenersunrise©November 2/2012. I headed out to Abraham Lake early this morning in hopes to photograph a sunrise along the shoreline, and the sunrise I was treated to exceeded my expectations. It’s become a popular place to photograph and I don’t care. I’ve only seen 1 other photographer in all of the times I’ve been out there. My wife and I enjoy the quietness of the area, we camp out there and of course, we enjoy the lake and the scenery. It’s definitely my favorite place in Alberta.

july282012cremonasupercell2©July 28/2012: My goal when out observing storms is to see supercells and I knew July 28th had some potential for severe storms. My goal was met when we observed this beautiful but dangerous rotating supercell spinning in the foothills near Water Valley. We got to it before it dropped a small, damaging tornado on Highway 22. Seeing the massive rotation in this storm was amazing.

july282012cremonatornado©July 28/2012: Here is the tornado that formed from the supercell above. This tornado unbeknownst to me at the time was unfortunately responsible for taking a truck and holiday trailer off of highway 22, taking a roof off of a house and tearing up and de-limbing a healthy stand of trees. I was very happy and relieved to hear of no injuries.

november32012kiskapeaksunrise©November 3/2012. Here is another photo from my outing to Abraham Lake. This image was taken a bit after twilight, but before sunrise. The foreground here isn’t underexposed-its damn close to what it was like at the time. I’m becoming a big fan of twilight imagery and I hope to add more ‘darker’ images into my webpage soon.

july52012tornadowarnedthunderstorm2July 5/2012. I sat with Pat Boomer from Alberta Foothills Weather on secondary highway 761 southeast of Rocky Mountain House, watching storms struggle along the foothills for a few hours. We eventually parted ways and I caught up with this thunderstorm that finally decided to mature east of Sundre. It became tornado warned near Olds and I took this photo as it was weakening east of Trochu.

november22012abrahamlakesunrise©November 2/2012. The last of a series of photos from a sunrise at Abraham Lake in early November. This scene was shot before the sun rose which makes for a nice dark moody image. This is probably my favorite landscape image I took this year.

July 28/2012 Dogpound, Alberta Supercell and Tornado

I certainly didn’t think yesterday would turn out the way it did. This was definitely Alberta foothills magic! This blog post goes to show that the foothills can produce amazing storms when the models show better potential elsewhere. I thought the Three Hills/Drumheller area and points east and southeast looked like a good place to be as the NAM and GFS looked to be in close agreement lining up decent CAPE and bulk shear values, along with the strong upper level jet and shortwave trough coming through which would get storms going. The 0z 4km WRF and morning runs of the HRRR both had storms along or just east of the QE2 between YQF and YYC in the afternoon. Was I wrong in choosing that initial target, to some extent! I picked up a friend from work who is originally from the Ukraine who has never seen a ‘real’ storm before, just before noon, and by 12:30pm we were gassed up and heading south of YQF on the QE2. Storms were already developing along the foothills from northwest of YYC to Rocky Mountain House. I chose to keep heading south towards the southern most storm that was developing which I assume was near the Water Valley area, as it looked like it would be isolated from the convection to the north. We turned off the QE2 at the Amerada road (TWP 322) and headed west. We couldn’t see much of this storm as cumulus clouds and anvil debris from the convection to our west-northwest blocked its view, but as we carried on west, its base finally came into view way off to our southwest and there was no doubt it was supercellular. From the Amerada road, we turned south on HWY 766 as the storm started to become closer. We got cought in some heavy rain and some small hail but eventually escaped the edge of its core the further south we went on HWY 766. From HWY 766 we turned west on HWY 580 as I wanted to get close to this amazing rotating updraft that was just to our immediate southwest. We dropped off HWY 580 and went south on range road 35 which eventually became range road 35a, and at the intersection of range road 35a and TWP 292, we were treated to some fantastic storm structure to our immediate west! We stayed at this location for only 10 minutes, and during that time we observed massive storm scale rotation, and watched the RFD cut into the storm and create tornadogenesis. Absolutely amazing to watch. A funnel soon appeared, and it eventually fully condensed and became a tornado as a dust swirl was observed. After the tornado lifted, we traveled east on TWP 292 to stay somewhat ahead of the storm, and stopped on various range roads to take photos and marvel at the storms structure. Convection developed to its south and these 2 storms would eventually merge, and as that was taking place, we traveled east of Crossfield to get into position to see what would come of the merger. The storm looked good at first from our location at TWP 285 and range road 284, complete with dual inflow bands, but it was apparent that it was now moving southeast away from us. We did try to stay with it by cruising down HWY 791, but I made the decision to let the storm go east of Airdrie as a long linear precipitation core was observed and I didn’t feel like playing catch up. This storm eventually died, but a new supercell formed from its outflow boundary near Gem. A quick stop at the Crossfield Esso, and we were back in YQF just after 5:00pm. I wonder if the models mayyybe underestimated the CAPE and shear values along the foothills northwest of YYC yesterday? Looking back, yesterdays 12z NAM run, for example, had some marginal instability and 30kts of Sur-500mb bulk shear at noon, around when the storms started to develop along the foothills. Whether the models were right or wrong in that area, the foothills decided to create some magic of its own.

Wide angle image showing the awesome storm structure from this supercell looking west from TWP road 282 and range road 35a at 1:55pm. Rotation was obvious and my Ukrainian friend who has never seen a supercell could see it too!

Another wide angle image as the RFD begins to cut into the middle of the updraft and wrap up. 1:58pm. I called EC to report the strong rotation apparent with this storm.

Doppler radar image from Weather Underground at 2:00pm, 2 minutes after the images above. Great supercell radar representation!

A funnel appears at 2:01pm and persists and eventually gets gets longer. I called EC again to report this as well. We are still at TWP 292 and range road 35a.

Tornado touchdown at 2:03 pm! This touchdown is roughly just west of range road 40, just south of TWP 292. Damage eventually becomes reported at a farm a bit west of this location which leads me to believe either the funnel at 2:01 has contact with the ground, or this photo above is the tornado doing the damage. I couldn’t confirm any debris within the dust swirl here. Part of me feels bad for not checking down there after. This tornado was very brief and lifted within minutes, and no other funnels were observed after.

A 4 image vertical panorama of the structure of this tornadic supercell at 2:10pm as it tracks roughly between Dogpound and Madden, Alberta. What a beast!

Another doppler image from Weather Underground of the storm exactly at the time of the above pano.  A classic flying eagle! I do have to say one thing. As much as I enjoy seeing these storms, I obviously don’t like seeing them do damage, or cause injury. I am very disappointed to see the damage caused at a farm between range road 40 and HWY 22, very near to where these images were taken. I haven’t heard of any injuries, so thats a good thing.

July 5/2012 Tornado Warned Thunderstorm

Finally some time to blow the dust off of this blog. With work and being a new Dad, there really isn’t much time to be had! Anyway, after watching storms in the Taber and Oyen areas and in Saskatchewan from afar from the web the last few weeks, I got out for some observing on July 5th. (My first time out this year was a bust). I met up with Pat from Alberta Foothills Weather north of Stauffer, where we enjoyed a great view to the hills to the west as storms and TCU were going up, but struggling. We watched for a few hours and then I bid farewell to Pat and made the decision to drop southwest to the Sundre area to have a look at the storm that was staying persistent in the area. I went south on Hwy 22 from Hwy 54 towards Sundre to get a better look, and as I got closer to Sundre, I could see the crisp convection of the updraft from the backside. I pulled over quickly to have a look at radar and noted it was strengthening, which I could see visually. I drove east on Hwy 27 through Sundre to catch up to this thunderstorm and got cored with heavy rain and hard dime sized hail close to the Hwy 22 intersection. East on Hwy 27 was a stupid idea so I traveled south on Hwy 22 to the Bergen road where I went east to get ahead of the storm from its rain free side. Hwy 27 east of Olds was the road to be on to be in front of this storm and thats where I found myself most of the time until I got off the highway east of Torrington to get some looks of it on the quieter range roads. Around 6:30 pm, a tornado warning went out for this storm as radar indicated strong rotation was present in the storm. I was surprised by this as the storm looked to have split by Olds, without really splitting into two separate storms.  The few radar scans I’ve saved from this time frame shows two heavy cores within the storm, one that was to the west of my location on Hwy 27 and one to my northwest which I could see visually as well. The storm looked pretty much linear to me and didn’t have that classic supercell look or textbook features you look for, at least to me anyway. A few wall clouds were observed on a few occasions and the storm seemed to have trouble with its inflow/outflow balance. Totally outflow dominant! I let the storm go east of Trochu on Hwy 585 and waited for a potential mammatus show on its backside, like the other tornado warned storm to the south near Hussar had, but it wasn’t as impressive. Another small severe warned thunderstorm developed to the southwest of Sundre as this Olds storm was taking place and I caught up to its remnants on the Dry Island Buffalo Jump highway (TWP 344) and took some photos of it as it had some great lighting as sunset was near. A tornado warned thunderstorm is good in my books and I’m happy just to have been out in front of a storm again taking photos. Another thing to note was the amount of other storm enthusiasts I observed while out with a storm. I remember watching storms in this same area over the last few years and not seeing anyone out with their cameras! Storm chasing sure has become popular. The more eyes the better, I suppose. Here are a few photos:

Looking west on TWP 324 between Torrington and Three Hills…

The view west on Hwy 585 east of Trochu…

Great view on TWP 344 with constant low rumblings of thunder…!

April 15/2012

It has been a long time since I have made a post. With the arrival of my son in late February, I haven’t had any time to go out and do anything photography related. I do, however,  have a new subject to photograph! I did have some time at the end of March to get a couple of outings in, and I chose to head out to Glennifer Lake, which is one of my favorite places to photograph because it is close to home, and the ice, when it is exposed, is fun to shoot. The shot above was taken at sunset from one the outings. With the sun going down, the ice turned a very cool blue color, and with the warm sunset colors, I think it makes a cool contrast. On a side note, storm season is just a few months away and I am really looking forward to it. It’s hard to believe its already my 5th summer observing here in Alberta. I have my traditional days off in July and during those days off, I hope to be out observing and photographing a few good storms.

February 19/2012

Last Sunday, February 12th, I woke up early and headed for the Medicine Lodge Hills area north of Sylvan Lake for a sunrise shoot.  What a sunrise it turned out to be! I didn’t have an exact place in the hills or subject in mind before hand, so while traveling up and down range roads in the hills I came across this old, abandoned farm house in the middle of a field. I could tell the sunrise was probably going to a good one since there were hints of color showing high in the clouds while it was still mostly dark out. Out of respect for the landowners, I didn’t want to climb over the the fence and trespass into the field to get closer to the house. It would have been nice to get closer to try out different compositions but instead I just went for a simple snapshot. As for the sunrise, it was one of the best and brightest light shows I’ve seen behind a camera. During its peak, it was tough to expose the sky properly. Even dialing down the exposure compensation a few stops still overexposed the sky, and going as low as 4 stops managed to tame the highlights a bit in the sky, but severely darkened the top and edges of the image. I had intentions on blending a few exposures, but instead I used this single RAW image as the sunrise was beginning  to fade and just made a few selective adjustments using adjustment layers in Photoshop.

January 17/2012

Last week, Pat from Alberta Foothills Weather and myself decided to get together for a photo outing this past Saturday out in David Thompson Country, before the cold temperatures set in. Up early and out there before sunrise, we hoped for a colorful start to the day but instead we were treated to dreary, dull, grey skies. I didn’t take many photos but I did brave some windy conditions to get this photo down on the ice near the Bighorn Dam. You can’t always get great color when you are out shooting! Awesome scenery, exercise, good company, and getting away from the city, especially before the cold, made it an enjoyable day.