Monsoon Lightning Begins

The monsoon is picking up, several weeks later than normal, but it is here. Woke up to some thunder so I checked out the radar and sky and decided to take a small drive. Ended up a few blocks away from the house and was able to capture some nice lightning. The storm down SE of us was going bonkers with lightning, strobe light style, so I ended up driving south a ways to an overlook and watched. There were no bolts visible from my vantage point (the storm was 40 miles away) so I just sat in awe for a while and then headed home. Tomorrow night should be another good night, and we have the Perseids upcoming too, so probably will be lacking a bit on sleep this week!









June 5th Chase

Today was the third day in a row that the Colorado Front Range had a tornado watch issued. ¬†I left a little late due to a work meeting (who schedules meetings in the afternoons during storm season, how rude! ūüôā ) and headed up to follow the second cell that was tornado warned near Parker. ¬†Caught some great storm structure and had a fun time with this storm as it went in and out of tornado warned status. ¬†Once again, more Palmer Divide magic!

double tail clouds

Double tail clouds!

Tail Cloud

Cell east of Byers as it got going again. Awesome watching the tail clouds form and pass overhead!

Tornado warned at this time.

Tornado warned at this time.

outflow structure from the storm

This was cool as the outflow was getting sucked up into the cloud.

On the way home I caught the cells that were forming off of the Rampart Range west of Castle Rock to get some lightning shots.  Unfortunately it was raining anywhere near the storm, so I shot some distant photos near Castlewood Canyon, still caught some great lightning.  It produces much better photos closer to the strikes, however; but there are still months of storms to catch great lightning shots.

Possible shear funnel

This appears to be a small shear funnel on the right side of this storm looking north from Castle Rock

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Lightning over the Pinery

Been a fun June chasing so far!  Look forward to more days this spring!

June 4 Tornadic Supercells

Today had another round of severe weather for the Colorado Front Range including Tornadic Supercells.  I left work a bit late today due to a pending deadline so I was behind the 8-ball all day, but still was able to see some really neat storm structure.

Storms had already gone severe warned by the time I left work so I had a good idea which one to jump on.  I was targeting the storm just west of Limon as I was heading east on I-70 and then the cell near Leader was just too impressive and I had to check it out.  This is common with me when chasing as my favorite part is the storm structure and not strictly tornadoes which is the focus for many chasers.

Leader Supercell

Here is the supercell as I was passing it on the interstate as it was near Leader

Leader Tornado Warned Supercell

Awesome storm structure as this cell was tornado warned.

As I approached this storm is was obvious it was getting smaller, both on radar and visibly to my eye. ¬†It didn’t matter though, the inflow band and what I could see of the updraft were spectacular! ¬†Within 30 minutes this storm went from Tornado warned to non-existent!

Dying storm near Hoyt

Awesome structure just east of Byers, however the storm is dying

Hoyt supercell dead

Watching this supercell dwindle into nothing in less than 30 minutes!

So back onto my originally targeted strom. ¬†I made a few tactical mistakes that cost some time today–miss my chase partner Adam who was excellent at it–and ended up taking a few roads I have not done before. ¬†Due to the amount of rain the dirt roads were mud and somewhat slick so it was slow going. ¬†Sometime the shortest route is not the best route! ūüôā ¬†Meanwhile this supercell was putting down beautiful tornadoes with amazing structure. ¬†Here is what it looked like from the back (north) side (it was moving south) which is a typical view as you are approaching a storm from this perspective!

Simla Supercell

Getting back onto my primary target, it has been producing tornadoes by this time.

But perseverance pays off! ¬†I finally got on this storm a little before sunset. ¬†It had already stopped producing tornadoes although I thought there was one more left in it…but it didn’t have quite enough energy even though the mesocyclone was spinning like a top! ¬†The structure was jaw dropping, with a visibly rotating barberpole updraft. ¬†And there were no other chasers in this location when I arrived (a treat from days like yesterday where there were 100’s of chasers converged in the same area). ¬†Ended up being 4 chaser teams in my area, and we all got an amazing display from mother nature!!!

Kutch supercell

Finally caught up with this supercell. Amazing structure near Kutch.

Kutch supercell

Lucky daytime lightning caught.

Barberpole structure

As the sun started to set, the energy dwindled and the inflow started to fizzle out.  The tail cloud that formed made me thing it was going to produce another tornado in front of me, but it was just a little too late for that to happen.

Helix barberpole inflow

Nice helix barberpole inflow just before its death.

Colorado sunset

Amazing, colorful sunset

Mammatus Sunset

Nice display of Mammatus Clouds at sunset

On the way home Denver had a large severe warned cell stalled over it. ¬†On the radio they were talking about the mass amounts of hail and continuous lightning. ¬†The storm stretched the entire metro area so I jumped up to a spot I’ve been wanting to photograph lightning from near Parker and took a few shots. ¬†The lightning was incredible but it was 98% cloud-cloud and only small spikes were coming out of the cloud in this one location. ¬†Great to watch for about 20 minutes before I ended up heading home.

All-in-all, an amazing chase day, the structure of the Kutch supercell is one I will never forget!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

SW Denver lightning, continuous lightning!!

Denver Lightning

Awesome lightning display over Denver

Early Season Palmer Divide Lightning

Was sitting down at the computer after the kids were tucked in expecting to do some armchair chasing action with the upper air trough and severe weather digging into the plains states tonight, and started hearing some pellets hit the windows of the house–it was graupel coming down. Graupel is pellets of snow/ice that is much smaller than hail which is not unusual for this time of year. About ten minutes later the first bolt of lightning lit up the house!

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

One of the first bolts I caught, only about 8 or so bolts left in the storm before it was over…

I wasn’t prepared for this like I usually am during the monsoonal flow in late July/early August, so I jumped into high gear and grabbed the tripod and camera and got everything ready. Focus is always a problem with the DSLR but I pointed it at a neighbor‚Äôs houselight (I usually curse this light because it is on all night, every night of the year, and makes watching meteorite showers frustrating) but tonight it seemed to have a purpose to get me a good focus as I changed the lens to manual focus mode. As you may know focusing lightning can be very difficult!

I then jumped out on the porch hoping for some visible bolts not obstructed by the clouds and immediately the bolts were flying over head. Being on a porch with lightning this close is extremely dangerous (by definition overhead is very close) so I quickly put the camera on autopilot and headed back to the safety inside.

Larkspur Colorado Lightning

Mother Nature’s show lasted no more than 15 minutes and was very localized; as luck would have it many of the bolts were in the least obstructed view from my porch! Nice! Captured several good shots making me even more excited for this upcoming chase season!


Best of Lightning

I love lightning!

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Image taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

I love to look at the photos–this is a shortcut to my favorite posts so I don’t have to search. ¬†As always, you can click on any image on this site for a much larger version.

Larkspur Lightning

I have been feeling under the weather all weekend and was dozing off when I thought I heard a rumble of thunder. ¬†As always, that sound just does something to ignite my senses and I sat while awaiting another bolt. ¬†A couple of minutes later one hit less than a mile away lighting up the entire sky and trees. ¬†I quickly grabbed the camera and was able to grab some shots as the storm quickly intensified and headed east. ¬†I can’t say I “chased” this storm, but it was nice to have a break of the doldrums of being sick.

From the back porch, the orange is Castle Rock (yuck) and the violet is the storm.

From the back porch, the orange is Castle Rock (yuck) and the violet is the storm.

tn_LightningAug24-0341 tn_LightningAug24-0343 tn_LightningAug24-0354 tn_LightningAug24-0357

This one was interesting because it looked like a bat when i zoomed into the lightning.  Interesting cloud formation...

This one was interesting because it looked like a bat when i zoomed into the lightning. Interesting cloud formation…

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Palmer Divide Supercells and Lightning

NOTE: ¬†As always, click the images for full HD size…

June 5, 2014: ¬†It’s been a somewhat slow chase season thus far, which by most people’s opinion is a great thing. Despite that, early June always has good storms to look forward to here in the Front Range of Colorado. The Storm Prediction Center issued a slight risk and a Severe Thunderstorm Watch over the Front Range. Adam Boggs once again was able to meet up and we decided to chase. The only storm that looked interesting was coming out of SE Aurora and Adam and I started near Bennett on this storm.

The storm was initially heading SE but soon took on a more southern route and followed I-70 on its western side and then went south and east of Limon. We chased through Arapahoe and into Elbert counties and ended up getting in front of the storm near Hwy 24.

Just as we got in front (South) of the storm near Simla

Just as we got in front (South) of the storm near Simla

Continuing south we zig-zagged in front of this storm staying just minutes outside of the initial hail and right in the gust front.

Driving in the gust front we were in many dust storms!

Driving in the gust front we were in many dust situations like this that crossed the road in front of us!

Out in front we saw several “gustnados”, or dust devils created by the gust front of the storm; plus there were several times that we were driving in the dust storm, which was moving briskly at about 40-45 mph. ¬†There were some interesting cloud formations but given we were so close to the core of the storm it was hard to view the more global structure of the storm.

We were chased by the hail and wind from this storm all day...

We were chased by the hail and wind from this storm all day…

Eventually we hit Hwy 71 and gave up on this storm as we didn’t want to end up in Kansas. ¬†The storm eventually produced a tornado about an hour after we left it.

Thick rainbow action...

Thick rainbow action…

There were new storms firing and we decided to head into Limon for some dinner and then chase whatever looked good; hoping to eventually get some nice dusk/nighttime lightning shots heading back to Bennett where Adam had dropped off his car. ¬†The storm that put out 1″ hail near Parker was heading our way but was about an hour out.

This storm as it approached had neat structure so we watched it until it dissipated.

New cell as it approached - likely over Rush

New cell as it approached – likely over Rush






Hail finally passed over us; nickel sized was the largest.

Hail finally passed over us; nickel sized was the largest.

We then headed home via Hwy 86 and put ourselves in front of the 2nd to last line of storms for the night.  We caught some spikes; but most of the light show was in the clouds.

Anvil crawler over the Palmer Divide

Anvil crawler over the Palmer Divide

ElbertStormJune5-3510 ElbertStormJune5-3513 ElbertStormJune5-3517 ElbertStormJune5-3531

Finally on the way home after departing ways with Adam, there was a nice line of storms from SW Denver down through what looked like Woodland Park.  The Anvil Crawlers over SW Denver were awesome.  Once I got home I realized that we could get some action here; so I started downloading photos and keeping an eye on the sky.  About 12:30am the last storm came just north of us and I was able to catch some of the spikes just north of us by several miles.  These were really bright and took some adjustment to get photographed (the first ones were all washed out until I fine tuned the aperture of the camera); and like the storms earlier in the evening most of the strikes were in the cloud.

I’m trying out some new open exposure “by hand” techniques sitting in the protection of the car. ¬†ElbertStormJune5-3552 ElbertStormJune5-3557 ¬†ElbertStormJune5-3571 ElbertStormJune5-3594


Overall, a very fun chase day!

Colorado Lightning Composites

Lightning taken SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

2 Lightning stills merged: SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

These are some of the timelapse photos I took of lightning on Singing Hills Drive southeast of Parker on July 13, 2011.  I have stacked two images in each of these composites in Photoshop to show multiple CG bolts and stepped leaders per photograph.  The lightning was very intense and close and luckily I was in a clear slot in the clouds avoiding rain and getting a good 25 minutes of solid lightning; one about every 30 seconds or so.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

In Photoshop, I loaded the RAW images and then chose >Scripts >Loads Files into Stack. ¬†From here I was able to choose the “Add Open Files” option and also checked the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option checkbox. ¬†From the image that it created, all I needed to do is change the layering option to “Lighten” for each of the images. ¬†I started with 4 or 5 images and chose the best two that fit together in each of these shots.

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Two Lightning stills merged SE of Parker Colorado, July 13, 2011

Would love to hear some of your Photoshop or photography techniques!  Leave comments if you can share anything cool that you do!  I appreciate it!

This next picture was across the street on September 2, 2012. ¬†These were hitting everywhere around me so I had to put the tripod on the porch, put it on auto-pilot, and head inside. ¬†I was able to get three in a row that made this amazing stacked series. ¬†Looks like an outline of a woman–mother nature–Gaia to me.

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado - 3 Lightning stills stacked

September 2, 2012 Larkspur Colorado – 3 Lightning stills stacked


Aug 24: Lightning Show

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close

Was getting ready for bed and saw some lightning outside; so I scoped the situation out and determined it was a porch chase night!  Grabbed the camera and did 13 second exposures, F6.3, ISO 200 with my 10-22mm Wide Angle lens.  The storm was the only thing in the whole Front Range and was coming up from the south, moving nearly directly north.  Of course, I was in the safety of my own house, but the camera was able to capture a few good bolts up close!

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning – Up Close

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close
Great bolt!

Aug 24, 2013 Larkspur Lightning - Up Close



July 13, 2011 Parker Lightning Show

UPDATE: July 2012. I did some updates to WordPress and some older posts using an obsolete gallery program seems to not be working; so I am reposting these pictures, which are some of my favorites, a bit larger in resolution this time.  Seems appropriate day to repost nature’s fireworks since most 4th of July fireworks displays near here have been cancelled…

We were in a Severe Thunderstorm watch this afternoon but as I was chasing all the storms were dead before they got 30 miles east of the foothills, but there was heavy rain, slow moving storms and I knew after dark it would be a great lightning show. I triangulated a great place between a couple of storms and then drove to find a good overlook to the northern storm which was pumping out some great lightning. I had to finally leave once the bolts were a little too close for comfort, but I had a great 30-45 minute session without rain!

The bolts were pretty close so I was shooting on a tripod while safely in the car. The intensity of the bolts were incredible, so it took a little time to a) get the focus set and b) get the aperture setting adjusted–typically I just hit the lowest f-stop; these were all around f5, ISO 400, 42mm. I let it run at 10 second exposures and about every couple of minutes got a bolt!

The bolts were consistently across the valley (I should do a stack in Photoshop…hmmm) but once the storm on my west crept up I started getting rain and the bolts were coming my way so I decided to call it a night.

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