I get a few “Cathedral” Skies every year. This happened a week before this is published. Assuming you haven’t just returned from two weeks of Spelunking deep under a rock somewhere, we are living under a Pall of Smoke from western fires. Most of the west is enjoying unhealthy air qualities, and high temperatures. Low humidities, dry lightning strikes and a drought year long term continue to press the US.
This was not a short sky show either. 1/2 an hour… forever for me. I went into a how often do I see such a thing and started really accumulating clicks at a serious pace. The image changed by the minute with the rays changing / morphing as the clouds moved. The “Crepuscular” rays slicing through the heavy smoke above highlighting it with white unfiltered light above. Red Light traveling through miles of atmosphere making a shaft spreading below the sun.
Taken with one of my widest lenses. A 12 mm full frame Sony G series. The resultant image is well over 90 degrees wide and very tall. This is a major contender for the Largest Crepuscular display I’ve personally ever seen in my travels. It was a very unusual meteorlogic situation. Certainly an irreproducible set of circumstances. I’ll never get another chance like this in my lifetime I suspect. I took several hundred images on several cameras. There are many variations on this theme. Some are amazing like this one.
From near the pass to Rockypoint Wyoming, looking West towards the Bighorns . You can actually see the distant range 130 miles distant on the horizon. You have to know what you are looking for on the full screen version of this to see them.
Rain Showers were migrating through the valley in front of me. Deep but irregular edged broken clouds ahead of a blowy mist from the rain just off frame is responsible. It was sprinkling where the extremely bright spot lightings on the left, appeared like an ghosted version of a badly edited image. They are legitimate though with this image being very true to life that late afternoon here in the high grounds.
I just love images where there are no fences, houses, power lines. My preference is for having no artifacts in my landscapes from human machinations of our environment. I see just a smidgen of graveled county road off the distance low left frame durn it.. Of course the close / far perspective rule is in operation. (Photographic Rule #24: always have a close object in your long landcapes).
Spot lighting in a Wyotana sky is not a rare thing but the extent of this 360 degree crown sky was quite the attention grabber to this photographer. This scene is produced here as I experienced it though my eyes. I saw more detail in the trees than does this level of dynamic range in the technology I use. Having said that… This is a WAY wide dynamic range capture from the brightest bright to the darkest dark. That is what a really good camera can do if you drive it properly. Your equipment will make a difference in your photography I point out. This was what I consider a tough photographic environment to operate in. Enormous variations of light intensities is hard for current camera tech to deal with.
An irregularly shaped cloud cooperated here in this unusual lighting display put on for me here in late June 2020. It had been sprinkling all day with dark evil looking but harmless clouds. Lots of moisture in the air…. My biggest fear is lightning at the moment as this country is dry for the year. Missed the water that day. Fortunately, by means of compensation, the weather provided me this spot lit stage . The 10 miles to the first dark ridge in deep shadow was the hard part to capture with it being quite dark versus the ultra bright clouds. A cameras ability to bring out the dynamic range of a photo is something you want to buy into if your looking for a camera.
This display is an inverted downward “crown sky” (as I call them on my gallery). They are fairly rare while the more typical upward pointed rays at sunset more often are seen. I MIGHT see one a year this well developed. All the water vapor/moisture in the air along with actual precipitation acted to reflect the light to my lens. Of course I have many versions of this and will finish 3 maybe 4 of them. I’ve seen a few of this kind of show over the years. I suspect I could count the number of Crepuscular displays so complete I’ve captured to around a dozen.
Jagged Clouds are responsible for passing light. It’s the wide perspective of that light streaming through the gaps in the clouds that lends it’s fan shaped view to the observer. The phenomena makes it appear as if the sun is a mile or two above the cloud deck. Just follow the angles lolol. I assure you, the sun is a “few” miles up above the clouds. 😜
I call this kind of sunset with divergent crepuscular rays a “Crown Sky”. The rays reminding me of a royal crown but it is also suggestive of a massive cathedral with a starburst at the focal point. I really don’t see too many of these. Considering the nature the particular environmental conditions necessary to create this.
OK here’s how it work. The light from the sun is passing under the lowest cloud bank just on top of the white disk. That light is stopped by the shape of the puffy bottom of the cloud surface. This creates shadows on the clouds/ice toward the camera. The “Rays’ you are seeing are the opposite of the shadow lineson the foreground of the effect. The lit up parts of the rays are illuminated by the light passing under that lower cloud bank. So that clouds bumpy surface profile is reflecting off the cloud deck. As a final “nice tough” here of course also has to be some falling ice crystals (hexagonal plates falling oriented like parachutes) to light up to really make it pop like this. So several things have to be happening at just the right time for this phenomena to occur.
I’ve seen these rays pointing upward like this capture as well as in a down facing divergent crown. I watch a lot of sunset/sunrises and I’d say these occur at a 1 in 500 rate or so. I have a handful of Crown Sky Captures over my travels.
6 months ago during the summer solstice of 2019, a BIG 100 mile across mesocyclone moved over us right at sunset. Of course “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill jumped into the photo as he is a terrible attention hog. I have no control over his actions. Windmill Wednesday AND Christmas Wednesday. , Windmill Junkies Unite 🤘
I do understand through a third party that “Sneaky Pete” the Windmill wishes all of his fans a very very Merry Christmas. He has this insecurity problem where he wants to solve through fame and fortune acquired via his exposure in pictures. So he rushes into my images. His brother “Re-Pete” I’m sure also has Christmas wishes but he couldn’t be present at this photo taking session. He was over the hill out at his hangout during this storm.. Hard to get a family together portrait of the two brothers. They can’t move easily through the timber. I suspect they haven’t seen each other for a long time. I’ll have to see if I can arrange a digital family reunion someday…. 😜
I’m not sure what his New Year resolution. I’m pretty sure it has to involve photobombing more and injecting himself into my landscapes.
My new years resolution is to catch more skies like this and finally get all these images I’ve got stored away up on my web gallery. That will take a “while”. I consider it job security.
From all of us at the Bliss DInosaur Ranch, all of it’s creatures mythical and otherwise , Merry Christmas and a Happy/Safe New Year. 2020 is going to be an interesting year to be alive.
The light rays reaching toward the heavens. Scientists call them Crepuscular Rays. Those photons bounce off ice in the atmosphere. The travel to my camera lens. Within the camera’s sensor, they are dutifully recoded but only as a series of 1’s and 0’s. All by the computer in the camera. There a variety of software programs (filters if you will) effect the digital signal in various ways determined by a programmer overseas. If you select automatic, those are the guys doing the camera adjustments. Try manual mode sometimes…… Only three main things to learn….. Just saying.
When ever I try to capture a fairly bright sun, I actually use no lens filter in front of this or any other of my sun shots for several years now. I use mirrorless camera gear that shows me the image on a video screen. This prevents me from being blinded doing this twice a day when I’m working photography a week at a time. DSLR cameras in contrast to Mirrorless Cameras have a direct path for light to your eye. Yup, you can blind yourself doing this once.
With the right gear rated to do this, turn down your ISO to 100 or lower if your camera will go lower), turn your fstop to the highest number of the lens your using has. (this closes the “pupil of the lens to a pin point). A LOW F-stop will open up the lens and you’ll have overexposure PLUS the tree will be out of focus). High f-stop numbers give you a long depth of focus. As well high f-stop reduces light. (sort of important looking into the furnace).
The last of the three things you adjust in manual mode is Shutter speed. This last setting is your variable with the first two setting taking priority in getting this image. It may take everything your camera has for a fast shutter say 1/3000ths of a second. My Sony Alphas will hit 1/8000th of a second for a LOT less light.
Many consumer entry level cameras don’t have enough dynamic range built in. The ability to shut down light enough is part of that.. Then you use a screw on glass filter in front of the lens. Called Neutral Density filters, available at any camera shop for your lens. Coming in different degrees of darkness, they cut down light. In my experience, they give you ghosts to deal with in the image. This is why I don’t use them..