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MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

MesoCyclone with Moon at Night
MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

This MesoCyclone was Veiling the full Moon. Enough to catch the stars visible to my naked eye. Using a 20 second time exposure, some lightning flashed during the interval. Details in the clouds that are seldom to a camera pointing at the full moon. Most you see are fakes or composites. Time exposures over a second tend to overexpose the full moon badly. Even a moon that was unveiled. Limitation of the technology.

Straddling South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, this rotating storm was around 100 miles across. Containing the energy of an atom bomb expended over it’s life.

The view I had of this storm was perfect enabling me to photographed it. I was up in the higher backcountry for almost 2 hours with 6 different camera lens combinations from before sunset to well into Astronomic twilight under the full moon. Being backcountry means any light on the terrain is ambient from the flash and the moon/stars. No other man made light sources in view from the highest mountain top around kind of backcountry.

Various colors are way saturated which is what time exposures do. I actually really dampened down the purples that were native in the camera’s software in this image. 20mm lens, cropped in a bit. I wouldn’t go over 20 seconds with a 20mm as longer would have blurred the starts. That time varies with the focal length of the lens so look it up on google lol.

This ranks as one of my personal favorite images of the year. There are a few others….🤔 Taken Mid Summer 2019. 2×3 aspect.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: MesoCyclone with Moon at Night

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Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant
Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 70 miles distant/ 50 miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing exactly behind me in about 15 minutes from this capture. There are just plain intense downpours under these storms sometimes. Depending on how fast they are moving makes you lucky or flooded locally lol. These only rain on a few percent of the ground area up here. Spotty! The ground under them becomes totally soaked if the storm doesn’t move.

We had a summer Mesocyclone years back that sat over us and dumped 4.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Water was sheet washing down the hill behind my home and skirting around the house. Almost nothing got in but that slope was angle deep in sheet wash. I have since re-landscapes using mounds to redirect any potential sheet wash off the long hill to our back. It’s only been a problem once in 20 years.

That was a rough storm. Tragically a local cowboy from a nearby ranch was killed in that storm. A truck full of locals went out to see what the 100 year water dump did, drove to one of their herds to check them, road was fine. Drove back the road had washed out. That cowboy was a passenger in that truck. County Emergency Management called me to close the road off from my side of the washout. The runoff went through a major country road that literal gully washer did. It was a major culvert to replace and a big job. We couldn’t get to the highway from that road for a while.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Growing Mesocyclone SW Quadrant

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Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron

Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron
Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron

Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron (The ultimate wide theatre screen for the filetered sunlight reflecting off back to my camera). The Sun being a big projector lolol.😜🤔📸

Having passed right over us last summer (2019). This Mesocyclone storm cloud must have been 150 miles across. It served as a projector screen right at sunset. These storms are HUGE and are the source of most of the “bad weather ” we experience during green and brown season. Think of them as big spinning tops with the energy of an atom bomb inside. They take their own time over where ever they travel. Your going to get some big rain if your under one of these for very long.

The colors are a result our star projecting a smooth color gradient filtered through the atmosphere. Colors ranging from red (bottom) to yellow (top). Big Clouds like this are Projections screens for the colors that make their way through the atmospheric filter. The Red Light reflections are from the longest traveled surviving light rays. Those red rays travel through the most atmosphere to be projected on the cloud. Then a quick 75 miles bounce back to my camera. The higher you go, the more yellow the light that makes it through then finally to the white at the top of the cloud only slightly yellowed light. This smooth gradient from bottom to top is the classic gamut of colors from virtually every sunset. You just normally can’t see all of it lolol.

It was really quite dark where I was as the lighting was off to my side looking a little to the north at sunset.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title: Sunset Gradient Mesocyclone Apron

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Mesocyclone Incoming

Mesocyclone Incoming
Mesocyclone Incoming

Mesocyclone Incoming

I’m estimating this young developing Mesocyclone is 50 miles distant/ 50 miles wide. Relatively small for a Rotating mesocyclone. It was growing at the time. The sunset for that day is ongoing exactly behind the rain shaft so the bottom of the storm is pretty much backlit as well as your going to see through one. There are just plain intense downpours under these storms sometimes. Depending on how fast they are moving makes you lucky or flooded locally lol. These only rain on a few percent of the ground area up here. Spotty! The ground under them becomes totally soaked if the storm doesn’t move.

We had a summer Mesocyclone years back that sat over us and dumped 4.5 inches of rain in 45 minutes. Water was sheet washing down the hill behind my home and skirting around the house. Almost nothing got in but that slope was angle deep in sheet wash. I have since re-landscapes using mounds to redirect any potential sheet wash off the long hill to our back. It’s only been a problem once in 20 years.

That was a rough storm. Tragically a local cowboy from a nearby ranch was killed in that storm. A truck full of locals went out to see what the 100 year water dump did, drove to one of their herds to check them, road was fine. Drove back the road had washed out. That cowboy was a passenger in that truck. County Emergency Management called me to close the road off from my side of the washout. The runoff went through a major country road that literal gully washer did. It was a major culvert to replace and a big job. We couldn’t get to the highway from that road for a while.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Mesocyclone Incoming

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Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt
Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

I know, it’s out of season in Wyoming, not so much down south at the moment though. Be careful down there. As the cold air moves over us, the arctic blast does BIG storms in LA, MS, AL, GA….. Be careful out there and prayers for those effected by the storms.

In this complex summer image, I set the camera up at the mirror to reflect the sky slit 90 degrees left frame….Flash….. Can you find the Deering Seeder? This was a HUGE mesocyclone that hadn’t even reached us yet. We were just under it’s leading edge here. That shelf cloud is an indication that it’s about to get sporty. The 80 mph winds this brought with it did some damage. The big hail missed us though. That big white roof is our big barn which is roughly the size of a regulation foot ball field under that roof. It’s an old roping area under there.

This storm donated quite a few lightning photos. I usually work storms like this up on the ridges definitely in a car. The car doesn’t make you immune to the strikes but it helps. Your not going to get killed by ground current if your not touching metal is the plan. Not that the bolt couldn’t hit the camera. I’ve been pretty close to some strikes before and it will wake you up. Looking forward to working it with the new vehicle with no moon roof. I ordered it WITHOUT a sunroof (a several thousand dollar options that will probably leak). More metal overhead is a good thing I’m thinking lolol.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderland (Wyotana)

Title: Shelf Cloud Lightning Bolt

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Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Lightning Highlights the Windmill
Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Lightning Highlights the Windmill

Setting up and sitting for night time exposures catching huge million amp plasma channels creates a lot of adrenaline (fun). There is enough amperage to melt sand in those bolts. You only do this from inside a “Faraday Cage” . Lock yourself in a metal drum, isolate yourself from the metal to become safe even if the drum is directly struck.

It has been my observation that anything you do any activity a LOT. Your going to get injured doing it, Having a metal vehicle surrounding you is a good thing while taking photos like this. Think about it. Your on a ridge line, high up in a metal truck watching bolts flash 360 around you. I’ve been very close to strikes before. I can’t say that I’ve ever been hit doing this. I watched a bolt hit a few hundred feet away driving up in Montana one day. Traveling I was driving along a rural road. Hard to miss the bolt strike the bare grassy field just off the road to my left.

• The odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000. Just because your in a truck, doesn’t mean your safe. It does moderate the extra risk statistically. Please keep your hands away from metal contact. Lock your trays in the upright and locked position…… Even so… The lightning can also serious damage your vehicle’s electrical system (which would really suck).

When you order a new vehicle to do precisely this… You really don’t need a sunroof over your head. lolololol 😜👀⛈ They cost more and lighning can travel right through glass.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Lightning Highlights the Windmill

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Bolt Striking the Red Hills

Bolt Striking the Red Hills
Bolt Striking the Red Hills

Bolt Striking the Red Hills is a MASSIVE strike. That ridge is 40 miles distant from my Telephoto lens which was trained where the last bolt struck. Quite often bolts will strike very close to the previous ones. I look for patterns and focus on that area.

I do use lightning triggers on my cameras. These are boxes that automatically sense lightning by the pattern of flashes they generate. They Trigger my Sony’s in mere microseconds. I endorse no particular brand as the several I’ve tried all have their issues but “generally” work. None are “cheap” but then again, look what you get for your efforts. I might only get 1 in 20 bolts I try to get manually without time exposures. These are 1/4 second exposures at other settings that bring in the landscape.

In pitch dark, you just set the camera on a tripod, remotely trigger it or timer the shutter at about 25 seconds at let the lightning display. This technique is the best way to get multiple bolts. This capture however was a single discharge with multiple plasma channels reaching down. This is the kind of bolt that will start fires. Forested ground is particularly easy to burn. That ridge often has a fire call during dry electrical storms that pass through now and then.

We have a local rancher that helps as a Range Officer at our Wyoming Tactical Rifle Championship in 2018 that had to leave the event. All because of a lightning strike near his ranch up in those very hills. The response of several departments along with hundreds of men saved his homestead. Unfortunately some of his ranch burned.. The grass will grow back greener the next year, I’ve seen it.

Location: Bliss Dinosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

Title: Bolt Striking the Red Hills

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Lightning and the Seed Drill

Lightning and the Seed Drill
Lightning and the Seed Drill

The Lightning and the Seed Drill timeline started looking much further left than the camera points for this image. The head lights of my Jeep Grand Cherokee are what is highlighing the 1930’s IH Deering Seed Drill (seeder). That Antique has been sitting here for a LONG time and has seem more weather, sunsets, sunrises than any of us left alive today. An old soldier survivor of wind, rain, hail, and worst of all, cattle rubbing against it. It has BIG views in all directions. (Change up seasonally eh? )

Up here on this high ridge (called rattlesnake ridge), you can see a 180 mile horizon to horizon. Going up on top of a ridge in a metal object (jeep) next to another metal object (seeded) seems logical if you want to take a photo of lightning. I also think that sticking metal lenses out windows might be a good idea 🤔⛈.

Of course a high ridge is a wonderful place to watch a lighting storm as long as you don’t mind being on the target list. Sitting in a car covered by metal and not touching metal is a good thing in a lighting storm. I run my cameras on a lightning trigger and don’t have to touch them unless I move them. The one thing I’m actually afraid of is the really really really loud crash when a bolt hits your car or just nearby. I’ve been VERY close to bolts before. It’s not my favorite part of that photographic game. I like automatic cameras in this case lolol. 📸

Photographic musings:

I find that the Sony alpha 7 cameras I use tend to record lightning with a slight purple tint. This is very common in lighting captures in my experience. This is a 10 second time exposure . . Other settings were ISO 200, f20 and it was quite dark under that cloud with only a faint sunslit. I used f20 so as not to overexpose the headlights on the seeder.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

Title:Lightning and the Seed Drill

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Thunderhead Lit Up Trailing Stars Behind

Thunderhead Lit Up Trailing Stars Behind
Thunderhead Lit Up Trailing Stars Behind

“Thunderhead Lit Up Trailing Stars” is a time lapse photo on a tripod set up under my deck. All the lighting you see is ambient inside our “compound” from various yard lights mulitiplied over 10 seconds…. The storm is a 500 microsecond lightbulb flash giving me lit clouds from within. As the storm travels, it’s leaving stars in it’s wake in the pure dark sky. Got em!

Photographers notes:

This is not a composite in fact the bright star is actually a planet… Jupiter. The flash was instantaneous but the stars needed the time exposure and the results fit like a glove📸. About 10 seconds at ISO 300 with f6 (ish) should get you here if you have a tripod, and a storm that leaves stars in it’s wake… Hint…. Longer than about 12 seconds gives you streaky stars…..

Have a great Sunday night all.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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A Windmills Worst Fear…. a Twister

A Windmills Worst Fear.... a Twister
A Windmills Worst Fear.... a Twister

A Twister is a Windmills Worst Fear. Here you can see “Sneaky Pete” the windmill Quaking in his boots over this funnels off not far in the distance. He still had the state of mind to photobomb my weather photo though. I have no control over his actions….🤣📸

Three spinners, one photo lol.

This did not touch down but the two funnels rotated about each other for about 30 seconds then disappeared back up into the clouds.

Channeling Bill Paxton the actor (Classic Reference)🤔


Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Windmill Photobombing a Mesocyclone

Windmill Photobombing a Mesocyclone
Windmill Photobombing a Mesocyclone

Here a windmill known in my narratives as “Sneaky Pete” is caught photobombing my capture of this massive Mesocyclone about 100 miles out. It’s also probably 100 miles across and covering/pounding part of Montana/SouthDakota AND Wyoming at the same moment. Golf ball sized hail, torrential rains and 60mph winds were the result. I watched/photographed this storm for 2 hours well past sunset till the full moon came out in front of it. I have many photos still to finish from this event months later.

This was taken as the sunst’s backshow right at sunset where the orange/red light from the setting sun going through the atmosphere hits the core but the light hitting the top of the storm is still blue white as it goes through way less atmosphere.. Gradually the whole storm turns orange/pink/reddish depending on the atmospheric lens conditions of the timeline before the shadow of the horizon moved over the storm from the bottom up. 1/10th of a second exposure in this light.

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.

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Pillars Built by Shadows in the Twilight Sky

Pillars Built by Shadows in the Twilight Sky
Pillars Built by Shadows in the Sky

These Pillars are built by Shadows in the Twilight Sky of some growing thunderstorms just in the right position. Those massive growing pillars are 1/2 storm and 1/2 shadow.

“Sneaky Pete” the Windmill makes a “photobombing” guest appearance when ever I’m in the area. I have no control over his actions..🤣

This storm moved infront of the sunset and BOOM, the sky exploded in Crimson as the sun went below the horizon.

Location; Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands

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Mesocyclone Threatening the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters.

Mesocyclone Threatening the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters
Mesocyclone Threatening the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters

Mesocyclone Threatening the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch Headquarters.

This storm was ready to move right over us. A Big Mesocyclone Threatening to dump on the Bliss Dinosaur Ranch is always a hit or miss. Some get the hail, some get the rain, some get buried in hail or rain lolol. I actually left the hill for this storm (something I don’t do very often) because everyone down below wasn’t aware of the threat. Had to go . Got our cars all under roof anyway

Have a great day and be safe in all you do

Location: Bliss DInosaur Ranch, Wyoming/Montana borderlands.