We had a massive thunderstorm roll directly over our home last weekend. A warm night met with heavy clouds with rain, wind and lightning all in large measures. We have some incredible storms in the summer – this one felt like the first of those. Here the forest in my backyard is silhouetted by lighting arcing across the clouds in the storm.
Last June I traveled to Radium with my children. On our travels there we passed through the Kootenay National Park during an early summer snow storm. We stopped along the Kootenay River to photograph the icy blue water and bright green of the young forest being met by the white blizzard.
The thunder and lightning rolled over the prairies several times over the past couple of weeks. On August 1st, I went out to photograph dusk as the smoke from the wildfires has helped create some beautiful evening scenes. The haze thinned after sunset and a large cloud took shape from it as the sky cooled into night.
While the color slipped away, the cloud grew and I caught a flicker of lightning on the northern edge. Rain didn’t fall and the wind never really picked up. However a fork crackled through the air every few minutes for the next couple of hours.
The storm slowly churned east towards Calgary and the open prairie beyond. The trailing edge left behind a clear sky dotted with stars. This last photograph caught the moon illuminating the cloud as it rose.
This lake is near Mont-Tremblant and has a lovely beach where my son and I swam the day before this heavy storm blew through the Laurentian Mountains.
The lightning strikes came in sets, striking the hills across the water. Beside the beach is a pier and a small covered area where I was able to hide from the rain. That afforded a wonderful view of the lake and back towards the vibrant little town. Of course, much of that view was illuminated only by the flashes of lightning – most along the hills across the water but a couple were over the community.
I felt the accompanying thunder from those deep in my chest. Frequently, the wind ripped through the valley and drove the rain horizontally. The temperature dropped fast when the storm approached and stayed cool through the evening. I was glad for the rain gear I had stashed in my pack.
There were occasional stretches where everything calmed down, almost to catch a collective breath, but the storm crashed across the mountains relentlessly otherwise. A proper summer storm by every measure. After a couple of hours, the rain picked up even more and I thought it was well past time to get home.
A fierce thunderstorm in the Mont-Tremblant area of the Laurentians in Québec last night. Steady sheets of lightning, howling wind and hammering rain accompanied the thunder that rang across the valleys for hours. This photograph was from Lac Mercier just after midnight. When this lightning cracked, it shook the gazebo I was standing under. I left a few minutes later – I’d had enough and the rain that followed shortly afterwards was of an almost biblical level. It was time to get home. I will share a few more from the night soon but my son and I are off to Ottawa to visit Parliament Hill.
As a storm cleared out of the Bow Valley, the clouds rose off the floor and climbed over the Massive Range. Here, the sun lit up one of the Brett Mountain’s ridges for a moment.
When my children and I decided to head out from Redwood Meadows to find a good vantage point to watch the lightning storm hanging over the Bow River between Cochrane and Calgary, we stopped when we got past the edge of the forest and could first see the storm itself.
We found a spot 10 miles from the closest edge of the storm and watched the show which rippled and flashed in the massive clouds rising off the northern horizon.
At one point while we were watching the lightning erupting at 3, 4 or 5 different places at once, my son said, “Baby Thor is having a temper tantrum”. That seemed about right and apparently he has an enormous amount of energy because the lightning flashed and the bolts flew constantly for the two hours that I was there.
I re-worked the image that I first posted from the storm – cooling the white balance by almost 1000°K. I really love how the lightning bolts crackle out of the cloud column.
On the way back, I stopped by a pond where the western edge of the storm, still busy with sheet lightning, was reflected in its surface. A beautiful final view of the storm before heading home.
Back in October, before the snow had decided to stick around, I spent a stormy morning along the shoreline of the Upper Kananaskis Lake. The valley couldn’t decide if it was fall and should therefore rain or winter with its snow. The compromise was a heavy sleet that came across the lake in sheets. Above, the clouds stretched apart and welded back together as the wind dictated.
With the nightly storms, I have had a couple of opportunities to get out and photograph the lightning. These are the remaining shots from the first night that I went out and had great forks of lightning stretch out in the clouds near my home. The storm’s strikes would come in waves and resulted in several nice images.
I wanted to put a person into the scene and I graciously accepted the invitation to do so 🙂
Driving home last night, another storm thundered over the foothills and the prairie around Bragg Creek. Lightning was flashing regularly so I set up and shot a few frames before the rain hit. A herd of cows must have thought I was the delivery guy as they all wandered over.
A very energetic storm rolled out of the mountains and spread across the prairies last night. Bobbi was driving home as the clouds thickened and the lightning began to streak across the sky. At her urging, I went out to photograph the light show and it was spectacular. The summer heat seemed to have loosened up Zeus’s arm and he was firing bolts down to the ground and between clouds for a couple of hours.
(Please click on the image if you would like to view a higher resolution version)
This image was taken at the sports field in Redwood Meadows just a little ways from my house. The clouds were running east along the south side of the Elbow River. To the north, the sky was clear which presented an interesting background to lightning. Following a few minutes set up by the field, I went out onto the prairies after this image and had a great (although late) night storm watching.
So far, spring has come in fits and starts. Over the weekend we had a day long snowstorm on Saturday and then it was warm enough to wear shorts outside on Sunday! Crazy stuff but not too far from normal in April on the prairies.
My son and I were out for the day and I photographed these horses when we were in Springbank, west of Calgary. I appreciated their ignorance of sleet falling and the cold winds.
Rain has been a rare commodity in northern Arizona for the last couple of months. When clouds started to roll in from the north while we were down there people were hopeful that they would drop some of their precipitation before moving on. The rain did come eventually and the evening before I hiked along the airport trail to watch the storm’s approach.
I was content to watch the blues and greys in the sky deepen with night coming. However, a break in the clouds to the west allowed for some color to break through and I turned my attention out over West Sedona’s forested cityscape.
There was an uneven stream of traffic passing below me towards the airport and the lookouts around the mesa. Long exposures of cars driving up and down the road to the airport seemed to work well with this sunset.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 6.0 seconds at f/6.3 on ISO 800
(click on any image to open a page with a higher resolution version)
A couple of nights ago, lightning was being thrown around by several large storm clouds as they spread out and rolled over the prairies. After a spectacular sunset in Kananaskis Country earlier (the image below), I had just drove out of the mountains when I saw these strikes lighting up both the fields and the clouds.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40 lens: 1/160th of a second at f/5.6 on ISO 800
I ended up pulling off of the Trans-Canada Highway at Hermitage Road to watch this summer performance. It was just before 11pm when I set up my camera along a fence which was busy splitting up a meadow of wild grass. The moon was out and waxing near full so the land was gently lit up.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 2.5 seconds at f/5.6 on ISO 1600
It was warm but the mosquitos compelled me to put on a light jacket. When a breeze came up around midnight, it was a perfect night to be outdoors.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 10 seconds at f/8.0 on ISO 1600
Two hours flew by largely unnoticed before the storms had moved out of view and I decided to head home.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 24-105 lens: 6.0 seconds at f/6.3 on ISO 800
Pele is one of the Hawaiian deities and is often associated with the volcanic activities on the islands. She also holds dominion over lightning, wind and fire. One evening, I watched her play with lightning, throwing it over the ridges that rise up from the Hanalei Valley on Kaua’i’s north shore. For almost three hours, beginning at dusk, the clouds lit up with strikes that branched across the sky.
I watched the storm from the Hanalei outlook in Princeville. That put me at almost the same elevation as the strikes which hammered the far side of the valley. With each flash, the taro field ponds lit up as well. The deep blue sky early in the evening tempered the color in the sky. When the valley was totally dark, each flash illuminated the scene in wild shades of purple. It was incredible to see the changes in the color, the clouds and the storm through the night.
Pele became more ferocious as the night deepened. Gradual at first, with the wind picking up slowly but steadily and the lightning coming every couple of minutes. Then increasing quickly along with drops of rain that turned into a downpour after just a few minutes. I retreated to shelter with the rain drenching me and the lightning tracing arcs directly above me. It was raw power and I enjoyed watching the goddess at work – by the end there was a determined nature to the storm that made it feel like play had been joined by purpose.
After a warm weekend where we crested 25°C, winter jumped out of his hiding place and threw snow down overnight. The weather report calls for rain by this afternoon and then warming up to 17°C by the weekend. It would seem that this is a short reminder of what will come. It would be nice if autumn held on a little longer – we’ll see.
(Please click on each image if you are interested in higher resolutions)
The weather this weekend was more winter than early summer – In the Banff National Park it was cold. Large, heavy flakes of wet snow fell fast for a couple of hours in the morning. I drove up to Lake Minnewanka and this was the only mammal I saw on the drive up and back down.
This young Bighorn sheep was walking alone on the edge of the road away from the water. When I pulled over, he walked 100 metres towards me and then sauntered nonchalantly right past me.
He stopped a few times on both the approach and as he walked away. Which gave me some nice photo opportunities to work with the animal, the snow and the even light.
I drove around the Minnewanka Loop in the Banff National Park this morning on the search for wildlife, bears in particular. The loop starts at the easternmost Banff townsite exit and goes uphill to Lake Minnewanka. Along the way you can occasionally see wolves, bears, moose, elk, bighorn sheep and deer. The snow was falling with great enthusiasm by 8 am this morning. It made finding wildlife a bit more challenging but I loved how the sky looked filled with these huge flakes.
In the image above I was on a bluff looking over Two Jack Lake towards Mount Rundle. This stand of trees is on a small point that juts out prominently. With the snow this was the only feature of the lake that could be seen. The trees looked like they were painted with brush strokes and this image shows some of that.
Leaving the Calgary this afternoon, I drove through some heavy rain pouring down from some dark gray clouds rolling over Calgary. As I reached the western edge of the city along Highway 8, I was back in the sunshine and enjoyed the drive past the fields. Drawing closer to home, I looked back east and found a rainbow straddling the road. The arch was a mile wide and looked brilliant against the dark clouds still dragging the storm through the city. I pulled onto one of the gravel top range roads and composed this image of the scene.
(click for a larger image)
Winter has been mild here in southern Alberta this year. We had a short blast roll out of the mountains in the middle of the week with snow blanketing the city. That seemed like a last gasp as it lasted only one day and melted before the weekend arrived. It was an interesting run of weather that finished with a wind storm and warming that reached 15° C on Thursday.
These images are from my afternoon drive out of the city with the storm still attacking Calgary but open skies above me in Springbank west of the city.
For March, the prairies have very little snow. Makes for a bit different mid-winter landscape images than previous years.
This location, just west of Calgary, is one of my favourite places to photograph during the winter months when the sun sets behind the southern edge of the Canadian Rockies. Last night, a massive storm broke free of the mountains and stretched across the prairie. There were some great holes in the clouds that allowed sunlight to streak through here and there. A very dramatic scene to work with and create images of.
Behind the ominous forerunning clouds came the heavy rain. Here the rain is hammering Bragg Creek and moving quickly onto the fields.
As the storm’s intensity built, lightning seemed inevitable and I was lucky to catch this strike hitting along the Elbow River behind a hill in Redwood Meadows.
When the rain did arrive where I was photographing, cover in the car was the prudent option. It was no exaggeration to say this was a torrential downpour.
I was in a great location to watch the storm that had rolled in Friday night and dropped many, many buckets of rain through Saturday afternoon start to break up.
The drama in the clouds west of Calgary was beautiful to watch build and fall away for a few minutes.
Certainly a different feel in black and white. In the version above I wanted to bring the weathered barn to greater prominence. I ended up shedding the color and adding a little grain to create a more historical, antique feel.
There was a blizzard that flew out of the mountains this evening. Huge snowflakes swirled around the trees off my deck and it was a really beautiful storm to watch. As the sun began to set, it fell below the storm clouds and sunlight backlit the trees and the snow. A surreal dreamscape that was great to photograph.
There was a storm that burst out of the mountains and settled over the prairies around Calgary in the middle of the week. With the warmer weather that preceded the blizzard, there are hundreds of shallow depressions currently masquerading as ponds in the fields and meadows. It serves the waterfowl that are currently migrating to their breeding grounds in the north. I found this resolute swan paddling in one of these pools in Springbank. Together with a partner, it was dunking its head looking for food and seemingly oblivious to the angry snow falling. The Tundra and Trumpeter Swans briefly stop in this part of Alberta, the largest regattas only staying for one or two days. By the end of this weekend, most will have flown on. I did not get too close to these birds so I have to guess that this is a Trumpeter as I could not see a yellow spot on the bill which is only found on the Tundra Swan. However, with the mottled grey plumage, I think it is an adolescent and I’m not certain whether the yellow spot only develops in adults. Either way, great to see these short-term visitors.