Storm Chasing On a Time Budget
The past few days have seen a lot of heavy storm activity around Calgary. The biggest action was yesterday, and I missed most of it sitting in the office or working at home. But a big system rolled through town the day before, Sunday, and I was able to do something about it with my camera.
A joke about being self employed goes like this — “Thank God it’s Friday! Only two more working days until Monday.” Ha ha, only serious. I put in a bunch of hours on Sunday, working on this or that. My wife & I then took a break to visit family for supper, and I put in some more hours while we were there. Very sociable of me, I know! But it was either that or stay home by myself, which would be even worse. While I hit the keyboard, people kept commenting about the incredible sky visible out the window. Too busy, I didn’t have time to look; I was barely aware of the torrential downpour that lashed the house. Eventually our time there wound down, and it was time to drive home.
They had been right — the sky was incredible. On the half hour route home, my wife & I watched four major cloud formations surrounding the city like a besieging army. One of the formations looked like images I’ve seen of super cells — it was phenomenal. I was impressed, but I also muttered to myself all the way home. I was tired, it was getting late, I still had more work to do, and I figured I’d already lost any chance to photograph the incredible storm system. But when we got home, I thought to myself “cowboy up — it’s only sleep!”
I grabbed the camera, threw some gear in the car, and drove east towards Shepard as fast as I reasonably could. I was chasing the super cell, trying to get to a useful location out in the prairie farm areas east of the big city, where I could find some kind of view. The stormclouds were amazing and it was all I could do to stay on the road and not speed. (Safety first!) Alas, the super cell was fleeing away from me to the southeast at a pretty fast rate, and into a zone where I could see it was losing the light. I began to give up hope. Suddenly, as I wove my way through some back roads, I came across a field of canola in full bloom on the north side of the road. It was the only crop I saw this far developed, and due north of it was one of the other thunderheads that was putting on its own show of strength.
No foreground objects of interest, but who cares — this is the prairie! I screeched to a halt, grabbed the tripod and camera, and ran across the road in the growing gloom to set up and make a few exposures. The image shown here was the first one I shot, when things were at their least colorful. Yes! I knew I was capturing something good. All my tiredness dropped away, giving me enough energy to swat at the trillions of mosquitoes that descended upon me, out for blood, as I shot a few more exposures with the color deepening well into sunset. This cloud formation was the only one of all in view to maintain light right up to the end. My gamble had paid off. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but if you’re persistent you can also make your own luck. How many times do I have to keep learning that lesson?
When I could tolerate the vicious mozzie attacks no more, I packed up and headed home. Another couple of hours of work awaited me… and the new task of developing my storm images, too. But hey, cowboy up — it’s only sleep.