Wednesday, June 10, 2009

spectacular skies

Yeah I know, babies, flowers, and sunsets, are some of the most cliche, things for a photographer to photograph... but lately, I haven't been able to not pay attention to the sky. The recent storm system that's brought us all of this nice cool weather, has been doing some really cool things to the atmosphere above us.

I'm sure everyone saw, or heard the lightning and thunder that came through Patterson late Wednesday evening and early Thursday morning. I was already on my way to bed when I saw flashing lights outside of my window that didn't look like fire or police.
Seeing the lightning, I grabbed one of my cameras and began to photograph, but the storm was quickly moving over Patterson and heading to the west and the hills of the Diablo Range.

Lightning storms of such magnitude don't happen around here every day, let alone every year, so the decision to follow the storm in search of better lightning photos was a quick and easy one.

Some of my most memorable experiences have come from the various lightning storms that I've been in/traveled through/photographed over the years. One such event, maybe 8 or 9 years ago, caught me by surprise one night after finishing a shift of slanging pizzas at Pizza Plus. I remeber, still in my work clothes, I jumped in my daily driver at the time, a 1970 Mach I mustang, and barreled on up into the canyon following the storm that was quickly clearing. I didn't have any camera gear with me at the time, but I wouldn't have wanted to get out of the car for a photo anyways because after driving into the canyon a few miles, the water was pouring out of the sky in buckets. And the lightning, striking in the clouds above me, and striking the canyon walls around me as I drove, was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. For a split second, while that brilliant flash of light explodes and expires, the entire canyon is lit up as bright as day. For me, that image didn't require a camera... the lightning seared that image into my brain forever.
So beautiful, yet so violent... nature had let me witness something amazing on that dark wet windy stretch 16 miles up Del Puerto Canyon, but it wasn't going to let me get away completely unscathed either.

I was ready to follow that storm all the way over Mt. Hamilton, that is, until the rock slide. It was only a handful of boulders, mostly smaller, but the largest most jagged one, maybe the size of a soccer ball, was right in my path, and I was going too fast to avoid it completely. I didn't want to swerve and lose control over the cliff that borders the canyon road, so I slowed as much as I could, made sure that the rock wouldn't hit my tires or oil pan, and hoped that it would pass under... but it didn't.

When I finally came to a stop and checked under the mustang, I could see that the power steering fluid hose had been ruptured and was bleeding the dark red fluid all over the road as if I'd severed one of the cars' vital arteries. I had to turn back right away. About half way into the drive back I lost all power steering and eventually ended up frying the power steering pump because it was running with no fluid. But, $100 and a rebuilt power steering pump later, the car was back on the road.

Anywho... this latest round of lightning photos didn't quite turn out how I wanted. Photographing lightning requires a number of different factors that all have to fall in line, the main one being... LUCK! The lightning was striking over the ridge, and that was what I was aiming for, but then a strike would hit very close causing the shot to be way too over exposed... frustrating, but I did manage to get a few shots that somewhat showed some lightning bolts. Above is one of those shots where the lightning was too close, and the lower one, the lightning was farther enough away to be predictable enough to photograph.