Pic of the Week: Starlight and Stormlight
Location: Petrolia, TX
Date Taken: 4/10/16
After months of patiently waiting and staring at computer weather models I was finally able to get back out on the road and chase some storms! By this time last year, I had already been on four different storm chases so I was anxious to get back under the meso. I met up with some storm chasing friends from Dallas and rode along with them on this chase. We started out chasing elevated unorganized storms near Crowell, TX and eventually we ended up near Waurika, OK. We witnessed some pretty amazing thunderstorms that evening. What started out as an unorganized mess became a mature supercell with nice structure and lots of lightning.
We chased the storm into the evening hours, but the storm moved off the boundary and eventually collapsed. Luckily a newer, more intense, storm developed just to our southwest and not far from our current location. Flashes of lightning were observable from our spot, but we decided to get a little closer. We were positioned several miles to the northeast of the storm and we decided to pull over for some lightning photography. The warm unstable air was surging into our storm and high inflow winds could be heard whistling across the open prairie. Lightning was consistently bursting from the midlevel of the updraft and we would occasionally hear the soft echo of thunder drowned out by howling inflow wind. We shot until the storm was nearly on top of us and precipitation began to fall. To escape the downdraft, we drove south on highway 79 through Petrolia TX. Just outside of Petrolia, with the storm to our back, I saw a lone star shining intermittently between the cloud cover. Curious we pulled off the road to see what scene was unfolding before us.
We were just to the east/south east of the main updraft and this storm was putting on a show! A beautifully sculpted updraft tower was being illuminated by the constant flash of lightning and gave us a stunning view of the supercell. Lightning would explode from the updraft like electrified tendrils stretching into the open sky. And the sky itself was just perfect. Only a patch of cobalt blue sky speckled with shimmering stars was visible behind our thunderstorm. It really was sublime. Lightning would flash almost every second. It was like we were watching a fireworks show on the Fourth of July. All you would hear were the clicks of camera shutters and the “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” from us chasers as the show continued on.
The storm once again got a little too close and we were forced to bail southward. Driving only a few miles gave us a completely different and less appealing view of the thunderstorm. A thick overcast concealed the starry sky and the only traces of lightning were the occasional glint through the top of the thick clouds. Had we not stopped when I saw the stars we might have passed the incredible scene and missed out on some amazing photographs. I debated on how I wanted to present this image because it’s difficult to put into words just exactly what we experiencing. I finally settled on creating a time-stack composite. I chose to take the six best photos and blend them into an image that represented the event as a whole, rather than just a single frame of a particular moment. It took a little extra post processing, but the result is a photo that tells the entire story in an exciting and interesting way. I hope you enjoy it.