Pic of the Week 5/15/20
Location: Chillicothe, TX
Date taken: 5/13/20
I had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful thunderstorm outside of Chillicothe, TX the other day. We were expecting some severe weather to move through the area, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to reach a storm before sunset. Around 4pm I started noticing towers going up on radar near the TX/OK border. Several of my chaser friends were already out there and under some of the storms. Knowing, that I wouldn’t be able to reach those storms in time, I turned my attention farther south along the dryline hoping something would come up.
Storms began developing along the dryline and I was itching at the chance to leave and chase some storms. But first I had to finish up at work and then pick up my wonderful girlfriend Ashlee to join me on this chase. We left Wichita Falls just a little after 6:30 and targeted Quanah, TX. Along the way, we could see some of the Oklahoma storms off in the distance. Their robust updrafts and sharp anvils made me worried as our storms looked soft and mushy. Soon we were getting closer to our target and we could make out the base of our storm.
Outside of Vernon, TX we saw the lightning pick up and the storm started to increase in intensity. As we got closer to our storm, I decided to take the first route south that I could. This just happened to by FM 91 in Chillicothe. We made the detour and followed the twisting road through the open farmland. While this area used to be open fields, it has since changed into a large wind farm. Huge propellers have been erected in these open fields to harvest wind energy. I’ve never been a fan of these [no pun intended] and have always cursed them when trying to photograph the once pristine night sky near Caprock Canyons.
But there are some situations where they can prove to be useful for daytime photography. We found a dirt road that would take us close to these massive turbines. I parked the car, gathered my camera, and searched out for a composition. The storms were still 30 miles away from us, but we could start to make out some of our storm’s structure. Above our heads, a blanket of bulgy mammatus clouds stretched out beneath a strip of bright yellow where the last rays of afternoon sunlight were peeking through the storm. We sat there watching the scene before us and seeing the occasional lightning strike off on the horizon. All the while we could only hear the “whooshing” of the blades and our camera’s shutters cycling.
The storm edged closer and closer to our location, but it looked like it was going to just pass to our northeast, which meant we would be in the perfect position for sunset. Slowly but steadily, the quality of light improved on our scene. The ambers and golds of the afternoon transformed into the warm pinks and oranges of late evening, while patches of blues somersaulted and churned aloft. Then I noticed something close to the horizon, what was it? A yellow orb was eerily suspended above the ground. It took me a few seconds to finally realize what I was seeing—the epic sunset we were anticipating was about to happen.
Wind Towers © Ben Jacobi
I frantically began shooting images hoping to get the setting sun, good wind turbine position, and lightning all in the same frame. Sadly, the images that did incorporate lighting were before or after this wonderful sundown. The light from the low sun created a beautiful outline around the wind towers making them look almost artificially placed in the scene. The sun sank lower and lower in the sky and the colors just exploded in wonderful hues or blues, reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, and purples. I captured several frames during this time, I believe this is the best image that represents the pinnacle of the event. There is an almost ethereal feeling with the turbines just barely blurred and the glowing orange sun resting in the bottom of the frame. It sure was an excellent experience and a wonderful way to cap off the chase.