Saturday, May 07, 2016

Peep Show

From the beginning of this year up until recent, I had been spending free time down in Fayette County Illinois. While there I took full advantage of an opportunity to document a local Spring Peeper concentration located at Ramsey Lake State Park. They truly are like looking for a needle in a haystack as you have to search for them by sound in either twilight conditions or after dark with a light. Even then when you've come so close that they are at your feet, they are still easily missed for merely being 3/4th's of an inch long. From late March through April, I made several visits and came away a little more successful with each attempt. On my final trip, Ava was along and got to experience what it is to go from silence during daylight to an ear piercing high frequency cacophony as dozens of them call for mates at sundown. She thought it was pretty cool and I am glad we had the chance to make this unique memory at her young age. Despite hearing them since childhood, I only saw one for the first time last year at age 41. From that brief encounter I knew that I wanted to return with new ideas inspired over winter which included developing a homemade portable macro studio that could easily be carried into the woods. For as all good things come to an end including my purpose for being in Southern Illinois, so too does the annual 'peep show' upon phasing into mid-spring. I have always had an affinity for Fayette County and especially since 2011 when Ava and I were down for another loud event being the periodical cicada emergence. Unfortunately, the reality of life that could not be more true for myself is that where we are vs. where we see ourselves as wanting to be is always just out of reach, much like a tiny peeper at night...

The 'portable macro studio' comprised of two milk crates duct taped together with the top one lined in black foam board while being illuminated by LED flashlight on an adjustable wire coat hanger.

March 29 - Water bottle cap

April 2 - Ceramic figure

Ground level

April 13

Railroad marble balanced on the flashlight.

April 15 - Glass ball

I have a friend who makes the most amazing things including battery powered LED illuminated silicone mushroom night lights. I bought one off of her as it is by far the coolest prop yet!

April 16

In related news... a few of the grey tree frogs from last year made it through the winter!

Full night light, approximately 8"L x 4"W x 5"H. I believe they will be available on a limited basis. Learn more by contacting PJ's Kreechurs on Facebook.

The future...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Raymond Illinois Tornado

Wednesday April 27th was unique for a set of conditions resulting in a stationary boundary being draped across the southern half of Illinois. South of this boundary in the warm sector, surface winds were backed out of the southeast as they drew into a parent low pressure system over Eastern Nebraska. This created a favorable environment for low level rotation and a heightened tornado risk. Model prediction suggested the vicinity of southwest Christian County as being ideal location for storm development. Upon errand completion, I headed to this area early with Ava expecting to do some leisurely time lapse on a day off which has been my focus lately.

It became apparent that this event might be concerning upon getting beyond Morrisonville on IL48 and noticing a significant wall cloud south of Raymond. It was here I would place a call to the weather service in Lincoln Illinois as a general heads up.

Re-positioning a little further east as to gain a better view, to the distant south a persistent landspout type feature having rapidly ascending scud appeared. It's debatable whether this is an actual 'tornado' but is a solid indicator of the potential for greater tornadic development.

As if on cue per the previous observation, further upstream a new rotating wall cloud tightened and began producing a funnel cloud that eventually set down as a legitimate tornado. As it moved unusually westward it produced several brief touchdowns that both myself and Ava witnessed. At no time was there a personal safety concern for it was approximately one mile away. I was shooting with the 300mm lens for the entirety of its duration. It was here I placed another call to the weather service in Lincoln only to later learn that doing so was in vain for this storm was over Montgomery County and in the St. Louis weather service office warning area.

As this tornado lifted, we quickly re-positioned even further east. While doing so we witnessed another tornado develop though I was unable to document it other than the remnant funnel cloud after it had dissipated. Yet another funnel cloud would form upstream but not quite touch down.

Allowing the mesocyclone to pass safely to our east, we would then give follow on the southwest flank where we saw additional funnel clouds and incredible motion. At one point I thought it might become a fairly significant tornado but was eventually undercut by its own outflow. This was a truly remarkable event for numerous reasons but most notably because Ava and I experienced it together.

Additional storms from later that night at home...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Winter's End

You'd think by way of the weather that Winter was over weeks ago due to the mild spell we've been experiencing but only now is it of course official. March has been very busy which has included ongoing domestic reorganization projects as well as making time to be outside with the elements.

March 4th - While out on a sunset that busted, Ava noticed a very bright and slow moving object. Unsure at first of what it could be as it didn't behave like aircraft, it was later determined to be a latex weather balloon which expand to an enormous size. Upon reaching maximum altitude it popped like they do and was catching end up day light during its free fall descent. It appeared to be traveling SSW so it may have been released from nearby Lincoln (KILX) which is directly upstream.

March 9th - One of my recent projects has been to get rid of stuff including the liquidation of old toys but not before 'playing' with them one more time. This is reverse ring macro looking through a ViewMaster I've had since the early 80's.

Taking a break later that afternoon, spotted some interesting features out ahead of a weak cold front that was passing through the area.

March 10th - Visual satellite looked promising for this day so we took a ride down towards Shelbyville. The intent was to visit the lake but a slow moving train cancelled that option so we backtracked to the Margaret Gusy Pothole Wetlands Nature Preserve.

March 11th - Grown man still playing with frogs...

But that's none of my business!

Thinking that sunset would pop off like the previous evening for bearing near identical conditions on satellite, I went to Shelbyville again only to discover that I was too far east. Afterwards, I headed down to Ramsey Lake State Park to check for Spring Peepers.

March 15th - A big day for severe weather, I ended up in McDonough and later Mason counties on a pair of storms that were of a lesser threat than what occurred in the Macomb, Springfield and Peoria areas.

March 17th - Decided to break away from the domestic projects and go for a healthful walk at Rock Springs Conservation Area. While there a prescribed burn was under way whereby the smoke lent itself to a perfect backdrop for the Blue Bird.

I picked up a 3Pod Mini Tabletop Tripod from Amazon recently so as to virtually get down to eye level of ground creatures for which this 3/4" long Cricket Frog was my first successful test.

Continuing with the walk, I came upon a vernal pool teeming with Western Chorus Frogs. They were singing initially but fell silent with my presence. Quiet patience paid off though as they eventually resumed.

and finally, there was this guy...