Thursday, June 23, 2011

Southern Illinois Magic

Tuesday June 21st was the annual solstice so what better way for nature to kick off the first day of summer than with a spectacular display of color and light across the entire state. Before this would happen though, several rounds of significant weather developed from S to N that prompted severe thunderstorm as well as a few tornado warnings statewide. Till all was said and done, only two official tornado reports verified in extreme N IL although storms to the S including the one I was on were inconclusive. A bow segment lifting along I-70 had a few pockets of rotation on the leading edge as indicated on velocity (which I failed to keep a screen capture). I would intercept the furthest N area from E of Cowden IL in extreme S Shelby County that was somewhat weak and would gust out in comparison to another to the S in Effingham County that was better organized. Everything was pretty much forced and storms were outflow dominate but at least the structure looked good for a minute. A few locals would stop to see what I was doing at which point I advised them of the tornado warning. The cars you see heading towards the farm were a group of young people who turned around to find shelter elsewhere even though they probably didn't need to. Their caravan makes for a fun addition to the video clip of this scene (link towards bottom). Also note the lucky push button CG's! Driving E from this location ended up placing me near to the area of interest lifting from the SW where I experienced small airborne tree debris as well as a sizable gustnado from close range.

Once the line passed and I was caught up in heavy precipitation, rather than keep driving, I stopped at nearby Hidden Springs State Forest. I have not been here yet so in thinking that chasing was done for the day, I decided to look for nature. Of the highlights was a female juvenile box turtle who in spite of the pictures was not the least bit afraid of me. Note the little mite in the second picture. It's a very peaceful destination that is well worth exploring.

On the way out...

Down from the park and back a secluded dirt road was a somewhat well maintained cemetery with stones dating as far back as pre 1900. In some areas, stones were almost completely swallowed up by the earth or else completely illegible so one can only imagine how old they might actually be. I'm not real into nor very good at artistic work like several of my photographer colleagues but I did score a few more periodical cicadas from the waning Great Southern Brood.

From the cemetery I would decide to go S again as another complex was moving up from St. Louis along I-70. Light of day was taking on a spectacular appearance and although I was never able to intercept storms in this golden light, updrafts and bases of a showery CU field in Fayette County were still worth documenting.

By dusk when the storms arrived, I was unable to get to the S side of the line but did spend time with lightning on the backside. Per the second shot, you should've seen the ones that got away!

Heading home and now after midnight, I paused in Christian County for a moonlight scene. Showers pulsing on a lingering outflow boundary to my NW coupled with Springfield city light made for yet another opportunity. The first star trail image is a stack comprised of 68 images equaling 22:40 with the second being 60 images making an even 20 minutes. Hindsight being what it is after assembling both stacks as DSLR time lapse clips, I wish I would have stayed out even longer. You can see this time lapse video as well as clip from the earlier storm HERE.

As if the above weren't enough, additional cells went up on the same outflow boundary only to collapse into a massive moonlit arcus cloud in Macon County. It was nearly overhead by the time I found a location to pull over but served as a fitting end to what was a highly productive start to the summer season.


Rosalie said...

What awesome pictures Paul. You do take risks don't you?

Paul said...

No more risky than driving in rush hour traffic but what fun is life if you don't at least take some risks?

Anonymous said...

The cemeterys the bonus for me and so is the last badass cloud structure :)