A sky to remember…

Last night I had more fun chasing clouds with one of my daughters and her dog Cooper than I have had in ages.

I’d been keeping an eye on the weather forecast all day long. Environment Canada mentioned early in the morning that conditions might be good for big storms near where I live. So I watched. And I watched. And I watched some more. Keeping an eye on the aviation radar for notable clouds throughout the day, it didn’t look promising until about 2:00 p.m. Far off to the west of us in the foothills of the Canadian rockies, some huge storms were brewing.

By 6:00 p.m. radar was showing large formations about 80 kilometers from us and heading our way. The skies were slightly cloudy with the occasional towering cumulus cloud on the eastern horizon, opposite from the direction of our weather. What the heck I thought. I’d give it a go but first with only half a tank of gas, I topped up the Rav just in case I ended up being out longer than I had planned. It’s better to know that you’ve plenty of gas if things get interesting rather than have to be looking for the nearest gas station.

I had a spot in mind on a hill about thirty five minutes north west of us. We made it out there. The skies were getting dark but not in the way that I had hoped. My daughter took a few pics with her iPhone of Cooper bounding through the tall grass. Like father like daughter I thought proudly. She got some great shots too and some where the pup looked absolutely goofy. LOL

With photo opportunities not looking so good, I suggested an indirect way home, driving a wide loop back to Edmonton. As we were driving the radio station that we were listening to mentioned a possible tornado touchdown just past the general direction we were heading. The further we drove the more lightning we saw on the eastern horizon. The sky was turning black there and the flashes were becoming more frequent so we drove towards them hoping to get a few lightning shots. Ten minutes later, I thought to drive to another bit of high ground and stop and shoot from there then go home. Getting closer I could see the makings of a shelf on the rather large, black cloud. Up and over the hill and there it was. It looked fantastic!

We pulled over and I took a few shots of the front of the cloud and then a few more to stitch together later on to show the whole cloud. I was interested again in getting more photos so we drove closer yet and snapped off a series of shots one of which is at the top of this post.

We drove further into the cloud. It was funny that it wasn’t raining. As I watched the clouds I could see them swirling in a circular fashion. The sun was already near the horizon and as quickly as the cloud appeared it seemed to lose it’s shape. There was nothing to see now except dark skies and the occasional flash of lightning.

I’d been wanting to photograph one of these clouds for a few years but because I had always worked an evening shift during the summer, I could never be outside to see them. Finally! Retirement is a joy and so is shooting landscapes with my daughter.

Happy shooting,


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~ by Dan Jurak on July 30, 2012.

7 Responses to “A sky to remember…”

  1. Great image Dan! The storm moved in pretty quick down in my neck of the woods and by the time I got out of work we were in a full blown thunder shower and I wasn’t able to get any images. Only another 25 years or so until retirement…

  2. great shot of a shelf cloud, Dan! timing is so funny; we’ve had great-looking storms over the Edmonton area the past few days… great for photo opps! the first couple of times i was a long way from town chasing storms. today, I was sitting on the deck of the Hotel MacDonald with my wife and daughter, enjoying a nice, relaxing drink and watching the storms build south of Edmonton. when i got home about 6:30-ish, I was tempted to head out for a photo shoot, but having had a couple of drinks, i decided to stay home.

    next time!

    by the way, in case you’re not aware, there are apps for both the iPhone and Android phones that display Canadian weather radar. very handy for when one is out chasing storms!

  3. @ Justin, radar earlier in the day showed a much larger storm in your part of the province. Not to worry, 25 years will fly by. LOL

  4. @ Steve, you’re right, don’t drink and chase storms. LOL It’s funny that I headed north in anticipation of the storms. That’s where my radar app showed that they might be headed. When I got there, the winds were really strong but blowing in the direction of Fort Saskatchewan. In Edmonton the winds were blowing north. Does the wind going in those directions start swirling clouds because that’s what we saw as we watched this shelf.

    Better luck next time! :)

  5. @Dan… re the winds, I didn’t check the met data closely, but storms like these can generate their own wind flows. on radar I could see a gust front ahead of the main line of storms; this is an outflow of air from the storm that’s descending and moving outward ahead of the storms. on radar the front shows as a thin rope-like line, as it often stirs up dust and bugs (which can be seen by radar)

    In ShPk, we went from light winds to strong southwesterly winds (i.e. from the SW; in weather we talk about where winds are coming *from*) in moments. gust fronts often touch off other storms (i.e. instigate them), esp. where they intersect other gust fronts. something to look out for.

  6. Wow! Pretty impressive!

  7. @ Anne, this was more impressive to see in person. The photo hardly does it justice.

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