Lightning over Wupatki National Monument

Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

It was only a few days ago that I photographed an evening barrage of lightning over the San Francisco Peaks and the Cinder Hills. Those photographs were taken from Wupatki National Monument—right at the entrance pullout off of Highway 89. And, now I found myself in this same location shooting lighting from an early afternoon series of thunderstorms—except looking in the other direction across vast grasslands.

Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wupatki National Monument.

The most amazing lightning strike of the day occurred before I had set up the gear. The bolt landed miles away from the storm in a sunny area. This was a classic “bolt from the blue” and would have surprised anyone in that location. The radar image below shows the bolt landing a fair distance from the storm.

Lightning continued in this direction for more than an hour. As the storms would move to the northeast newer storms would develop north of the San Francisco Peaks and move over Wupatki National Monument.

Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lightning at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Storms move to the distant northeast at sunset.
Storms move to the distant northeast at sunset.

After shooting at this location for awhile I decided to reposition to Wukoki Pueblo with hopes that lightning to the north would continue and I could get photographs with lightning and the pueblo. I was not disappointed.

24-hour lightning plot ending 1000 MST 12 September 2021.
24-hour lightning plot ending 1000 MST 12 September 2021.
Radar with lightning overlay for 1304 MST 11 September 2021.
Radar with lightning overlay for 1304 MST 11 September 2021.

Again, storms would move to the northeast and then be replaced by new storms from the southwest. This went on for several hours. The lightning plot below shows how many lightning strikes there were in this region during the afternoon.

I had hoped that thunderstorms and lightning would continue through sunset and twilight but it was not to be. Eventually, newer storms stopped developing and the other storms moved far to the northeast.

Wave Clouds Over the San Francisco Peaks

A few weeks ago I captured these images of wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks. At first, there was a “short stack” of lenticular clouds, specifically Altocumulus Standing Lenticularis (ACSL).

Wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.

I took several photographs looking toward the peaks from the Bonito Park area near the west entrance of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. I alternated between wide-angle shots showing the snow-covered flats and zoomed-in images of the stack of clouds. After a few minutes, I was ready to leave.

Wide-angle view of wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Wide-angle view of wave clouds over the San Francisco Peaks.
Zoomed-in crop showing structure of the wispy filaments with ACSL above.
Zoomed-in crop showing structure of the wispy filaments with ACSL above.

But before I did leave, new clouds began to form beneath the stack of ACSL. These clouds were quite different and appeared as long, wispy filaments or rope-like clouds. Again, I took photographs ranging from wide-angle shots to zoomed-in shots. After about 8–10 minutes the delicate filaments began to take on more of an ACSL shape similar to the already-present ACSL above.

I was intrigued by the shapes of these clouds so I posted a comment with photographs to a weather discussion group with many atmospheric scientists far more aware of the dynamics and details of wave clouds than I. It turned into a fascinating discussion with links to journal articles, modeling studies and, inevitably, YouTube.

I do not think we reached a consensus on the dynamics and evolution of these cloud filaments but all agreed it was a worthwhile discussion.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—IV

The comet continues to rise higher in the northwestern sky after sunset. It is now in a position so that I can get reflections of the comet in water at the same time that the comet is above the San Francisco Peaks. So I worked out the geometry and set up on Ashurst Lake, southeast of Flagstaff.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) over Ashurst Lake.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) over Ashurst Lake.

It didn’t work out for a couple of reasons. There was too much wind and the surface of the water remained ruffled rather than smooth. And then, as the comet was sinking lower in the sky and the winds began to diminsh clouds developed.

So, I’ll have to try this one again when I get better conditions.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—II

The comet is now visible in the evening sky but also remains visible in the morning sky. Evening twilight is bright enough to make it difficult to see the comet without binoculars or long exposures on a camera. That will change quickly as the comet moves higher in the northwestern sky in the coming days and weeks.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is visible in the evening twilight over Flagstaff, Arizona.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is visible in the evening twilight over Flagstaff, Arizona.

Above is an image of the comet in the evening sky. Layers of clouds and moisture threatened to interfere but actually made the photograph more interesting with saturated twilight colors.

This image is a stack of ten images each 4 secs exposure at ISO 1600, ƒ/1.8, and 85mm focal length. The individual images were stacked using Starry Landscape Stacker. 

 

A Late Winter Storm

A winter storm brought snow, clouds, and fog to some of my favorite photographic locations. The early morning sun lights up a band of clouds that encircles the San Francisco Peak. Below the peaks, fog lies in the low areas of both Upper and Lower Lake Mary.

Fog and clouds wrap around the San Francisco Peaks.
Fog and clouds wrap around the San Francisco Peaks.

A smaller area of fog sits in the corner of the Mormon Lake basin and partially obscures some of the old ranch buildings.

Fog and ranch buildings near Mormon Lake.
Fog and ranch buildings near Mormon Lake.
Reflections.
Reflections.

Finally, a small patch of grass pokes up from the still water of Lake Mary while fog blurs the background.