Thunderstorms and Lightning

The North American Monsoon has been sputtering—for lack of a better term—the past week or two. We get a few days of storms followed by a hot and dry period. Finally, however, moisture is beginning to increase and we are seeing more storms. I have tried several times this year to get great photographs of storms and lightning but my success rate has been pretty low.

Here are a few photographs from the past week.

Clouds develop across the whole sky in Sedona.
Clouds develop across the whole sky in Sedona.
An outflow boundary arrives and thunderstorms develop within a few minutes.
An outflow boundary arrives and thunderstorms develop within a few minutes.
A distant thunderstorm seen from Wupatki National Monument.
A distant thunderstorm seen from Wupatki National Monument.
Mid-afternoon lightning near Mormon Lake.
Mid-afternoon lightning near Mormon Lake.

And, finally we have a time lapse of the same storm that produced the lightning above. The video is 200x real time; from the motion it can be seen that the storm has some slow rotation. This storm moved off the higher terrain and became severe as it neared the Camp Verde area.

The weather models have been consistent with forecasting a significant increase in storm activity next week.

Moonrise over Lomaki Pueblo

It was the day before the full Moon and I wanted to photograph the Moon as it rose above the Painted Desert. Unfortunately, a thin band of high clouds moved across the area late in the afternoon and were just enough to obscure the Moon when it was still low on the horizon. Time for a backup plan.

Moonrise above Lomaki Pueblo.
Moonrise above Lomaki Pueblo.
Moon rise over the interior of Lomaki Pueblo.
Moon rise over the interior of Lomaki Pueblo.

We drove a short distance to the Lomaki and Box Canyon pueblos in Wupatki National Monument and set about capturing the Moon as it rose above the ruins. It would have worked better if I could have gotten farther away from the ruins since this would make the Moon appear larger relative to the structures. I was able to get one shot using a focal length of 100mm which partially achieved what I wanted. The interior image was shot using 24mm wide-angle focal length. Good for the ruins but it makes for a tiny image of the Moon.

Shadows projected on Lomaki Pueblo.
Shadows projected on Lomaki Pueblo.

Finally, just before the Sun set we took some photos of our shadows projected on the ruins. Art? Hardly. Fun? Yes.

Sunrise and Snow at Wupatki National Monument

After several days of heavy snow in the higher elevations we got a break in the weather. I was specifically interested in photographing snow in Wupatki National Monument. The park had reported a few inches of snow so I had hopes that some of it was still around.

I arrived at Wukoki Pueblo a few minutes before sunrise. There had been snow all the way down — even at the Visitors Center — but dropping that last bit of elevation to the pueblo was enough to have erased the snow cover to just a few patches. It wasn’t quite what I was hoping to see but was still interesting.

Here are a few images taken just after sunrise.

Sunlight strikes the top of Wukoki Pueblo a few minutes after sunrise.
Sunlight strikes the top of Wukoki Pueblo a few minutes after sunrise.
A few minutes later and the whole pueblo is illuminated by early morning light.
A few minutes later and the whole pueblo is illuminated by early morning light.
Patches of snow are a striking contrast to the red rock of Wukoki Pueblo.
Patches of snow are a striking contrast to the red rock of Wukoki Pueblo..

I returned home via Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument and captured this image of the cinder cone covered in new snow.

Sunset Crater after several days of snow and wind.
Sunset Crater after several days of snow and wind.

And now we have another snow storm approaching the area and January will end up with above normal snowfall amounts.

Harvest Moon—October 2020

The nearly-full Harvest Moon rises above the Painted Desert and Wupatki National Monument. Two buttes on the eastern horizon (~80 km distant) are Montezuma’s Chair and Roundtop, remnants of ancient volcanoes.

Harvest Moon rises above the Painted Desert.
Harvest Moon rises above the Painted Desert.
Sequence of the Moon rise.
Sequence of the Moon rise.

The second image is a composite showing the path of the Moon as it rose above the two buttes.

Late afternoon sun on the Tloi Eechii Cliffs.
Late afternoon sun on the Tloi Eechii Cliffs.

The third image is a view of the Tloi Eechii cliffs while we were waiting for the Moon to rise.

The photographs were taken from the Doney Mountain Picnic area and overlooking Wupatki National Monument and the Painted Desert.