On May 1, 2012, a Slight Risk was issued for areas of the Midwest, including the lower Great Lakes. This included a large portion of lower Michigan. The SPC kept it’s Slight Risk area over my region through day 3, 2, and finally day 1. The main threats were to be hail, and high wind, I agreed with this. On May 3, 2012, severe weather was imminent, it was just a matter of when. The majority of the thunderstorms were elevated, and being triggered in large part by the warm front. The warm front was draped across lower Michigan, and had led to thunderstorm development. Through the day, more storms developed, eventually forming a squall line. This line of storms extended from Lake Huron, all the way back to Wisconsin, but what broken in nature for most of the afternoon, this seemed to follow the HRRR forecast very well. During the late afternoon, the line began to fill in, and the main brunt of the squall (the strongest storms which developed in Wisconsin) raced eastward, barely losing any strength while crossing Lake Michigan. With plenty of instability in the warm sector, including about 2000-2500j/kg of CAPE, these storms had no trouble staying together. A secondary, surface based line of storms developed to the southeast of me. I was stationed in Greenville, MI, waiting for the main line to come through from the west. I snapped some images of the secondary squall that began as semi-discrete hail producers, all severe warned for the potential of large hail, and gusty winds. Those photos are below. I had a nice view from the fields.
The first 4 images show some surface based convection trying to fire overhead, with failure.
Click any image for larger view. This is a collection of mixed images, surface based convection both in Greenville and SE of Greenville. There is also a really neat one of a butterfly I found along the roadside, wind blown, and tired. I saved it, and put it in the lilac bush on some flowers.
After these moved away and lost their photogenic appearance, the main line was on it’s way into the Greenville, MI area. The outflow boundary was outrunning the squall line, so I knew it was only a matter of time before the line lost strength and intensity. The main line came in hot, and had quite a bit of wind with it. My best estimate would be 55-60mph. I obtained a number of images below and a short video, including the Whale’s Mouth feature after the shelf cloud passed by. It rained a little, but it was mostly just wind. I witnessed a couple of vorticies crossing the road (not on film) but I figure those were likely caused by the wind direction, the angle of the road and the buildings nearby. Sort of like a leaf tornado, or a dust devil. Both were short lived, and very small and were not tornadoes. Check out the photos and video below.
As many of you may know, I mostly just shoot with one main camera. This lone camera has to record video, record time lapse, and shoot stills. But obviously, if one camera is doing all of that, I am missing a ton of footage, not being able to take full res stills while shooting video, and missing all kinds of lightning strikes while my camera is busy processing after each shot, sometimes for up to almost 15 seconds. If you are a storm chaser or a photographer, you know that a whole lot can happen in those precious seconds. Seconds add up to minutes in the lightning photography field, and that can make or break one’s night while shooting stills of lightning. For bigger events and special things like squall lines, supercells, lightning, and time lapse, while for example, camera #1 is shooting time lapse, I shoot stills with a second camera. usually camera #2. When shooting lightning, I shoot with 2 cameras, on 2 separate tripods. Both point and shoot cameras. One has half the megapixels of the other. It’s my older camera that is cam #2.
Camera #2 was packed away by mistake in storage back in November 2011 when I was homeless for a time. It has been having issues since 2010 with shutting off unexpectedly, not turning on, not saving images, and draining batteries. I still used it through the years, but I mostly struggled along, missing tons of footage and photo ops because camera #1 had to do all the work by itself. Granted I have gotten some great shots, but if you could see all I’ve missed, it could bring on depression in you, as it does in me. Money struggles in my life had kept me from getting down to storage to work on cleaning it out and downsizing/going through things. Half of my clothes, all of my furniture, including my bed was packed away in there. I was able to make a couple of quick trips earlier on this year for furniture, but that filled my truck, and I couldn’t find my second camera. Over the months, it was one thing or another. Storage was locked up because I owed too much money, or when it was unlocked, I didn’t have the gas money to drive back and fourth. So I was just stuck basically. I finally was able to get the gas money last month and got down to storage, cleaned it all out and downsized to one, I also, found camera #2.
On May 3, 2012, I decided to set up camera #2 to record the video this time, so I could shoot higher res stills with camera #1. I have been waiting a long time to do this, and figured with my storm chasing trip coming up with Michael Phelps of StormScapeLIVE.com this month, this would be a perfect test run. But this test came to an abrupt and devastating end for camera #2, and the tripod’s camera connector base. A neighbor I was talking to about the incoming storm had some questions regarding if it would produce a tornado or not. In the wind, I had some trouble hearing, so I stepped about 5 feet away to answer him, and that’s when it happened. A big gust of wind hit my camera, knocking it to the ground with such force, that it broke parts off of my camera, and busted the connector for cameras on the tripod. Below is an image of the bottom of camera #2. I threw away the tripod camera connector in anger, so I don’t have an image of that. (click photo for large view, sorry it’s grainy, I took it with the Olympus)
I also lost the entire time lapse video of the squall line moving in because of this. I don’t blame him, I don’t blame the storms, I don’t blame anything or anyone, it’s just one of those deals. I of course, soldiered on after bringing the damaged equipment indoors and still having camera #1 and it’s tripod with me, and shot a few stills and the short video you saw above. But after I went indoors, the depression and anger took over. I was devastated, it even makes me sad and angry to type about this. Camera #2, which I was so excited to finally have again, has died. The tripod’s connector, busted. This sent me into such a spiral of sadness, that I even deactivated my facebook account. Something I have never, ever done. I just wanted to be alone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, or anything. Through my life, I have had such struggle, for years and years, with my Father dying in 2006, moving several times, being a victim of foreclosure, the time I was homeless, just terrible things, and this only scratches the surface. Usually, I don’t like to share details about the demons that haunt me, and especially not here on my website, but I feel it’s necessary for you to know this. So I went into isolation for a while. Just to collect my thoughts. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this, I am still trying to deal with all of this. I’m going to be rather distant for a while, so I ask you to please just be patient. I have no idea what I am going to do for a second camera, I need it to be able to do my work properly and efficiently. This is how I make my money, and things have taken a tank hit yet again for me. I’m not sure what I am going to do, I need a miracle right now. We’ll see what happens, hopefully something good, because these repeated bad breaks are killing me both mentally, and physically. Sorry, if I offended anyone, or made you worry about me, but it’s just how it is.
Pictured left is an image I snapped with camera #3, an old 4 megapixel Olympus from 2005, of camera #1 shooting time lapse. I also found the Olympus in storage. It has hardly any zoom, and is obsolete. It also doesn’t record video with sound, and the video quality is absolutely horrible, but it works for a quick snap here and there, sort of like a cell phone camera I guess.
Now for a shred of redemption. At the end of the day, as I sat in my room, staring up at the ceiling, ready to give up storm chasing, photography, and on life itself. A beautiful discrete storm cell blew up to my west just before sunset, and I was able to capture this amazing time lapse video with camera #1. This storm produced a good amount of hail to my west (from reports) and a lot of lightning. The crepuscular rays coming over the top of this anvil were gorgeous. I filmed this off of the deck. I sped up the video to 10x it’s original speed. Below the video are a few images I obtained before and after the filming for the time lapse.
One More Shot…
Last chance of the night would come in the form of a wonderful lightning display. This would leave me both excited, and depressed as the reality was again realized, that one camera cannot do all the work, and I missed some amazing lightning strikes during camera #1′s “busy” state as it processed each image. I only obtained a couple of shots out of a possible 9-10 amazing strikes because of this. 2 of which struck practically across the street, less than 1/4 mile away. I stood outside on the deck (I do not recommenced this) and did the best I could. I was soaked on mainly my left side, from head to toe (literally, my shoes were dripping water from INSIDE) but it was worth it. Below are the only 2 images I was able to get.
Closing Statement. Life will not work out how you want it to. For some, it’s easier, for others, it’s not. No one can compare their life to yours, everything that happens, affects someone else differently than it does you. Advice, thoughts, suggestions, all are of one’s own selfishness, even when intended to be for the best interest of someone else. You can’t please everyone, and everyone can’t please you. Life is full of surprises, some good, some bad, and some can and do, kill you. It’s all a big unknown. We do the best we can, or at least I do, and that’s the best I can do. Never live up to someone else’s expectations, because their expectations will always exceed your abilities. I’ve learned a lot from my trials, my own mistakes, others’ mistakes, and life’s angry grip on me. I’m still alive, so there must be a reason. If you care, great, if you don’t, great. I’m not in it for you, I’m in it for me, and that’s about it for this thread. Thanks for reading, and hopefully you learned something.