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                   Tuesday, June 10, 2008 - 1:51AM

The little MCS that could: June 9 lightning

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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When I saw the outflow boundary blasting outward from the storms in southwest Virginia, I thought the chances of us seeing anything here were getting slim. However, when I checked radar again an hour later, new convection was riding the boundary northward into Boone County. Every scan, the tiny MCS held together as it inched northward. I went outside and up into the cemetery to watch it, expecting the flashes of lightning to slowly diminish to nothing when the storms died, as they often do after sunset in this type of pattern. But rather than die out, the lightning just kept going - even intensifying. Time to run down to the house and get the camera. I set up on a hill in the cemetery about 100 yards behind my house here in Charleston. I'm definately blessed to have this type of view within walking distance in this type of terrain!


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The above shot was the best of the bunch, taken at 400 ISO when the storm was about 10 miles from town. Earlier, I was shooting at 800 ISO to capture the very distant bolts - colored red due to the long viewing distance through the atmosphere (just like a sunset). The lightning was probably farther than 15 miles away at that point: (click images to enlarge)

As the storm moved closer to town, the lightning became increasingly 'rain wrapped'. Very similar to a tornado getting rain-wrapped, in that contrast decreases and even complete loss of visible channels occurs. This is the last bolt that occured out of the rain before the drops arrived at my location:


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Forced back inside due to the rain, I set up at my living room window where I caught this intense strike about a mile away. I was at F5.6 at 100 ISO due to the mostly dim intracloud lightning, but this bolt was too bright and overexposed, 'whiting out' the frame. Thanks to the technology of RAW images, I was able to bring the bolt out in Photoshop's RAW editor (though the overexposure was too much to recover a clean image, hence the gray swath along the main channel).


Click to enlarge

With the storm moving away to the north, I drove down to the Capitol to try to capture some anvil crawlers overhead. But as soon as I saw the Capitol, I turned around. The dome is STILL marred by the dreaded scaffolding, so it was pointless to try to get shots there. Hopefully they get that taken down soon, being that it is summertime (the season when the Capitol is photographed the most). Anyway, with a still-active storm just north of town, I headed north on I-79 to grab a few more shots, stopping near Big Chimney and Clendenin before calling it a night.


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