Sunday June 17th looked like a good chase op in ne SD for days. Then the sun let out a couple of big flares and CMEs. Those were to hit on Saturday. Friday night had storm ops around the Badlands, though the dews would be screwed by a large MCS over the plains Thursday. I figured if I'm going to be up in ne SD for Sunday, I may as well try the solar flares/auroras in the Badlands Saturday and if I was doing that I may as well head there for lightning ops Friday night too. So that's what I did. Storms sucked as did any lightning Friday night. But at least there were some baby Bighorn Sheep!
I was getting some lightning out west at sunset, but it was very infrequent and highly random in where it would come from. I thought it'd be epic if I could pull off a shot of lightning with the setting sun and baby Bighorns, so I tried. To get any depth of field you had to stop way down. You needed to do that for somewhat slower shutters to hope to catch lightning anyway. But the problem was if your shutter was over 1 second much, you'd have invisible baby Bighorns as they constantly moved around. So I stopped down for some depth of field and then had to ISO up to like 400 to try and get the Bighorns without too much movement. I'd let the camera fire off shots but no, no dang lightning. These guys would keep changing locations too, as they ran across the rocks. So you'd have to move and refocus.
I finally got the impossible, but it turns out hard doesn't always equal cool. Needed better lightning and it to be to the left. Dynamic range was stupid big too, which made it hard to bring out the foreground later and not have it look too odd. Anyway, I was pretty happy to get lightning towards a setting sun with the baby Bighorns as a bonus to an already highly hard shot.
I did not want to get a room till Saturday, as I figured I'd be up all night in the Badlands anyway. I realized there was nothing to shoot with clouds and no lightning, but by the time I called for rooms there were none. I tried to nap in my car, but it was chilly and it was way too damn windy(noise) and well uncomfortable. Sunrise is damn early there. So it wasn't that bad to make it to sunrise anyway.
It's now morning on Saturday and I haven't slept yet, minus maybe 10 minutes at some point.
King of the hill.
Badlands reflected in his eye. I drive into Wall probably 7 a.m. and sit in my car till I could get a room. It was apparent, given how they were all full the night before, that I would likely have to wait a long time before I could hope to check into anything(wait on cleaning people). Then I look at obs and see the solar flare hit and it was weak. The models had said the second bigger flare would overtake the first and be one hit. So now I'm thinking, ok tonight is a waste since it's a morning flare hit and a freaking weak one at that. Great. I've been in my car about 100% of the time since 11 a.m. the day before. I get damn sick of trying to nap in it and trying to make it till a 2pm check in time....all for what looked like would now be a bust Saturday night auroras anyway. They even posted on spaceweather.com "show's over" about it, more or less. There wasn't much reason to believe those flares/cmes were separated and the second bigger one could still be coming, as it left faster than the first and not that long after it really. I get amazingly sick of sitting in my car waiting on a room and say screw it, I'll just drive home now then drive back north on Sunday for the chase. Time was passing extremely slow and I just couldn't take sitting in my car doing nothing ANY longer and too tired to do anything but sleep. Like driving is better than this. So I began the drive home after no sleep.
I get all the way back to Elk Point SD north of Sioux City when I see space obs go crazy. Greeeaaaatttt there is a second hit and it is strong....now that I'm 5 hours from the Badlands. It was 3 p.m. yet, so a loooong time till dark. What to do. I say may as well just drive north for Sunday's chase and hope there are auroras tonight. So back north through Sioux Falls I went, but continued north and not back to the Badlands. I couldn't believe there was a freaking second hit and it looked strong, though with Bz largely north for now. That was the main reason I went to the Badlands Friday night for Saturday night. It then looks truly busted until I almost get all the way back home lol.
I got a room in Watertown SD and met Chris there. We ate and waited for dark. Then hit a lake west of the city. Darkness comes like 11 something and no auroras. Woohoo. I've been in my car most of the last 36 hours with no sleep. Completely sick of everything busting. I had nothing in me that wanted to hold out for auroras at that point, especially 8 hours after a hard hit and there being zero sign of auroras to start with. I then see online around 1:30 a.m., right before I was about to crash finally, that auroras were being seen now. So back out to the lake west of town I went. They were lame and worse there was now a cloud band on most of the horizon. Screw it! I needed some freaking sleep before what was the main reason to start all these days, the good looking chase day the next day. Staying up another night before Sunday's chase just wasn't an option at that point. I gave it as much of a try as I could. Turns out it flared up a bit towards sunsrise. Oh well, didn't miss anything crazy anyway and got some sleep in.
I get 6 hours or so of sleep and head for Aberdeen Sunday afternoon. I sit there all afternoon in the hot sun waiting on storms to fire in what looked like would be a great chase day.
Supercell goes up just west of Aberdeen and it looks like it will go crazy. But soon as it goes up and gets going, a whole slew of crap storms go up right in front of it in a line. Shows over. That fast. Hating life pretty fast. Some other storms could be seen going up south a ways, so I flew down there for those.
I was under the southern supercell the moment it first went severe. I was actually surprised as I sat in the core of the shower and hail went from bb sized to golf ball. I then raced east with it as it really was moving along. Over time it got better and better. It was never great at all though.
It was tornado warned but never was that close. Then another went up right behind it as it weakened. This is that one. It was a cool looking sunset but that was about it.
It had crazy pink colors from behind as it too would weaken. Aaarrrgghhh.
So I start driving south for the drive home. A 1600 mile round trip. Once it was dark I pull over to see if auroras could be seen in the clear skies west of the storms. They could, barely. I gave them about 1hr from a gravel road before I gave up and continued home extremely sleepy. That was a really hard drive from Sioux Falls to home for 2 hours. Got off on one exit ramp and got out and ran around some trying to wake up. Then a sign freaked me out in the dark so I continued on lol.
Ok, this is now the next Friday and hey, I'm in the freaking Badlands again. Looked like a decent chase op there. I had hoped of storms firing off the Black Hills, but really just one storm sw of them in WY fired. I waited on the Hills some more, to see if they could and they couldn't. So I had to decide if the WY storm/s would be worth it. Main road option would require a drive through the park, so another $15 pass. I commit and do that. I get on the gravel road that goes sw out of the park. What a long twisty, full of wash boards, drive to pavement that would be.
I then come across the first Buffalo I've seen in the Badlands. He was huge and right next to the road. The lighting was getting cooler there now too. I stopped for Mr Buffalo just long enough to change my mind on the storms coming out of WY. They weren't that far away. I figured I waste all that time driving this twisty endless gravel road and then pavement or more gravel for a while and would likely be let down by those storms anyway. Radar looked like one in the middle was a supercell, but the sorta blob of stuff at the time made me at least somewhat hesitant a mess would come out of there anyway. Then I'd miss any storm sunset shots I'd have from the Badlands by being down there instead. So I said screw it and messed with Mr Buffalo till sunset. Something I would soon be extremely regretful of. At sunset that storm is producing an amazing tornado down there(as I've seen from others) with awesome storm structure to go along with it. Nothing like blowing one of the few good ops 2012 will even give a person and being this close. It was like 2 counties away is all I believe. I had a year to be there by then. Hedge your bets and nature will make you pay. Try your butt off and she'll make you pay too.
I feel dumb posting Buffalo pictures at a time I should have been driving south to see one of the best tornadoes I'd ever seen.
It's safe to say that around now a great tornado is happening south of here on the NE/SD border. What else was happening was there was a freaking 40mph south wind and sprinkles....right where most of the lightning was. Something that would make me borderline insane by the end of my night here. I couldn't even shoot toward what lightning there was thanks to sprinkles driven by the wind. I could shoot to the west with a lens hood on and bag over the camera. I could see on radar what I was missing but at the time was blowing it off thinking, ah probably nothing great happening from that anyway. Whoops.
Blah. I'm a moron.
Night now and the same freaking game going on. All the lightning right at all the wind driven sprinkles. Been awhile since I've been that mad while shooting lol. I realize I'm done with it all(pissed) and want a room, but again, nothing in Wall by now. I start looking east and find one in Murdo(online on my tablet from the Badlands). I get to that room after a rainy drive, sometime around 1 a.m. I sleep by 2:30 with a 9:30 alarm. 5:30 rolls around and I'm woken by the dumbest, most creaky ceiling ever. Evidently 3 hours isn't enough to sleep off being extremely annoyed with things. I tried to get back to sleep for all of 10 seconds of that before I said to myself, "I'm checking out of this pos in record time and getting on the damn road." I've never gotten up, showered and had all my stuff in my car and moving from a motel faster. Not even close. Less than 5 minutes. $85 down the crapper more or less right there for that room. I eventually get home after another 1000 mile Badland trip. 2600 miles on this page between the days. It's pretty bad when one has to put in so much work and sleep depravation just to annoy the crap out of themselves for little.
The rest of 2012 has some making up to do. Yet it doesn't. It was doing it with the storms/tornado I hedged my damn bets on and blew. All I had to do was commit to those storms. Driving like a madman trying my butt off on the 17th in ne SD the week before on here didn't wind up worth it. So often it works this way for me. Second I don't try like a madman and hedge my bets....voila....missed something crazy. I'm the king at truly nailing the days that don't really matter and the few days I go easy on being all the wrong days to do that.