Summer Storms

So those of you in the DC area (and anywhere in the USA, really) are pretty familiar with the occasional, intense storms we run into during the summer. This past Sunday, a particularly strong storm came through the area, blowing trees down and ripping down power lines. In fact, there are still some places today around the DMV that are still without power. Pretty intense.

Though storms like these often ruin the routines of our suburban/city lives, they are also a reminder of the force and beauty of nature. So what I’m saying is… I like them :).

As a matter of fact, it was really awesome when the storm on Sunday hit. As I was driving back to my apartment, the sky was just a bit gray and something in the air felt like rain was coming. Within 3 minutes of that, I parked in the garage and walked into my apartment. As I walked in, I did a double take as I thought all of the blinds in the apartment were closed: “Who the hell closed the blinds”, I thought. Then I realized that a black cloud had descended on the sky and was pouring sheets of heavy rain. My bike skipped across the balcony and almost (!) fell off from the 11th floor. The storm was fantastic.

Another thing I love about this time of year are the cloud formations. Big, fluffy cumulus clouds hover over as the warm summer air rises. Oftentimes, you get stellar sunset views around this time of year.

While I didn’t get an amazing shot of the sunset after Sunday’s storm, it was still pretty cool. I put together this quick panorama of the sunset view, after the storm, from my apartment:

Sunset from Arlington, VA
Sunset from my apartment in Arlington, VA

I made this panorama using about 7 or 8 shots stitched together in Photoshop. The foreground in this shot is a little dark, but without using High Dynamic Range (HDR), any brighter of an image would wash out the colors in the sunset. HDR is really cool, but sometimes can look a bit unnatural. Basically, it entails taking several shots at various exposures and blending them to create one image. Though your eyes can see in HDR, the camera cannot do that normally – so a little photo manipulation is required. You can see an example of HDR in this shot.

Back to the summer storms now. So, on Monday I took a trip to San Antonio (where I am writing this blog entry from). Flying during this time of year is hit or miss because there are so many storms over the U.S., and while unfortunately my flights were delayed throughout my outbound trip, fortunately I was able to see some pretty cool clouds and storms.

I just got a new lens: the Canon EF 200/2.8L. I bought this lens to mainly help me reach closer to wildlife I have been shooting recently. However, I also found this lens useful in shooting from an airplane, as it zooms further than the wings of the airplane (which screw up so many shots!). Below are a couple quick shots I took during my outbound trip.

Cumulus Clouds over the USA
Cumulus cloud formations (click for larger version)

The first shot is of a towering cumulus cloud that reached up to the sky. I thought this shot was really cool because, mind you, this was shot using a strong 200mm zoom… and this was just one part of a massive cloud formation. This cloud was HUGE. Also note the tiny clouds on the left side that are being overshadowed by the tower. Good job there, Mr. God. Good job.

A storm and a sunset
A storm and a sunset (click for larger version)

The second shot is of a storm gathering in the distance as the sun sets. On first glance, the black covering on the top left side of the shot looks like something is blocking the lens in the foreground. Actually, it is a dark cloud about to unleash a storm. The clouds directly ahead are painted nicely by the sun setting to the left, which to me creates a nice contrast. Unfortunately, I had to shoot this shot at a higher than desired ISO. This allowed me to have a shutter speed sufficient to get a clear shot, but it also allowed some noise to creep in.

Although I got some cool views on the way in and hope for the same on the way back home, I would also like to get in to DC in time. Can I have both? Please? Hope for me and I’ll see you back home around 9pm.

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