Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Lightning Rods II

Lightning Rods II (642, EM5)

It seems I’ve become something of a “storm chaser”.  Not in the sense that I chase them down the road; it’s more like I see threatening skies and head to Lake Ontario to see what kind of mayhem is occurring there.  Sometimes it can get pretty dramatic and sometimes not so much.  Heck, last week there were a number of water spouts spotted out on the lake during a storm (I didn’t see them, unfortunately).  But here in Rochester-land it’s something to do.  Something that is less boring than, well, almost everything else around here.

This past Friday was such a day.  Just before noon the sky began to darken to the northwest (toward the lake).  Actually, it’s become a common phenomenon over the last week or so.  The local weather guys say it’s because of an upper level low that’s pulling cool air into our area from Canada.  As the sun warms up the ground during the early part of the day it creates atmospheric instability.  Large cumulus clouds start to form as the cooler air passes over the lake.  Which means the possibility of rain and / or thunderstorms.  The good news is that it’s keeping us relatively cool (mid-70’s most days).  The bad news is that the weather can go south on you in a hurry.  Well, bad news if you’re planning a picnic or something.  Good news if you like foul weather photography.  For me, more of a win-win.

So off to the lake I went.  Bad luck, though.  Before I got to where I was headed, it hit.  Lightning.  Thunder.  Wind and rain.  Not to mention a minute or so of hail.  Not the best time to be out on the road.  So I stopped.  And then I get a brief text from my wife that said “Take cover”.  She was sitting at home watching the noon weather report and discovered that a “severe thunderstorm warning” was in effect.  So I texted back, “Too late.  I’m sitting in the middle of it”.  Anyway, a few minutes later the storm had passed.  It was still raining, but the “fun stuff” had moved to the east.

Since I was almost there, I continued on to the Charlotte Pier (the pier that flanks the western side of the mouth of the Genesee River near the Port of Rochester).  It’s normally a busy little place, but at this point the area was mostly deserted.  Wet piers with metal posts can be a bit dangerous in lightning storms.  The pier also sits next to a large public park.  As I headed out onto the pier, I could hear this body-less voice continually announcing that the beach was closed until the “electrical activity” ended.  “Electrical activity”?  Why not just say “lightning”?  The voice also informed all the visitors – who weren’t there anymore – to stay off of the sand.  The sand?  Why no mention of the pier?  I would think that standing in a puddle on the pier holding onto a metal fence that runs the entire length of the pier might be inadvisable.

But as I said, the good stuff seemed to be over for the moment.  In fact, just to encourage all the people who were no longer there, the voice came back on and said that the sand would reopen in 10 minutes.  I didn’t quite understand why, since it was still raining a little and the temperature had dropped.  It didn’t seem like a good time to lay on your towel on the beach or to continue with your volleyball game.  In any case, the formless voice had apparently not bothered to check the sky.  It seemed clear to me that mother nature wasn’t quite finished.

At this point, I was about halfway to the end of the pier (it’s a long pier).  I had also been joined by this young couple.  Oblivious, apparently, of any additional weather threats.  They were still heading out to the light; I had just turned back.  Clearly, the skies were about to open again.

Which they did – about 3 minutes later.  More rain and more lightning and thunder.  Not surprisingly, the voice dropped the 10 minute promise.  Once again, the beach was closed until the “electrical activity” stopped.

Since I didn’t see anything later about anyone being fried on the pier, I assume the young couple simply got very wet.  To be fair, so did I.  It’s a long pier.

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5 Responses to “Lightning Rods II”

  1. Cedric Canard

    Excellent photo Paul. I’m much like you when it comes to foul weather. Whenever I see a big storm coming I head out the door. Sometimes with a camera sometimes not. I just like being out in storms. The only times I get sensible is when the wind starts to reach 100km/h or more. Then things start flying and falling and out in the open is not a good place to be.
    I really like this shot. Everything about it.

    Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Cedric. Yeah, in my mind photography is something like fishing. If the sun’s out, stay home. It isn’t going to be worth it. The best stuff happens when everyone else heads for shelter. Like you, I sometimes go out without a camera. There’s something invigorating about standing in a storm.

      A question, though: Do you get into trouble with your wife? Mine goes a little nuts when I’m standing outside waiting for the storm to start. Since I’m pretty tall she figures I’m a natural lightning rod. Not to mention the fact that she prefers bright blue sky for taking pictures.

      I’m with you on the wind. Not only does it get unacceptably dangerous, it’s too hard to keep the damn camera steady. And tripods are useless.

      Reply
      • Cedric Canard

        My wife is absolutely petrified of storms. There was a time when I wouldn’t hear the end of it for going outside during a storm but we’ve been married long enough now that I just get a plea not to go, followed by an angry look, followed by a “see if I care” attitude. It probably helps that I’m well insured 😉

        Reply
    • Paul Maxim

      Thanks, Earl.

      Now there’s a really good question! Don’t think so, though………If I was, I could hire myself out to all those poor places in the southwest that are drying up.

      Reply

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