New York: Meteorology

While in New York, I was again staying on the banks of Cayuga Lake in a Gatsby mansion, which gave me ready access to sunrises, sunsets, and a decent view of any storms that might happen along, especially since the best view was westward into the prevailing winds. I was only there for a few days, but had some nice opportunities and (almost) made the most of them. What was interesting was how variable it was, even with a good view of the surroundings.

sunset over Cayuga Lake, NY
One evening produced a lovely sunset, one frame of which was already posted as the month-end abstract, but before it even reached that point I was capturing plenty of other examples. This was Father’s Day, and the cove immediately to my right had displayed an estimated sixty boats within, which where thinning out as the day waned, but it wasn’t hard to keep them out of the frame for the scenic shots aimed away from the cove. Meanwhile, a wider shot gives a different impression.

post-sunset wide-angle shot showing localized rain storm
The sun had just disappeared below the horizon where that orange spot is, but somewhere not far away, someone wasn’t enjoying it but getting a heavy rain storm instead. Despite my loathing of smutphones, I can still find the occasional uses, and for this, I pulled up the lightning tracker which also shows weather radar, discovering that the single storm was a lot farther away than I imagined, actually on the far side of the next Finger Lake in line, which is Seneca; an estimated 30 kilometers to the center. I would have said less than half that, but I can’t recall ever having the opportunity to measure and get a baseline before, so I accept no blame, only ignorance.

In the opposite direction at this time, I got my first decent photo of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds, which are a pretty cool effect. I’d glimpsed a set once before, nowhere near as clear as this, so I was pleased.

Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds in Cayuga County, NY
The distant storm passed, with nothing happening locally at all. And then, at 3 AM, I heard rumbles of thunder and decided to roust myself and try for pics, thinking that the position on the lake might give me excellent views. The tripod was still in the car, and as I fetched it and closed the rear hatch, the glass therein showed me a distinct reflection of the sky, notable because for a split-second it showed a lightning bolt crossing a broad expanse, taking up most of the hatch. Well, dammit.

The rain was already starting as I got to the docks to set up, so I had to dig out both the camera rain cover and the rain poncho for myself, but that’s why they remain in the camera bag at all times. Well, I mean, except when I’m actually using them. Getting set up down on the docks, I was remaining aware of just where the storm seemed to be centered, being a little exposed out there. I neglected to ensure that the edge of the rain cover was well behind the lens hood, so one of the frames revealed my oversight.

nighttime lightning beyond Cayuga Lake showing edge of camera rain cover
It also revealed the lousy leveling job that I’d done, but then again, I was out there in supremely dark conditions, no lights anywhere save for my pocket flashlight, working around two different plastic covers (the camera’s and mine,) so I’m not surprised – all the light you see here came from that millisecond when the lightning illuminated the clouds from within. It was easy enough to crop a bit for a detailed look at that sky.

lightning behind rain across Cayuga Lake, NY
I didn’t see it at the time, but peeking through the rain was the light source, a long bolt extending the length of the frame, just not clear enough for decent use. And a boat anchored out there in the middle somewhere, so I imagine that evening was eventful for them. Not half as eventful as the following afternoon, but we’re getting to that. This turned out to be the only frame worth keeping, and barely at that, while the rain increased to a downpour and the storm moved in overhead, so I abandoned the efforts and got out from under it to go back to sleep. Ah well.

In mid-afternoon of that following day, it had been very clear and muggy, but the overcast moved in quickly. As I saw some promising quick flashes out across the lake and heard the distant thunder, I set up the camera on the tripod for some video (since daylight lightning photography is next to impossible – you can’t leave the shutter open to wait like you can at night.) What I captured was something else.

The wind was quite fierce out there (my tripod is not a lightweight,) and it’s worth noting that a tornado touched down off the opposite end of the lake from this same storm system – minimal damage, but, yeah, I believe it…

Still no good lightning though. It’ll come.