Palouse Spring Storms

I love the springtime in the Palouse for many reasons:  goodbye to snow, hello to greens, clouds aplenty, and rain storms visiting frequently.  The bane of landscape photographers is clear skies.  Though a clear sunny day is definitely beautiful, it isn’t entirely picturesque when you desire to photograph landscapes.  The ever-changing springtime weather is very enjoyable.  The clouds could look menacing, just to clear up 30 minutes later with beautiful sunlight streaming through accentuating the escaping clouds.  Here is a sampling of a Palouse spring:

Sunset over Tekoa Mountain

Spring Growth and Fall Remnants

Winter Wheat Morning Dew

Union Flat Spring Afternoon

Palouse Summer Thunderstorm

The decision was made to wake up for sunrise the last Saturday in June.  I never look forward to setting an alarm that starts with a 3 or 4 and ends in AM.  Nonetheless I pulled myself away from sleep well before sunrise.  I looked out toward the east and saw a perfectly clear sky–not the ideal conditions.  While having some breakfast I heard a rumble.  I knew there was a 30% chance of storms, but upon opening up the blinds and looking toward the west I saw an enormous cumulus.  A strike of lightning light the clouds, but they were already palely illuminating by dawn light.  My pace quickened!

I hadn’t allotted enough time to make it to a good viewpoint before sunrise but I knew where I wanted to go.  Driving frenetically but safely I reached the viewpoint as first light cast a reddish-orange hue on the towering clouds.  The quick pace did not subside but grew as I setup my gear.  It was quite a show:  color all around, lightning (at a safe distance) and an abundance of beauty.  If four cameras were arranged in the cardinal directions each one would have captured amazing images.

Palouse Thunderstorm Dawn

In an attempt to capture lightning in as many shots as possible I set the ISO to 50 and the f-stop to 16 (I did not want to go as small as 22).  I had decent success though luck was still a large factor.  Naturally as time progressed and the sun rose, my shutter speeds were getting shorter.  I still managed to capture lightning.  Also, I used a 2-stop reverse GND filter to capture these sunrise images.

Dawn Lightning

After the strong light had faded I drove to my original destination.  The intent of the morning was to scout some new locations.  As the morning progressed (just barely 6 AM at this point) the storm moved atop the Palouse.  The once magnificent clouds were now dark, stationary waves hanging low overhead.  Rain was imminent but not immediate.  I finally couldn’t take it any longer and stopped the car and took a few shots of the clouds.  This particular image is a three-shot handheld pano.  I was facing east so the sun, preparing to be blotted out, was casting early morning rays across the underside of the clouds.

Foreboding Clouds

I have photographed quite a few sunrises.  It will take quite some time for a sunrise experience to top this one!