Cirrus Over Neal Smith Refuge

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Cirrus fibratus lace the northern skies over the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Jasper County, about 13 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday afternoon, April 22, 2017. This view, from Walnut Creek, was captured at 3:38 pm CDT. The photography actions at this location were part of the Bryan Hansel Photography Workshop, held here from April 22-23. The road above, Pacific Street, winds through the savanna toward the Neal Smith Center, beyond the horizon at upper left.


3:43 pm and from just north of the Walnut Creek bridge.


Closer to the road at 3:48 pm. The 3,600-acre refuge is named after Congressman Neal Edward Smith, who set its creation in motion with the Fish and Wildlife Service acquisition of the land in 1990. The land was previously owned by Iowa Power and Light Company and intended for a nuclear power plant. The area contains tallgrass prairie and oak savanna ecosystems that once graced most of the state of Iowa. Bison and elk live on the land. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Sunup And The Main Event

Friday, April 28, 2017



With the planet Venus and the crescent moon fading into the gathering light of sunrise, the prime subject for the gathering of participants in the April 22-23, 2017 Bryan Hansel Photography Workshop finally appeared. The image above (6:25 am CDT, April 23) and below (6:27 am) looks east from W 129th Street S, just south of S 102nd Avenue W, about one mile SW of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Center, and about 13 miles east of Des Moines, Iowa. Official sunrise was at 6:13 am. Air temperature at this moment registered at 45 degrees F. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.


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Celestial Bodies Enhance Bryan Hansel Photography Workshop

Thursday, April 27, 2017



The April 22-23, 2017 Bryan Hansel Photography Workshop was held at and near the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, just east of Des Moines, Iowa. Part of the workshop, of which I was a participant of, was a sunrise photography session on Sunday morning, April 23. Official sunrise was 6:13 am CDT. Workshop attenders were asked to meet at the gravel road intersection of W 129th Street S and S 102nd Avenue W around 5:30 am to have ample time to set up. An added bonus shone in the eastern sky at this time: the -4.52 magnitude planet Venus and a beautiful thin crescent moon. The above image was captured at 5:40 am from S 102nd Avenue W, near the intersection. Air temperature was a chilly 45 degrees F.


5:44 am. Another (zoomed out) view of the display from the same location. Many arriving attenders
approached from the road's distant horizon with distracting headlights, forcing photographers to have to wait until the vehicles glided past them in the foreground.


This image shows workshop photographers setting up and capturing the celestial event (right), along W 129th Street S, just south of the intersection of S 102nd Avenue W a minute later. Vehicles parked along S 102nd Avenue can be seen in the background at left. This location was about one mile SW of the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge Center. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Bands On The Run

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Fast moving stratus clouds with gaps between layers produced colorful and striking displays at sunset on Sunday evening, March 19, 2017. These three images, all captured around 7:00 pm CDT, look west over Bowman Woods Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Air temperature was 55 degrees F. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.



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Stel-laaaaaaaaaaaa!!!

Monday, March 13, 2017



No, it's not about A Streetcar Named Desire. It was the arrival of Winter Storm Stella in the midwest. Anticipation of the storm was welcomed by some but viewed with contempt by others--including me--ruining the springlike trend we had been experiencing. Above, a sun halo, created by ice crystals, hangs in a nearly clear sky like a harbinger of the wintry weather at 2:10 pm CDT, Sunday, March 12, 2017 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A little over three hours later the first small flakes began to waft through the air as Stella announced her presence.


Fast forward to 5:48 am the next day (above) as most of the snow from the storm had fallen and had created a white landscape. In the background is Bowman Woods Park. Cedar Rapids received an official 5.7 inches of snow. Stella continued east, sure to wreak havoc in the northeast part of the country. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera.

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Interstate Interchange Storm

Sunday, March 12, 2017


Actually returning home from a previous storm spotting trip, this storm flared up as I was westbound on Interstate 80 near Iowa City on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. The above image, a Go Pro Hero 4 video frame capture taken around 5:10 pm CST, shows lightning discharge from a cloud seen about one mile east of the Interstate 380 interchange.



A minute later and a mile closer, the cloud grows larger in this Go Pro image at the I-380 exit. The storm cell was located about 10 miles distant, near Oxford, Iowa.



Northbound on I-380 at the North Liberty exit around 5:20 pm. Heavy rain in heavy traffic which included (estimated) penny size hail. 



Radar screen capture of image directly above it. Red area shows more intense part of the storm, and the target icon my position.

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Second Round Was A Knockout

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


A second early season severe weather event in Iowa, just one week removed from the first, occurred on Monday, March 6, 2017. An SPC Enhanced Risk was posted for much of the state at 7:00 that morning. By 1:30 pm CST, storms began firing up about 50 miles west of Omaha, Nebraska, and 25 minutes later Tornado Watch 61 (above) was issued, including most of Iowa.


The storms organized into an impressive and intense unbroken line, well beyond the north and south borders of Iowa. The top panel in the image above shows a WeatherTap radar screen capture at 3:45 pm, and the bottom a RadarScope image for 4:15 pm. The line of storms were moving ENE and at a swift pace--around 53 kts at times.


Meanwhile, in Cedar Rapids at 3:55 pm, favorable storm conditions prevailed, as seen above in my Davis Vantage Vue weather station screen.


This view of the west-northwest sky from Noelridge Christian Church in Cedar Rapids at 6:20 pm shows the approach of the leading edge of the line of storms, the most intense area now located about 100 miles distant, near the Interstate 35/US Highway 20 interchange in central Iowa. iPhone 6 Plus camera image.


It is now 8:30 pm and I am set up for spotting on Oliver Court, just south of Boyson Road and just west of Alburnett Road in Marion, Iowa. The sky (above, looking west) is supercharged with
lightning. The most intense area of the storm line was at this moment 34 miles to the WSW, near Belle Plaine, Iowa, and approaching fast! This image was an 8 second exposure at f/6.3, 250 ISO and 22mm focal length. Nikon D7200 DSLR camera images.



8:45 pm and the lightning is becoming more intense, with thunder rumbles over my head. In the background is the Bowman Meadows housing development.



8:47 pm. The heavy line of storms was now 19 miles to the WSW, near Newhall, Iowa. The wind had picked up considerably. Gusts cause me to hold on to the camera tripod to keep it steady during exposures and I almost lose my hat several times! (Gusts were probably around 50 mph). The above lightning photo is a 2-image stack. Sirens were now sounding and I was trying to keep a low (lightning) profile by crouching low (not recommended).


My iPhone RadarScope image capture at 8:53 pm. Sirens were wailing. The blue circle shows my spotter position on Oliver Court.



Suspicious lowering in a tornado-warned area approaching from the southwest and about 14 miles distant, near Walford, Iowa. The time corresponds to the radar image above. Minutes after this image was captured I finally took refuge inside my car. Outflow-blown drenching rain crawled along the ground like a mini front in my direction, and my car was soon engulfed, along with (estimated) 50-60 mph winds and nickel size hail. Some 10 tornadoes were reported in the state on this day.





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