January 24, 2008 Sundogs, Steamnadoes, and Icy River Steam(-20F)

Persistence pays off I guess. I've been wanting to get sundogs or pillars out of this cold crap, and it's not been happening. It finally does on this early outing, though not when I was expecting it.

First off, the models pretty much nailed this frigid night several days ahead of time. I sent someone an e-mail on it 5 days before it happened, saying, wow look at Thursday morning on the GFS model. The RUC nailed it last night as well(that model only goes out 12 hours). The NAM model on the other hand blew it. 0z ruc run said -20F to -25F by morning in western IA and ne Nebraska. 0z NAM run for the same time frame was saying 0F or so. Can't be too good when your model starts off the following morning that far off.

So betting on -10F overnight and hoping for the -20F instead, I thought I'd make an all nighter and see if I could get the whole plant cloud production thing again, but this time for a longer time. 2 a.m. comes around and I'm not liking that idea. I had to sleep. So I went to bed a little after 2 and set the alarm for 5...wonderful. It goes off, I wake up and check surface obs. Tekamah I think was -17F already. It's a little hard convincing yourself to go out into -20F air after 3 hours of sleep. I looked outside and wasn't seeing any signs of plant clouds being produced. Great. I head out anyway, to see what I could find. The plant was not doing the whole cloud thing at this time. So I drove over to Wilson Island and shot the above and below images. Oh yeah , Wayne NE was -23F....some station east of Sioux City was reporting -26F. I think Onawa IA got down to -20F. Mapleton made it to -25F. Tekamah got to -20F and is only 17 miles away. Where this Wilson Island and Desoto Bend is located, out in the middle of the flats between the bluffs in IA and those in NE....I'm sure it was at least -20F while I was shooting this(middle of the flats away from towns is as good as it gets). Steam production off the icy river was much greater than the other -10F to -15F morning last week too, so I know it was colder.

It's 9pm as I type this, and my hands still feel hot, thanks to having the crap froze out of them. They almost feel blistery. The only way I can describe -20F to those that have never felt it, is to think of 5F(if you've felt that I guess). 5F is rather cold....bitter. Now chop 25 degrees off that(yeah yeah I'm a "genius"). It certainly wasn't taking very long to create pain in my hands and feet. I made numerous trips back to the van to keep from losing fingers and toes over this. It's rather difficult to shoot with a glove on, so normally I don't have a glove on at least one hand. I tried to keep the shutter around 4-5 seconds as that gave the cooler blur look to the ice-chunks. I adjusted the ISO speed as needed, getting less and less as it got lighter and lighter(obviously). It was over an hour before sunrise when I got there, so it was still dark...though the bright moon helped.

Oh yeah, the moon was super bright as I was driving there, before I was in the steam/fog. I was like, yeeesh, that's a blinder right now. It looked almost surreal.

I'm shooting these from a dock...a dock that was horribly slick thanks to being covered in frost. That white flat area there that looks like ground, well it's not. The dock was frozen in that ice. I really wanted to get closer to the river, but had no desire to walk on that.

Looking southeast from the dock. Sun just about to rise.

I really don't get why there was this gap of lesser fog there. You can see it in the earlier ones above too.

Wind shifted just a hair and now I was more in the fog. Still blows my mind it can get cold enough that ice water creates lots of steam. It gives a kind of warm feel looking at it. But the fact is with that sort of water creating it, well, it was uber freaking cold.

Fearing I would miss sundogs as the sun rose, I left my cool scene and drove back out of the park. I found an opening and waited the couple minutes for the sun to rise.

No sundogs again! Aaargh I thought. Then as it came up more I was like, damn, this looks freaking sweet.

I have a love hate relationship with quickly changing cool scenes. You want to be everywhere and shooting everything at once, all while your conditions change on you. I wanted to shoot the sun, this steam, and that scene back at the river. The best one can do is use their time wisely. I used up all but the last couple minutes before the sun was to rise, then came here. I was prepared to race back in if there were no sundogs, but I kept having to stop to shoot the unfolding scene.

I've found this lens/or camera doesn't always care for objects right in front of the sun when zoomed in. It will yellow or red fringe the crap out of the object's edges...like it is doing to the top of that tree. It seems that cheap Kodak I had been using handled the sun better(minus horrible purple fringing). This lens just seems strange sometimes with the edge of the sun and the gradient to it. Perhaps it can all be chalked up to various shooting conditions too(like maybe I had better ones with that cheap Kodak and worse ones so far with this one...probably just the lens).

Now it's handling the edge of the sun better. Probably contrast related while the sun is behind fog or moisture, since it is less so in the above. I bet that is it. Much like what happens to dark objects like trees in front of the sun..their edges color fringe.

This looked very cool while it did this. The fog was right in the trees, and the shadow onto the fog was making the treetops look all strange and bent.

See? The rays made things look a little funky, but cool funky. I screwed up a lot of the ones just before these. I was blowing them out letting the camera meter things(pretty sure I was on 200 ISO too, as I seem to remember seeing a blinking 1/4000th shutter indicator...meaning I needed to stop down or change the ISO down to 100). I tried looking at the lcd but I just could not see it at all. It was changing fast too and my hand was about to fall off. Then I slowed down and got a better look at things next to the van.

No sun pillars and the sun had risen above that fog bank out there, so time to fly back to the river. This caught my eye on the way in.

And so did this! Hurry time! Too bad one can't just freeze the sun lower in the sky for a while.

My scene at Wilson Island where I started wasn't that cool, so I drove into Desoto to the other river stop. High pressure overhead and slipping south now, cold as hell still. I'm sure it was still around -20F during this shot. Earlier my camera just about stopped functioning, something I've never seen it do in the cold. I'd hit play on the lcd to look at the images to delete some and it would sloowwwwly change pictures and be a bit faded while it did. This was at least a tie with the coldest air I've ever experienced. I'm guessing it edged out the -18 in March several years back.

I could just barely make out a sundog about now. I was like sweet! But it never got any stronger...at least not here.

It's a good thing I was trying to be everywhere at once. I almost didn't leave the river, since there was plenty to shoot there. Something said, go back over to Wilson Island and make sure you aren't missing thicker fog there. About 2 blocks into the drive I begin to see this above. My sundogs! Bout time. You can see the halo too. Any white specks you see in the image are ice crystals. They were floating everywhere....creating these sundogs/halo. I shot a few of these here then drove towards the halo/sundogs. I drove back out of the thicker area of crystals and the display vanished...of course. I then drove back to the river.

Nuclear power plant on the left, cargil hidden on the right. Well they weren't creating clouds when I came over, but this view here made me start to think Cargil was. If it wasn't now, it soon would be. So I go from 2003 till 4 days ago only having seen it twice, to seeing it that time 4 days ago and again today, lol. It's still rare as hell that it will do that though.

I saw a couple very tall steamnadoes(steamdevils...) well down stream before this happens. When this happened the sundog and halo were half there and you could hear the eagles doing their call in the trees. I couldn't help but laugh as this here unfolded right in front of me.

I was like, look at that thing! Looked just like one of those you can make with a fan and a box....and some dry ice. It was very tall too, and getting taller.

Then I noticed there was another forming right next to it and they were going around each other.

I so would have ran into them if I could have. I thought about sticking around and filming more of them, but was like, yeah like I'll top that anyway.

It really seemed like one treat after another during the couple 2-3 hours I was there. You begin to forget just how cold it is...well almost.

I'm pretty sure there's a steamnado right above the sun, slanted over a bit. They were getting that high.

Getting hungry I drive back to town to get some donuts, and to check on the cloud production. Only the third time I've seen it do that.

It's interesting it was not doing this at 6 a.m. when I drove over there. It was billowing up like normal and evaporating.

Tired from only 3 hours of sleep and screwing around in -20F air the last 3+ hours, I didn't really want to go back over, but I did anyway. I just about drove by this guy. I stopped, backed up and hoped he'd wait till I could take his picture. I look over to the seat and doh, the wide angle lens is on. I almost didn't bother trying to change lenses, but did...and he was still there. It was funny when I'd make clicking noises to get him to look at me. He just had a funny face I guess. Most of the time he didn't care enough to bother looking down at me.

100% crop. Looks like a bit of frost on his feathers. Ok, I'm officially ready for the warm up now.

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