I use to think I had a favourite place to shoot, a favourite region of Western Australia that was just far above anywhere else. This thought process has completely changed. I have come to the conclusion that it is actually the whole state I am in love with. Each region has its special unique landscape that stands out from the others.
This shot is from the Wheatbelt, recent rains have filled salt lakes up, and brought colour back, if only for a short while.
The whole state is just incredibly spectacular.
The most promising setup for thunderstorm development since last summer was forecast for most of the southern half of Western Australia on the 6th of September, and that prompted a certain trip for myself to again get out and try to capture this magical weather phenomenon on my camera.
Just over a week before the storms arrived I noticed on my daily check of forecasted weather that I should start preparing for a road trip up towards the lower Gascoyne region to capture my favourite part, the development.
My day started at around 1030 with a drive to Coorow via Bindoon and the Bindoon Bakery. No storm chase can start without a stop here. So after enjoying a curry lamb pie, I was off up the Great Northern Highway towards Midlands Rd and on to Coorow via Moora.
I arrived in Coorow just after 1330, and had another look at the radar, and satellite imagery to see if anything looked like it was going to develop in the area. I wasn’t in luck, with storms started to fire a long way east on a low pressure trough line cutting through the state. I didn’t worry to much about it, as the afternoon was young, and it gave me a bit of time to scout the area a bit. I am currently working on a time-lapse project and the fields around here work perfectly for one of the scenes I wanted to capture, so off I went to find one suitable for my project.
I found an incredible site and set my camera up and started my time-lapse of the clouds building and collapsing. I had some more time up my sleeve now as my time-lapse was set for 1hr, so I had a bit of a walk around playing on my iPhone.
Coming close to the end of my time-lapse I noticed some development a long way to my north and north-east, so I opened my laptop and again checked the lightning tracker, and it confirmed a major thunderstorm developing very quickly between 150-200km away. I was in two minds, either packed up my camera, stop the time-lapse and move now, or wait for the time-lapse to finish. I decided to wait, as I only had 10minutes or so remaining, but it was the longest 10minutes ever. I was pacing up and down the road, watching these thunderstorm cells popping up and going crazy. They were too far away to see any lightning, but they were large cauliflower clouds with an every increasing anvil spreading across the sky.
My time-lapse finished, I packed my gear up and raced east towards Latham.
I kept my eyes on the development, and I had to pull over near Latham to capture one of the storms.
As I got to Latham, I had to turn south and now head towards Wubin for fuel, and to meet with fellow storm chaser and friend Steve Brooks (owner of Perth Weather Live, http://www.perthweatherlive.com).
I arrived in Wubin, and met with Steve. He had been watching the cells to the north as well, so with a quick check of the radar to see the direction these cells were going, we saw that they were going to cross well south of Paynes Find to the north, and so the decision was made to get north, and find a spot to set up and capture these systems as they passed us by.
While we were driving the sun started to set and the thunderclouds become illuminated with incredible colours. It was incredible to witness. We were so focused to get to our spot that we missed the opportunity to capture the sunset at its best, but, we still still got a bit of colour and you can see that how it would’ve been incredible 5-10mins before hand.
When we arrived at our location, we set up and started to capture the storms in the distance. One was to our North-East, one was t our North-West. Both were firing on all cylinders. Flashing, and sparking everywhere. Every second multiple strikes illuminated the clouds. So what did I do. I set up my time-lapse to capture it. I havent finished processing that yet, but when I do, I will post a link to the page it will be hosted on.
Then the night really began.
A shot of a meteor flying over first cells of the night to the north.
As the first cells passed over and headed east, the skies to the west now started to light up. Cells were quickly developing to our west, and were going nuts!!
A shot of the Milky Way with the storms firing underneath.
Large amounts of rain mixed with hail were falling from incredible formations in the clouds.
Something about the structure I just love underneath thunderstorms.
Lightning was all around
One of the final cells that passed over before I had to make the long drive home.
I had to leave, as I had to get back to Perth. The drive home was very eventful. Large hail, strong winds, lightning all around.
An extremely eventful night, but I am so glad I was able to witness it, and not on my own either. Cheers Steve, it was so great to have someone else there, yelling out as much as I was!! 🙂
I just hope this is an indication of a very active spring/summer storm season in the Midwest and Wheatbelt.
More photos to come.
Till next time.
Driving out in the vastness of the Wheatbelt, breathing in the clean country air, and viewing the ever stunning landscape of endless fields brings a feeling of wellness over me.
I wanted to capture a simple image, that to me, shows how lucky I am (we are), to be living in such a magical country.
Well after about a fortnight break we had another hint of potential storms that could potentially develop through the Wheatbelt region of WA. There was a touch of disagreement about whether the storms would develop and if they did they wouldn’t last for long. Though there was enough positive thinking (we were going to head out anyway) amongst a few of us to take the chance and head out.
I got chatting to a few other members of the WA weather group and we decided that we would meet in Brookton and assess from there what our plan of attack for the day would be.
It’s kind of cool really to have this group of people who have a common interest that you have, and to be able to live out this interest in the form of chasing storms with them is just awesome. It is always slightly nerve racking meeting new people because you just don’t know how they are going to be like, and meeting with Tom and Luke for the first time, I knew straight away we were going to have a great afternoon running around the SW part of the Wheatbelt.
The chase started as I said in Brookton about 1330 and we headed out to the west of Town to the local lookout and try and get a vantage point looking over the fields that stretch out forever. The lookout itself wasn’t the best in the world but gave us a small window to look through and see what was happening around the place. We sat there for about 30mins and then decided that a better point could be about 15km east of Brookton, so off we went.
Again after arriving at our next location (a farm 15km East of Brookton) at 1430, it became fairly obvious that if anything was going to happen it would be to the south of Brookton.
Looking at the radar this was confirmed with a nice developing cell SW of Brookton. So again off we went back into Brookton and headed south onto the Great Southern Highway towards Pingelly.
We stopped 5mins South of Brookton to grab a couple of photos and video of the system developing and then continued to Pingelly.
We travelled in convoy (2 cars) towards Pingelly and stopped about 2km north of the townsite. We had a great view of the now well developed cell towards the west. On the radar, we calculated it to be about 25km to the WNW of Pingelly.
It cell was throwing out a fair amount of lightning and it had a pretty decent hail sheet coming out of it as well. As far as we could tell from the radar, the cell was travelling through the Jarrah/Wandoo forests and luckily wasn’t posing a threat to anyone at that time.
I got in contact with another chaser who was chasing a little further north and explained to her what was happening down our end and she made her way with her parter towards our position.
We now had a strong convoy of 3 cars heading south parallel with this storm. We all decided that we needed to get in front of this storm and somewhat “intercept” it, if we were going to get any good footage. So we headed south through Pingelly along the highway trying to find a suitable road on the western side to travel down.
That road came about 15km south of Pingelly and you can see footage from that road in the first part of my video post.
When the cell was getting a little too close for comfort we all headed further south to Narrogin to the towns lookout to get a good vantage point. It was a great lookout. It faced west overlooking the large wheatbelt town and did we witness some close lightning! It was unreal. Some big thick bolts came down in town and around us. It was quite intense for a few minutes.
After Narrogin again we decided we needed to travel further south towards Wagin, but we only got to just outside of Highbury (15km South of Narrogin). My second part of my video.
The cell that we were chasing was now just starting to show small signs of weakening. From the radar it looked as if the storm was breaking into two separate cells. One moving towards the WSW (unusual for this part of WA) and the other E of our position at Highbury.
We all were pretty happy with the chase, and personally it was great to meet another 2 members of the WA weather group, and magic to again meet up with another 2 chasers who I have met before.
Enjoy the video.
Until the next storm……
The radar from the day can be found here if you copy and paste the link into your address bar. (I’m not tech savvy enough to get it on here, if you know how I could then please let me know)
Everyone were on edge today as thunderstorms were expected to develop through the Lower Midwest, the Wheatbelt and northern parts of the Lower West districts of Western Australia.
After hearing the possibility that thunderstorms could develop today, and from having discussions last week, and following the advice of others, I decided that the best place to head would be Coorow. A small farming town about 2 1/2hours drive north. There are a couple of ways you can drive to Coorow, but I made sure that my trip there included a stop at the Bindoon Bakery for one of their award winning pies. It didn’t disappoint.
Now that my stomach was satisfied, I was now on my way to Coorow, with only one more stop in Moora to see what the charts were doing, and then to decide really where my chase was going to take me for the day.
I arrived in Coorow believing that I was going to arriving with storms already developing. They were not. It was a nice 29C, a tad humid, and only a few clouds about. My initial feeling was it just didn’t feel like a place where storms were going to develop.
After deciding that Coorow wasn’t really doing anything for me, I decided that a quick trip back to Moora (90kms away) was the only way to go.
On the way back the clouds started to grow and by the time I got to Moora it was fairly evident that storms were definitely on their way.
I sat down again and decided where the best place to go and watch the storms develop, I decided to head west towards Dandaragan.
I got only 10km out of Moora, when I decided to pull over and get my first shots of the day, a quickly developing cell that looked to be around the Watheroo area.
These storms were just developing everywhere, and I was getting ready for a couple of hours of driving and chasing to get in the right position for photos.
When the most northern storm was getting a little close for comfort I jumped in the car and raced about 5km up the road. Just enough time to snap another photo of the cell now really developed and heavy rain starting to fall.
After a very loud rumble of thunder roared overhead, I thought it would be a good time to jump back into the car and head toward Dandaragan.
Again I pulled over just outside the town to take another photo (panorama) of the approaching storm.
After this photo, very heavy rain and small hail hit the area. It was pretty surreal to be parked on the side of the road in the middle of the cell.
I knew I had to get back in front of this cell so I headed through the rain and while driving as carefully as possible eventually got through it. I got to Dandaragan with the wind blowing strong and the cell just minutes behind. I don’t know if Dandaragan got hit at all, because the storm looked like it was just going to pass to the east of the town.
I headed south of Dandaragan towards Regans Ford. I stopped at the CBH depot and had a clear view of the storms to the south. I set my camera up just outside my car and tried a new technique of connecting a 10stop filter to my camera. I have learned that this doesn’t work after knowing that I certainly had CGs in frame and then after reviewing the shot, not one strike on film 🙁
I packed my gear and headed towards Orange Springs Rd off Brand Hwy and bolted to the western end to Cowella Rd, and managed to snap this photo
I then headed south towards Dirigan Rd off Cowella Rd and managed to capture this strike on video. (snapshot)
This is another shot facing west off Cowella Rd
I was now tracking parallel with the storm heading south along Cowella Rd, and observed plenty of CGs and CC strikes.
I got to Gingin Brook Rd and headed towards Military Rd and headed south along there till I got to Wanneroo Rd. By now it was quieting down quite a bit and so I headed into the Pines off Smokebush Rd to get some mammatus cloud shots.
This is taken as the sun was going down and pointed straight up in the sky.
That was the final shot for the day, I drove a total of 604km. Not a bad effort.
Till the next storm…..
The day started in Kellerberrin in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia. I was initially heading to Kellerberrin to watch my fathers horse race. Though during my daily look at the weather I was informed of potential thunderstorms to develop in and around the south-west and central wheatbelt regions of WA, and that our location would be almost in the middle of it.
At around 1300 the build up had started and you could see the cloud starting to stand up,
in fact we started to get a light shower of rain from a very ominous looking cloud that towered above the racecourse (amazing that only 15mins before it wasn’t there, don’t you just love that).
1315 we left the racecourse and proceeded to the service station to grab a few refreshments and discuss the plan of attack for the afternoon.
We noticed a developing cell to our west and we proceeded to head there to try and get a couple of photos off. We got there, I set up my camera in a paddock and got off a couple of shots, although it quickly became apparent that it was loosing structure and wasn’t going to produce anything substantial. While the disappointment was setting in on a possible missed opportunity, we both noticed a cell developing to the NE. We checked the radar and it confirmed our suspicions. The radar was showing a growing cell and the visual we had showed good structure, and then LIGHTNING.
It was great to finally see a CG and it quickly raised our spirits.
The radar indicated the storm was tracking to the SE and we estimated it would cross the Great Eastern Highway about 20-40km east of Kellerberrin.
We jumped in the car and made haste through Kellerberrin again and headed out towards the east. We found a great spot about 25km east of Kellerberrin and pulled over and set up ( I don’t think I would’ve got a shot like this if we had gone further ).
It was quite calm when we arrived but 5 mins later we had wind associated with the downbursts from the storm in excess of 40km/h.
After the rain set in from this cell, we checked the radar again and observed cells now becoming very active to the west of Kellerberrin. We raced about 40km through Kellerberrin and towards the closest most active cells. We had to divert north off the main highway about 5km up a gravel road and found ourselves smack bang in-between two cells, one east that was producing very heavy rain and one to our west that was developing very quickly. We did notice substantial rotation at the cloud base and very strong structure development, which had me thinking we were watching a severe storm (possibly a supercell) developing.
This is the shot I got of that particular cell,
This storm continued to develop and I was taking a pretty silly risk by staying out while it was approaching us. I wanted to capture the rotation on a time-lapse and also a lightning strike hitting the field, so I stayed out for as long as possible. I didn’t get the lightning strike, but I did get the time lapse. You can view it on youtube, and I will post the link at the end of this post.
Jumping back in the car we headed towards more developing cells further west and this time we jumped on a track on the south side of the highway, as it provided an un-interrupted view of the approaching system.
This particular cell produced large hail and it passed right over us. I was a little worried that my old mans Landcrusier was going to become a casualty of hail damage, but we were lucky and it didn’t receive any.
We left this storm and headed even further west towards Meckering.
My video may as well continue this blog entry from here because I have footage of us just outside of the town that shows the system stalled over Meckering, producing very heavy rain (6-10mm in 10mins) and frequent lightning.
The Meckering system was the last storm we covered for the day and so we started out 2 1/2 hr drive home.
We were lucky for the day, the storms seemed to develop one after the other as we headed west. It was as if they knew we were coming and would intensify as we approached. Not that we minded at all, because this day was a great introduction to chasing storms. I look forward to chasing more in the coming months and sharing the experience with everyone.
I produced a small 5min video showing some of the storms we tracked for the day. I uploaded it to YouTube and it can be found at