Swallows in June

Something to look forward to… In this case, your memory of the future is being evoked by this image of a pleasant day in 2021 along Lake Michigan in Chicago’s Loyola Park.

Photo by Roman.

(Swept up by tornadic winds in a violent thunderstorm, the vacant boat dock was shattered and deposited in a rain of debris miles inland where storm spotters had to explain what they meant when they reported: “It’s raining buoys!”)

Weather Report

I’ve not done any reviews lately, so let me pretend to do one by merely introducing you to a new product from the National Weather Service: the Winter Weather Liason. It’s experimental and maybe not fully functional, but a web portal to current winter storm conditions is a nice and useful idea, me thinks. Here is a screenshot of the home page on Friday, 12.31.2021:

Screenshot December 31, 2021

Note that in addition to local radar and storm reports, it also has a page of strategic traffic/weather CAMS

I’m looking forward to how this site works today and how it develops over time.

“Shadows in the Sky”

This is incredible. This is stunning. Or at least I think so! This is work that Mike Olbinski posted back in April of 2021, but if you’ve not yet seen it… It’s powerful. Lyrically, the music really has nothing to do with the weather; as best as I understood them, the lyrics were ominous and seriously creepy. But Olbinski’s great weather videography is superbly edited into the melody for a profoundly beautiful and unsettling affect and effect. Within seconds, I was prepared to head for the basement. Full screen and headphones recommended and — heads up: strobing lightning. See for yourself:

The music is the song “The Last Goodbye” by Eric Kinny, featuring Danica Dora.

On the video’s web page, Olbinski explains:

“Sometimes it takes you months to find the correct song for your next project and other times you find it in about three minutes. When I heard The Last Goodbye, the haunting melody and gorgeous vocals, not to mention the cinematic feel leading to a pulse-pounding finale, I knew instantly I wanted to use this for a black and white film.

“Interestingly enough, while I love making these monochrome films, I’ve had this newfound love of color in storms, the variety, the stunning tones of greens, blues, oranges, reds and everything in-between. So as I was making this film entirely in black and white, I kept getting this unsatisfied feeling. I decided to try something new about halfway through, when the song’s pace slowly increases, and I hope it’s something you enjoy!

“I love this song, I love these clips and I love chasing storms. The scenes in this film have appeared before, and I cannot wait to get out and get some new stuff to share down the road. It may be two years of collecting footage again before I create something new, so I had to put something out now to tide me over until then and also to fire me up for storm season! Hope you enjoy!”

Post Script 2022.01.06: I strongly recommend seeing this video in full screen with headphones. This is no longer possible with the embedded version (privacy settings, I suspect) but it can be done at video’s Vimeo web page HERE.

Sun After Rain

Photo by Roman.

This seems appropriate as the past few days have had some pretty lively weather here in Rogers Park, Chicago, even though the photo itself was taken several weeks ago. As I type this, yet another wave of thunderstorms are headed our way. Will they make it here?

Yesterday, the storms arrived in the early evening with some spectacular straight-line winds from storms that were collapsing: “outflow dominant” as storm chasers might call it. The same storms had produced tornadoes out in DeKalb county and it added some suspense to the day to track them on their way here. Indeed, the radar animation was fascinating. It seemed as though storm cells one after another were being born just west of there in a continuous stream, like a bubble machine, all marching in a train aimed dead at us.

Straight-line winds can be every bit as troublesome as any tornado. On this occasion, the rain came down in clouds that broke in waves against the east wing of the building in great swirls that rose up against the west wing. And various unfortunate neighbors came home from their day that evening, very wet indeed. “Drowned rat” or “wet t-shirt” or simply “sodden” were words that came to mind. I hope no cell phones were ruined. Having been in those squishing shoes myself, there comes a point when distress is pointless. Wet is all there is, all there was, all there ever will be… until…

Here comes the sun…

Train Spotting?

Photo: screen capture, January 5, 2021.

The photo is not exactly mine, what with Trains Magazine and earthcam.com and the city of Rochelle, Illinois, all having a hand in maintaining a web cam at a city park designed for rail fans. The screen capture was from that video feed.

Where, you might ask, are the trains?

Why must a train be in the shot for it to be “railroad photography“? Well, there’s probably no good reason except that trains and most especially locomotives are what interest consumers and makers of railroad photography. I confess: The few times I’ve done railroad photography, that is mostly what I’ve done as well. Except that as time goes by, I’ve become more attracted to things incidental to the trains and the locomotives. This is a good example of what I might like to do more of, should I ever again escape my apartment.

In this screen capture, the figure at the diamonds (track crossings) is a maintenance-of-way employee checking the tracks for anything that needs attention right now and not tomorrow. This is the crossing of two mainline routes, travelled each day by several dozen trains on each track that might collectively weigh-in well north of 300,000 tons (a 10,000 ton train would not be unusual) bouncing across the intersection at anywhere up to maybe 60 miles per hour. Care to contemplate what kind of foundry hammer that is? This is a spot in the tracks that needs almost continual maintenance and inspection. And yes, they do occasionally throw up their corporate hands and replace the intersection with new rail and roadbed. (It was amazing how quietly the trains crossed for the first few weeks afterwards.)

The weather was at the tail end of an ice storm. Fog and ice rest like — what? A blessing? A faerie spell? A blanket? Ice can be a serious business, even derailing massive trains, so maybe like an existential weight? Or even a curse, perhaps. One New England railroader is said to have chanted: “Snow, snow, beautiful snow. Damn the stuff! See it come!” Ice is no less.

I think of ice storms as Kentucky winter weather though maybe the label Ohio River Valley would do as well. (After all, I’ve only been in Kentucky once in my life, in the summer, so my label lacks authenticity.) It is simply that when a winter weather disaster hits that part of the country, it seems to be ice rather than snow, more often than not. What with climate change, I keep on expecting ice storms to become more common in northern Illinois and winter 2020-2021 seemed to agree.

On this cold, foggy and icy morning, it is not just the track wear that is being checked but also any build-up of ice, mostly that which was knocked off of trains pounding across the diamonds. IIRC, not long after in the day a crew with a small “Bobcat” tractor, leaf blowers, shovels, picks and other “implements of destruction” (as Arlo Guthrie might sing) spent a few hours clearing the tracks and the flangways.

Just another day in paradise.

“Transient 3”

If you like storm chasing videos, especially if they could be mistaken for a music video, then you’ll like Dustin Farrell’s latest, Transient 3. As with the previous videos in the Transient series, Farrell’s attention is drawn to lightning first.

Yes, the photography and editing are good and the storms spectacular yet I would have taken a pass on sharing this video but for the oddest of reasons: I really dig the credits at the end of the video. Full screen, headphones and stay for the end.

“Chasing Reality”

It’s getting on towards storm chasing season in the Great Plains and here in the Midwest. I’m very much a fan of it, but strictly from home as aside from finances, this short documentary by Chris Kridler done back in 2011 shows what actual chasers actually do and much of it is stuff I’d rather not. Storm chasing is not a bed of roses… bedbugs sometimes…

Except for the stay-at-homes (like me), storm chasing is one of those avocations / vocations where basic photographic or videographic competence is almost a necessity and therefore formal documentaries abound. As well as for its focus on the gritty, this one is worth watching because: You may have also noticed that storm chasing is a very testosterone soaked occupation. I like to think this is changing…