Very cold upper air was due to come over the South Island this evening (-27°C 500mb),
once again a key ingredient at times for thunderstorms. This combined
with a surface southwesterly wind change brought a risk of storms along
the South Islands east coast.
I went over to Mikey’s place to say we should go out and wait for thunderstorms, they were always going to be very coastal so the Banks Peninsula area is a good bet as it juts out and often catches these storms as they move up the coast in certain situations. It acts as a trigger to and causes orographic lifting helping the storms as I believe it did this night. We also called Jason Tippet out in Kaiapoi so he came out and met up with us, once again don’t normally like to chase with that many but these guys generally are always super keen to go after something so put the option out there. Mikey took his own car however as he said he might go back if things didn’t look like happening, unfortunate for him as he left and things did happen! You have to have patience sometimes.
Steve went out in his car separately and sat nearer the Selwyn River mouth like we did on the 18th November 2011. Jase, Mikey and me decided to go for Birdlings Flat. There was a thunderstorm that had developed just off the coast of Birdlings Flat a little earlier in the evening around 7pm but we weren’t there then unfortunately arriving an hour or so later. Once we arrived nothing looked terribly exciting, but I was content to wait as a southwesterly change I was expecting hadn’t come through yet. The evening colours on the hills produced by the setting sun did look rather nice though.
Around 9.30pm Mikey decided to go home as he wanted to have an early night with work in the morning, Steve sitting out near the Selwyn also decided to go home. Still, Jase and me were willing to wait longer. I turned on the AM radio not long after as a Cb offshore from Timaru at a guess came into view with areas of cloud clearing. Sferics started to fire on the radio so things were looking up, I was pretty confident it was this Cb we were looking at but it wasn’t dark enough yet to see any lightning. Not long after though we started to see a few flashes and little bolts coming out the bottom of the cloud! I set up my DSLR to see if I could capture a few of these flashes, a bit hard with there still being so much ambient light about. I would have to crank up the iso, open the aperture then hand trigger the shutter and hope I had enough speed to get a few of these suckers. Fortunately I did! Only little tiny lightning bolts but hey that’s pretty cool, a nice big positive Cg would’ve been nice but oh well. I got a little bit of video around this time aswell.
As things started to get dark the sferics died down and things weren’t looking very good. We actually started to head back towards Christchurch as even I thought it was over, on the way back before Motukarara Jason noted that some dark cloud edges were building outside to the south. Curious I pulled over and man he was right, we headed back towards Birdlings flat but didn’t go to far. I wanted to keep out of the rain to try and get some lightning photos, I can’t remember where we stopped exactly. I set up all excited as I am when these situations come upon me, lightning started going off and I tried to get some photographs. Unfortunately there weren’t any bolts coming out of the cloud, plenty of IC lightning (sheet lightning) but that was it. It didn’t last all that long either, the cloud quickly headed off over the Peninsula and that was our opportunity gone. I didn’t have time to video at this point as I was more concentrated on photography. Still I got 2 or 3 okish shots, here they are. Briefly the last 2 shots look ok but I’m not entirely happy with them, I won’t bother going over the technical jargon why. I had to play with the files to even get them looking like this so yeah they aren’t anything amazing in my view but it’s something that you guys can see here. The first shot I don’t mind, even if there isn’t any big bolts anywhere. You can also see the Southern Cross in this photo.
There is a car about to come around the corner in the third shot hence the bright light in the bottom right hand corner.
As it looked like it had come and gone we started heading home around 11.50pm. We noted distant flashes still coming from the cloud as it went into the distance but nothing we could make use of, I dropped Jason off at his car and headed back to my place. On the way I could see lightning flashes as it headed offshore, but now it was more visible having cleared Banks Peninsula slightly. I thought I should give it a shot and set up again at an overbridge close to home. Amazingly I got a few more lightning photo’s! Darn annoying moon was in the way though! Grr, or does it add to the image? You decided, I’m not a fan of it being there, distracts from the lightning! Nice with the city lights in the foreground though.
So all in all a bit of fun had on this chase. Moral of this story is be patient, and then when you think it’s time to give up be a little more patient!!