Checking in; stock footage clips; icyroadsafety.com traffic
My blogging has been uncharacteristically infrequent during the past couple of months. This is mostly because I have been busy with an uptick in web design work, tasks which have left me with little time to relax and think about things to blog about, let alone get out and do leisure photography just to have items to post. I've also been very unmotivated or inspired to write about anything recently. Whether that's a by-product of focusing on work, the time of year, or just a long-term writer's block, I'm not sure. I've also been striking out on storm chases during the past few months (both tornadoes and winter), so there really hasn't been much for me to talk about. Those slumps happen sometimes, hopefully this one won't last too much longer.
Live weather video chat session
I was graciously invited to join a live weather video chat session (via Google Hangout) with several broadcast meteorologists from around the country. The topic was the Thanksgiving week winter storm. A big thanks to Spencer Adkins for the invite. You can view an archived copy of the session here: Youtube link
Some of my recent work load has involved this web site. I recently transitioned from using a broker for video and went back to doing all of my sales in-house on my own. This has involved some work getting some of the more popular clips in their entirety up on Youtube, and redirecting the sample clip links on my stock footage catalog section. For those of you who aren't aware, Youtube monetization is becoming a non-negligible source of revenue, in some cases rivaling what you can make via other sources. If you haven't already, I would seriously consider that option.
That being said, unfortunately, Youtube has been generally very difficult to work with. That may be a subject of a future blog post in itself. Many of my new videos are being flagged for review where I must submit proof I own the videos. This several-days-long process happens again and again, even after sending in proof of my legitimacy multiple times. Some videos have even been rejected - in one case, for the simple fact that in the description, I mentioned the cut above my eye I got while shooting video of a tornado (apparently, by their standards, this was too 'graphic' for advertisers!). I was also turned down for an automated copyright monitoring feature, meaning I still have to spend hours every day policing for others stealing my videos (an almost daily occurence).
Right now, all of my icy road and tornado videos have been uploaded and are now available for viewing. These are all 'extended cuts' of footage, many scenes of which I've never posted before. These days, rendering and uploading HD video isn't the dauntingly time-consuming task it used to be, so I can be a little more generous with the file sizes. I'm working on a very large HD lightning compilation that will be finished sometime after the first of the year.
The other big, and more important, item to report is that icyroadsafety.com finally seems to be catching on. During this recent winter storm, the site broke its all-time daily view count two days in a row (Thursday and Friday), and its average daily traffic has been greater than this site (stormhighway.com) since October. This is very encouraging. The social media side of things hasn't seen this growth, however. While I hope to some day be able to do something part or full time with it, the icyroadsafety.com site is still a completely non-profit volunteer endeavor.
I do have a couple of weather-related imagery and video to post. I traveled through Virginia during a round of freezing rain in the mountains on I-77 before Thanksgiving. This video shows me removing the thick shell of ice from the front of the car after arriving in the North Carolina Piedmont.
More recently, here is an image of my car's hood and a road near Okawville, IL during the sleet and freezing rain yesterday:
November 17 Illinois tornado outbreak chase
If you know of anyone in need of help in the Nashville/New Minden areas, please send me an email. Since I live close by, I will do what I can and/or use my blog/Facebook reach to get the word out about specific needs.
My original target for this day was right here at home (New Baden, IL, just east of STL), as I expected a scenario similar to 4/2/06 where a couple of tail-end supercells would provide opportunities less than an hour from here. I liked the more easterly storm motions down here, coupled with the better instability. I envisioned a chase down the I-70 or I-64 corridors, dropping south near the Indiana border for new storms.
I didn't stick to my target, and ended up busting. I instead took off after the inital activity initiating just west of STL, heading north to Springfield to position ahead of these cells. I then jumped on the storm approaching Lincoln, Illinois, which displayed promise initially, but remained cold and undercut in appearance as it raced by. I then plotted a course east and south via Champaign to catch the next storm as it crossed I-57. Even after planning a generous intercept route for extreme storm speeds, I still underestimated the storm's I-57 crossing time. Before arriving at Champaign, it was apparent I would not make it in time to the storm's crossing point near Tuscola. However, a new supercell evolved out of the current storm's forward flank, and began ramping up just southwest of Champaign. I positioned just north of Champaign near Thomasboro to observe this storm as it passed. A long arcing RFD gust front wrapped back to a rain-wrapped meso, but otherwise the storm did not exhibit imminent signs of producing.
After this storm moved northeast of my position, I let it go and plotted a course to intercept the Tuscola storm farther east in Indiana. However, just after the Champaign storm moved northeast of my position, a strong couplet appeared about 6 miles to my north-northeast. I stopped and turned around, straining to look into the murky precip but seeing nothing. This image is from my rear dashcam just as I decided to stop and turn around:
The tornado is obviously in there, but I think it's a stretch to call this a catch. This is the EF4 that is probably very close to, or impacting, the town of Gifford at this time. I would not find out about the town for another hour. Stopping to attempt to view this storm for the additional 20 minutes cost me any chance of intercepting storms further downstream, ending my chase.
On the way home, I encountered a fresh tornado damage track on I-57 at Tuscola from the storm I was originally trying to get to. This was the one captured on dashcam video by Scott Sims as it impacted him under the overpass on I-57. The tornado was heavily rain-wrapped, and would not have been visible if I had made it to Tuscola in time. I encountered two overturned semis another 2 miles down the road, apparently from straight-line winds.
Had I stuck to my original target at home, I may have caught the EF4 that occurred just 35 miles to the east. However, there were no guarantees. I would have had to chosen Highway 177 to see it, otherwise I would have encountered the storm at a time it was cycling. Timing was everything this day, mostly the luck of the draw to get on a storm at the exact moment it was producing.
The previous night, I managed to capture some lightning at Bartelso, IL from warm advection thunderstorms:
All that said - as a chaser, it is not possible to take pleasure from an event like this that produces so much human impact, even if you end up seeing a tornado. If you know of anyone in need of help in the Nashville/New Minden areas, please send me an email. Since I live close by, I will do what I can and/or use my blog/Facebook reach to get the word out about specific needs.
|I was in Tuscola sunday and being from ohio ive never seen a tornado.we waited all afternoon on rt 45 on the westside of Tuscola just waiting to see a cool storm well we got what we asked for..we hid behind a concrete pad next the the road..i thought it would be scary but I want more lol..I now know why storm chasers get so into it.|
- Posted by dennis from cleveland
Pencil sketches from 1992-1995
This week, I digitized some work from a pencil sketching phase I went through from 1992-1995 (late high school to early college). These were all drawn mostly from memory, with occasional references to photos to get details right. These were done with a mechanical pencil, and small sections of the lead for shading.
It's interesting the things you can do with all the time you have when you're young. I haven't done anything like this since. Like some of my other interests at a younger age, I don't think I'll ever have the time or motivation to get back into it.
New River Gorge Bridge:
St. Albans, WV train and tunnel:
Summersville (WV) Dam with the old outlet tubes (before the new hydro plant was installed):
The Gazette House cabin in Canaan Valley, WV. Known to us as 'Cabin's House', this was an annual October family destination until the late 1980s:
Montgomery, WV street scene (unfinished):
Railroad tracks at South Wade and East Maiden in Washington, PA, about a mile from my parent's house:
Railroad bridge near Maiden and Jefferson in Washington, PA:
Old Baltimore and Ohio railroad signal tower/cabin in Washington, PA. I believe this has been torn down:
Tunnel #5 on the old Baltimore and Ohio railroad near Claysville, PA:
Baltimore and Ohio railroad bridge west of Washington, PA:
My paternal grandparent's house in Charleston, WV in 1992, the one that I would eventually buy and live in years later. I lived here from May of 1998 to January 2010:
Car inverter "battery drain prevention" circuit
I, like many chasers, have what I call a "dedicated storm chasing equipment circuit" in my car. This consists of heavy-gauge wire connected directly to the battery and running to a busbar in the trunk of the car. The circuit is protected with a fuse at the positive battery terminal (very important if you direct-wire to the battery!). The busbar in the trunk consists of positive and negative terminal strips, to which all of my gear is connected and powered (inverter, WxWorx, mobile internet router, dashcams, battery chargers, etc). This circuit is necessary because cigarette lighter plugs and wires are too flimsy for frequent use, and are way too small to safely handle the current loads that all of my gear would place on it.
My equipment circuit is controlled by a single on/off switch I installed under the steering wheel. It needs to operate seperate from the ignition, since I need the power to stay on to keep data flowing when I make brief stops for fuel or food. I also need it to stay on to keep the dashcams running for other brief stops, since I run those full-time whether I'm chasing or not.
The problem with this circuit is that I sometimes forget to turn it off when parking for the night, which eventually drains my battery. The inverter is primarily responsible for this drain, as it draws the most power of anything else on the circuit. From 2004 to May of this year, I used a 750 watt inverter - which would drain my battery if it was left on for about 10 hours. After this inverter died during my chase trip in May, I replaced it with a larger 1200 watt inverter. This new inverter drains the battery in less than 4 hours if I accidentally leave it on.
With the old inverter, I drained my battery about 2 to 4 times a year due to accidentally leaving the power on - an acceptable impact I just dealt with. However, with the new inverter, I've drained the battery like this about a dozen times since May alone, leading to many inconvenient and embarrasing requests for a jump-start. This obviously was a problem that now required a fix.
I brainstormed a few possible solutions:
I quickly settled on the last option - not only the simplest and cheapest of all of them, but a pretty foolproof one. This solution is simply a buzzer powered by the equipment circuit, which is switched by a relay connected to the ignition-controlled cigarette lighter circuit. When the ignition is turned off, the cigarette lighter circuit shuts off, closing the relay contacts and sounding the buzzer if I've left the equipment circuit on. The parts for this project cost me only $33 from an auto parts store:
- A dual-battery setup with an isolator (similar to those used with boats and RVs). The second battery powers the equipment, leaving the main battery safe from draining. This is an effective but expensive option (over $200) that would require a second set of heavy-gauge cables running through the cabin of the car (the second battery in my car would need to go in the trunk, as there is no room under the hood).
- A 'battery buddy' type disconnect device, which cuts power when the battery voltage drops below roughly 11.7 volts. My concern with this was that the equipment circuit might cause a big enough voltage drop to trip the device immediately when the ignition is turned off.
- A transmitter connected to the equipment circuit that would sound an alarm in my apartment when my car was parked outside with the power on. This would require finding some other device that could be repurposed for this application, none came to mind. This would also not be effective away from home.
- Flashing lights on the back of the car that would catch my eye in my CCTV system. The problem here is that the lights may not always be noticed away from home.
- A timer that would shut the equipment circuit off about 30 to 60 minutes after turning off the ignition.
- A buzzer to alert me that the power was on when the ignition was turned off.
Here is a schematic of the circuit:
- SPDT (single pole double throw) relay. (The relay must have the option to close its switch with either the coil energized or de-energized).
- 12v buzzer or chime. I used a 'backup alarm' for my circuit.
- Wire and terminal plugs.
Composite image showing development of the Rozel tornado
I've been working on this for several months, many times getting frustrated and just shelving it for a while. I got the idea to do this after going through these images the night of this chase, and started working on it in June. It was only possible due to the fact I used the same lens (Canon 50mm 1.8) and stayed in generally the same spot for all of the individual frames. Needless to say, some very heavy digital editing license was invoked to get this to work, IE, this definitely classifies as 'Photoshopped'. I hope that's a given, though, to anyone who sees this. That said, all of the elements of the image are real (all parts taken from the 6 individual RAW frames), the Photoshop work was simply to get all of the various parts to blend seamlessly.
The full chase log for this day, with all of the images from this event, is here.
|Nice work! I was on that storm and I think you captured the evolution very well. I can only imagine how many hours in photoshop that took!
- Posted by John Huntington from Brooklyn