Looking back at the 2012 chase season, there were many places and images that I can think of that take be back to a specific place and time that I'll carry with me the rest of my life. One of those images is the one above, the one I named "Dreamy".
The day started with a low expectation of severe storms in the northern Texas panhandle and into the Oklahoma panhandle. Not wanting to drive 4 to 5 hours away, I chose to stay further south and hope for western Oklahoma near Arnett. I sat and waited in the heat in the early afternoon, watching the popcorn clouds develop but staying apart from each other like they were opposite sides of a magnet pushing each other away. A little later, storms had started developing in the eastern Texas panhandle, so I dropped south a bit and headed west towards the building towers. I arrived about an hour later to watch the developing storm begin to die off due to capping, and took a couple of photos that really didn't amount to much.
About the same time a robust thunderstorm had gone up to the north near the Oklahoma border. Again, not feeling like driving all that way I held off, hoping southern storms would let loose and provide some photo opportunities. I slowly drove north after a few cells that had developed near Canadian, Tx, but as soon as I arrived, they dissipated and I was left watching a couple of gray clouds. Still, to the north the cell that had become so robust had only grown stronger, moving to the east very slowly. I kept watching it, trying to hold off as best I could. I wasn't going to drive that far on this day, even though I had already driven two hours from my front door.
After waiting in Canadian for more development, only to see blue skies overhead I had to make a decision. Go north and chase a storm, or sit in the Texas panhandle and drive back home empty handed. I couldn't resist any longer, I had to go north. The cell had been sitting on the corner of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle all afternoon it seemed. I only had an hour to get there, but it was getting later in the day so I had to move quick. I blasted north, driving on the lonely highways in the flat lands that were full of sagebrush and not a lot else. I drove over dirt roads to the north that linked parallel paved roads in Texas with those in the Oklahoma panhandle, hoping there was no dead end that would end my journey. The storm was in sight, and I was on it! But, guess what? In keeping with the theme of the day, it was too started dying off. I watched the massive thunderstorm evaporate into a single small extrusion of a cloud, as if it were trying everything in its power to stay alive.
Finally, after such a frustrating day I had decided to call it quits and head home. I had ended up four hours from home, with a long drive to the south awaiting me. I worked my way down the far western Oklahoma roads, watching radar and seeing development further south where I had begun my day. It was getting late and they held off as long as they could, leaving only a short window of light until darkness took over. I made it back to Arnett, and sure enough in the distance the cell was visible, only this time it was in full glory. I pulled over and set my tripod up along an old barbed wire fence and got my camera ready. About that time, a beautiful beam of sunlight shined upon the distant storm as if it were Heaven itself. I had captured one of the most beautiful shots I had ever taken, and was sweet redemption for a tough day of storms that didn't want me to chase them.
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