Category Archives: phenomenon

Photo Op 20

nikon d3300 1-5-18 124During my travels last week, I stumbled upon this amazing shot. It was bitter cold and I noticed there were rainbow colors refracting through the clouds, so I pulled my truck over and started snapping pics. This was the best shot I took. It’s important to note that this picture has not been modified in any way. No Photoshop or any other editing program. My camera also had no filter on it. This is exactly the way the sky looked that day. Maybe it had something to do with the cold temperatures, but in any case, I was thrilled and in awe to be able to capture the image before it disappeared.


Image copyright 2018 Michael Kelso.

The Storm

Author’s note: I wrote this short story a few years ago and it has been collecting virtual dust on my computer ever since. With this current storm brewing on the east coast, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share it. Enjoy.

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Kevin whistled as he walked to work. He loved his job, he was good at it, and there was always a sense of anticipation.
Perhaps today will be the day, he grinned.
He sighed with contentment, as he walked over to a small desk in the middle of the circular room, and touched a button. Instantly, the walls were covered with the most detailed weather map ever seen. He could zoom in as close as he wanted on any location…
Google would be envious, he smiled.
Kevin picked up his clipboard and went straight to work. He checked down the list of priorities, then leafed through the pages. Next, he zoomed in on the central United States, pulled a pen out of his pocket, drew a few clouds, darkened them in, then stepped back to admire his work. Within a few minutes, Peoria Illinois got an extra half inch of rain, just like the clipboard had requested.
He moved to the next item, erased three clouds over Egypt. Again, within minutes, what would have been a refreshing shower, never happened. He continued down the list…
Hail in Russia.
Rain in China.
Sunny in Venezuela.
Hours later, when his list was complete, he sat back to take a break. He watched the swirls and eddies of the world, admiring the simple beauty of it. He knew exactly where every El Nino and La Nina started. He knew the cause and eventual effects of each hurricane, including their names, before they were a gust of breeze. Very little surprised Kevin when it came to the weather, but every once in a while…
It wasn’t even a breeze, yet somehow Kevin sensed it. Somewhere over the Pacific, a bird dipped to avoid a predator, leaving an eddy of wind current in its wake. He could see it in his mind’s eye…
This eddy of wind is just about to die when it meets with a small updraft, which sustains it. The two move along until another breeze adds to their strength. A low flying airplane adds speed to it. It forms a cloud or two and continues to build, now a strong rainstorm. Another storm comes up from the south and joins with this one. Together they build into the most massively destructive force the world has ever seen.
It marches around the world, causing destruction and death on a biblical scale. Buildings are destroyed, entire forests wiped out, islands and beaches disappear. Tidal waves measure hundreds of feet tall cover miles of dry land. The death toll rises like the counter on a video game, as governments try to battle this force of nature. The storm changes seismic stresses, causing dormant volcanoes to erupt. Earthquakes shake the foundation of the world. The Richter scale is rendered moot, as each quake sets a new record. Continents shear away from each other.
Astronauts in the space station record the event, watching in horror as the world tears itself apart, knowing that they will die in the remorseless cold of space. Beneath them, the storm rages on.
Cloud cover, debris, and volcanic ash combine to block out the sun. As the temperature of the planet drops, the polar ice caps grow. Humanity has been reduced to a mere million quivering souls, trying to stay warm enough to survive.
It is a much different planet now, more akin to colonizing another world than surviving on the tattered remains of their former home. A two hundred mile wide temperate zone around the equator is all that keeps the earth from being totally encased in ice. Within ten years, humanity will be extinct. Because of the violence of the storm, and its aftermath, the Earth is thrown off its axis. Within a few hundred years, it will crash into Mars, destroying both planets.
Kevin blinked hard, bringing himself back to reality. He picked up his clipboard, and double checked it.
“Not on today’s schedule,” he sighed.
He erased the small eddy of wind, and the massive storm disappeared. He set down the clipboard, returned the screen to normal, and headed for the door.
“Maybe tomorrow,” he said.
He started home, whistling as he went.


The end?



I hope you enjoyed my story. If you liked it, please read some of my other stories. You may enjoy them as well.


My not so perfect day

I must admit that there are times when I’m just downright stupid.

I was waiting for 8-21-17 ever since I first heard about the solar eclipse over a year ago. Now in all that time, you would think that a smart person would’ve looked into how to properly take a picture of the upcoming solar eclipse. I will take this time to refer back to my opening sentence.

I had a full year to prepare. Did I do it? No. I planned on going to South Carolina for the event. At least I didn’t do that.

So let’s investigate why my declaration of dumbness is so apt. Back in 2014 I witnessed a partial solar eclipse at nearly the same place as this year. On that occasion, I was able to get plenty of good pictures and even a video that I’ve posted on youtube. So, in my mind, I should do things the same way as I did then and everything would be hunky-dory, right?

This was my stubborn pride killing off brain cells like the black plague.

The problem was, I didn’t compare the circumstances between events. In 2014, the eclipse didn’t start until nearly sundown. All of that atmosphere blocked much of the sunlight, allowing me to take pictures with reckless impunity. Whereas this year, the sun was high in the sky, with nothing to block the brightness except a stray cloud or two.

My cameras and I weren’t happy.

As I sat watching this awesome sight through my cardboard glasses, an impotent rage was welling within me at my helplessness. I tried with every camera I had brought, but none of the pictures were holding a candle to the sight of the sun through my glasses.

In sheer desperation, I cut the lens out of my extra set of glasses and taped it to the lens of my video camera. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to consider the trip, not a total failure.

So what did I learn from my brush with defeat?

Knowledge is out there for a reason. Use it.

Hopefully, I’ll do better in seven years when the sun’s shadow passes by again.

Photo Op 14


Yes, I know. Another lightning photo. I have many of them and believe it or not, I haven’t posted my best yet.

This one is not my best by any means. Actually when I look at this pic, I cringe. I’d been trying for a while to get a pic of a lightning bolt striking a wind turbine and this was the bittersweet result.

On this day in 2010, there was a very strong thunderstorm at this particular wind farm. (That’s actually what they’re called) I was set up in my car, overlooking the wind turbines, getting soaking wet anyway, and trying to get the focus right through the torrential downpour, when all of the sudden, bam!

I wasn’t sure at first if I had caught it or not, so I pulled up the last picture and there it was. I screamed and did a fist pump, punching the ceiling of the car in the process. I zoomed up on the image one click at a time. With every click, my heart fell a little further.

It was out of focus.

The picture of a lifetime and it was out of focus.

I was disappointed to say the least. I kept shooting for another half hour, but there were only a few cloud to cloud bolts. My heart was no longer in it anyway, so I packed up and went home.

I’ve come to accept this picture as an example of what could’ve been, but I don’t show it to people very often.


Tuesday Photo Challenge – Three

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2012 is when this picture comes from. And tempting as it is, I’ll refrain from using the famous line about dark and stormy nights.

This is yet another of my lucky lightning shots. But then, I consider all of my lightning shots to be lucky. There’s just no way you can plan out a lightning shot except for point the camera where you think it might strike and hope for the best. As usual, I took around 500-1000 pictures just to get two or three good ones. Not exactly a high percentage.

I did give some lightning tips in a previous post, so I’ll refer to that here instead of rehashing it.

Enjoy the pic.

Photo op 4: Lightning lesson


Lightning is one of my favorite photo subjects. For this particular photo, we go back seven years. I was driving home late in the evening and lightning was flashing around like fireworks. It started out as cloud-to-cloud lightning, which just flashed. Once I started seeing the forks, then I stopped. I happened to have my tripod with me and pulled off the road to get a series of quite decent pictures.

This presents a good photograph motto, coined from the Boy Scouts, ‘Be prepared’. I used to have a tripod stowed away in the car for just such an occasion. On this night, it paid off.

I’ve been asked before how I take such pictures, so I’ll give a quick description here.

  • To take a good lightning pic you need to have a tripod. As a last resort you could use a stable structure, fencepost, wall, something that won’t move, and set the camera on top of that. Whatever you use, the camera should be absolutely still.
  • Darkness is your friend in these cases as the darker it is the longer you can set your shutter speed. The longer your shutter speed the more chance you have of capturing a lightning bolt.
  • Make sure you set your camera to manual focus and focus on infinity. Some cameras have a focus ring that can go beyond infinity, you’ll have to try to get the sharpest focus you can through trial and error.
  • Set your ISO low, 100-400 should be good. You don’t want it too bright or the bolt will wash out.
  • Set your shutter speed anywhere from 10 seconds to 30 seconds. If the storm is throwing out a lot of bolts very quickly you may want to stay on the 10 side so that you get more individual shots with lightning in them.
  • If it starts to rain, try to take as much cover as you can while still maintaining your shot. An open garage is perfect. It gives you some protection from the rain but still allows for some movement to aim your shot.
  • Aiming your shot is pure guesswork. Sorry, I wish I had a more scientific method, but I just aim where the last bolt hit and start shooting.
  • Carry a plastic bag in your camera bag at all times. A gallon sized freezer bag is perfect. They’re thicker, providing more protection. If the rain is getting your camera wet, dry it off with a small towel (another important item to have in your camera case) and put the bag over it, then rip a small hole in the bag, just big enough for the end of the lens to fit through. Put the bag over the camera, poke the lens out through the bag and there you go, instant waterproofing. There are pre-made camera covers, but I’ve found this method to be perfectly acceptable up to a point.
  • And we come to the last bit of advice. Get the hell out of there. If the last bolt hit so close that you don’t have to count between lightning and thunder, it’s time to leave. These are only pictures and not worth risking your life for. If you’re being pelted with rain so hard that you have to dry the lens off every few seconds, it’s time to go. Safety first. There will always be another storm. Strangely enough, I’ve found that my best pictures are taken right before the rain arrives and after it passes.

That’s my basic guide. I’m sure I’ve missed something. I’m also sure that other photographers could give more in-depth descriptions. This is just a beginners guide. Just don’t forget to experiment with all of these settings. Make it your own. Use what works for you.

And most of all, have fun.


Any comments are welcome. Do you have some advice to pass along that I missed, feel free to post it in the comments section, have a great story about one of your photo experiences, I’d love to hear it.


If you liked my picture, please feel free to visit my Photo website.

Photo op 2: Solar Eclipse

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Image copyright 2014 Mike Kelso

I took this picture during the 2014 partial solar eclipse. It passed through Pennsylvania right around sunset. I was hoping to get a shot of the sun with a slightly bigger chunk taken out of it, but the clouds moved in, obscuring my last few moments before sunset. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with this picture and a few of the others I took that day. This is the best of the bunch, I was just hoping for a little more. 

Fast forward to 2017. Everyone who has ever looked through a telescope or worn a pocket protector is having a major conniption fit over the solar eclipse that will pass over North America in one month.  

Truth be told, I’m pretty excited myself. I live in Pennsylvania and I had considered driving to South Carolina just to get pictures. It would’ve been an all day and night affair. I would’ve had to start driving at 1 AM, get there, take my pictures, then drive straight back, arriving home around 2 AM, then getting up for work at my usual 4:30 AM.  

Needless to say, I scrapped that idea.  

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to take pictures from where I live. We will still have a partial eclipse, but more importantly, the pictures I take will include the area that I call home. I’ll still be able to look online and see all the professional pictures of the total eclipse, but I won’t be able to see any that were shot from my town unless I take them.  

I’m looking forward to it and will start scouting locations in the following weeks. 

In the meantime, enjoy this pic from a few years back and cross your fingers that August 21st will be sunny all day, or at least until after the moon passes.

Just don’t forget, if you plan on taking pictures of the eclipse or even watching it, make sure you get some glasses for protection. I’m ordering mine today.

Have a great day.