Act 3: The Ice Crystal Rainbow
(On October 23rd, Along RT395, a small black car approaches the Jupiter Shack in Lee Vining California at approximately 11:27AM. unbeknownst to it's occupants, the storm of all storms has been brewing over the Pacific Ocean... tiny Ice crystals frozen miles out over the sea are just now reaching the eastern sierra ridge. Tumbling over Mt Dana and Mt Gibbs, they strike a warm air mass settled in the valley of Lee Vining. What happened next... I will truly never forget.)
Earthshaker: (Peering thru the moon roof) BABE! What the hell is that.
Mizzy: "What the hell is that. Looks like something is hovering over us. It's behind the clouds."
(The small black car travels cautiously for a few more hundred feet, 4 eyes glued to the moon roof and the strange object partially obscured and glowing outside above the car. Only it's outer violet red rim is barely visible behind a massive low altitude Steven Spielberg like cloud base.)
Earthshaker: "It's a rainbow!"
I'd like to say this was a walk in the park, but in 80MPH wind gusts... it wasn't. I actually feared for my life. And I'm not being dramatic for dramatics sake. It's hard to describe what I was feeling and seeing at this exact moment.... I've never seen anything like this before and I may never see it again. It lasted a LONG time. It took a while to process what we were seeing, and I can honestly say it felt like the end of the world. In a place so larger than life, so desolate and so grand, directly above my car, a strange glowing orb appeared to be hovering over an unmovable line of ferocious clouds. When I say unmovable, I mean it's like they just kept reforming in the same place. As frantic as they were at reinventing themselves before our eyes, that cloud line you see never drifted away. And neither did that alien like rainbow orb. At the moment, I kid you not, I thought maybe the atmosphere was giving way and I felt like we might be in serious trouble. Real wrath of god like thoughts crossed my mind. It was terrifying. The wind was nothing short of tornado like, with gusts that would just about lift the car up off the pavement. Upon the realization that this event wasn't going away anytime soon. I pulled my car to the side of the road and reached for my camera. Being that It looked like an electrical storm, I quickly concluded my TALL tripod would be like dangling a candy treat in front of the thunder god himself, so I left it behind. Gladly I might add. I couldn't get this shack from the front and maintain the cloud line and halo, so I settled for a side profile..... I would have to leave the quick safety of my car to reach this composition.... crouched in the brush as low as possible.... i started firing multiple exposures at a high ISO... watching my shutter speed to freeze the foreground grasses. I rattled off 80 or so shots, all the while, a heightened sense of awareness and a growing sense of fear overcame me. Lets just say I was well aware that this could ultimately be the smartest or dumbest thing I ever did.... Considering that at any second I expected to turn and see a full blown vortex of a smiling tornado spiraling over head, or worse yet, a lighting strike. Ouch. It didn't take much time to convince myself that I got the image... vertically and horizontally, not to mention that I was scaring the hell out of my girl... who sat in the car watching me from a distance. Her mind, I later found out, deeply focus on a drainage ditch a few 100 FT from our car... in the event we needed quick shelter. How cute. I hurried back to the car in a wind battered mess. Clutching "my precious" camera like golem from lord of the rings. "My precious" A sinister grin now crossing my face.... I got it!
Mizzy: "Sorry babe. Lets get the hell outa here."
PS The following is an email from the King of sky optics, les cowley, regarding what you see here.
It is iridescence produced by small water droplets in the pileus cloud. The cloud is pushed upwards above a thunder cloud. More here:
his website www.atoptics.co.uk