Photography By John Fagan

LATEST REPORTS AND UPDATES

The Persied Meteor Shower 2018

Just as the Dark skies come back after the mid summer twighlight I always look forward too 1 of the best Meteor showers of the season, The Persied Meteor shower. The forecast for the peak looked cloudy so my best chance of seeing some Meteors was the Nights before the peak were there was a chance of clear skies, our first chance was on Wednesday 8th August, being 4 days before the peak I wasn't expecting a big pile but it was definetly worth a go for some early meteors or that elusive bright fireball.

I arrived at Ballintoy and met up with friends Martin McKenna, Nigel McFarland and Jim Crawford. It was a nice Surprise when Nigel Produced the BBQ with burgers and sausages, it was great start to our observing session. 

when they were dealing with the BBQ I decided I would go to the top carpark above the Public toilets and shoot some timelapse of the Magnificent Twighlight in front of me. 

After The BBQ we decided to go down too the rocks were I often sea fish from in the Autumn and winter months beside the secret beach. the life bouy made for decent foreground and as the twighlight disappeared and the sky got dark the count began in earnest. while counting the meteors above it was impossable too miss the beauty of the milkyway. It never disappoints after the summer with no dark skies. 

we continued our count well into the early hours before dawn. we counted 56 in total which 2 were fireballs.

as we were coming too the end of the night, twighlight started to come back, we noticed a bright area to the north east. I couldn't believe it it was NLC's in the pre dawn sky, at ths stage I was seeing double with the tiredness but I held out another while too shoot a rare late NLC display. this being the latest NLC display ive ever seen.

Friday 10th August

Day 2 I was joined by Martin McKenna, Conor McDonald, Paul Martin, Glenn Miles and Jim Crawford. I treated the lads too a bbq, sausages, burgers befor we started observing. We were in the Bat cave as I call it looking out too the twighlight sky. the craic was mighty, Jims wife got us a lovely apple pie for after. I was stuffed but the sky was waiting, we packed up the BBQ and our Litter and headed off over towards elephant rock.

My first Idea was too shoot timelapse at the arch rock but I thought I would leave that 1 for another night. Here Is 1 image from that idea, I think it would work well in moonlight.

The count had started and we were seeing a good amount of meteors some faint and other big 1s, I turned my camera facing elephant rock looking North west The guys were shooting away. and then I captured a lovely meteor too the NW. Im glad I got this cause this because this was the only meteor I captured worth posting. the rest in my frame were faint.  

By that stage the count was high, I was delighted with what I was seeing. the meteors were fantastic. everyone was enjoying the it and shouting out each time they seen a meteor. then a nice Iridium flare straked across low in the sky to the north through the green Airglow. which was nice too capture aswell. 

By the end of the Night we had counted 134 Persied Meteors and I also seen a fireball on the way home which was nice. A great night spent with the lads under the stars. Its just a pity we were clouded out for the peak of the meteor shower or else no doubt it would of been another night out.lol

I never get fed up being out under the night sky, when I bought my telescope back in 2012 I only had brief knowledge of the Night sky that I learned from my Mother when I was younger, when she used to take us out and show us the stars, also showed me my first comet hale bop. I have a lot too thank my mother for. My Mother planted the seed and I always wanted to take my knowledge too the next level. After being out shooting with Martin McKenna and Conor Mcdonald Im always listning too their stories of observing years ago, especially martin who I be out shooting with often, stories about Comet hunting, Meteor showers, Aurora and much more. Martin has grown my knowledge further than I ever could of imagined and I thank Him for that.

Next up  Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, I cant wait to get observing this comet the next dark sky period, It is currently Mag 7, good for binos and telescopes. I cant wait too get oobserving it through my scope and maybe even an image if im lucky. 

Here is video of timelapse and images from the 2 nights

Storms galore June 2018

June really did produce some great storms for me. I have been chasing different parts to the of the country after storms. my highlight of the 10 chases was the funnel cloud I captured just outside coalisland, and an updraught I captured in the sperrins.My passion was alive over 3 weekends of storms and I hit the road with my camera too capture them.  I don't have the time too go into great detail about these storms, I wish I had the time but sadly I don't, so just going to post images of all the chases. im also doing a blog which will be a basic summary on all my chases over the season which will be out September time. 


Risk of Thunderstorms across ulster Friday 1st June 2018

On Friday there is a risk of thunderstorms moving across the north, there is 1000 CAPE and lifted index of -4 in places. good lapse rates and very little CIN in most places. this could fire intense heavy downpours and thunderstorms across northern Ireland. At the moment the main focus is on Midulster, loughneagh and west Tyrone but could change if the charts change over the next 48 hrs.

Met office have a warning issued for Friday across NI.

 Met office warning for NI on Friday
Between 00:00 Fri 1st and 21:00 Fri 1st
Thunderstorms are likely to affect southern and western parts of the UK through the day
What to expect
There is a small chance that homes and businesses could be flooded quickly, with damage to some buildings from floodwater, lightning strikes, hail or strong winds
There is a small chance of fast flowing or deep floodwater causing danger to life
Where flooding or lightning strikes occur, there is a chance of delays and some cancellations to train and bus services
Spray and sudden flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures
There is a slight chance that power cuts could occur and other services to some homes and businesses could be lost.

Once again I will be chasing these storms were ever they occur.  so my fingers are crossed this time That i can get something worth photographing.  

this season so far has been frustraiting with most set ups having a strong cap over the country not letting storms develop, So this set up is very pleasing giving there is not much CIN around.

I have chased 2 storms this season so far, the first 1 I was chasing in south Armagh and while seeing lightning and hearing Thunder it wasn't a photogenic event. the other wasn't too bad, I chased it too the lough neagh area and seen a cg lightning strike about 7 mile away and a big rumble of thunder took this shot as it reached the lough

Surprise Aurora 5th May 2018

To be honest i wasn't expecting anything that night at all. met up with Paul Martin around midnight at beaghmore. paul told me he had captured a diffused glow on the horizon. i looked north and you could see with the naked eye a diffused glow. me and paul chatted for a while and took exposures. we were pretty confident that it was going to go into out burst at any time. At approx. 01:15 the sky lit up. high vivid beams to the naked eye about 35- 40 Degrees just below Cassiopeia. it was a fantastic sight after a dismal season.
heres my image of that moment at Beaghmore stone circles. CO. Tyrone

A week of Interesting weather Ahead 14/01/2018

This is the most interesting week of weather ive seen in a long time. Snow, strong winds, damaging gusts, thunderstorms. I heard cyclonegenisis even mentioned for Wednesday night into Thursday. I'm ready for it, the only problem is the worst of the weather is over night so that hampers my photography just abit. but that wont stop me from photographing the coast during the day and I also have the chance of some convective cells with thundersnow giving the amount of CAPE over the sea Tuesday day and night. the potential for snow is the best ive seen in years, the met office and Met Eireann all have yellow warnings out. Id say most of the north and west will all see snow on Tuesday. 4cm at lowlevels and 8cm at high levels. I think this will be upgraded by tomorrow. so maybe even more snow than that. expect travel disruption on the roads during Tuesday and wednesday morning rush hour for sure. So get the wollys on folks its going to be a cold 1 

A Fantastic Lunar Halo captured on The 1st of January 2018 What a way to start the year

Recent aerial shot of St. Patricks chapel Dungannon

Winter snowfall 9th December

Finally the Artic air Arrived and it had us photographers on our toes for that winter wonderland shot. Many people enjoy the winter snow like myself so was glad to see it after it hardly showed atall in recent years. 

Image above  Is Sunrise in Dungannon after a night of heavy snow fall

Image below  Is the morning comute, Vehicles taking it very easy in the snow

Images below, Some Aerial Shots of sunrise and sunset of Dungannon covered in snow

Image below of a starling on a winters day

AUTUMN COLOUR PARKANAUR

I was afraid that the storms in early October would have taken all the leaves and colour away but lucky enough when I arrived at parkanaur the colour was great. 

these are some of the images I captured over 2 days in Parkanaur 

also some Ariel Images from the phantom 3

Storm chase Portstewart 04/11/17

With the first post frontal setup of the season was underway It was time to get into storm chasing mode again. My first thoughts when I looked at the charts was Dramatic Skies big seas, MOONLIT CONVECTION and MOONBOWS. there was 600-800 CAPE coming in at a west Northwest Direction favouring the Northcoast for some storm Action. I couldn't let this 1 go so decided to get the bus up on Friday night. it was all going to be on foot, which I was looking forward too. testing myself on what I could come up with with no van. woke up Saturday Morning and checked the charts once again, all was holding nicely. I headed out around 2pm knowing that the CAPE was set to arrive at 3pm. I headed for Portstewart Stand With my Camera Tripod and umbrella. 

when I arrived there was a serious cold breeze coming off the sea and I could see some nice convective towers forming so it was a waiting game before something arrived. finally a cell arrived. it started getting rough with serious gusts and the rain was pelting sideways. the umbrella was just about holding off the wind and rain, I knew if I held out there could be a chance of a Rainbow and maybe some mammatus at the back end of the cell. It didn't disappoint. as it moved away  a massive double rainbow formed infront of me and some great light on the town. image above. It was worth getting pelted with rain.lol  

After that I headed out the walk, light was fading fast so photographed a few showers over the bay. twighlight arrived and I then made my way to the berne. when I looked across the bay, you could clearly see Single cells with anvils moving towards me. this was great to see and I knew then I was in for a interesting Night.  so took a shot with the old net crank aswell

I hung around for a while to see if there were any sparks but nothing happened. I had to wait until moon rise so took the opportunity to go to the chippy and get something to eat and had a coffee in Morrelis aswell.lol you have to treat yourself.lol 

after that the moon was up so headed back to the berne for a night off shooting Moonlit convection. the convection was beautiful lit up by the moon light as each cell passed.

the image below was the biggest cell I seen all night, it had intense red core on radar. I was just on the edge of it. massive towers and anvil. something I really like about this 1. I wanted to get one of the best placed houses in the country, Dempseys. and the domincan college behind, can you just imagine if this cell hada produced lightning, what an image that would of been. but wasn't to be. still I'm more than happy with it. 

I was happy with what I got, I always knew it was abit wishful thinking for lightning but If your not out you wont see it. that's my thinking anyways. I walked and photographed the whole day on my own. and for me you couldn't get any better, 

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

Storm Updates 15/10/17 

Hurricane Ophelia Has been Upgraded to a category 3 Hurricane, Meteorologists weren't expecting this atall, thinking the storm was going to stay at a catergory 1 storm. A South East or southerly wind will quickly freshen, with a severe gale or storm developing later over the Irish Republic, around Irish Sea coasts and later across Northern Ireland. Damaging gusts of between 70 and 90mph are possible, with driving rain followed by squally showers some heavy with thunder, this is now a Dangerous storm, espeacially for those who live on the south coast of Ireland.

Met Eireann have a Red Alert out for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork and Kerry  which means:  The issue of RED level severe weather warnings should be a comparatively rare event and implies that recipients take action to protect themselves and/or their properties; this could be by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily; by staying indoors; or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions.

There is an Amber warning for Northern Ireland which means

This category of Amber level weather warnings is for weather conditions which have the capacity to impact significantly on people in the affected areas. The issue of an Orange level weather warning implies that all recipients in the affected areas should prepare themselves in an appropriate way for the anticipated conditions.

I would take these warnings serious especially those who live in exposed areas.

Be safe if out and about and beware of fallen trees as they still have leaves on them which makes them more likely to give way in already saturated ground.



EXTRA -Tropical storm hitting our shores on Monday

Hurricane Ophelia is sitting Nicely out in the Atlantic building strength west of Portugal right now and Is due to Arrive on our shores on Monday. By the time it reaches our shores on Monday It will have lost most of its power as it moves into colder waters so there for not a hurricane but a Extra-Tropical Storm. This is because the structure will get wider and not as tight also the winds will have dropped below 73MPH, anything with sustained 73mph winds ( not gusts ) is known as a hurricane. even so Hurricane force windspeeds are possible and cant be ruled out. 

The Track of the Storm is uncertain and will probably change but the latest GFS showing the south and west coasts are expected to be the worst hit. 

Image below from GFS showing Gusts of 80-90mph hitting the south coast

MET eireann have a RED ALERT issued 

Wind Warning for Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork and Kerry Hurricane Ophelia is expected to transition to a post tropical storm as it approaches our shores on Monday bringing severe winds and stormy conditions . Mean wind speeds in excess of 80 km/h and gusts in excess of 130km/h are expected, potentially causing structural damage and disruption, with dangerous marine conditions due to high seas and potential flooding.

Unfortunately I will not be on the south coast to document this storm as I'm unwell at the moment but it sure seems like its going to be a great storm. I'm abit peed off to be honest as its going to be an historic weather event for Ireland. 

I hope Nobody is hurt in this storm. it will be severe so stay safe people, I would like to wish my fellow storm chasers the best of luck with this 1. 

Goodluck and Stay safe

ANOTHER ADDITION TO MY PHOTOGRAPHY, THE DJI PHANTOM 3 ADVANCED

Ive been holding back for quite some time now to get myself a drone, but now ive takin the leap and bought myself 1, If I can describe it in 1 word it would be WOW. Ive now had 20 flights with the phantom from what I would call practise flights. and I'm just amazed at the technology and the the options it gives me for photograghy and videography. The new perspective from above. The challenge of learning to fly it and landing it.  

My first few flights I was learning the controls and my orientation which is hard to grasp at first but with practice it then becomes natural. I never travelled far, just within 200 meters or so. if I'm honest I seemed to pick it up pretty quick. and it wasn't long until I was venturing out further stretching its legs seeing what the phantom was capable off. with the help from my Uncle Martin Armstrong and good friend Martin McKenna I was soon on my way to start video and taking stills from above. 

I find it a challenge to get a good composition from above. its so different in the way you see the world so makes me think a little harder what way to photograph a scene. so far ive been photographing a few sunsets and sunrises from my hometown Dungannon. using the hills to add abit of depth to the image. 

One evening I headed for the blacklough Dungannon, the light wasn't great so had to think outside the box, I used the reflections of the sky and the island to come up with this image,

the Island in the sky

After I had flew over the lough the flying over water nerves were gone so it was time to hit the coast. I flew over portstewart bay a couple of times. this was a great experience. flying over the water getting a view not many people get. 

what a piece of kit and amazing technology, I cant wait for future flights, snow scenes, sunsets, coastal photography. its only the start, I'm totally addicted and cant wait to share more of my flights with you. 

DRACONID METEOR SHOWER

This weekend, Oct. 7th and 8th, Earth will pass through a network of dusty filaments shed by Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, source of the annual Draconid meteor shower. Forecasters say sky watchers could see a few slow meteors per hour on Saturday and Sunday nights while the head of Draco the Dragon is above the horizon. Hours between sunset and midnight are good times to look.

2 weeks in Portstewart ( A Piece of heaven )

My Family has been going to the little town of Portstewart on the North coast for 52 years. it all started with My Great Granny O'Neill taking a few of the family up for a holiday in 1965 and we have been going to Portstewart for 2 weeks holidays ever since. I don't know what it is about the place but if I missed it for a year I think Id cry.lol Ive been to many places in Europe and America and still managed to get up for a week for or even a few days for our annual 2 weeks. its were all my Family, aunties, uncles and cousins meet for a good time every year and I will never miss it. I hold it as a tradition that needs to be carried on to the next generation and its a place close to my heart. theres nothing like a summer sunset with the Atlantic rollers crashing on the strand,  a nice long walk over the Dominican college walk and down the street, A nice Pint in the Top House or Anchor, fishing off the rocks or a good thunderstorm over the bay. Ive seen some spectacular things in Portstewart, great Memories and the people are some of the nicest people you will meet in Ireland. 

the first day I had the camera out I seen a tall ship sitting out on the bay, it was stunning looking so of course I had to get a few shots. Its a Dutch passanger ship called THALASSA built in 1980. it stopped in the bay just before sailing to Derry

One evening I was watching storms develop over Donegal so was hoping they would come my way, unfortunately they didn't but I did manage to get out and watch them from a distance as they crossed from Malin head. 

As I watched them I noticed a Man fishing off Baileys point so headed down and made the most of the dying light, also a heavy core in sight and an outflow feature more than likely a shelf cloud only I'm looking at it from the side.  He deserved a fish for making a nice subject for me but I don't think he caught at all. you could say I caught it all.lol

it was a week of storms and convection, I couldn't miss out, fellow chasers down country already had bagged a good storm so I was waiting on my oportunity.finally it came 3 days in a row. sorry I never kept the dates of these storms but they were all with in 3 days. 

my first real storm came as I was walking up harbour hill I heard a distant Rumble and looked across the bay and this lovely structured storm was crossing rumbling away and a few flashes of lightning. sadly I never captured any lightning on camera but it was great to watch

another Day I was walking the strand walk with My camera, I watched a few cells pass none that were photogenic, I went in for a coffee at papa fig. grabbed my fishing rod and went fishing for the evening. I caught a sea trout and 1 Mackerel. I was happy about that and something for my evening tea. after I had finished I was walking home I noticed a cell crossing, I had an Idea for a photograph and It worked out nicely I ran to the location set up and shot this dramatic shot in the evening light

Me and My Brother Neil had planned a day of fishing off the rocks, I knew there there was a great chance of convection and storms that day so I took the camera with me. on the road there First mission there was a stunning storm cell beautifuly structured. you can nearly see every feature of a storm cell in this photo. I was after a photo like this for a while now and glad I captured it. the special thing is this cell turned into a raging thunder storm above are heads, you never seen 2 men run for cover like it. we also dropped the rods for safety reasons.lol when I got cover on the side of the cliff I watched the lightning and loud thunder. it was the day I was after

below My brother neil fishing while convective cell passes infornt of him 

Below gives you some sence of scale, this yaght just passed at the right time

Save the best for last as they say. I was watching the radar closely I noticed sparkes in the inishowen area. I ran out with my camera, took me 5 mins on foot to get to here and this thunderstorm greeted me fireing a CG strike just in the foyle area. the rays shattering by the anvil made my day. I sat on my favourite chair and watched the storm pass and finally die out. what a moment, what a memory.

It was a great holiday, with the added bonus of having some fantastic storms, convection and light.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

Noctilucent cloud Display June/July 2017

It was a tough start to the NLC season with the early sightings being really low on the horizon and nothing much in the way of structure. I Myself didn't get my first sighting until mid June. before that I had spent countless hours tracking the horizon for any glimpse of Nlcs but I failed. as I always say just because I didn't see them dosnt mean they wernt visable. there were a couple of sightings as early as mid May. John Mc Connell a trained observer whos been observing Noctilucent clouds most of his life bagged the first Display in N.Ireland on the 1st of June.

it wasn't until the 16th June I headed out with my deck chair and a flask of tea to the back field were the Northwestern sky lit up with NLCs, finally I was in luck.  I sat out that night watchin the display, a lot of structure was on display but I have to admit not much movement, it all looked to static for my liking atho I did enjoy bagging my first NLC display of the season

 (images below)

My second note worthy display was the night of 30th June. this time I met up with my friends Martin McKenna and Paul Martin. We headed for Toome bridge. we parked up at a filling station and had a coffee first deciding on were to shoot. the first location that was in everyones mind was the bridge over the river bann. We made are way over to the field beside the bridge, waited for about half an hour, Nlcs started to appear to the North east, herringbone structure, I have to say we were all excited that we had a clear night with Nlcs on display. while we were shooting we seen distant shadows moving towards us. it was hard to make out but they got closer and closer. they were cows. thank god there was no bull insight it could of been a different story.lol after being startled we decided to move to another location with know cows. we picked a country road with a flat horizon. by this stage the Nlcs were type 4 brightness and looked amazing, we all quickly started shooting timelapse and images.

The structure and brightness was amazing, definetly 1 of the best displays ive ever witnessed. also during the Display I seen a Gremlin like structure from the movie Gremlins.lol  Can you spot it??? 

after I had enough images for a timelapse, we decided to move once again back to the bridge for a second go at the pre dawn display. we arrived back and I jumped the gate for this image. it says a lot on how good the display was and a fantastic bit of foreground. tome bridge

(above image) me, Paul Martin and Martin McKenna watching NLC's at 3:15am just before we went home.

below is the timelapse of the NLCs I captured. enjoy

Three days of storm action, Mullaghmore C.o Sligo and Dungannon 

The storm season is truly underway, 3 chases within a week or 2, 1 in Co Sligo and the other 2 local. its been a couple of weeks of shear madness, eyes glued to the charts and a lot of walking and driving. this is a passion and some people think I'm mad for what I do, Don't get me wrong I love the sunshine too but nothing gets my heart racing more than a few good setups for the possibility of storms. 

Day 1, Mullaghmore, C.o. Sligo 26-05-2017 

The charts were showing 2000 CAPE with a lifted index of -7 in places, convergence would also be moving in from the west. The temps were warm with 25-26 degrees, the only problem was the strong Cap but we were hoping the cap would break at the later stages of the evening Sparking of thunderstorms. after going over the charts our target area was Going to be west, Sligo Donegal area, I was meeting up with fellow storm chasers Martin McKenna and Paul Martin before hitting the road. 


On our way to Mullaghmore we stopped to observe the skies, nothing exciting was happening, the Cap was still present inland so we headed on to Mullaghmore. When we arrived we met Storm chasers from Donegal Noel Keating and Kenneth McDonagh. who had been there for most of the day with disappointing results. Storms were further out off the coast over the sea but our view was blocked by another line of showers, the most frustrating thing ever. Hearing rumbles of thunder and your view being blocked by a messy line of showers. that's bad enough but while looking at the storms on radar the lightning rates were unbelievable on ATD Sferics. I wasn't very hopeful of it passing at all but the waiting game began.

while getting ate alive by midgets.lol I took this shot of Martin, Kenneth and Noel discussing storm chasing while a few rays brazed the sea.

Other than this the sky didn't look impressive at all, everything coming our way was elevated, high based and nothing to get excited about photography wise anyways. Then I heard a Rattle of Thunder (and yes lads I heard it first.lol) this Cell must of grew rapidly and finally were got a storm. all of us got the cameras setup and fireing away. there was about 3 incloud lightning strikes and more rumbles of thunder, it certainly was a plesent sight after thinking it was all over.

Images above the thunderstorm at Mullaghmore

It was great getting out chasing again and meeting up with noel and Kenneth for a good chat, good craic and a day well spent. 

Timelapse of the day below

Day 2 Local chase Dungannon 03-06-17

Saturday was a low chance setup with 600-800 CAPE and a lifted index of -2. I wasn't expecting much but it was worth keeping an eye on the radar and sky. I seen cells developing with white cores in the Enniskillen area on Radar. I packed the stuff and walked up to my view point in Dungannon, the sun was shining and the towers were boiling up like mad, so I had a feeling something was going to kick off. as the cells approached me I knew I was in for a treat as a low base was clearly visable. once the scud got out of the way , I was over the moon to what was in front of me, a good structured cell with a class gust front. it was a a real treat after the high elevated stuff id seen in Mullaghmore. after a short while the outflow winds blasted me, they were seriously cold but I braved it in a t shirt to capture the amazing whales mouth above me. 

the rain came and had to make a run over 2 fields, the quickest man on 2 legs that day for sure.lol

Images and Timelapse below

Image above, Whales mouth of the storm

The whale's mouth-effect is the weird-looking sky sometimes appearing when the first gust front of a storm is passing over. The cold downdraft of air of the storm rushes outward and forward along the surface, and lifts the warmer air in the direct vicinity of the storm over its condensation level. One gets to see the back side of this mini cold front, and the inside of the gust front cloud. It looks somewhat like mammatus and other forms of turbulent cloud masses, sometimes showing very neat ordering.

Day3 local chase Dungannon 05-06-2017

today was all about convergence, the charts were showing a lot of convergence west of the lough Neagh, there was small Cape over northern Ireland but nothing to shout about. there was a chance something might fire up also a chance of funnels. I was keeping an eye on the skies all afternoon but nothing was happening. I had a few quick glances at the radar but it all looked a little messy. 

It wasn't until I got word from fellow Storm chaser Martin McKenna that he had captured a funnel cloud outside Cookstown  said that the same Cell was heading my way. I grabed the camera gear and headed out and sure enough the cell was right over head, I Started timelapsing straight away, The base was Rotating like mad above me I was near sure it would lower and create another funnel, what a crazy sight, it was the fastest rotation id seen overhead. 

Nightskyhunter Martin Mckennas image of the funnel cloud outside Cookstown 

my timelapse below also some other images from the 3 chases

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS!!!

Noctilucent cloud watch starts Next week

Now that the aurora is washed out due to Nautical Twighlight Its time to turn the attention to Noctilucent clouds, This is another atmospheric Phononema that will have your jaw dropped with a real good display. I first captured them on camera in 2014 and have been addicted ever since. They occur during summer, from mid-May to mid-August in the northern hemisphere.

Id love to go into the science of them as I do with most things but Very little is known about Noctilucent clouds, and have baffled many scientists over the years, they don't know much about them at all which adds that mystery while observing them.

Noctilucent clouds form in the upper atmosphere, they are night shining clouds hense the name Noctilucent in latin.  Noctilucent clouds are generally colourless or pale blue, although occasionally other colours including red and green occur. The characteristic blue colour comes from absorption by ozone in the path of the sunlight illuminating the noctilucent cloud. They can appear as featureless bands, but frequently show distinctive patterns such as streaks, wave-like undulations, and whirls,

I'm just waiting on the first sighting, cant wait to be out observing this Beautiful Phononema once again.


Storm chase at the North Coast Mon 24th April

On Monday evening a cold front was coming in from the north, 100 CAPE was forecast for over the sea Monday evening so I Decided on the North coast being my target area. I was waiting on something to happen from about 5pm. at about 7pm I noticed a squall line on radar ( Image below ) over the west coast of Scotland heading my way so headed for the shoreline to capture it coming in.

When I arrived I could see the squall line ahead of me, the wind picked up and it was Ice cold, the sea was high with massive waves crashing on the rocks. I was in the zone and syked up for what was to come. I ran for the van when the hail started and boy was it heavy. it quickly turned to sleet, it lasted about 10 mins and I couldn't wait for the back end of the cell to come into view

I couldn't believe how Dramatic it looked, 1 of the most dramatic scenes ive seen for sure and the high seas added to the atmosphere. I stopped and took it all in,  nothing beats it. Times like that I nearly forget to do my job and take some photos.lol I quickly grabbed my camera and started taking exposures from different angles.

I wouldn't be a Storm chaser if I wasn't interested in the Science behind it. I just wanted to show yous a Diagram of what ive captured here. The cold air pushes under the warmer air, lifting it up.

After the cell had passed there was some nice light around so wanted to capture the rough sea

After that I contacted fellow storm chaser Martin McKenna, he was on the ball aswell, he wanted to hit the Downhill Benone area for the late night cells with the hope of some sparks. I drove to Benone and met up with martin around 9pm. I told him about my experience earlier and the hopes were high for the night.

I couldn't believe the winds blowing the sand on the beach, it must of been blowing about 40-50MPH. Martin captured some great footage of the sand trails and his van after the session.

The squall showers moved in and we could not believe this brave man hitting the beach for a stroll, the hail was bouncing of the bonnet of the van and you couldn't of opened your window with the sand getting in your eyes. very unpleasent but this man braved it all.lol

I also managed to capture some convection from the twighlit sky

Sadly no sparks from this set up, but great to have another chase bagged and what I captured earlier in the evening was the highlight of the year so far.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

THE LYRID METEOR SHOWER PEAKS THIS WEEKEND

All you need to know:

The lyrid Meteor shower has kicked off, it usually starts around the 16th and ends on the 25th April. it will be a moonless period right up to near dawn and even at that its just a waning cresent moon. The best time to view is before Dawn but they should be active for most of the night.  North east the constellation Lyra is beside the bright star vega but usually you will see them right above your head and any part of the sky, I find if you look up away from the radiant you actually see more but that's only from personal experience.  

we are expected to see 10 to 20 meteors per hour when it Peaks on the 22nd April

If you happen to see a meteor brighter than the planet venus in the night sky its classed as a fireball, also by chance you see one brighter than the full moon I suggest you report it to the Armagh Observatory. always good to do just incase a small meteor has landed on the ground. you can do this through their website.

I know we live in Ireland, but if its clear grab a deck chair look up and enjoy the show. even to see 1 if its bright enough can be a mighty experience. 

Best time is Friday night, Saturday Morning when it peaks, Goodluck everyone hope you see a few Meteors, I will be out on my deck chair if its clear.lol

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

Wildlife season Begins, The Dipper 12/04/2017

Spring has arrived and the Wildlife season has begun. if your looking me during the day when theres no storm action, from now to june I will most likely be down the banks of the River Torrent  (Coalisland Canal) in search of some of the best wildlife Ireland has to offer. Martin Armstrong, Plunket Scullion Brian Kerr and myself clean the telephoto lenses, grab the camouflage nets and gear and walk the river to see what is starting to make an Apperence. The Dipper is usually first on the scene. this bird is is a class first capture of the year, watching it dive underwater in search of Larvae or Mayfly nymphs is something to be enjoyed, it also stands on exposed rocks down the river and bobs up and down, abit like a dance.lol

Anyways I headed down the river 3 days in total 3 hrs each time and didn't succeed until the very last day. It was the toughest start to the season but my Patience paid off in the end. I managed to capture the Dipper on the edge of a waterfall as it stopped before flying to the nest to feed the chicks.

I'm hoping to capture the chicks when they fledge the nest, it will be difficult as I have just a small window to do so. a day or 2 at most. fingers crossed, then its off in search for the kingfishers.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

First storm chase and best aurora display of the season 20th & 21st  March

it was time to get the first storm chase of the season underway, there was cold artic air moving in over the atlantic and abit of unstable air coming with it 200 cape and lifted index of -1. this was a low risk setup and I wasn't particularly expecting much but would be happy with a few distant sparks or some cool structure. Martin McKenna had his eye on this setup aswell so we decided to hit downhill beach for the chase, On my way to the north coast I captured a few stunning cells with bows and mammatus cloud. very dramatic and I was hyped up with the perfect start to the chase

2 images of the dramatic cells I captured on my way to the coast I particularly like the Mammatus and rainbow, it was amazing to watch the light change so quick and how quickly the rainbow disappeared

when I arrived at Portstewart me and Martin decided to go to Morellies Café and sit over a coffee and talk about the night ahead. we Noticed a cell moving in over portstewart on radar so it was time to drink up the coffee run for the cameras and start shooting.

Gust front out over the sea with the domincan convent, cool dramatic shot, I also got some video of this which I will display at the end of report.

The light slowly drifted away so we decided to head futher west to Downhill beach In the hope for some lightning. It didn't turn out the way we thought. the cold front didn't come in to late but when it did the cells were coming one after the other producing snow and I took some video of the snow shining on in the vans headlamps. we were hoping for some thundersnow but sadly it never happened but managed to capture a dramatic cell covered with mammatus and a massive sheared anvil.

we sat and watched a few cells passing but nothing was producing sparks so we decided to call it a night. not the night I was hoping for but I didn't come home empty handed and the dramatic shots I captured on the way up was a bonus.

Day 2 I didn't expect to be going to the coast again after the night before as I had planned an inland chase with martin but the charts got downgraded so that morning after going over the charts I turned my attention to the aurora. For some reason I had a feeling about this aurora I don't know why but it had me excited NOAA were giving a G1 watch, the Bz was southward and staying south for sometime.

I contacted martin and decided on a shoot at the coast again. I Met martin at the cresent in Portstewart, he was flying the drone and didn't want to disturb him so I grabbed the camera and shot the Ship ISIS heading in to Coleraine port, Not the best named ship in the world that's for sure but the sunsetting set the image up nicely

after martin had finished flying we headed east, we met up with photographer Glenn Miles at the Giants causeway, when we got down there was a few there already so I decided to look for abit of new foreground, Glenn took a test shot and there was a thin band of green on the horizon. I jumped for joy and headed in search for Foreground, on my walk over I seen stars reflecting on some rockpools. it was a dangerous walk down but was worth it. at Approx 20:50 the aurora went into outburst, what a sight after such a long drought beams as high as 30-35 degrees in the sky dancing across the sky, I could not hide my excitement shouting beams beams beams.lol the naked eye show was superb and the best id seen in a year. I started fireing exposures I also tried a panoramic shot

A stunning display of light and I had to wait a whole year for it but it was worth the wait, After that outburst we travelled to ballintoy, we witnessed another 3 outbursts, 4 in total, me martin and glenn talked about the night sky and more interesting subjects inbetween outbursts. it was a great night and 1 to remember for sure. I went with my instincts once again and it was bang on.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS

Conditions Favour Polar Stratospheric Clouds this week

The Stratosphere temperatures are forecast to fall below -78 degrees, (chart above) perfect for Nacreous clouds to form. These clouds are higher up in the atmosphere than our usual everyday clouds. You can see them when the sunlight isn’t too strong and so around dusk and after dawn are ideal times when the sunlight still provides the colours but the power of full daylight doesn’t obliterate the stunning iridescence. Usually these clouds would only be seen in the polar regions but I managed to capture them twice last year at Ballintoy and Dungannon, (Images below)

The only problem is, there could be a lot of low cloud this week but best being on alert just incase. Trust me these clouds are worth seeing, There stunning colours is something else and a memory I will never forget

Snow chase and rough seas

With Canadian Air blowing straight for the Ireland it was time to get the woolys on and gear up for the snow. The internet went mad with forecasters saying 5 to 6 inches of snow on higher ground and 5 to 10 cm on low ground. Thundersnow was also mentioned, I have to admit I led myself to believe this hype and should of known better, I think it was just the excitement of it all that clouded my judgement.

Anyways on Thursday morning I thought it was best to drive to Slieve gallion then the North coast and track back to the sperrins later that evening.

when I arrived half way up slieve gallion there was just a light dusting nothing to risk driving on up so decided to drive on up to the coast for some big waves and thundersnow in the evening.

I arrived at Portstewart and the snow was lovely at Massuden temple so took a few of the snow covered hills

I took a walk on the beach and there was some impressive cells coming in on radar so decided to head for the promenade, I went for coffee in Morellis, my favourite café in Ireland. awaiting the cells arriving, I checked the radar and the incoming cell had sparked over inishowen Co. Donegal. I was excited so headed out to the main street, I was me by a spectacular cell, it was some height and had an impressive anvil, on the back end of the cell was an impressive snow squall. what a sight, the Sunsetting made for some nice light also. 

I then headed up to Harbour hill for a better view but once I got up there the cell was on top of me. all in one Rain, hail, sleet and snow. strong gusts shook the van.

While I was waiting on the snow to pass I decided to have a few sandwiches and a brew. this seagull came over and sat waiting so I give him my crusts.

After the storm had passed I sat watching the monster waves come in, I love the wild weather, makes me feel alive, man against nature, Nature always wins but wanted to try and take my idea to an image and this is the result.

Id like to say I know this area well and I was totally safe photographing this. I respect the sea and would never take any chances. 

this was another cell arriving at twighlight, I saw this spark about 20mins before this image was taken but it was too far out at sea, and sadly didn't spark again.  I love capturing the leading edge of Cells, they always look very dramatic, this was taken from the herring pond Portstewart

this Image was of the rough seas crashing on the rocks at the Berne Salmon Fishery, Portstewart

             

After my evening walk I decided to ring Martin McKenna and see how the snow was fairing up on the sperrins. Martin said it was definetly worth a shoot so headed for Maghera to meet with Martin.

On my way I decided to call in to Swatragh chapel for a shot. From I started photography I wanted to photograph this church, so there was no time like the present with it covered in snow.

I met up with Martin at Maghera, we headed for Benbradagh Mountain and the Veiw was just awesome in the Moonlight me and martin scouted the area for potential photos and settled on a few tress for foreground.

All n All it was a fantastic day, but a few forecasters and the media got the forecast totally wrong, I was abit disappointed about that but cant complain with the images I achieved on the day. I'm hoping we might get another snow event before winter is out but really looking forward to spring now.

Over the next few months I will be trying to get a close photo of a certain bird that ive been trying to photograph for years, I hope I'm successful.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS


GETTING GEARED UP FOR COMET 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova is a short period comet, its brightening rapidly and will soon be coming to the northern hemisphere skies at the end of December as perihelion approaches. its now under 10th magnitude and is predicted 6 or 7 mag depending on which info your looking at.

this comet will probably not be visable to the naked eye but will be visable with a good pair of binos or telescope

it will appear low on the horizon below venus in the west just after sunset.

I hope I capture this 1, why don't you have a try seeing it yourself

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova pictured below on its last past in 2011

2 nights aurora chasing, and both a success.


Not too often I go out aurora chasing 2 nights in a row and both being a success, actually I cant mind this happening atall before. we were expecting a Coronal Hole High Speed Stream (CH HSS) for short from the sun. there was a G1 storm watch given out from the NOAA and maybe isolated G2 periods for the 22nd - 24th November, I wasn't buying this at all from the stats I seen at the start of the night, there was just a small rise in solar wind, shown here from the ACE spacecraft.

Saying that I had a few days off work so I wasn't going to waste time checking charts and spaceweather for 2 days thinking what if, and being left with nothing but a sore head and square eyes.lol I also was thinking of the weather, with high pressure dominating there was a big risk of fog and mist inland, so the coast was the target area, hoping that a small sea breeze might help keep the mist and fog away from the coast.

I headed for the ballintoy the first night, I met photographer, Glenn Miles and we could not believe how clear it was, the sky was amazing, the milkyway in view. me and glenn chatted for a while about the prospects of the aurora happening, we both agreed that it was a small chance and maybe do a startrail or a  timelapse and if the aurora turns up its a bonus.

I headed for the top of the hill for a startrail, and wish I hadn't even started it to be honest, I'm not going to get into the details of what happened, or ill say something ill regret. but just if anyone is out photographing the nightsky please keep in mind that there are other photographers about and don't need big lamps shining all over the place. it ruins the other photographers exposure everytime you do this. ballintoy cottage is already lit up and you don't need to use a torch or lamp to expose it properly, just up your iso or exposure time. 

enough about that anyways  back to the aurora, after that I headed down to a quiet spot on the rocks and set up again and at that there was very sutle beams on the horizon, very faint but you could make them out,  I fired the shutter and the beams were being picked up on camera. then it went into outburst approx. 00:30, the beams were faint but you could still make them out, luckily the camera made a better job of them. 

Round 2

On the second night I decided to head for the rocks I was on the night before, when I got the length the rocks were wet and slippy so I wasn't going to chance it, I was disappointed but not beat, I headed up the hill to photograph the cottage, I sat for hours doing a startrail and couldn't believe the aurora it just stayed dormant with just a small arc on the horizon, it never even looked like going into action, it was like airglow to the naked eye. I was also amazed that I had ballintoy to myself for a change, I never met a soul all night so that was a bonus. At about 11 o'clock I was about to give in and head home. But there's Alot to be said about Magnetic midnight. At approximately 00:15 the aurora grew in intensity and went into outburst. Vivid naked eye Beams 25 to 30 degrees high dancing across the sky. Lasted for 45 mins. Best display I've seen from mothers day this year. It was amazing being on my own in such a wonderful spot with the aurora blazing away. Felt strange. Couldn't believe knowone was there. Made it even more special.

what a result :-)

A storm to remember 25th August 2016   

When I looked at the set up for this storm I wasn't expecting the storm that we witnessed that night. It was a low end set up with about 500-700 cape and a lifted index of -2. I wasn't sure what to think of this setup as it was low end stuff and to be honest I thought it was going to be messy, that said there was shear over the country so there was a possabilty of more organised storms. I finally decided I would go chase it but wasn't sure on location, western areas seemed to be the place to target. Donegal and derry direction.

I met up with fellow chaser Martin McKenna at Maghera. we pulled in for a coffee and went over the charts once more. we bothe chose the coast for the target area, so we headed for down hill beach.

When we arrived at down hill beach we noticed very dark clouds to our west in the Donegal area. we could see rising scud which is a good indication of convection. It was just a waiting game for the storms to head our way.

the first good sighting there was, was a forming shelf coud out over the sea, this shelf was layered with lineations, 1 of the best shelf if not the best shelf cloud I have ever seen. it was just a pity that it was rather hazy out at sea. tho I was happy enough with the results

while watching this amazing shelf cloud form, Martin noticed a flash of lightning to our west, seemed to be over the Derry area. and was travelling straight for us. the excitement was building. We sat taking shots of the storm travelling towards us while it was flashing away. then we noticed that this part of the storm was forming a shelf cloud aswell, I couldn't believe it. I was loving every minute of it. nothing like seeing something so powerful form right infront of you.

they were the meanest looking skies id seen in a very long time. we decided to make a run for the vans and head up to the massuden estate to get a better vantage point. unfortunately when we arrived the shelf cloud had just went over our heads. I couldn't complain tho as the sight that was infront of me, It looked like the end of the world.lol  there was lightning flashing in the core of this monster.

We decided we would start shooting, we had to be quick or else this monster would be right over our heads, I was pumping full of adrenaline, I had even shaky legs.lol the whole experience was overwhelming. as I said before seeing a something so powerful form right in front of us is an experience of a life time, will I think so anyways, after about 5mins the heavy rain started dripping on our lenses. It was time to pack up, when I was packing a massive there was a massive flash ave our heads. we rushed to the van for safety and watch an amazing storm as it past over us. we then ventured down to downhill beach again to try and capture lightning. I wasn't lucky enough to capture it this time round, but wasn't too bad as martin captured a stunning cg out at sea.

All an all I'm glad I chased that day after having doubts, glad I went with my instincts and got rewarded with 1 of the meanest storms with 1 of the best shelf clouds I have ever witnessed.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS


Moonlit fog & fogbow at beaghmore stone circles

There was a chance of aurora so decided I would take my auntie, Gretta Armstrong with me too beaghmore. when we arrived the cloud had just passed over and the skies were clear with the moon low in the sky too the east.

we got the camera gear and walked up to the far end of beaghmore were my favourite stones are. when my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see a small glow on the horizon. I thought it was the aurora but wasn't sure as the moon was effecting naked eye observing. so took my first exposure and yes it was the aurora with a faint green and red glow on the horizon.

the aurora stayed pretty much the same and I was willing it on to go into an outburst but sadly it never happened. as I was taking exposures I noticed fog rolling through the hills in front of me. I thought we didn't have much time left for the aurora to kick off so I thought it was game over.

The fog finally rolled in to beaghmore and made the most Atmospheric scene I have ever seen, so it was time too get creative.

What an Atmospheric scene, almost haunting.lol

After That I looked round and couldn't believe it, a Lunar fogbow had appeared, My aunt couldn't believe it, she had never witnessed 1 before or even knew they exsisted.. it was that vivid it felt like I could reach out and touch it. amazing sight

Lunar Fogbow at Beaghmore stone circles

I took the time to look around and never seen beaghmore stone circles look so amazing.

Moonlit Night at Ballintoy and Carrickarede rope bridge 15th August

After the Summer nights Chasing NLC's and storms the dark skies had returned so it was time to get out for a photo shoot. the moon was full so thought of moonlit landscapes and startrails. I contacted photographer Martin McKenna to see if he wanted to join me and he agreed that we couldn't let this night go. we set off for the north coast.

when I arrived at ballintoy, martin was flying the drone at ballintoy church. so I decided to take myself down to the harbour for sunset. The sunset was amazing.  I was going to venture further on over the coast abit until I noticed a photo, which I never would of thought of because I normally try and get away from people so I usually wouldn't shoot close to the car park. but this made for a nice shot.

the cottage and beach at ballintoy

another image taken at 18mm of the rocks and reflections

After sunset I decided to go and see how martin was getting on, when I arrived at the church Martin was talking too Derek Watters, I had never met him before but we had an interesting conversation about the Aurora, storms and mountain climbing in the mournes. we chatted for an hour and by that time the moon was up and the skies were darkning.

Me and Martin decided we would head over to carrick-a-reed rope bridge for a moonlit startrail. the hike over was nice, we stopped for a photo mid way of the amazing afterglow.

Moonlit Larrybane and sheep island with an amazing after glow

we hiked on another bit until we came to the rope bridge. we got set up and let the cameras flicker away while we took multible exposures to create this wonderful startrail.

After that it was back too ballintoy church and into the barley field, martin went on round to the other side of the field and I found a spot crouched down and all you could hear was the wind rustling the barley. and the night sky above. it felt class and reminded me running through the barley fields around home when I was a cub. I took the opportunity to take a selfy of that special moment

it was time to call it a night at 3 am, It was a successful night and more. but it wasn't over yet, as me and martin were driving the coast road, the full moon was just setting to the west and was bright red, it was spectacular and it was just the perfect ending to a great night at the coast.

Storm chase Mullagmore Co. Sligo 19th july

it all started the week before, with a plume set up showing on the charts bringing heat from the continent. with it being a week away I wasn't getting my hopes up as it normally changes, but was good to see some unstable air coming with it. I got chatting to Martin McKenna, Paul Martin and Conor McDonald about the possibility of storms happening, it was nice hearing other peoples view on the set up.

About 2 days before the chase I couldn't believe the charts, the cape was at 2000 with -8 lifted index.  Martin said it was a dream setup for Ireland and never seen values so high since he started chasing storms. I was amazed myself. the 4 of us got chatting more over the next few days on the convective outlook. convective weather were giving severe weather, possible flooding and large hail for the west of Ireland as big as 4cm. the only thing that had me worried was the strong cap ( a layer of warm air above that can stop storms from developing) it was very strong but with the high cape I hoped the storms would break through eventually.

Chase day, we settled on mullaghmore in county Sligo for a location, I met chasers Martin McKenna, Paul Martin and Conor McDonald at Beleek and headed for Mullaghmore. on arrival we met Noel Keating from Donegal, another keen chaser that I have followed on facebook for a while. was glad to have met him and shared some photography and storm stories.   

The first storm approaching us from the south

Lovely photo from Martins wife Roisin McKenna of all of us out photographing the first incoming storm

The excitement was building when we could hear thunder rumbling from the first cell as it passed out at sea. the weight lifted off my shoulders that we had made the right decision on the location. we started to notice flashes of incloud lightning and as the sun was going down crepuscular rays broke through the haze for a nice photo opportunity

As the first storm went by Paul Martin checked the radar and we knew we were in for a treat when we seen a line of developing cells pushing north towards us. it was just getting dark so my hopes were high of a good light show.

a we while later we started to see flashes of lightning come to the south so got the camera set up pointed south and sat down and watched the amazing show on display. Nature at its best

I manged to capture this shot of in cloud lighning that went straight across the sky in front of me and the castle made the photo for me, reminded me of bram strokers Dracula.lol

This is not daylight, It was pitch black before this was taken, this is lightning over head with a view of the Mullaghmore castle

After that the cells just kept on coming. we then watched to our north, and Ive never seen as many lightning strikes in all my life it was constant.

unfortunately the rain came in, and we were confined to our vans. so no more photo opportunities.

the chase was excellent. and 1 to remember for sure. I think everyone went home happy. and it was great to experience yet another amazing light show this year. Nature was good to us. Nature at its best. THE CHASE NEVER ENDS!!!!!

Reflections Black lough Dungannon

Stunning sunset Reflections on the blacklough Dungannon 

Storm chasing 10th june 2016

I was lucky enough to capture this one as it was a last minute dash in the van as I was busy in the morning. after I had finished I checked the radar and seen a couple of cells moving north west, it was hard to pick 1 but just drove in that direction and came across this beauty of a storm in the Ardboe area. I parked at a cross roads and jumped into the field and watched it head on. It was a delight to watch as a it rumbled away in the distance.

As it came closer it turned into something like ud see in the plains of America, loved the flat fields and the massive gust front and core, there was no visable lightning but it was rumbling with thunder and my best daytime storm to date for structure.

STORM CHASING MADNESS 11/06/2016

It has been a busy week storm chasing, it all started last Monday when I chased to Enniskillen and beleek with high humidity and high tempetures there was a chance of storms, i wasn't impressed with the storms at all, they looked very messy, seen a few cgs and headed home. when i got back I started to check the radar and couldn't believe that I drove away from were there was a chance of night storms. I got intouch with fellow chasers, Martin McKenna and Conor Mcdonald we were  chatting for a while when conor suggested that cells to the east were a definite target for night storms. I checked the radar again and seen the cells coming up from the SE. I was ready for a night chase. got into the van and headed for ballyronan, as i was driving on the upper annagher road in coalisland i seen distant flashes in the county down region. I roared with excitement turned ACDC thunderstruck full boot and was on my way. 

I arrived at ballyronan and seen Martin and conor out with the tripods shooting away. I got set up and couldn't believe the lightning, itwas over county down and Armagh flashing away, so it was just a waiting game for the cells to come up to us. as the cells got closer you could start to see cg lightning clearly, they reached tyrone and antrim and were firing like mad. What a show i was witnessing. I had my camer pointed in the tyrone area and bang, 2 cgs right down the frame, I jumped for joy.

I loved the reflection across the lough. and really gives you a feel for the energy flowing that night. lightning was everywere you looked, so tried over the antrim area towards the international airport. missed the first 1 that totally blew out the frame. but a while later BOOM 1 struck down the frame again to the left it was nice cause it lit up the lough.

we kept watching for a good while then we heard this sound in the distance, it wasn't thunder, it was constant, getting louder and louder, it was coming towards us iit went on for a good 2mins. it was heavy rain hitting  the lough, first time i ever heard that, wish i had a recording. its how long it went on for before eventually hitting us, so it was into the safety of the vans. while in the van we had instant thunder and a strike about 50 yrds away that martin captured later confirmed how close it was. I jumped a few times it was that instant. it was fireing right above our heads. ive been after a night storm from the last 1 i sat out in 2005, this 1 met all my expectations and more. theres nothing like seeing mother nature being angry like that,what an experience 3 full hrs watching a night storm. it was very dangerous driving home tho, I stuck to the main roads and even they were bad, i was driving at a slow pace. a lot of aquaplaining and poor visability. but it didn't matter the drive home calmed me down after the madness before.

what an experience, best storm from 2005 and I'm sure it will prob be a while before I see 1 like that again, but who Knows the way this year is shaping up.

THE CHASE NEVER ENDS !!!!!!

NOCTILUCENT CLOUD DISPLAY  AT BEAGHMORE STONE CIRCLES 03/06/2016


A Good NLC display was on the cards from the first sighting made the night before from Photographer Neil Moroney. I was all ready to go after a few disappointing nights spent out observing with no luck. I decided I would head for the coast. on my way on the moneymore, Desertmartin rd I seen high level cloud to the north, I ran out of internet service on my phone so lucky enough I give Martin Mc kenna a ring to find out what was happening on radar. he told me high level cloud was building on the coast, I couldn't thank martin more for that bit of info as it saved me the time and diesil driving up to the coast. so a big thank you there. my plans were disrupted but I wasn't beat, I headed for that wonderful spot in the sperrins, Beaghmore stone circles, on my way out the omagh road, I noticed NLC's  starting to form in the northern sky, I roared with excitement as it was going to be my first display of the season. arrived at beaghmore and started shooting, I find that the stone circles is 1 of the most silent places to be in Northern Ireland. no joke. you could hear a pin drop, the odd sheep but that's it.lol  I couldn't of been in a better spot. I loved watching the Nlc display change as the light got lower in the electric blue sky, I couldn't believe how they lit up the land as if there was a cresent moon in the sky. this confirmed to me that it was a type 5 display. the structure was also amazing, with waves and bands knots and swirls. watched them from about 11:30 to 2 am. what an amazing display. Id like too dedicate this display too Sir Thomas Romney Robinson from Armagh Observatory who may have made observations of the first Noctilucent Clouds in May 1850

This shot is special for me as it took ages too get right, but got there in the end after about 30 attempts.lol  I wanted to show off the stone circle, The ring of tyrone as I call it. with the Nlcs behind it. think I achieved my goal.

Thought these three stones made good foreground for the NLC display taken with 10mm

NOCTILUCENT CLOUD WATCH STARTS NOW!!!

Now that the aurora is washed out due to Nautical Twighlight Its time to turn the attention to Noctilucent clouds, This is another atmospheric Phononema that will have your jaw dropped with a real good display. I first captured them on camera in 2014 and have been addicted ever since. They occur during summer, from mid-May to mid-August in the northern hemisphere.

Id love to go into the science of them as I do with most things but Very little is known about Noctilucent clouds, and have baffled many scientists over the years, they don't know much about them at all which adds that mystery while observing them.

Noctilucent clouds form in the upper atmosphere, they are night shining clouds hense the name Noctilucent in latin.  Noctilucent clouds are generally colourless or pale blue, although occasionally other colours including red and green occur. The characteristic blue colour comes from absorption by ozone in the path of the sunlight illuminating the noctilucent cloud. They can appear as featureless bands, but frequently show distinctive patterns such as streaks, wave-like undulations, and whirls,

I'm just waiting on the first sighting, cant wait to be out observing this Beautiful Phononema once again.

Sunpillar and surprise aurora 08/05/2016

Me and the brother love sea fishing and have been at it from we were kids. so every month or so we organise a sea fishing trip, we have fished every coastal county in Ireland, so its a great chance for me to capture the beauty of the Irish coast. this time we decided to fish local and head up to ballintoy on the Antrim coast, I always pack the camera gear and take it with me just incase Ive a chance to capture something cool on camera. On our way up the sun was setting so I decided we would pull in at 1 of the best layby's on the North Antrim coast, the 1 above White park bay. there is a great view of, white park bay, Portbraddon and Dunseverick from the layby. My intention was just to shoot the sunset, but to my amazement a sun Pillar had formed.A sun pillar is a vertical shaft of light extending upward or downward from the sun. Typically seen during sunrise or sunset, sun pillars form when sunlight reflects off the surfaces of falling ice crystals associated with thin, high-level clouds.

After the sun set we set up and got fishing at ballintoy, we were lucky enuf to catch 2 flounder, a dab and a dogfish, so the fishing was good, I knew there was a small chance of aurora that night but wasn't to sure on seeing it as there was a lot of high level cloud when we arrived, It was a good 3hrs before the cloud had finally passed and right away you could see a glow in the sky. it stayed pretty static for about an hour then at about 2am the aurora went into outburst, it was faint to the naked eye but you could see some defined beams. they were actually the tallest beams ive ever witnessed. I don't know the science of colour and light but I noticed that the beams were purple and blue, I wonder was it the colour of the beams that made them fainter than usual or was it just the mist hampering our view. anyways it was a great display none the less and Ive now documented 33 Aurora displays, hopefully with a lot more next season.

I took this opportunity to capture something different as foreground with Me and the brother, sea fishing and the aurora blazing behind us

22° Halo with Colourful supralateral and infralateral arcs 30/04/2016

After the disappointment fro the Aurora not showing the night before and being of the road for 3 weeks I was well and truly ready for capturing something cool on camera. It all started a couple of weeks ago when My friend Colleen McGuinness sent me a photo of a moon halo they had witnessed. it looked class and I have seen a moon halo before but nothing quite like what she had seen. From I first held a camera in my hand Ive always been looking to capture Atmospheric Phononema, thing that people don't see every day and the rarest displays on earth. this was my drive from day 1. so a Sun halo was on my capture list for quite a while. any how after Colleen had sent me that, it got even more weird when I think of it now, My good friend Nightskyhunter Martin McKenna sent me a photo of a sun halo that he had captured the following week.  saying that it was 1 of the finest displays he had ever seen. so me capturing 1 on Saturday was abit weird to say the least.lol  I might tell them to send me photos of a massive Mothership supercell storm with a tornado the next time too see if that works, worth a try I think.lol 

On Saturday I seen cloud coming in from the west so wasn't expecting to get out with the camera. I took the dogs for a walk and noticed the cloud coming in was light hazy cloud so thought maybe I could capture a class red sunset or maybe a sun halo if I was lucky. When I got home I was checking the sky every 10 to 15 mins. I went out the back and noticed a sundog forming then when I blocked the sun with my hand I couldn't believe it, Jackpot, a 22° sun Halo was in front of me I rushed for the camera and started shooting. It was an amazing sight You could clearly see the 2 Sundogs either side of the Halo (Sundogs are the brightest parts either side of the halo) and the Upper Tangent Arc above. ( the upper tangent arc is the brightest bit at the top of the halo) It was first class to see my first real Sun halo couldn't believe the colours on the UTA and the Sundogs but to my amazement a little later on I Noticed very faint colours of the rainbow to the left and right of the halo its self, I thought is this going to produce a double halo which is called a 46° and is very rare indeed but sadly it didn't form. I later learned by doing abit of research. that if the 22° halo has fragment halos both ends these are supralateral and infralateral arcs, these are the faint rainbow colours on the far edges.

now that the Aurora season is coming to an end. this is a small video with all my aurora images and timelapse over the past season.. im also looking forward to the wildlife season to begin, the river banks will be walked flat out the next few months, storm season and then of course the Nlcs Noctilucent clouds.

best viewed big screen and the music up loud, enjoy


Wildlife report 19/04/2016

With high pressure dominating the week I thought it was time to get the 2016 wildlife season into swing. Myself, Martin Armstrong and, Plunket Scullion decided to make the first preparation for the new season which involved searching for any signs of wildlife down the River, building hides and removing any distractions like over hanging branches which would be in the road of a good photo. I was amazed at what I seen so far, and it really gives me high hopes for the season to come. There was Dippers and kingfisher's flying up and down the river, we spotted a mink, and another few surprises which will come later in the year. 

I decided to sit in and try and get my first photo of the dipper this year. so I set up and waited for about 2 hours to get the shot, It was quite dark and not much light around but I was surprised how well the photo came out.

The Dipper is a short-tailed, plump bird with a low, whirring flight. When perched on a rock it habitually bobs up and down and frequently cocks its tail. Its white throat and breast contrasts with its dark body plumage. It is remarkable in its method of walking into and under water in search of food. 

I will have to do abit more searching for the kingfishers and were they are pearching, hope to capture them in early may some time but im just glad to see 1 pair flying up and down the river at the min.

First swallow of the year 19/04/2016

Today I also captured The first swallow Ive seen this year. Many birdwatchers like to keep records of when Migrating birds arrive. I started keeping record from last year, with this being my second year It was earlier than last year by 2 weeks.

Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are widespread breeding birds in the Northern Hemisphere, migrating south in winter.

Storm chase at Ballyronan & Beaghmore Stone Circles 27th & 29th March 2016

Day 1 Ballyronan and lough neagh

I have been waiting a long time to finally get a storm chase underway so was glad when the charts were giving unstable air over the uk and Ireland this week. periods of 400-500 CAPE (Convective Available Potential Energy) was forecast so even though it was low there was a chance of Isolated thunderstorms. I was checking the charts all week and was in contact with chaser Martin McKenna, we chatted through the week on the potential for some great photogenic convection and if we are lucky maybe an isolated thunderstorm. The CAPE was changing on the charts every hour for day 1, so decided to leave it until Saturday night before checking them again. the charts looked good so the chase was on!! 

This is the CAPE & Lifted index chart for day 1 

On Sunday I headed for Ballyronan on the shore of lough neagh, I met up with chaser Martin McKenna and his wife Roisin. as I arrived I seen a dramatic looking cell out over the lough, Martin and Roisin were already out shooting. so it was hit the ground running at the start of our chase. the cell was first class it had great contrast especially at the base with the heavy hail. the swans were close to the shore and made for a nice shot.

After that cell had passed there was another cell to the North so headed for the Marina, nice to get a few boats in the scene for a shot.

After the marina we checked the radar and there was a few cells glowing red to the south west in the Enniskillen region so we were hoping that we could intercept them as they travelled north east. we decided to hit the road. we stopped on the toome rd as there was a hail shower to our left, we were right under the base and there was nice light shining through the hail curtains. so was we stopped for a shot.

while stopped at the side of the road martin said that the cells coming up north east had died out. so we thought the best move was to go back to the marina in the hope that something will kick off later on. when we arrived there was class convection out over the lough. the cell looked like it was dying but as it went over the lough it started to grow again. the lough temperature must of been warmer than usual for this time of year for that to happen. it was great to watch it come from nothing and grow as it crossed the lough. this is the cell crossing the lough

After It had passed 2 swans came up to me so took a shot of them with the cell in the distance

By this time me and martin decided to head over to the pier, there was a cell heading north east with hail curtains and a bow, Martin quickly got the drone up and I took a timelapse. lovely sight

At that the sun was getting low, we were tired but decided to stay on just in case we got a surprise while the sun was setting A line of cells just headed across lough neagh at the right time, I took video and this pano of them

All and all a great day out, and just to see some good convection was a treat. there was more CAPE forecast for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so thought Tuesday was a good set up for another chase.

DAY 2

On the second day we thought we would try beaghmore stone circles, It also has a great view, you can see for miles each direction. there was 400 CAPE forecast for midday. once again I met Martin and his wife Roisin. we were then later joined by chaser Paul martin and his girlfriend. it was great to have people there that enjoy storm chasing as much as I do.

the day started off pretty slow. with not much happening but as the day progressed we finally got some good convection so it was action time. this cell created an anvil straight infront us it was great watching it grow in real time. so I decided to make the most of it and shoot it with what I call The ring of Tyrone

This is the anvil forming

Once again we were waiting on more cells coming but we checked on radar and there was one glowing red heading our way. we seen the anvil first and new by looking at it, that it was a storm cell. as It got closer you could see the shelf cloud and updraft. plus you could feel the cold downdraft in the air. this was the 1 we have been waiting for.  it looked amazing.

I decided to take a pano of the full structure

This is the shelf cloud

The back lit anvil

It was a great sight to see so early in the season and a great 2 days chasing with great people, I wasn't expecting that storm cell at all so it was a big surprise. so well chuffed.  This is a video I made over the 2 days

THE CHASE GOES ON!!

Spectecular Mothers Day Aurora from Beaghmore stone circles 06/03/2016

It all started on wednesday while looking at the charts, there was a G1 storm forecast from spaceweather. I checked the WSA-ENLIL Solar Wind Prediction model and it didnt look like much at all just a thin slither of solar wind hitting earth with predicted speed of 400km/s. I wasnt sure if it would produce G1 even. It was predicted to arrive early hours of sunday morning. I was checking the charts all saturday night but nothing happened. I was so sure it was a damp squib but later on I got word that things were picking up. I checked space weather and they said there was a stelth cme that had hit earth undetacted. so my hopes were up bigtime.  on sunday evening while making my mother her mothers day dinner like the good son that I am.lol I went out the back, the cloud had just cleared, I couldnt believe it the aurora was at about 45 degree angle over head. it was crazy to see it so vivid from my house as i live on the edge of town with all the light pollution. I shouted to my mother and the bro. you could even see the beams moving across the sky, back in for the dinner and I couldnt get the dinner in me quick enough had all the gear packed from the night before so went straight to beaghmore stone circles.

when I arrived at beaghmore at around 8pm  the aurora had just calmed down abit so was worried that maybe i had missed the best of it. took the first few shots a few beams were popping up here and there. so just kept shooting diffrent parts of the stones at diffrent angles. I decide i would ring a few people and let them know what i was seeing. as i turned my phone on It was on a constant bleap from facebook and text messages. I rang Martin Armstrong to see if he was out, he said he was but things have died down. I told him to keep watch because there was a good chance it would go into outburst again. as i was finished talking on the phone I noticed all the messages, so many people had seen it and some hadnt and people were asking me questions  I tried my best to keep up with it all but ended up turning it off cause was missing the show myself. at that point I got the feeling that the aurora hadnt finished yet and at about half 9 my feeling became truth. The aurora went into outburst. what a feeling. believe me there is nothing like it when it happens. rising structure  beams growing in colour dancing across the sky. I was roaring with joy. sometimes i have tell myself to calm down I get abit over excited. but thats what gets me out doing this. the excitement of it all.

this is the start of the 9:30pm outburst


as it was growin in intencity I stopped and watched it for 10 mins. Ive started doing this now because sometimes you get carried away taking photos and miss most of whats happening so once I had a few shots I could relax and watch this amazing show. as the outburst was peaking I noticed a massive beam  to the east 1 of the biggest pillars ive seen I measure at over 60degrees in height an absolute gem of a beam.

this is the 60 degree beam over to the far right


This was the Aurora at its peak

As I was watching the aurora at its peak I happened to look above my head and couldnt believe it there was an unclassified blob detatched and was above my head and out to the east at one stage i thought it was going to make a full secondary arc. it was very close to doing so. out of 30 auroras ive seen ive never seen this happen before. I was pumpin with adrenaline at this stage i even felt shaky i was that amazed at the sight i was seeing.  I dont know how many times I said OMG.lol  at this stage You know when your that excited you just wished the whole world was seeing what you was seeing. I was at that point.here is me pointing at the unclassified blob that detached itself from the main arch 

at this stage I tried bumping up my iso abit more and lower the shutter speed to get more vivid structure and it payed off nicely

I then decided to go over to lough fea for the end of the show

What a night to remember, I think for now on I will EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED when it comes to small solar wind streams.lol  but thats what makes it special. I mind last year when me an nightskyhunter Martin mckenna were out doing abit of timelapse at beaghmore 1 night we met a guy from outside derry. he said to us and I quote " the Aurora sure im sick of seeing it, ive seen that many now"  he said he had seen 20 all together. I honestly think this guy was on another planet or else hes seeing airport lights or something. this was aurora number 30 for me and i dont think ill ever get sick of chasing it. Number 30 for me was the best ive seen to date. and 1 ill remember for the rest of my life. solar maximum is waning off slowly and i dont think there will be much more displays like this. BUT THE CHASE  GOES ON!!!

Henry The Heron

Last year I was walking down the torrent river with the dogs and I noticed this Heron perched on a rock. usually once a heron would catch glimpse of you it would fly off but this 1 stayed. my dog max was yards away from it and still didn't move. I was amazed how it wouldn't move, of course I didn't have my camera that day.  I had a chat with my uncle and fellow photographer Martin Armstrong who Introduced me to the wildlife down the river and has great knowledge about wildlife. He told me it was very strange. and that the same happened him when he was down with his dog.  so at first we thought maybe there was something wrong with it. so we decided to keep an eye on it. as time went on The Heron looked healthy and didn't look unwell at all. he was just very tame. I tried photographing it aload of times. but every time I tried to get close he flew away.lol everybody else was getting great shots of him but me. He was that tame you prob could of went and took a selfie with it.lol  I couldn't understand why he kept flying away when I was trying to photograph him. I then suspected it was my gear. so tried a more stealthy approach but still no joy. Martin had called it Henry the Heron as it was getting very popular down the river. I just gave up and said I will leave it for a while, after a while martin showed me great close ups of Henry and couldn't believe how close he got. so the strat of this year it was def my drive to get a shot of Henry. Martin said we would go down to the river to see if anything was kicking about. we pulled up and Henry was sitting at the waterfall. It was my chance. I quietly moved up close as I could get and bang I had a shot. what a relief, a weight off my shoulders. he then flew up to the tree next to us and took another few. Martin Joked and said that it was just because he was there that I got the shot. It probably was.lol  

just was Glad I got the shots of henry after chasing him down for a full year and  hope many more in the future.


Aurora hunt 28

On sunday night I went in the hopes that the aurora would show up early from the Cme which erupted from the sun on Friday 12th. I chose ballintoy as the location because I had a spot in mind that I wanted to try out for abit of foreground. It was a beautiful clear night, the moon light lighting up the land and sea below but sadly it wasn't to be, reports on Monday said that the CME had missed the planet completely.

this photo sums up the night very well

On tueday night things started to kick off reacting to a solar wind stream from the sun which I was very disappointed because it was totally clouded over. I thought my chance was over but on Wednesday I was checking space weather and the activity had been extended to Thursday so was hopeful I would capture something on Wednesday night. I arrived at ballintoy and was shocked to see that nobody else was around. I like it like that anyways so headed to my chosen spot and started observing. it wasn't great to the naked eye to be honest, it only looked like a haze on the horizon. the moonlight was washing out the colours. I checked what the camera was picking up and it was faint aswelll. I Started to chat with NightskyHunter Martin McKenna on my phone to see what way the charts and oval looked. He told me that the oval looked great and the Bz was south so got back to the camera and just very faintly at the side of my eye I noticed pillars of light starting to dance. checked the time and it was 21:30 the aurora had went into an outburst  

Was so glad that I had witnessed the outburst, as not too many people did. just as the outburst was dying down the cars started to arrive at ballintoy. I decided I would jump up on the rock and observe the show from a height.

the aurora died down so I finished up and decided to head for dunluce but by that stage the Bz jumped north and the show was over. all & all wasn't the best naked eye show but captured it on camera so was happy enough. was also glad of the clear conditions as the cloud cover this past while was doing my head in. so was glad I made the most of a beautiful clear night


Valentines day Aurora possible

Possible aurora late valentines night into Monday morning, G1 storm conditions are forecast, so be on the look out.

from spaceweather.com 

A faint partial halo coronal mass ejection was launched with an angular width of about 270 degrees. Most of the ejected material is heading well north and west of our planet but we are confident that at least a part of this plasma cloud will interact with Earth. A glancing blow will likely arrive at Earth.   

We do not have a speed measurment from CACtus at the moment so we do not have an accurate way to determine the speed of this plasma cloud but we estimate with our own methods that this coronal mass ejection travels somewhere around 600 km/s. By using this speed and taking into account the current background solar wind speed we estimate that this coronal mass ejection is likely to arrive around 3:00 UTC (plus/minus 6 hours) on 15 February 2016. Minor G1 geomagnetic storm conditions are likely on 15 February when the cloud arrives and moderate G2 geomagnetic storm conditions can not be excluded if the direction of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) cooperates.

Stunning Sunset, blacklough Dungannon

05/02/2016

On Friday evening I was waiting for the rain to go over so I could take the dogs for a walk. the rain was non stop on Friday so hadn't had the chance to get out all day. around 4pm it finally stopped so headed out with the dogs over the fields. I looked up and seen a lot of high level cloud and from experience I knew the way it was formed that there was going to be a good chance of a stunning afterglow after the sun had set. I rushed back with the dogs got the camera and headed for the black lough. My instincts were right. By the time I got down the field to the lough the sky was bright orange in colour. Hadnt much time to think about composition, just wanted to capture the mighty sky that was above me. took a few shots then the sky turned from orange to salmon pink then deep red. It was amazing.

here are the images

Storm Henry

04/02/2016   

After seeing the spectacular Polar stratospheric clouds, I had a feeling that nature was going to produce the goods, by mid day I was back out again and storm henry was just arriving I decided to go to 1 of my favourite spots for observing storms and the sea, Harbour hill in portstewart, the sea was slowly building and the gusts were getting stronger. storm Henry had arrived. I headed for Portstewart strand, got out and went for a walk, when I got back I took some video of the waves and I noticed another photographer walking up the beach. I sat dreaming about the bazooka lens he had on.lol if only but got a nice bit of footage of him taking a few shots. by then a shower of rain came on with severe strong gusts that were shaking the van. When it passed there was a wonderful Rainbow just out at sea abit so quickly ran over and took a few shots and some video.

after that it was over to Ballintoy were I couldn't believe the amount of people out taking photos of the rough seas. I decides to go down to the rocks and the we beach at the right hand side. It was rough and very dangerous so didn't want to get to close so just stayed well back. the waves were crashing well over were I had photographed PSC's earlier that morning, the waves were crashing up the blow hole also I sat took a few shots and video. then took a momment to sit down and enjoy the show. when I got back to the van I looked down and there was a photographer right at the edge of the harbour were the sea was clearly coming in over were he was going. another man shouted at him to get back and was he stupid. I don't think he took it too well. Some people especially photographers take some risks. in my eyes no photo is not worth risking your life over. I have good knowledge of the sea as ive been around it and fished it all my life. And it can be very cruel at times. the minute you disrespect it, it can swipe you off your feet in a split second. Ive been caught out a few times even being in a safe position on the rocks while fishing due to freak waves. they come out of knowwere. enjoy the sea, Photograph it in all its beauty. be wise and stay safe.  Right Rant over. back to storm Henry.lol  got abit lost there.  anyhow enjoyed watching the waves coming crashing over the rocks on the north side behind the cottage café. from the top of the hill. I tried to take video but it was a task and a half. at 1 stage I think I was at a 45 degree angle trying to video.lol all I could do was laugh. the wind was that strong I could hardly open my eyes.lol  crazy so the video footage at that point wasn't the best. very shaky even with the Image stabilisation turned on. I later found out that 85 mph wind was recorded at malin head Donegal. storm Henry was 1 of the strongest storms Ireland has seen in years. It was impressive to film and photograph, and 1 to be remembered for sure

Here is all my images and video footage from Storm Henry.

Rough seas looking towards sheep island

Another wonderful Rainbow I captured at Ballintoy

A very moody scene, when the rain was hammerind down I decided to photograph this scene

Last light of storm Henry at Ballintoy harbour

My video footage of storm Henry

Polar stratospheric clouds

02/02/2016

The 2nd low pressure, storm Henry was looking to be 1 of the biggest storms in years. Rain and 70-100mph winds were forecast so it was an other opportunity to get out and capture another wild day on the north coast. I arrived before dawn at ballintoy. storm henry was abit late on arriving so I was all geared up for sunrise. there was a lot of low cloud about 20 degrees from the horizon, waited to see if it would clear. as I was waiting the cloud got abit lower and these colours appeared in the sky. I thought I was seeing things at first, rubbed my eyes and still the colours were there. got the thinking cap on and came to the conclusion that it was a sun dog, as I have seen them before but never as vivid. as the colour fell back abit I noticed it was a cloud, I thought to myself it couldn't be a sun dog as they form in mist. I was completely baffled but totally amazed on what I was witnessing. I stood and watched and nearly for got to take a photo.lol got set up where I had planned to shoot sunrise. after a while it clouded over completely. I was on a massive high as I walked backed to the car. got on to google and facebook and the reports came in that it was Nacreous/Polar Stratospheric or mother of pearl clouds, all different names for them.


How they form and why they formed over Ireland

These clouds are higher up in the atmosphere than our usual everyday clouds. They seem to occur when we have very strong winds at the surface, like Henry has provided. You can see them when the sunlight isn’t too strong and so around dusk and after dawn are ideal times when the sunlight still provides the colours but the power of full daylight doesn’t obliterate the stunning iridescence.

Usually these clouds would only be seen in the polar regions but the show recently has been common in Scotland.  Nacreous clouds form below -78 °C temperatures. As you go up in the atmosphere, temperatures fall until you get into the stratosphere.  

Most of our everyday clouds are in the troposphere, the section of our atmosphere closest to the ground and up to a height of about 7 miles up. The next section is the stratosphere, reaching to 30 miles up, although the dividing boundaries vary around the globe. At that height and temperature, the clouds are made up of ice crystals ( some Nacreous thought to be mixed with certain atmospheric acids) which catch the sunlight, giving the shimmering colours.  Currently, there is cold stratospheric air over Ireland, with below -78C air in the north.

A Weather expert has said "The cold core of the polar vortex which normally resides over the North Pole has been displaced over Northern Europe and moisture in this core has allowed cloud formation to occur in the stratosphere and to be viewed from the UK.” See the blue area in Netweather stratospheric chart below

Nacreous clouds are found in the Met Office Observers book under “Special Clouds” along with Noctilucent (much higher). A description “…is brightly coloured like a glorified iridescent cloud”. Sometimes you do glimpse iridescence in clouds, the mother of pearl hints but these nacreous episodes have been spectacular

So, with the stratospheric air over Ireland and Storm Henry at the surface throwing up perturbations right through the atmosphere,  we have been lucky enough to see these rare clouds in Ireland.

I sourced all this info from www.Netweather.tv


30/01/2016

Storm Gertrude

I haven't been out shooting in 2 weeks so I was glad when I heard 2 Atlantic lows were battling it out in the mid atlantic and were heading our road. Storm Gertrude was the second low and it had more western winds than the past south western winds. Was hoping for some big seas on the north coast dramatic clouds and storm Gertrude didn't disappoint. it arrived over night of the 28th & 29th January. I could hear the wind building from my bedroom before I went to sleep, set the alarm for 6am as it was high tide at 9 am at Portstewart.

Got up at 6 am got breakfast and headed for the coast the drive up was a hairy 1 with the van swaying out from the strong gusts also some trees had fallen in the Desertmartin area, I took it very easy on my way up the road so was glad I left early. On the way up I heard on the radio that the winds were peaking and 85mph gust was recorded On the north coast. so I new it was going to be a gd 1. I arrived at portstewart at about 8:30 and got out strait away started recording at portstewart harbour. I wanted to try out capturing the storm by video this time. It was tough going as I had to deal with the sea spray every minute or so the lens was covered with spray. so had to wipe record, wipe record. and so on. the sea was first class big swells crashing on the rocks. strong winds, I really love the mood of the Portstewart when there is high sea's because all summer its flat calm and absolutely stuffed with people. then when winter storms with high sea's hit theres hardly anyone around, maybe im mad but people don't know what there missing in my view.

This is the footage & some images I captured. It was a bonus that I got up close with the birds thought it added to the video.

16/01/2016

LONG AWAITED SNOW HAS ARRIVED

With all the mild weather in the month of December I was wondering would the snow arrive at all. thankfully the Artic blast produced snow over night on the 14th January. I had planned to get up for sunrise and head for the stone circles, but when I seen the half 7 news I thought I would hold back because of the accidents on the roads over night, held back to 10am then it was all go. the brother had kindly let me test out the go pro as im buying 1 next month for my video work. he give me a suction cup mount, I stuck it to the bonnet of the van. it was great for capturing the snow on the road up to the stone circles. when I arrived there it was very dull and grey with a few clear patches, not the best light but I just wanted to capture the snow. wasn't that worried about capturing a great photo. the covering of snow was about 3 inches deep and some of the stones had snow drifts on one side of them. the potential was there but just not the best light around.

I decided to come back to the stone circles at sunset and ended up capturing the lines of stones from a different angle with the sun just behind some high level cloud

This was the most frustrating thing of my trip I felt like crying to be honest, a large snow shower was on its way, the sun had just went behind the cloud on the horizon. if the cloud hadn't of covered the sun for just a few minutes the light on the snow clouds would of been class. I know I would of captured a shot ive been after for a while. I will get that shot yet, heres the snow shower heading over the sperrins

13/01/2016

COMET CATALINA & M42 ORION NEBULA

All the mild weather over Christmas, warm moist air from the south wasn't the best weather for observing the night sky, so I was glad when cold artic air was forecast this week. Ive been checking updates on comet catalina from before Christmas on its magnitude. its now at a healthy mag 6.5, its just not quite a naked eye object but can be seen with a good pair of binoculars. its located just below the handle of the plough (ursa major). shown here

Last night my chance came to document this comet. the skys were clear so I decided to go to beaghmore stone circles to get away from light pollution. when I arrived I set up the scope. I was out a night last week when the motors went on my scope. absolutely gutted. so I couldn't use it for tracking the comet. I just had to use it manually. abit of an inconvenience but I didn't let it annoy me. set up my camera with the 70-200mm. I searched for the comet first with the binos. seen a fuzzy glow and new that it was comet catalina.

I lined it up with the telescope. and was amazed what I seen. you could clearly see 2 jets from the comet kept my on it for a while then it was to the camera. I wanted to try a new technique by stacking a lot of frames together to take out the details. so had to take over 100 frames of the comet. I didn't quite master it but happy enough with my first attempt

after capturing catalina I turned my attention to the orion nebula. I never get tired of looking at it through the scope its located on orions sword. you can even see it with the naked eye in dark skys. I tried the same method with the nebula by stacking with no tracker. this was the result. I hope to get a lot better at this method but i think its not bad for the first attempt

why not have a go yourself get out with a good pair of binos or a scope and have a go.

07/01/2016

was out today doing on a job for a man. and seen some class mammatus cloud on the back of a cell. the low sun was perfect, the light on them was class & the one time i dont have my camera with me.lol when i got home i rushed up to my normal veiw point castle hill dungannon. just missed another cell that looked good in the distance. I didnt come home empty handed tho. as a light shower past a rainbow appeared just as the sun was going down. class light hiting the chapel also.

A Sunset Rainbow St. Patricks chapel Dungannon.


Understanding space weather 06/01/2016

In my reports many of you have been asking me what does all this mean, will im going to try and explain it as best I can in lay mans terms.

Coronal Holes

The sun is continually releasing hot gases from its surface, a steady stream of particles. this is made up of protons and electrons. The solar wind flows out from the sun towards earth. the magnetic field lines on the sun's surface hold in this solar wind most of the time, but sometimes these magnetic lines get stretched and release the solar wind from the sun and they head towards earth. this is called a Solar wind stream. A solar wind stream from a coronal hole is normally faster than normal. For example, the solar wind usually leaves the sun at speeds of around 250 miles (400 kilometers) per second, but solar wind leaving through the center of a coronal hole travels much faster, up to 500 miles (800 kilometers) per second. When these solar wind particles reach the earth, which takes two to four days, depending on their speed, modest geomagnetic storms can result. High-speed wind gusts can also disturb satellites in earth orbit.

Solar flares

Solar flares are short-term outbursts on the sun, caused by the sudden release of energy stored in twisted magnetic fields in the solar atmosphere.

Corona mass ejections

A coronal mass ejection, or CME, for short, is an ejection of large amounts of matter from the sun’s atmosphere, or corona. One of the most spectacular displays of solar activity, CMEs can fling into space billions of tons of solar material, called plasma.

The Magnetosphere

You probably already know that the earth has a magnetic field. You may not realize this field stretches way out into space—at least 37,000 miles (60,000 kilometers)—to form a protective bubble known as the magnetosphere.

The magnetosphere is important because it shields us from interplanetary space weather. Charged particles cannot easily cross the lines of a magnetic field. The result is that most of the particles in the incoming solar wind are deflected around the earth by the earth’s magnetic field.

However, charged particles are not the only component of the solar wind. The solar wind also carries with it interplanetary magnetic field, or IMF, which is a magnetic field from the sun. The IMF can influence solar weather by disrupting the earth’s magnetosphere. How?

The earth’s magnetic field and the IMF connect at the polar caps, and it’s here that energy and particles can and do enter the magnetosphere. If the incoming IMF points south, its interconnection with the earth’s magnetic field becomes especially strong. The effect is like widening a hole—suddenly more energy and particles enter the magnetosphere. Auroras intensify, and geomagnetic storms become likely. For this reason, scientists pay careful attention to not only the strength but also the orientation of incoming magnetic fields from the sun. South-pointing magnetic fields can spell trouble, while north-pointing fields usually coincide with calmer conditions.

Forecasting

The BZ term is used as a measurement of how north or south the IMF goes. if the BZ is north there is less chance of seeing the aurora. if it tilts south then your in for an amazing view. this fluxuates from time to time so its the most important thing to keep an eye on.

also another measurement used of how visable the Aurora is from your location (lattitude) is KP numbers. there numbered 1 to 9. if the aurora reaches kp5 then the measurement of storm levels come in. which kp5 is known as a G1 minor storm, kp6 is known as G2 moderate storm, kp7 is G3 kp8 is G4 and so on.

also keep any on the speed and density of the solar wind, the faster the particels the more stretched the magnetosphere gets pushing the BZ south. so its another good source of information. I do most of my forecasting of the spaceweather site

http://www.spaceweatherlive.com/

they give you updates on how storm conditions are playing out. using dials and bar charts.

another good link to use is the aurora oval. this is an animated model that shows the visable aurora and its updated every 15 mins, so its a great tool to use for that realtime info.

this is what it looks like when things are in full swing


this is a chart showing you were your kp number is located

31/12/2015 Aurora Hunt 26

as I celebrated Christmas week , I wasn't planning on taking the camera out of the bag for a week, I parked the van up and said the van isn't moving for a couple of days. So on Tuesday when I checked the space weather website I wasn't expecting to see that Sunspot region 2473 produced a long duration M1.8 solar flare but all we got was an Earth Directed partial halo CME, it was to arrive sometime on the 30th. I was even more surprised when I seen G3 storm conditions ( kp7) forecast for this event. so the long wait started , the CME arrived after midnight on the 31st. It was abit of a disappointment when I seen that the solar wind speed wasn't that impressive with the cme and that it def wasn't going to be a G3 event. but it didn't stop me going for the camera bag jumping in the van and up to the coast I went.

I arrived at ballintoy at about 5pm on Newyears eve, I had a couple of places in mind for foreground, but as it was newyears eve a lot of the holiday homes in ballintoy had there outside lights on which ruined my Ideas completely. I didn't want to go to the causeway as there had been landslides there during the week, (better safe than sorry) so it was off to Dunluce castle. nothing was happening when I arrived, I gathered up the gear and headed down to the castle were I met Ryan Simpson, My phone had just died so asked him what way the Bz was. he said the Bz was south by some degree. That it was the solar wind speed was low. I was abit mythed and ryan said he was going to head home, I got back in the van and sat for half an hour, I took a few exposures and seen a faint glow on the horizon. headed back down to the castle. Ryan jumped out also. the green glow enhanced and was now visable to the naked eye. cloud on the horizon was hampering our view at this point. I started shouting come on beams were are ye. not to long after that we started to see beams pop up from the cloud. Me and Ryan cheered and Ryan was well pleased that he didn't go on home.


After a while things Died down. I was bitterly cold and needed abit of warmth after spending 2 hours out shooting at dunluce. I stopped for a bite to eat at bushmills and as I was getting out of the van I closed the door and my cable release lead snapped as i closed the door. this has happened me before so i wasnt abit pleased.lol anyhow headed for ballintoy once more. I was hoping the outside lights from the holiday homes were turned off. unfortunitly the weren't so decided to head behind the cottage café. I met fellow photographer Glenn miles who ive met many times when out shooting the aurora and the night sky. we got talking how cold it was, and wondered would things kick off again. glenn hoped into the car for a cup of coffee, so I headed for my spot and started shooting timelapse by firing the shutter every 30 seconds by hand.lol gruelling operation but I managed. about an hour into it near magnetic midnight. I started to see beams to the far right, it slowly picked up momentum and went into outburst. People that have been with me when the aurora goes into outburst, Knows I find it very hard to hide my excitement. I was roaring beams beams beams. Woo hoo woo hoo come on beams yes. yeeehhhaaa.lol I thought I was on my own but as I turned around there was 2 couples staring down at me from behind the wall.lol they prob thought I was a raving maniac. but who cares. I don't.lol any how I don't know how but I managed to repeat the shutter as it was dancing in the sky. the highest beams were about 30 degrees in height.

after a couple of hours the cold was getting to me once more and I was seriously tired and I had along drive ahead of me so decide to head back home at about 1am. what a way to bring in the new year, THE REAL FIREWORKS DISPLAY

29/12/2015

Possible Aurora on the 30th and 31st December. a cme has ejected a earth directed partial halo. there is a lot of uncertainty about this. going by different models G1, G2, and G3 storm conditions possible.

with storm frank passing over us tonight im hoping for clearance behind it. all being well, this will be my 26th Aurora hunt.

NOAA Space weather prediction center

The geomagnetic storming watch for 30 December has been upgraded to a G3 (Strong), with a G1 (Minor) storming watch still in effect for 31 December. These watches are in response to consistent WSA-Enlil modeling results and SWPC forecasters' determination that a coronal mass ejection (CME) impact is likely just after midday on 30 December with residual CME effects continuing into 31 December. The CME impact may cause a sudden impulse geomagnetic response at Earth, likely resulting in the G3 conditions. The CME was associated with a long-duration M1 flare (R1-Minor radio blackout) that peaked at 1245 UTC (0745 ET)


24/12/2015

Check out my new timelapse video, this is a timelapse of the night sky, aurora and noctilucent clouds ive captured over the past year 2015 on Irelands amazing north coast

AURORA 20/12/2015

with 2 CME's erupted of the sun on wednesday, friday night I was all geared up for the awaited Aurora hunt. I decided to hit the coast friday and saturday night, and it was a massive disapointment, the CME's were late by 16 hours than predicted. then when it did hit the BZ stayed north all night so I thought, it was over, but was i wrong, woke up sunday morning checked the models and the aurora was blazing, I went to the cinema to see the new starwars movie got out and as i g...ot out of the van in dungannon I seen massive green beams to the north. I hurried up to beaghmore stonecircles and was met with a green diffused glow across the horizon. i took abit of timelapse then decided i would hit the coast last night and driving up the road at about 11:45 the sky erupted, I wish the van had light speed.lol too much starwars lately.lol i pulled in at desertmartin and just sat watching it didnt even take a shot. i didnt want to take my eyes off it. I jumped back in the van and made to dunluce castle and luckly there was still abit of activity from the out burst got the 2 cameras out and started shooting. I later moved to the giants causeway took a few there before driving back home at about half 4 this morning. all and all a hectic weekend but I was repayed for my effort after all.

An Auroral band going across the sky at Beaghmore Stone circles

Dancing beams of light 18mm at Dunluce castle

me at the top of the ancient Rocks at 10mm at the Giants causeway

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