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Full rainbow over prairie grass in Miner County.
Full rainbow over prairie grass in Miner County.
The first light after a storm in Lyman County.
The first light after a storm in Lyman County.
The road south of Presho after a late May storm.
The road south of Presho after a late May storm.
Bison and mammatus clouds lit by the setting sun north of the White River.
Bison and mammatus clouds lit by the setting sun north of the White River.
The White River breaks with mammatus clouds.
The White River breaks with mammatus clouds.
The White River as the last of the sunlight colored the clouds in shades of purple and pink.
The White River as the last of the sunlight colored the clouds in shades of purple and pink.
Stormy skies in Douglas County.
Stormy skies in Douglas County.
Strong winds raising farm soil high in the air in Douglas County.
Strong winds raising farm soil high in the air in Douglas County.
Trinity Lutheran near Platte as the first light after the storm broke through.
Trinity Lutheran near Platte as the first light after the storm broke through.
Academy United Church of Christ near the Bijou Hills as the setting sun continued to color the retreating storm clouds.
Academy United Church of Christ near the Bijou Hills as the setting sun continued to color the retreating storm clouds.
A strong storm with heavy rain letting loose in rural Deuel County.
A strong storm with heavy rain letting loose in rural Deuel County.
Double rainbow in rural Miner County.
Double rainbow in rural Miner County.
Storm clouds brewing in McCook County.
Storm clouds brewing in McCook County.
The edge of the rain and hail in McCook County.
The edge of the rain and hail in McCook County.
After the storm in rural Hanson County.
After the storm in rural Hanson County.
Double rainbow southeast of Epiphany.
Double rainbow southeast of Epiphany.
Double rainbow over Epiphany.
Double rainbow over Epiphany.
After the rain in northern Minnehaha County.
After the rain in northern Minnehaha County.

After-Storm Chasing

Sep 12, 2018

"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."

- Ansel Adams

I’ve always loved a good summer thunderstorm. As a younger man, it meant a much needed drink for the wheat fields and pastures and a day off work for us (provided we got two-tenths of an inch or more). Not much has changed over the years. The scent of rain on the prairie wind remains one of my favorite things, but I’ve also come to love photographing the drama that can unfold in the sky. Storm chasing has become a well-known phenomena during my lifetime, from scientists learning more about severe weather to thrill seekers trying to spot their first tornado. I understand both lines of thinking. I also know that really bad storms cause damage, devastation and possible loss of life, so I hesitate to call myself a thrill seeker when I get the chance to chase a rumbler (below).

 

Still, I do find an almost unbelievable beauty and wonder in the sheer power and strength of summer storms. The real beauty I’m after is the first light after the storm. Somehow it is cleaner and shines stronger. If circumstances are right, sky filling rainbows can appear to add another layer of grandeur. My favorite post storm scene happens when you get behind the storms just before sunset and watch the golden hour illuminate and color the backside of the massive storm system. There is something mysterious and a little scary about the day’s last light catching and coloring mammatus clouds.

I found a couple such scenes this spring and summer and wanted to share the photos with you in this final column of the summer. In late May, I was driving out to Rapid City for the state track meet as a giant storm moved along the South Dakota/Nebraska border. From Interstate 90 around Presho, I started to see the beauty forming as evening drew on. I was compelled to pull over and drive south. By the time I reached the White River breaks the southern sky was ablaze. 

In early June, I drove out to meet a storm heading east from Charles Mix County. Somewhere in Douglas County, I thought I might see my first tornado. The winds were picking up newly tilled dirt and raising it skyward and some eddies twisted and turned forming huge whirlwinds along the straight line wind front. Later in the evening, I arrived at Trinity Lutheran just a few miles west of Platte as the first light of evening broke free from the storm. The result was a sky of rare beauty accompanied by a quiet and peaceful scene only experienced after a major storm passes. In that moment I found what I was looking for — the rare vision of perfect light on a perfect South Dakota scene.

Christian Begeman grew up in Isabel and now lives in Sioux Falls. When he's not working at Midcontinent Communications he is often on the road photographing South Dakota’s prettiest spots. Follow Begeman on his blog.

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