Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Dark lenticular clouds

with 38 comments

On May 24th Jane Lurie put out a post with six photographs. One showed lenticular clouds, and I commented that I’ve hardly ever seen clouds like that in Austin. Two days later I went out in the morning to do some nature pictures on the soggy land in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. I found plenty of flowers to photograph and quickly got caught up in what I was doing. After maybe half an hour I was startled to hear thunder. When I looked up to the south I saw that the sky had gotten very dark and dramatic clouds had formed, including some I took to be lenticular. (Coincidentally or not, the last time I’d seen clouds like those was in the very same part of Austin.) As I was standing out in the open on wet ground, I figured prudence was the better part of valor and high-tailed it out of there, stopping only briefly to take some pictures of the clouds on my way back to the car.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2020 at 4:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

38 Responses

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  1. Great catch….there were powerful updrafts for those clouds to form.


    May 27, 2020 at 5:19 AM

    • I didn’t know about the updrafts that these clouds occur in conjunction with. You prompted me to read up on the subject.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 5:48 AM

      • As I understand it, those updrafts are a reason the clouds so often form around mountain tops.


        May 27, 2020 at 6:35 AM

        • That makes sense. When I searched online for pictures of lenticular clouds I saw lots of pictures of them above mountains. In contrast, where I saw these clouds yesterday is flat.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 27, 2020 at 6:42 AM

  2. When the fingers of a storm are reaching out for you, as these clouds seemed to be, prudence is called for. I’m glad you took time for the photo, though.


    May 27, 2020 at 6:36 AM

    • I was wearing rubber boots, which supposedly are good insulators; still, I wasn’t about to put that to the test. By the time I got back to the car some drops had started coming down, so my decision to leave was good.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 6:53 AM

  3. wow, these are very dramatic and moody –


    May 27, 2020 at 6:42 AM

    • I was startled at how ominous-looking the sky had gotten in so short a time, and without my having noticed it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 6:55 AM

  4. I rarely saw them in Silicon Valley, but since moving to Northern NV I see them almost daily. They’re really neat.


    May 27, 2020 at 7:11 AM

    • What a great opportunity. I’ve spent only a little time in Nevada and don’t recall seeing lenticular clouds there. If I make it back someday, I’ll be on the lookout for them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 9:30 AM

  5. Dark ominous clouds and thunder signal danger. You were wise to return to your car but took the time to take a picture of the sky.

    Peter Klopp

    May 27, 2020 at 7:42 AM

  6. I will chime in and say that the lenticulars on the east side of the Sierras are spectacular. And fairly frequent.

    Michael Scandling

    May 27, 2020 at 10:13 AM

  7. Serendipity, Steve. These clouds you captured are beautiful. 😊

    Jane Lurie

    May 27, 2020 at 11:32 AM

  8. Those are amazing looking clouds. I bet there was some rain kept in them. So probably not a bad idea to make it for the car.

    Otto von Münchow

    May 27, 2020 at 11:45 AM

    • Amazing indeed, and I was thankful for an opportunity that rarely comes to Austin. Surprisingly, based on appearances, these clouds brought us only some brief and not very heavy rain. Of course I didn’t know that would be the case, and even more than a downpour I was worried about lightning while I was still out in the open standing in water.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 27, 2020 at 1:29 PM

  9. Reminds me of an opening for a Twilight Zone episode.


    May 27, 2020 at 12:47 PM

  10. “Fingers reaching” is a very good description for these. I remember, as if it were yesterday, being out in the middle of a field in Kansas when a cloud formation came over that looked exactly like an enormous hand, with all fingers and thumb, reaching over me, and lightning came from the palm. I really thought that my time had come and that my number was up. But it passed over without incident. And–woe of woes–I didn’t have a camera with me!


    May 28, 2020 at 1:45 AM

    • That sounds like quite an experience, with dark clouds more suggestive than those that I witnessed. If then were now, you’d most likely have had a cell phone with you and you’d be able to show us that ominous sky.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 5:21 AM

  11. I’m glad you stopped for this one, Steve. Good call!


    May 28, 2020 at 10:36 AM

    • For he that ups and runs away
      Will live to fight another day.

      For me that “fighting” took the form of going back to the place the next morning and continuing with my pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 10:42 AM

    • Based on your wording, we can add that I decided to forgo Emily Dickinson’s alternative:

      “Because I could not stop for Death –
      He kindly stopped for me…”

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 10:50 AM

  12. What, no wildflower portrait today? (On the other hand, without those clouds and rains, there would likely be no wildflowers – or not as many).


    May 28, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    • I’ve been known to sat that variety is the species of life. From the beginning, the “wildflowers” in my blog’s title were a stand-in for nature as a whole. Plenty more flowers are a-coming, given the good spring we’ve had—thanks to the rains you mentioned—and how often I’ve been out documenting it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 28, 2020 at 10:54 AM

      • “variety is the species of life.” .. not only a great photographer, and quoter of literary gems, but you generate puns as well!
        Alas, the uncommon yellow Gaillardia pulchella flowers I mentioned to you privately are now all cut down to a three inch level by the mowers on the berm, who apparently didn’t get the message that stands of blooming wildflowers should be allowed to stand. Some did go to seed, though, and may have cross pollinated with others in the area. But that will have to wait until next year. In the meanwhile, I might have to work on writing legislation for consideration by our representatives, so that the native plants of Texas and elsewhere can live well and prosper.


        May 28, 2020 at 11:31 AM

        • What looks like a pun is actually an etymological truism. The Latin word species meant many things: ‘outward appearance, shape, form, figure, kind.’ In Late Latin the word added the specific senses ‘wares’ and ‘spices.’ Species evolved into the Old French espice that English borrowed as spice.

          Good luck with your proposed legislation. Cynical me thinks no force on earth less potent than a tornado can stop mowers from mowing down native plants—and even a tornado would only delay mowers, not stop them.

          Steve Schwartzman

          May 28, 2020 at 12:57 PM

  13. I’ve often found that, at least when shooting flowers, that complaining about not finding any almost assures that they will pop up the next time. Looks like that worked for you with your clouds. Only once have I seen something that loosely could have been called lenticular here in WMass.

    Steve Gingold

    May 29, 2020 at 1:39 PM

    • “Loosely lenticular” has a nice sound to it. After my comment on the other blog I certainly wasn’t expecting to see lenticular clouds in Austin soon. I was really surprised when I did.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 29, 2020 at 4:26 PM

  14. […] May 26th ominous clouds made me give up taking pictures in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183. The next morning I […]

  15. […] was way back on May 26th in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183, not long before some menacing lenticular clouds put an end to my picture-taking for the morning. The yellow-flowering colony bordering the […]

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