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LATEST SKY EVENTS

Updated January 20th 2018

Sperrins Avalanche & Birren Rd Truck Jack Knife - Jan 19th

I've currently spent five days this week chasing winter scenes in the local area and just when I thought I had seen the best it had to offer more photo opportunities presented themselves. On Jan 18th and 19th we targeted the Sperrins, specifically the Birren road area and associated mountain ranges which boasted the higher snowfall rates, which often involved long hours waiting in the cold for snow showers to stop to take advantage of any breaks or nice light which appeared, these episodes were transitory in nature however we were always quick to take advantage of them. This was at sunset on the Birren road which cuts across the mountain between Glenshane Pass and Draperstown, wide angle sunset snow shower about to impact the area in dramatic golden hour light and perhaps 10 min's from actual sunset.

Two drone flights were made during the afternoon to shoot stills and film video footage, low altitude and high altitude (120m), this is the Birren road from the point of view of the phantom just as the sun broke out and lit up the peak into winter bliss, this area would become the focus of more action the following day.

January 19th and we where once again on the road and on the hunt, we covered a lot of ground in the Draperstown, Moneyneany and Plumbridge areas, however it was when driving outside Draperstown that I spotted what looked like a large avalanche scar on the Sperrins, upon close inspection I was 100% certain of it, the scar seemed to jump out of the mountain. I got the 100-400mm lens out for a close look, you can see the main avalanche scar at centre and left, below it is a massive mound of snow behind the trees were the cliff had deposited it's snow accumulations, to the right you can see another avalanche which appears to still be falling.

A crop from another image showing the right avalanche, I wonder what it would be like to stand there.

I got two more drone flights done in the snow on the Birren road and the light was getting low after sunset, feeling freezing and tired we decided to call it a day. Just as we were driving down the road we were astonished to see a large truck approaching us on this narrow mountain road, we knew this wouldn't work out good, once it passed us we looked in the mirror and saw it jack knife on the first hill. We stopped and I got out to take a few images at 400mm, the lens is slow and the light was low, no time for creative photography and compositions, this was simply to document the event.

I don't think the driver was too impressed, I heard him cursing from this distance, the truck was stranded and the mountain road was now blocked, fortunately for us we had left when we had, if we had delayed our move by 5 min's we would have been on the other side of the truck and trapped on the mountain in the snow, that was close.

I got two drone flights in, light was extremely low pushing the phantom's camera beyond its limit, however I had to get a record, stills and several video sequences were obtained, it was a dramatic sight seeing this jack knifed truck on a mountain road with blue twilight sky and the first stars of the night, the snow itself seemed to glow in the twilight. It has been a mad week of winter chasing, it seems my life as revolved entirely around snow, lack of sleep, cold, filming, flying, downloading, charging batteries, looking at charts and repeat. I woke up to snow and went to bed with snow, I didn't even shave for a week I was that busy outdoors then indoors with editing. 2018 has got off to a great start, stunning sea fog inversions and now a week of winter thrills with blizzards, snow structures, avalanches and spun out traffic, I will do a detailed report on this week in the near future.

If you haven't already please like and follow my new dedicated Nightskyhunter Facebook page where I post forecasts and updates, I have short sample videos posted of the snow on there for those interested in a taste of what's to come. I may have three or four new winter videos to edit for my youtube channel which will be featured on the new chase report on here so make sure to stop by for a look, thanks for your time.

Incredible Glenshane Pass Night Blizzard & Snow Chasing - Jan 17th

I have been winter storm chasing these last two days and nights on Glenshane Pass documenting the fourth cold spell of the season, what at first turned out to be a mundane start to the snow turned out producing one of the finest visual snow spectacles I have witnessed since 2010 all in a matter of hours. I spent two days chasing with AerialVisionNI shooting and filming snow all through daylight hours, there was no shortage of snow, heavy showers blasted across the pass all day however the flakes were wet and even though there was a covering of 7cm in the ditches the main roads were fine and traffic was coping. However before sunset I headed home and I noticed conditions going downhill very rapidly. Snow was getting heavier, the wind was picking up and snow was starting to blow across the road, several lorries were spinning out at the bottom and as the light dropped I headed home.

During the evening hours nature took control and began to show off, my storm chasing partner Conor McDonald and I decided to go back up under the cover of darkness to see how the situation was developing, I have to admit that at this stage my expectations were low. We parked up on heavy snow which looked a lot more substantial than earlier, wifi was obtained and we discovered that the Met Office had just issued an expanded amber warning for all of N. Ireland for heavy snow, severe winds, blizzards and ice, we decided to wait around and watch developments, by 20.30 snow was blowing well and we measured 12cm at the road side, we changed position onto high ground on an exposed back road just as the amber warning came into effect, suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of an incredible blizzard!

Huge convective snow showers arrived from the NW delivering severe downdraughts and straight line winds enhancing the already strong background wind field. Heavy snow blew across the exposed road so fast it looked like it was being blown by a jet engine, snow sliced through the air and along the road at tremendous speed and completely sustained for long periods of time, the van was shaking and visibility dropped to just beyond the bonnet, the wind roared without a break and snow drifts formed in real time covering one side of the van and building along the road into stunning looking wedges tucking around the wheels. There was no question that this blizzard was the best we had witnessed since the spectacular blizzard of 2010 in the same area, we simply couldn't believe what we were seeing and couldn't believe our luck as this was the kind of scene we sought. I used my Canon 600D DSLR and 50mm F/1.8 lens and filmed the event hand held through the windscreen which did a decent job of capturing the event despite the darkness, the headlights revealed a raging beast outside.

We also filmed using our phones and a dash cam and at one stage we got out for a look, I had to get in the footage for a sense of scale and experience the moment while testing out my new wind speed anemometer. This seemed to go on for a long time however once it eased we got out into the darkness for a look, snow drifts covered the road, we measured 42cm beside us, in the darkness we spotted the anvil at the back of the storm and under it were large mammatus surrounded by a sea of stars, what a sight that was. Cells similar to this one were producing spectacular thundersnow inland and lightning storms off the W and N coastlines knocking power out in places. The above video features DSLR and phone video of various stages of the blizzard, there's also some vernacular due to the excitement of the moment so please keep this in mind if showing children. We made it back home after treacherous drift crossing for 02.00, what an unforgettable night it was.

I was up at daybreak the following morning and once again teamed up with AerialVisionNI, a slight thaw had formed during the early hours however there was still plenty of snow everywhere, a bitter wind chill made it challenging to be outside for long, we decided to go back up to the very same road where we had experienced the blizzard the night before, that was a good decision. The road was covered in snow, drifts present, the landscape around us was a snow covered wind swept wonderland, we could see the wind tracks from the blizzard which had sculpted the landscape. A cell arrived from the W producing more snow and when it neared it looked a spectacular sight.

Huge cascading curtains of snow formed into graceful arcs by wind shear which dropped over the winter landscape making a rapid bee line for us, the scene was remarkable, without question the finest snow curtains I have ever seen from this area. We were shooting the scene like crazy in an attempt to get several images before it impacted us, the curtains filled the 10mm FOV.

Looking due W, curtains moving R to L blanketing the mountains in fresh snow. It hit with a squall forcing us back to the vans for shelter and once again snow blew across the road, this was an extremely photogenic and memorable moment, last night had the severity, today had the beauty.

Thanks to AerialVisionNI for taking this image capturing me in the moment, as you can see I'm in my element in the snow, taking a well earned warm brew. As I type this an impressive frontal snow event is happening (Wed night) so this is turning into quite a week of action, 2018 has got off to a thrilling start.

New Nightskyhunter facebook Page - NEWS

I have created a new facebook page dedicated entirely to this website, I'm currently transitioning from my private page to a new public page which will feature links to all my site updates, reports, forecasts and also showcase my night sky and storm photography, drone videos and time lapse cinematography. If you already follow me then please like and follow my new page and spread the word, thanks very much for - Nightskyhunter Facebook Page

Lough Foyle Fog Inversion Videos - NEW

Two days of filming the impressive sea fog inversion over Lough Foyle on January 10th and 11th 2018 viewed from Gortmore, Binevenagh and Magilligan Point using DSLR video to film time lapse video and drone footage. 100-400mm and 27-70mm lenses used for the time lapse, however there are a few movements in the lapse at times which becomes apparent on the 8x and 16x speed sequences, this was caused by the IS being activated on my lens, however despite this it was a fun shoot and a beautiful visual scene to enjoy from above.

January 10th 2018, extensive fog inversion over ocean and Lough Foyle with fog creeping inland along the lower flanks of Binevenagh. This isolated church made for an atmospheric scene, when the fog came in it rendered the church almost invisible, then the church emerged once more when the fog retreated. I filmed video with my DSLR and 400mm lens, footage at 8x speed.

After two days of unrelenting fog the inversion suddenly melted away as I watched like magic during the very moment when a stunning sunset afterglow was illuminating the Foyle transforming the grey world into one of colourful spectacle, the phantom captured the moment with Magilligan pier in the foreground.

Impressive Winter Convective Cells At Benone Beach - NEW REPORT

Benone Winter Convection Report

December 27th was my final storm chase of 2017 when after a relaxing Christmas my Wife and I decided to chase to the north coast to intercept cells forming on an unstable post frontal air mass, the trip was also mainly an excuse for a day of fresh air and exercise. Not expecting much we were surprised to be greeted by a stunning winter multicell cb dominating the ocean horizon, this cell exhibited impressive structure sporting dramatic curtains of cascading hail and wet snow falling over the sea making for some of the finest convective scenes of the year. The day ended with more cells at sunset which I documented via DSLR and by drone making for the perfect end to the year. One page report with 12 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

'ECCENTRIC' - 2017 Storm & Night Sky Video Presentation - WATCH

This presentation features a compilation of video footage, DSLR time lapse and drone footage all captured during 2017. Subjects include thunderstorms, convection, shower squalls, snow scenes, waves, severe wind, Aurora Borealis, Noctilucent Clouds and much more. 2017 was the most challenging year I have ever experienced for weather action to date due to very few thunderstorms that were photogenic in nature, however several days during mid summer made up for this with great local chases. I was extremely busy chasing, shooting and filming various aspect of the sky and nature and gave it my all. This video is an attempt to showcase these chases and memories. Presentation is 21 min's in duration and best viewed at 1080p, all the chase reports for 2017 can be viewed on my site here with further imagery - http://www.nightskyhunter.com/Storm%20Chasing%202017.html - thanks very much for watching. I look forward to a new year of sky action, Martin McKenna.

Winter Snowfalls & Beautiful Glenshane Moonlit Snow Scenes Report - NEW

New account documenting two potent cold spells which impacted N. Ireland during late November and again on mid December. These events produced multiple Glenshane Pass documenting twilight snow landscapes, traffic battling snow, seven drone flights, then climaxing with an epic moonlit snow shoot on Glenshane during the early hours of November 9th when Paul Martin and I stood within knee deep snow lit by moonlight complimented by crisp winter stars, and snow events, thundersnow, four waterspouts and temps to -10C. I spent six days in total from pre-dawn through to afternoon shooting and filming the snow ona return visit to the derelict house which resulted in another unforgettable night of photogenic rewards. One page report with 19 images and 5 video clips. - REPORT

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds and aurora displays.

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Martin McKenna

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