A big thunderstorm opened summer a little early, rolling over Portland on June 8th. It was late afternoon and there was a lot of lightning, with some torrential rain bursts. I’d had a frustrating week in the office with dull phone and computer tasks, so I determined to chase the storm — I wanted to capture lightning bursts. The storm was moving fast, so without much time to spare I drove to Fort Allen Park at the Eastern Prom.
Chasing storms always makes me feel like I’m forever behind the forces of nature; really dark clouds were moving fast away from me, east over the ship channel, the bulk of the storm already passed. In the foreground the Fore River and Casco Bay were already brighter than the ship channel, though light rain still fell. While setting up my tripod I saw some lightning flashes over Spring Point Light and a tanker docked at the pipeline oil terminal; too late, I wasn’t ready! Ok, set up and ready, the flashes stopped. I made some ordinary photos and waited a bit.
Follow your instincts; I decided I needed to go with a long lens to frame Spring Point Ledge Light and the ship channel. While changing lenses, again dramatic lightening flashed over the distant channel – missed again! Wrong instinct. OK, with long lens in place, again I wait.
No more flashes were appearing, the rain was easing, and people were getting back into their cars. A fellow who was watching me came over during the lull and asked me what I was doing. I chatted briefly, showed him a few previews, and then looked at the cloud cover clearing behind me to the west. I mentioned we had a good chance for a rainbow because the late afternoon sun was going to pop out soon, and it would be at the perfect angle. A few people overheard the remark and walked back from their cars to watch the bay. As I stood there thinking about it, I decided to change lenses yet again, to capture the full arc of any rainbow that appeared. In a few minutes, the sun suddenly blazed out from behind us, putting brilliant storm light over Casco Bay.
A huge rainbow appeared, seemingly anchored on Spring Point Ledge Light. Quickly I changed back to the long lens before the rainbow could fade. I got the shot and even had time for variations as the rainbow lingered!
Capturing this event reminded me of my chase two summers ago of a rainbow over Portland Head Light. Under similar conditions, rain still falling, the sun came out as I shot from Fort Preble in South Portland. I caught these two shots:
Serious thunderstorms are not too frequent here in Maine. I envy the storm chasers in the midwest and west. Good luck with your own rainbow chasing!