Shadow and light dance around the lenticular above Mount Shasta.
The last 36 hours have seen some extraordinary lenticular activity around Mount Shasta. The clouds that formed around the mountain, beginning Thursday afternoon, produced some of the most impressive formations I have seen in a while, and are easily the most spectacular that have formed thus far this lenticular season, though there have been some excellent manifestations prior to these most recent specimens. However, despite the incredible nature of these clouds, for the most part, they proved extremely frustrating for photography. Their timing, the constant filtering of light and their seeming knack for dissipating at critical moments made them quite vexing. Nonetheless, it is better to have witnessed them, appreciated them and recognized the grandeur of Mount Shasta than for the days to quietly slip by without momentous events such as these.
I want to document how things manifested. As I have done in the past, I want to do so mostly through images and captions and try to limit the amount of prose. I hope this works and is an enjoyable read!
That evening, looking at the weather reports, I had a suspicion that the clouds might continue and build through the night. I got up early to check out what was there in the morning. I was not disappointed with what I found…at first.
By morning, the lenticular from Thursday had grown to an impressive stack hovering above the mountain. I expected a grand sunrise but it never came, since clouds to the southeast block all but just a trickle of the morning light. The scene never lived up to my hopes.
The cloud was redeemed in grand fashion as it neared midday. Though Mount Shasta never really caught any light, the cloud itself continued to grow and it glowed in the light of the sun, still climbing toward its noon apogee. I thought of heading up to Castle Lake to get some images of it but, seeing the stillness at Lake Siskiyou, I knew that a magnificent reflection awaited. I was not disappointed with what I saw.
From that point on, I headed out to Burney Falls with the outdoor education class I teach on Fridays. Even from out there, I could see the massive clouds above the mountain. On the way back Mount Shasta was lit up and the clouds were filled with light. I toyed with stopping in McCloud and capturing a shot. I opted not to in order to get the class back on time but now I wish I had.
After dropping the outdoor education class off, I decided to head up to Castle Lake for the sunset. On the way up there I paused to capture some images of Mount Eddy, which had its own set of interesting clouds.
While these could not compare with what was going on around Mount Shasta, the formations above Eddy were still worth noting. These were obviously connected to what was going on around Eddy’s larger neighbor. From there I headed up to Castle Lake. I was quite put out to find, upon my arrival, that Mount Shasta was no longer bathed in light. The lenticulars still looked excellent though. My hope was that, as the sun set, Mount Shasta would catch alpenglow briefly when the sun sank below the clouds currently obstructing its light. We’ll see…
The whole spectacle was undoubtedly awesome but still frustrating. This was one of the twice-per-year lenticular events and I had missed really capitalizing on it. In spite of the missed opportunity, I am truly grateful to have been present for the majestic display of grand creativity.
The show over, I had a suspicion that the lenticulars might still be there in the morning once again. Since I am a glutton for frustration, I got up early once again, this time heading over to McCloud. The cloud was indeed still there. Its diameter was much smaller but it still formed a fantastic stack. However, the sun was not up and I did not know the disappointment that lie ahead.
Adding insult to injury, the light was extremely filtered and the glow of the rising sun that should have lit up Mount Shasta was barely discernible. I was just about to pack up my camera when the sun finally climbed high enough for its light to shoot over the clouds. Mount Shasta erupted in light. Glad to at least see that, I was also hopeful some newly formed clouds might pull together to form another lenticular. This was not to be but I did not feel too gypped, as the entire spectacle the last 36 hours was grand. I am grateful to have been present for it and been witness to the birth, life and death to so sublime a phenomenon.