Chasing Purple Rain

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Following a series of thunderstorms across the Mojave Desert from Nevada towards the Grand Canyon, I was witness to beautiful alpenglow phenomena. Initially beginning by casting a warm soft umber toned glow across the desert floor, the sun’s rays were interacting with the moisture in the air to create a wonderfully highlighted series of lighting events over the course of 20 minutes. A towering Cumulonimbus cloud prominently rose up from the long storm front, standing out against the water-laden sky.

As the sun continued to set over the horizon, the sun rays narrowed and began to lift upwards, off the desert floor. A sliver of sunlight lays on the desert floor below the glowing rain, ambiently illuminated by the alpenglow effect. Such beautiful timing to be in the exact position, flying high enough and at a distance enough to witness such an occurrence. The sunrays are not touching the clouds and are centered on the falling rain and surrounding moisture. Truly Purple Rain.

Only lasting a few fleeting minutes, the sunset continued over the horizon behind me, which in turn caused the inverse to occur with the sliver of alpenglow sunray to continue its climb upwards into the clouds. The light has left the desert floor completely and now is moving up the columns of falling rain to illuminate the bottom sides of the towering Cumulonimbus clouds. In the distance behind the falling rain, there is another cloud up higher beginning to glow from the long finger of sunrays reaching high into the sky.

In this last image of the sequence, the sunset behind is well over the horizon, causing the inverse effect of the narrow band of alpenglow to continue its climb higher into the clouds, illuminating and highlighting the vast billowing shapes that are continually moving in the dance of heat exchange that feeds this storm.

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