Australian Weather Calendar
November: A cloud-dappled desert
Photographers are conditioned to spot the unusual— the anomaly amid familiar scenes. For Steve Strike, veteran of three decades of central Australia landscape photography, the rare sight of clouds over the Simpson Desert in the Northern Territory prompted this picture on 9 December 2004. 'You're 'all eyes' all the time…you never know when you'll get a shot,' he says.
'In this case I saw the atmospheric interplay of shadows on the parallel dunes of the Simpson. I love aerial photography most of all, I've done hundreds of hours in aircraft and choppers. I've chased the Indian Pacific train across the Nullarbor and the Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin in helicopters. I'll do what it takes for a good picture … I've been up around 8000ft in a chopper with all the doors off, that gets a bit cold.'
Steve established his company, Outback Photographics, in Alice Springs in 1986. He now commutes between Alice Springs and Darwin where he also has an office. This is his third photograph in the Australian Weather Calendar.
He warns photographers with a romantic dream about producing their own coffee table books of Outback imagery: 'There's not a big dollar in landscape photography these days, and no big call for creative aerial work. Commercial jobs are essential.'
These clouds were formed by thermal updrafts. As the air rose, it cooled and eventually the moisture in the air condensed to form the tiny water droplets that make up clouds. The height of these clouds is determined by the amount of moisture in the air.
The isolated, intense thunderstorm cell caused an abrupt increase in wind, with gusts jumping from around 30 km/h before and after the storm to 117 km/h as the storm passed nearby. Strong wind gusts such as these are one feature of severe thunderstorms.