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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 06/ 1/2008

Photography: Tornado or Shelf Cloud?

By Kevin Ambrose

An ominous cloud near Springfield, Va.

I was driving home from a soccer game yesterday afternoon as the sky began to darken to the west. As I drove over the mixing bowl, I got a good view of an impressive thunderstorm. As I continued west a few miles I took the above photo from 495. It appears to be a funnel cloud, but looks can be deceiving.

Keep reading for more photos that give a better view of the cloud type and the storm. See Brian's full forecast for the outlook into early next week.

A wide view of the thunderstorm from atop the mixing bowl.

A well defined shelf cloud moves toward Springfield, Va.

Shelf clouds form with a gust front ahead of a thunderstorm. They are usually caused by downdrafts from a thunderstorm and typically proceed the heavy rain. The first photo in this post was taken as I drove under the shelf cloud with the camera pointed parallel with the shelf cloud, giving an illusion of a funnel cloud. The second and third photos were taken as I approached the shelf cloud. I suppose I should note that I was careful to watch the road, not the camera, and I just snapped a few shots in the general direction of the storm. Wide angle lenses and automatic exposures help.

Ian Livingston took this photo of the shelf cloud and storm approaching Washington, D.C.

By Kevin Ambrose  | June 1, 2008; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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