(PICTURES) Montana Electrician Sean Heavey Catches a Super Cell Thunderstorm in Glasgow, Montana (Photoshopped?)

by the Left Coast Rebel

The following pictures taken by Montana photographer Sean Heavey are so stunning that it's hard to believe they're not photoshopped or fake. I mean, come on - this looks computer generated:


I don't see any mention of the photographs being computer-enhance or photoshopped in the media reports covering the "super cell" storm in Montana.

UK's Mail Online explains:

The photograph is just one image from the portfolio of electrician Sean Heavey. The supercell cloud was photographed in July west of Glasgow, Montana, USA.

Mr Heavey, 34, an amateur photographer, created the jaw-dropping panoramic image by stitching together three photos from the 400 frames he took of the violent scene he witnessed in July

It caused minor damage, and lasted several hours before moving on. Massive storm systems like this centre on mesocyclones -- rotating updrafts that deliver torrential rain and high winds.

The dangerous outbreak of weather raged for several hours and caused minor damage to local communities - while watchful Mr Heavey captured all its devastating beauty from a distance.

Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Mr Heavey and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic.

Called the 'Mothership', because of the striking image's similarity to an alien space ship, the photograph was actually four years in the making.

'I have two storm chasing friends I met through my wife Toni and they've been badgering me to go out with them for that long,' explained Sean.

'I' normally rely on simply being in the right place at the right time for my photography, while I'm out working. But in July I finally decided to do it and thankfully this picture was the result. We don't usually get weather like this out in Montana, it felt like the perfect storm.Known as the 'mother of tornadoes', a mesocyclone can be up to six miles wide and can produce as many as 60 tornadoes.

These severe thunderstorms form where cold dry air meets warm moist tropical air.

The wind coming into the storm starts to swirl and forms a funnel. The air in the funnel spins faster and faster and creates a very low pressure area which sucks more air - and objects - into it.

If the cyclone runs out of wet, warm surface air, it dies out. If it does not run out of this fuel, however, the rotating cloud stretches toward the ground and may become a giant tornado.

Mr Heavey, 34, is an electrician, working in the west of the American state in a town named Glasgow.

Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Sean and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic.

One can assume that Sean Heavey's storm pictures are legit if they are runners up for an award from National Geographic. However, his personal site though is described by Google as, "Traditional images of urban scenes subjected to extreme computer manipulation."

Here's a few more pictures that Sean Heavey took of the Montana super cell thunderstorm. Photoshop or not?:




This photo is called "The Mothership" and is is featured in the 2010 National Geographic photo contest.

All photos used here are not for commercial use and c/o Sean Heavey.


  1. Those look like real supercell structures. Such a storm can last for hours and build up an impressive structure like this. They are magnificent when you get to see them up close!

    However, I would guess that the photographs have been enhanced in some way -- probably heavily retouched.

  2. The only retouching that I think might have been made is maximizing the color and tonal balances of the photographs. Otherwise it looks entirely original to me. Nature can be deadly and very beautiful at the same time.

  3. LL - You sound like you have see one of these up and close?

    Stogie - Good to know from a trained eye, deadly and beautiful, indeed!

  4. LCR - I have spent many years in Tornado Alley! Sometimes you get to see these storms up close and personal whether you like it or not. I love watching them, but not being directly in them.

    I never did any stormchasing of my own, but had several classmates who did.

  5. Lyzar - Amazing, we barely ever get weather here in San Diego - rain is a carnival event! The news makes it out to be like it's some sort of amazing spectacle. I wouldn't even know what tornado alley is like, I'd like to see one but not get too close ;)

  6. I think that they must be enhanced. Specifically the lightning pictures. You can't catch those without snapping several shots per second.

    They are beautiful though.

  7. I'd say not photoshopped out of proportion. It's really a stupid argument (and the Brits are criticizing the pix) anyway. Your digital camera does post processing whether you like it or not, though you can shoot in raw, someone still has to make a determination of the picture's light/dark, contrast, etc.

    Here's a link to the Mail's (UK) article where one commenter says it's been processed as HDR (High Dynamic Range) where two shots are taken and the blown out highlights of one are replaced by the underexposed, copied area of another picture.

    Well, there's no possibility of blown-out highlights in these pix. The brightest to the darkest areas are not great, IMO. The colors are extreme and the tones are extraordinarily beautiful to my eye. Brits, go suck a lemon!

    Mr. Heavey? Congratulations!!! Hope you win the Natgeo prize.

  8. My husband was there that day, in Glasgow MT. His photos look very similar, but was taken from a cellphone directly under the storm. It was a crazy, scary storm, kudos to the man for getting some awesome shots of that storm.


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