I’ve lived most of my life in the Northwest, the Midwest and the South. I’m not familiar with the weather patterns of the Southwest. This summer I took a road trip with my family.
I planned the route in advance, carefully crafting an itinerary to maximize photo opportunities. I had sunsets and sunrises accounted for and what to do during the day. However, I overlooked one important factor to our journey; the weather. It wasn’t that I was unprepared (we had all the necessary gear for all conditions). I simply didn’t think about researching the typical weather patterns for late July and early August. I thought I knew what to expect. I was in for a surprise.
As we traveled, we quickly began noticing a consistent weather pattern. Typically the mornings were clear with some clouds. By two or three each afternoon, clouds began to build and form into the summer monsoon storms. These would sweep in complete with lighting and occasionally, incredible winds.
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The unexpected storms proved a beautiful surprise. Toward the end of our journey, some dear friends drove me to see one of their favorite spots in central Utah, the “Little Grand Canyon.” On the way home we saw a very active lightning storm in the distance. Serendipitously, we happened upon this grouping of metal silhouettes beside a rural rest area.
I carefully worked my way through the dusky darkness across a field of prickly pear cactus to set up a shot of the art installation and hopefully capture some lightening at the same time. I used the light from my friends’ van to focus the shot. Once I was set up, I began shooting long exposures in hopes of capturing some strikes. For each exposure, I signaled my friend to turn the van headlights on and off to light the foreground of the shot.
Thankfully the storm was an active one and it didn’t take too many tries before I was able to grab an image with a prominent strike in the background.
It was so dark, framing and focusing on the cowboy took some trial and error. (Note to self: In the future travel with a high-power LED flashlight to help aid the focusing process.) In the end, I came away with a couple of images that give you true sense of that evening.
Looking back, the pleasant surprise of the summer monsoon weather made for some amazing images. However, in future, I may do a little more research so I’m fully aware of what to expect.
“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”
— Marc Riboud