The summer storm season in the southwestern US is my favorite time of the year to photograph. I figure it is the reward for enduring the summer heat. Ironically, it is the intense heat that helps trigger the ‘monsoon’ flow. As temperatures top 110 degrees Fahrenheit for days on end, a thermal low pressure is created, helping to steer moisture from the tropics. The start of this transition is usually the most miserable part of the summer as the stifling temps now have a touch of humidity joining the party. At this point, photography isn’t much fun. The skies tend to be hazy, and cloud cover builds early, usually blocking any golden hour light. The start of the monsoon also brings a small amount of lightning strikes. These bring on wildfires because the rains haven’t had a chance to counter the effects of the hot dry temps of early summer.
Once the flow gets going, however, the photography can become sensational. Building thunderstorms tower into the deep blue skies, often creating spectacular sunsets. Along with the thunderstorms come vivid displays of lightning, and the occasional wall of dust. You’ve seen those on Youtube or the CNN highlight clips. As annoying as they might become for those stuck on the roads, I never tire of the experience.
The storm clouds in the above photo near Phoenix, Arizona were catching the sunset as the city was about to get pummelled.