Storm Light

Off the Beaten Path

Summer is the time for storms. Too often, photographers pack up when they see inclement weather on the horizon, which is a real shame. I always tell my workshop students that bad weather for most people is good weather for photographers. “Storm light,” as I like to call it, can produce great conditions for nature photography. Dramatic clouds, rainbows, lightning, and spectacular light are just a few of the things you might get a chance to photograph, if conditions are right.


Storms occur when moist air and heat collide. During the summer, the U.S. southwest is a great place to photograph storm light, as moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico hits large mountains and superheated air rising from the desert. Known locally as the “monsoon,” the effect is most pronounced during the late afternoon hours, often creating dramatic skies, intense light, and beautiful sunsets. In other parts of the country, summer thunderstorms are also common in the afternoon and evening hours. The summer storms near my home in Virginia can often be quite intense—and surprisingly photogenic.

Potomac Storm

Storms can sometimes be dangerous, so take appropriate precautions if one is heading your way, especially if it is producing high winds or lightning.  Use common sense to avoid potentially dangerous situations. But above all, have fun!  

—Ian Plant             

Chasing the Light: Essential Tips for Taking Great Landscape Photos: A 62-page downloadable PDF eBook filled with informative text, stunning full-color images, and plenty of insights and inspiration.         

Selecting the Best White Balance for Nature Photography        

How to Photograph Rainbows        

Using Live View for Nature Photography        

Preparing Photos for the Web Using Photoshop