Feature photo: I had been driving by this location near the Chandler Municipal Airport (Arizona) all season and kept wishing for lightning to be in the right place to capture this very shot. Finally, on Sept. 13, 2011, everything aligned and I got it.
(Post by SCOTT WOOD)
My passion for severe weather photography came a few years after joining the United States Air Force. I was stationed for tech school in Illinois and experienced my first tornado up close and personal. From that day on, I was hooked on not only chasing severe storms, but photographing them as well.
I started shooting lightning strikes shortly after moving to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona in the late 1980s. The only thing that has changed since those days is that I no longer buy black and white film in 100′ rolls as I primarily go digital.
When most people think about Arizona, storm chasing is not the first thing that comes to mind, but with the open vistas and the summer monsoon season, it really should. Arizona offers something that no other place in the US can: wide open panoramic views, dramatic mountains, towering saguaro cacti and some of the most severe thunderstorms you will find anywhere. Add all that together and you have a truly unforgettable and addictive storm chasing experience.
While I didn’t think that the buildup you see in this image was going to develop into anything lightning-wise, I thought it made for some gorgeous skies and knew that it would contrast well with the fields in south Chandler, where this image was captured. What I really like about this image is that you can almost forget that it was shot in the middle of the Arizona desert when it was well over 100 degrees.
We had been out shooting all day and were heading towards Florence to get in front of what looked to be a developing thunderstorm. This scene literally developed along the highway as we were driving. Just as quickly as the scene developed, it started falling apart and I was shooting like mad the entire time. When all was said and done, I had a downpour, a rainbow and blue skies all in the same shot.
I captured this strike along the Bush Highway in the lower Salt River recreation area. I had been shooting quite a bit of lightning all that evening but wanted to setup along the highway with the hopes of getting some light trails from passing cars.
This image was taken on Arizona Highway 87 just a little south of Gilbert Rd. The skies were absolutely gorgeous when I headed out that night, and while they didn’t develop into the severe thunderstorms I am always looking for, it did lead to what has become one of my favorite images of the 2011 season.
Scott Wood, Chandler, Arizona
Scott has had his work published domestically and internationally. Visit his website www.scottwoodphotography.com to view more of his work or follow his blog www.myblueheaven.com or Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Scott_WoodTweet