This article is featured here on Naturescapes.net. This past summer, I traveled and photographed for two weeks in Northern Arizona, chasing after the dramatic skies that so enthusiastically present themselves in tandem with the monsoon thunderstorms and intense 100+ degree heat. Simply put, the monsoon is a daily series of extremely powerful and isolated low-pressure systems that begin to build around midday, caused by the extreme heat of the land disagreeing with the cool, moist air coming off the oceans. While some may think that it’s absolutely preposterous to head out to the desert in ridiculous summer heat, the truth is that thanks to the monsoon, there are incredible photographic opportunities and dramatic cloud formations that are not readily available in any other season. To many photographers’ delight, these monsoon storms tend to dissolve immediately before sunset, often creating beautifully colorful and interesting skies.
On one particularly eventful afternoon and evening in Arizona’s Vermillion Cliffs NM this past August, the monsoon put on perhaps it’s finest show that I have yet to witness. As I waited for hours in the locale referred to as “White Pocket,” under the continuous rumble of thunder, deep, dark skies, and multiple torrential downpours, I seriously doubted things would clear up by sunset – this series of storms was just too strong, I thought. I relaxed in my tent and read a book.
An hour or so before sunset, after being teased by the skies brightening and darkening three or four times and not thinking much of it, the storm broke in what seemed to have been a split second. As the storm receded, it left behind an intricate patchwork of mammatus to accompany it’s tall, dark clouds. Seizing the opportunity, I composed a few black-and-white images.
As the sun became lower and lower in the sky, it lit up the entire cumulonimbus formation all the way until it’s very last rays of the day. Having scouted many locations in the area with this in mind, I climbed up onto my favorite section of brain-rock, waited until the light was just right, and fired away.
Feeling greedy after such fantastic light, I stuck around and photographed in the idyllic “desert glow,” twenty or so minutes after sundown. As the storm clouds further dissipated, I was able to pull one additional “keeper” from the gorgeous conditions nature presented to me. What a day!