Summer Storms

July 18, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Monsoon SeasonMonsoon SeasonSummer in the mountains: a southwesterly flow creates sometimes spectacular afternoon thunderstorms. (Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

High pressure has been parked over the western United States in just the right spot to create a southwesterly flow and deliver monsoonal moisture to the Tetons for the better part of the past week. Just about every afternoon you can count on cloud production to create interesting skies. It's even better when things go one step further and we get some storms.

Yesterday, with the forecast calling for a 50% chance of rain, I hoped something would happen. By late morning, as cumulus clouds began to form, I kept one eye to the sky - and was thinking about where I'd want to photograph the storm if, indeed, one materialized. 

This being the height of tourist season, I was less than enthusiastic about venturing to the barns on Mormon Row in the middle of the afternoon. Still, based on the direction from which clouds were coming, it seemed like that might be a good spot. I went by and waited there for an hour or so while watching the changes in the sky. While the clouds did begin to darken, there weren't enough of them.....at least not at that point.  I bailed out and drove a few miles away to see what I could do with lupines dotting the fields. Better positioned to take advantage of the stormy clouds that were trying to thicken but hadn't yet filled the sky, I spent the next hour working there.

As I was wrapping up, though, things began changing rapidly overhead! Rain was definitely on the way.

I raced back over to the barn, hoping it wouldn't be mobbed but expecting I'd just have to make do with people milling about. Oddly - wonderfully! - I was the only person there. I grabbed my gear, ran over to set up, and started firing away. I shot from three different vantage points, moving quickly to keep up with the clouds which were shifting quite a bit. Suddenly, some sunlight found its way through a break in the overcast, lighting up the remaining snow on one section of mountain peaks. I re-positioned myself yet again to place that enhanced snow just to the left of the barn's roof, and centered the white "donut" in the clouds - like a huge punctuation mark - over the entire scene below.

After having endured a long stretch of tough-going in terms of shooting conditions, the afternoon's turn of events felt nearly magical. 

Of course, it wasn't a wild coincidence. Based on the weather patterns, at the very least I knew I'd get some nice clouds over the Tetons at some point during the afternoon. That's why I scheduled the shoot in the first place. (That said, I walked away with nothing the day before - in spite of copious cumulus clouds followed by rain.) Beyond that, yesterday's forecast called for a better chance of precipitation than the previous afternoon. I figured the odds were favorable in terms of the pattern repeating itself.

Still - there's rain, and then there's rain. Mother Nature delivered something special. I was fortunate the location I settled on ended up working as well as it did to capture the beautiful skies.


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