As the year 2020 quickly approaches (3 days away as of writing), I thought it would make for an interesting post to round up my favorite weather images from the last decade. I must admit that I picked up my first DSLR in 2015, so most images taken before that date aren't on my website. So, it's like a half decade.
Additionally, I've found it curious that my favorite images don't seem to match the public's top choices, so what you see here as my top picks may not align with your views. Feel free to browse the weather sections of my website to view other images you may like more.
I can tell you this: as the photographer, you just never know which image will end up being the most popular. At least I can't tell. I can never predict it.
I'll admit, as my mood shifts, my opinion on my favorite images can change, so I'll include images that always make my top list. They won't be in any particular favorite order, however.
Anyway, let's begin:
Dodge City Tornado Family
This was a day that will be tough to be beat in terms of both number and quality of tornadoes. A cyclical supercell produced at least six tornadoes over the course of a few hours with at least 3 ongoing briefly at one point. I like this image because it shows you the entire structure and gives you an anticipation feeling just before the touchdown. The video below shows you the cloud motion, multi vortex tornadoes and the final singular tornado.
Video: Dodge City Multi Vortex Tornado
The SPC issued a moderate risk for severe weather/tornadoes on June 1st, 2018. The day did feature severe weather, but most of the storms "lined out" early, which dramatically reduced the tornado threat. Towards the end of the day, when we thought the day was done, we stopped by the side of the road outside Ord, Nebraska to get a look at the tail end storm. It ended up producing this image with incredible bolts of lightning and a brief tornado after dark.
I've included the timelapse of the event below and if you'd like to read the chase blog/view more pictures, follow the link here.
(Skip to the 11:00 minute mark below to get right to the supercell)
Ord, Nebraska Supercell Time Lapse. Lightning and Tornado
Jamie and the Mesocyclone
This picture of my good friend and co-pilot/navigator Jamie was featured in National Geographic's Daily Dozen. The day was May 27th, 2018 in the town of Burlington, Colorado. It was a bit of a surprise day for us. The best chance of tornadic storms was in Wyoming that day, but we had no shot of making it that far north coming from OKC that morning. We made our way north to position for the next day's severe risk and hoped to catch something along the way. We sure did.
If you'd like to read the full blog/forecast with more pictures and video, click the link here.
The Glowing Rainfall
If you're sensing a 2018 theme here, you're not imagining things. It was a great year for me. This was another image of mine featured in NatGeo's Top Shot competition and on NatGeo's Instagram.
This incredible sunset shot almost didn't happen. A storm to the west was blocking out the sun entirely, but as fate would have it, less than an hour before sunset it completely evaporated out of view and allowed the sun to hit the rainfall at just the right angle to produce this image.
Incredible Sunset Timelapse. May 25th, 2018.
Another day where not a lot was expected, we ended up in rural Lamesa, Texas on May 31st, 2016. We had lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and awaited storm development. This cell went up, produced an incredible amount of lightning, and as it was dying, had structure that looked like it was straight out of Independence Day.
The cloud to ground strikes were so prominent at this point that I ran out of the Suburban, took this shot, and ran back in about 20 seconds. I also timed it so that the storm would pass over the house for maximum effect. I love how it turned out here.
The Grand Bend Monster
On July 20th, 2019, an unseasonably warm and unstable air mass was sitting over Southern Ontario for at least two days. The day before, July 19th, featured a few supercells that produced brief tornadoes near the London area. As the cold front pushed east, you knew something had to give once it reached that instability. This was the leading edge.
This storm was moving at least 80 km/hr and was impossible to get back in front of once it overtook you. I made a forecast blog here if you'd like to read about the meteorological aspect of the event and have enclosed video and a timelapse below.
Looming Over Burlington
Sometimes a supercell chases you rather than it being the reverse. On May 27th, 2018 in Burlington, Colorado, this was the case. On our way north to the hotel, a supercell formed and quickly became tornado warned. It passed directly behind the hotel. We were facing east at this time as it showed prominent rotation. If I turned back to the left, to face north, I'd be facing our hotel. If you go back to one of the previous images, "Jamie and the Mesocyclone", this image was about 15 minutes before.
If you'd like to read the chase recap and view more pictures, click the link here.
WaKeeney, Kansas Shelf Cloud
Some pictures just don't convey a moment well enough. This shelf cloud pushed at us right as the sun was setting, so you had a moment of clear skies to our east (left side of image) and pitch black to our west (right) with lightning interspersed in the shelf cloud. What was most striking was how still the air was. On these intense shelf clouds, the cold pool advance usually gives strong winds. This wasn't the case here. Birds were chirping as I took this picture.
Example of Lightning
This was probably the closest call I've had with lightning outside. I shot this at 17mm (wide angle), so the bolt was even closer than it appeared. I had gotten out of the Suburban to set up the camera on a tripod for timelapse and had planned on getting back into the car until the rain hit us. Right after I set up, this bolt struck. The thunder was incredible. You felt it run through you. This storm produced a brief tornado later on in the day.
If you'd like to read the chase recap/see more pictures, follow the link here.
Colorado Strikes Again
Colorado has a habit of producing photogenic storms, so it's no surprise that many pictures on my personal list come from Colorado. This image was taken near Anton, Colorado (I'm not making that up) on May 26th, 2017. The hail core (the right side of the image) was quite intense, so where we were was only free of issues for a short time as the storm advanced. We got out of there shortly after this shot.
Bonus: Total Solar Eclipse of 2017
I know it doesn't technically count as a "weather image", but I'll bend the rules a little here because I had to reverse storm chase to get this image. Normally, while looking for storms, I'll look for parameters that indicate storm development and chase clouds once they form.
For this day, I was doing the opposite. I was looking for an area that would be as cloud free as possible while in the track of the eclipse. It all worked out in the end in Agate, Nebraska. For any fans of astronomy, a total solar eclipse is a must see.
If you want to read more about the experience and see more pictures, follow my post about it here.
When I'm not doing that, I enjoy viewing and photographing wildlife (especially Owls), landscapes, and macro photography locally. I'll also be playing basketball and fantasy sports.