Arizona Monsoon Weather Photography Workshop
Storm Chasing Photography Adventures
Photographing Arizona's Exciting Monsoon Weather
I'm excited to now be offer Storm Chasing Adventure Workshops in Southern Arizona! I've had a lot of requests to offer these and can finally do so. Storm chasing has been a passion of mine for 4 years now and I can't wait to share the thrill with you! There are lots of things that make Arizona magical during the summer months and Monsoon is one of them. From around mid-June to late September, storms from the tropical coast in Mexico bring moisture up into the states giving us what they call "Monsoon Season." This time of year, due to the humidity, severe weather occurs giving half of Arizona more than half it's annual rainfall per year. With these storms, the true magic happens for landscape photography. You get amazing light hitting these storms creating jaw dropping scenes with rainbows, lightning, crazy cloud structures, unbelievable sunsets, and even walls of dust!
But it's not easy. You need to be in the right place at the right time and remain safe while doing it. I've been chasing storms for a few years now and have captured some of the most note worthy storms in southern Arizona. Due to my experience, I am a certified storm spotter and know when and where to be to get epic storm photos.
If storms decide to die down, we will take advantage of this and head out to the desert to photograph what the southwest really has to offer such as glowing sunsets and stick around and photography the night sky such as the milkyway, startrails, and other astrophotography subjects listed here.
Dates: Workshops are scheduled around your availability!
Class size: 2
I'm a certified storm spotter and completing my Skywarn Storm Spotter training for the National Weather Service. I've been published about my passion for storm chasing and visual content by many broadcast media outlets. I'm both qualified and insured for this adventure so you are in good hands. Safety is my #1 priority.
How it Works
Similar to my private workshops, these storm chasing workshops work around our availability schedule. You will email me the dates you are available and I will let you know if I'm free or if the storms are looking good that day. Please have a look at my Workshop Schedule first to see which days I may have free. Our workshop will begin in Tucson, Arizona which is a good base for most storm activity in Arizona and also my backyard so I'm very familiar with the area and know where good shooting spots are. I usually don't trust any forecast that is more than 48 hours so you will need to remain available on the days you request to guarantee a successful outing. I do recommend allowing a couple days to better your chances of capturing something amazing.
If you are a local, we will meet for coffee on the morning of our chase day to go over weather briefing and then hop in my car to begin our chase!
If you are traveling from out of state, I recommend flying into Tucson Airport and staying at the Best Western Plus, Hampton Inn, Country Inn, or any of those nearby airports that have shuttle service. I will pick you up from your hotel when we begin our chase! More information on Itinerary below.
What to Expect:
"The Weather Waits For No Man" - Storm chasing is sort of like an ant hunting an elephant. In order to get to where they are, then keep up with them once they form, we need to be on the move. A lot. So be prepared for upwards of 4-6 hours per day in the car photographing any photogenic storms we come across. We will start off each morning with a weather briefing and show you what the atmosphere is cooking up for the day and how likely we are to get a good storm. During this briefing, we will use the latest weather model data from the National Weather Service's supercomputers to decide on our target area. These targets are rarely in the same area as the night before, so we will then hit the road and drive upwards of 300 miles to get into position. Depending on timing, we might stop for a nice lunch (by storm chasing standards- BBQ, Applebee's, etc.) or do a quick Subway grab and go.
Supercells are a byproduct of the sun's energy cooking the Earth's surface and creating an unstable configuration of lighter, warm air, beneath heavier, cold air. Like a pot bubbling, cumulus clouds will take their time and percolate through the afternoon until the cap breaks, and explosive thunderstorm development is underway. Once storms fire and we go into "chase mode," gas station stops will be similar to a NASCAR pit stop. You are encouraged to stock up on some light snacks and drinks before getting into chase mode because once the storms get going, we won't quit until they do. Typically, they go until an hour or two after sunset, at which point we will look into the next day's forecast and plan our night's stay in that direction if you sign up for a multiple day chase.
What You Will Learn:
-How to spot and identify thunderstorm features
-How to photograph lightning, supercells, and other weather structures
-How to create captivating compositions
-How to prepare for your shoot
-Camera & lens overview
-Introduction to Timelapse Photography
-Camera exposure settings for optimal imagery
-How to focus your lens at night
-Special tips and techniques
-Advanced camera techniques for focus and exposure blending
-How to edit your images using Adobe Lightroom to get the best detail and light out of them
What You Will Need:
-A DSLR Camera that can perform in Manual (M) Mode. I encourage you to learn your camera functions, menus, and have exposure triangle knowledge. This is not a photography 101 course.
-At least 3 fully charged camera batteries and 64GBs of memory card storage
-A variet of focal length lens that is at least 16mm (11mm on crop frame) to 200mm with an aperture of f/2.8 or faster is recommended but not required. I almost always pull out my 16-35 lens and 24-105 or 70-200 lenses. Lens Rental is available through borrowlenses.com if necessary. Students get 10% off!
-Shutter Release or Intervalometer (Please email me camera make/model so I can find the right one for you)
-Lightning Trigger for daytime lightning strikes (recommended)
-Variable ND or Grad Filter (recommended if you shoot timelapse)
-Camera Rain Cover
-Water resistant jacket
-Hiking / Waterproof boots
Due to the weather's unpredictability, our itinerary has to be flexible as to maximize our chances of catching an epic storm. We will be constantly monitoring weather patterns and re-positioning to the best location to achieve this goal.
Day 1 - We will meet in our hotel lobby or at a local coffee shop if you live in Tucson and go through orientation during a late breakfast. I will teach us some introductory forecasting and storm chasing basics, which we will build upon each day if you sign up for multiple days. After that I will go over camera techniques and best practices and will field any questions you have. During this time, I will do a safety briefing in which we explain what we expect from you and what you can expect from myself in order to safely conduct the workshop. After completing orientation and choosing a chase target for the day, we will load up, hit the road and start the chase.
We will conduct our morning briefing and go over what we saw and learned during the first chase day, and also cover the forecast for the current day. Because we will have stayed the night near the previous day's target, we likely won't have as long a drive as the previous day to get into position. If that's the case, we can take some time to sit down for a nice lunch or see some local attractions such as the National Weather Center in Oklahoma, the Badlands in South Dakota, or Carhenge in Nebraska (it's exactly what it sounds like). Storms usually fire around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and once they do, we will again be in "chase mode" until they weaken, which is usually an hour or two after sunset.
We will be getting into the groove now and you'll hopefully have a lot of storm photos to process and post. During our morning/early afternoon drives to each chase target, you can either spend this free time catching up on some sleep as you'll likely be exhausted (bring a neck pillow), catching up on emails and work, or editing your photos. At some point during this time, we will go over how to best process storm photos in Lightroom and continue to build on the best ways to capture them. Sean and Chad are excellent timelapse shooters and can teach you how to create these stunning videos upon request. We will have covered hundreds of miles on the road and you will start to think (and probably smell) like a real storm chaser- the anticipation, the boredom on the road, the adrenaline, the excitement of catching an epic storm, and the relief of finding a Pizza Hut that is still open at 10:15 PM in Wakenney, Kansas.
Tuition is affordably priced at $399/day.
Max Participants: 2
A 50%, non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your space for the workshop or you may pay in full. The remaining balance is due day of the workshop. If the remaining balance is not paid in full, your space will be forfeited.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE WORKSHOP:
–All access to my brain which includes any questions, recommendations, critiques, or anything photography related such as business or social media..
–Snacks and Water
–If you sign up for multiple days, Lodging is included at each location (double occupancy with other participant if dates match during availability. Single occupancy is available for an additional $100/night.)
– Transportation throughout the entire workshop.
– Continuous amount of fun as we storm chase through the southwest!
– Spotify Song Requests.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN THE WORKSHOP:
– Airfare to and from Tucson Airport.
– Food and Beverages
– Travel Insurance
– Camera Insurance
CANCELLATION AND REFUND POLICY:
Workshops may be cancelled or rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances. If we do cancel the workshop or reschedule, your deposit will be transferred towards another workshop date of your choice. Please read my terms and conditions,
While I maximize your chance of seeing something epic by only scheduling tours in the peak of storm season, the weather, as of yet, is beyond my control. I will do everything in my power to put you in the best location but cannot guarantee you'll see the best storm of the day. Since each storm is unique and exciting, expect me to set up his cameras and shoot the excitement right next to you!
Storm chasing is not nearly as dangerous as the movies and television shows might have you believe, but it does come with hazards. Statistically, the most dangerous part of storm chasing is the driving. We will be on the road for most of the day, and at times, in poor road conditions. Seat belts must be worn at all times in my vehicle. Another danger is lightning. There will be times when we will be stopped and shooting a storm with lightning nearby. There is no way of knowing where or when lightning will strike, so if you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger, you can get back in the car (inside a vehicle is generally a safe place to be during a lightning storm, not because the tires are rubber, but because they act as a Faraday cage.) Though the majority of storms are relatively weak and short-lived, some have strong outflow winds, and can be capable of widespread destruction. Because their motion is directly tied to the parent storm and with how large they are, they are usually quite easy to see coming and avoid. These outflow winds can easily knock you or your tripod / camera over. However unlikely personal injury might be, accidents do happen. All clients will be required to sign a comprehensive liability waiver.
About Your Instructor
Sean is one of the most passionate artists I’ve ever known, and it is readily apparent in every photograph he takes. Whether it’s spending long, lonely nights in the desert composing gorgeous star trails or peering into the heavens and gradually coaxing out its natural beauty with advanced telescopes and computer technology, he maintains an unrelenting positive outlook and unmatched work ethic. Knowing firsthand the amount of work required to produce such high quality material, I have profound respect for the mental fortitude required for the journey upon which Sean has embarked. The true mark of a great artist is the constant desire to learn new skills and improve upon the last work, and Sean has these qualities in spades. He has built his incredible set of skills through countless hours of frustrating trial and error, and the amazing thing to consider is that his current output of stunning imagery is simply the tip of the iceberg when compared to the assuredly brilliant career ahead of him. I’m extremely proud and honored to have had the chance to work with Sean and learn from him, and I am confident that he will find success in all of his pursuits, for he already has laid his foundation as a humble, driven, and meticulous artist. -John Sears