Photographers Point Their Cameras at Some Wild Weather

Photo by Michael Shainblum

The Stories From Behind The Lens

The Whalebone Department of Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services has been busy recently. In past years, things were quieter on our floor of the building with mostly soda bottle volcano experiments happening, but then there was a flyer in the cafeteria mentioning the magazine team would be working on an upcoming Weather Issue and they were looking for contributors from within the organization to participate. It was an exciting day. Why they didn’t simply walk up the stairs three floors to ask us themselves is beyond us, but we suspect it has to do with the time we told them the weather would be “fine” for their taco stand and it ended up raining the whole weekend. Anyway, this is all to inform you that the Whalebone Department of Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services team is pleased to have put together the following feature for The Weather issue. Please note, the magazine crew scrapped the idea of us demonstrating the soda bottle volcano experiment in this issue so we went with the next best thing. The Whalebone Department of Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services team reached out to several of the greatest weather photographers in the world and asked for the stories behind some of their favorite images they have ever captured.

Michael Yamashita

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A house built for two seasons: Stilt houses weather the river’s ups and downs during the wet and dry seasons. I photographed this home, outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in February’s drought, and later in October’s floods, part of the annual weather cycle along the Mekong River. But the Mekong, the lifeblood of Southeast Asia that has nourished civilizations for thousands of years, is in deep trouble as water levels reached record lows in last year’s drought followed by record flooding this past October. These increasingly extreme cycles are creating a dangerous and damaging situation with no clear picture of the numbers of people affected. Conditions are expected to worsen as climate change continues to disrupt the natural ebb and flow of the great river.

Andy Best

Alberta, Canada

A moment I’ll never forget. I sat in the dark staring out at the final glow of the sunset. I just got done backing up footage from the day when I looked up at a massive glow in the sky. I ran over to Chad and screamed, “NORTHERN LIGHTS!” I set up a quick test shot and sure enough, so we tossed everything in our jeeps ran full speed out into the Badlands not knowing when it might end. Luckily it went all night and I got to experience my first northern lights in the Badlands of Alberta, while surrounded by 75 million-year-old dinosaur bones.

Jason Weingart

Georgetown, Texas

We chased tornadic thunderstorms across Williamson County, Texas. This storm was part of a series of events now referred to as the Texas-Oklahoma Memorial Day Flood and Tornado Outbreak. Sadly, 58 people lost their lives in these storms. This was taken behind the system after we spent several hours trapped in Taylor, Texas due to flash floods. The sunset dramatically lit the mammatus clouds draped across the anvil of the storm.

Elena Salvai

Riomaggiore, Italy

This shot was taken in Riomaggiore, one of the Cinque Terre little towns, a UNESCO heritage site. I have always been fascinated by meteorological photography. You could say that I am a storm chaser. I have been photographing lightning for many years. That evening I knew there would be a thunderstorm over there so I went to photograph it but I never expected that lightning would have fallen so close. There was a sudden white glow, a loud roar and my hair stood on end! Really a great emotion for me. Fortunately, I was shooting at that moment and this was the exciting result. I probably risked a lot but that photo gave me a lot of satisfaction, and it has won important international competitions and has been published in major newspapers and magazines around the world.

Michael Shainblum


This was taken back in 2016 in Iceland. It was my first time seeing the northern lights dance across the sky, towards the end of a long rainy overcast trip. This was a panorama image, made up of about four vertical wide-angle images to give this perspective with the sky. The green glow spilling across the landscape was bright, even to the naked eye. The reflections in the ice made for a nice addition to the composition, although my tripod and I were sliding across the ice quite a bit. Definitely one of the most beautiful things I have witnessed.

Kelly Delay

Simla, Colorado

Under this massive supercell were TWO tornadoes, rotating opposite of each other. For you weather nerds, that’s cyclonic and anticyclonic motion from the tornadoes. The storm also produced baseball-sized hail that I witnessed falling through double rainbow’s prism, captured in the image to the left when the sun came out. Overall a humbling experience. This once in a lifetime event for me.

Mike Olbinski

Almost went to bed, in fact, I was in bed, but I did the usual storm chaser thing…I checked the radar on my phone one more time. Forty-five minutes later, I found myself at this spot, watching a storm slowly arrive as I dodged cars every so often to reset my composition, praying for a great strike. The moment after the flash happened, I checked the back of my camera and knew in an instant it was the best lightning photo I’d ever captured.