Every summer in the desert southwest of the United States, a familiar pattern emerges and storms roam the desert landscapes. This pattern is known as the monsoon pattern.

While this pattern isn’t as violent as the spring supercells on the Plains or as active as its namesake from India — the southwest monsoons are an incredible photography opportunity. So today, let’s go over five tips to get you started on photographing monsoon storms.

1:00 – When is monsoon season
1:53 – Where are you heading?
4:03 – The Monsoon Pattern, an overview
4:55 – What will you be photographing?
5:27 – What time to head out for storms?

When is monsoon season?

Monsoon season is typically somewhere from Mid-June to the end of September — but it can start and end later or earlier than those dates. However, the big key is the peak of the season with the best opportunities typically ranges from mid-July to mid-August.

Where should you chase?

There are several states in the southwest which have good territory for monsoon chasing, these include: New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado. However, even parts of California are good but we don’t touch on them in this video.

The Monsoon Pattern

This pattern sets up every year when a high pressure ridge starts dominating the western U.S. weather. As surface temperatures heat up and moisture from the Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico enters the region, you get near daily storms.

What Will You Be Photographing?

The main photography subjects during monsoon season will be the thunderstorms that form each day. Generally lightning, the storm clouds, beautiful landscapes with storms, and the elusive haboob are the things you’ll want to concentrate on.

What time of day will you be shooting?

Monsoon storms typically form in the early to mid afternoon and can last well into the night (sometimes all night). The best times to shoot are usually late afternoon into the evening.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your photography skill level, understanding some of the basics around photography of the monsoon season is an essential piece to beginning to photograph these storms. In a future video, we’ll touch on some forecasting tips for these storms so you can maximize your chances of getting incredible imagery.