Since we’re now on the same team as far as corporate ownership goes, we’re excited to begin featuring some of Popular Photography’s_ amazing work here PopSci.com, starting with this piece on weather-junkie Jim Reed and the story behind his beautiful photographs. –Eds._
Jim Reed’s passion for extreme weather photography has put him in harm’s way more than once. Getting fantastic images of nature’s most incredible tricks involves a lot more than running head-on into a storm. It takes patience, science and surprisingly few new camera bodies.
Q. When did you first become fascinated with extreme weather?
I was raised in Springfield, IL and we had a variety of weather challenges, like ice storms, blizzards, floods, and tornadoes. I was shoveling snow by the time I was seven. I was always interested in the visuals associated with these storms. When you’re a kid and you’re climbing a tree and then a month later it has been uprooted by a meteorological phenomenon, that leaves a lasting impression.
Q. When did your love of photography begin?
My mom bought me my first camera when I was about eight, but I was more interested in recording sound effects and creating my own little shows. It motivated me to get into filmmaking and I went to USC for film, so I was always looking through a viewfinder. I didn’t take any formal photography classes, but I came out of school understanding the important elements of exposure.
Q. When did your two passions collide?
I was making films and I realized that four out of the five productions I would work on would be disrupted by the weather. I remember one day thinking: “I was pointing the camera in the wrong direction. I needed to be focusing on the sky.”
Q. What was your first big weather photography job?
I began documenting the Vortex project back in 1994. I was writing about it for magazines and the editors would ask me if I could get pictures because there was just no room for a photographer in these small research vehicles. Eventually, I began to like taking photographs more than writing.