Jim Reed: Extreme Weather Photographer
How one of the world's most acclaimed weather photographers gets his amazing shots
Extreme Weather Photography by Jim Reed
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.