Storms and Saguaros Workshop
Join us as we chase storms to capture brilliant bolts of lightning over the desert landscape of Arizona. Monsoon season provides dramatic light, lightning, rainbows, and big clouds! Learn how to read the weather, follow the radar, and position yourself to capture the best storms!
- Photograph Southern Arizona during the height of the monsoon season. Expect big storms, lightning, and dramatic light!
- Resident storm photographer Greg McCown has extensive experience following the weather patterns and knows the best spots to shoot. Both he and pro-photographer David Swindler will be leading the workshop.
- The itinerary is kept flexible so we can take advantage of everything mother nature throws at us. We'll follow the storms even if it means driving some long distances!
- In the evenings we'll do night photography if skies are clear.
- You will learn how to read the weather, how to follow the best storms, how to get in proper location for photography, and how to capture the best lightning shots.
- Image critique and post-processing instruction is also included.
The itinerary is being kept flexible to account for weather and current conditions. This is a storm chasing workshop, so we're focused on capturing the most dramatic storms wherever they may be. This itinerary is only meant to give you an idea of what we could be doing each day.
- Day 1 (July 31): Meet at 1PM for a mandatory orientation session in Tucson, AZ. We'll go over many techniques for photographing storms and how we forecast and plan for the weather. After we're done, we notice a cell of storms west of town. We find some nice saguaros and capture daytime lightning shots along with a dramatic sunset.
- Day 2 (Aug 1): We meet back up mid-morning for a post-processing session. After lunch, the wind patterns are indicative of a dust storm to the northwest. We hurry out there and photograph some intense haboob activity. We stay out until nearly midnight since the lightning keeps on coming!
- Day 3 (Aug 2): We meet for another classroom session where you'll learn additional storm chasing techniques. From there, we take a few of your photos and show you our favorite post-processing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop. The temps are cooler today and there isn't as much storm activity. We decide to go out and photograph some of the waterfalls that are flowing. At sunset, we get some warm golden light on the saguaros. Once it gets dark, we head up into the mountains and photograph the brilliant Milky Way!
- Day 4 (Aug 3): We meet for our group lunch at one of our favorite restaurants in Tucson. We notice a storm that's developing to the south so we strategically place ourselves to the side of the storm's path. We capture insane shelf clouds and many lightning bolts! As the rain begins, we jump in the vehicles and find several other storms to photograph. We return to Tucson well after dark.
- We are offering an optional workshop extension to the Grand Canyon from July 27-30 for those who wish to join. Here is a link to the information and booking page. https://actionphototours.com/grand-canyon-extension/ . We are still finalizing group hotel arrangements, and will notify everyone once the details are worked out so you can book your rooms!
Please arrive in Tucson, AZ prior to 1PM on Friday, July 31st for an orientation session. Our central meeting place will be at the Hilton Tucson East We didn’t include hotel stays on this trip to allow you the flexibility of a lodging option of your choice. If you choose to stay somewhere else, you will need your own transportation to get to the meeting point. Transportation is provided for all workshop outings.
All participants on this trip should be in reasonably good physical condition. We aren't planning to do much hiking, but you should be comfortable walking around 1-2 miles per day.
We timed this workshop for the best chance of monsoon storms and dramatic clouds. We can't control the weather, but will certainly make the best of what Mother Nature throws at us. If the storms aren't as active, we'll focus more on landscape and night photography.
You may experience many different kinds of weather in July and August. Expect very hot temperatures, especially in the afternoon. If storms come in, lots of rain can fall and the temperatures will cool dramatically. See the gear list further down for specific recommendations on what to bring.
Capturing daytime lightning requires a lightning trigger that is specific to your camera. The trigger is not needed for shooting lightning at dusk or at night. With lightning triggers, you get what you pay for. Cheap triggers will almost always deliver poor results. Please see our recommendations in the Gear Section below.
$1695/person + Tax
- 4-Day Intensive Photo Workshop with 2 Instructors.
- All ground transportation and photography guiding.
- Post-processing and image critique.
- Group lunch or dinner on our final day in Tucson. Please note alcoholic beverages are not included.
Trip Does NOT Include:
- Transportation to/from your home to Tucson, AZ.
- Hotel Accommodations.
- Alcoholic Beverages.
- Meals and snacks with exception of the final group meal.
When you complete the checkout process, you will be given the option to either pay the full amount or put down a 50% deposit. If you pay the deposit, the remaining amount will be charged 90-days prior to the trip to the credit card we have on file.
Recommended Camera Gear
- Sturdy tripod and ballhead
- Digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera Body.
- Wide Angle Zoom Lens (16-35mm on full frame, 10-22mm on crop sensor).
- Mid-range zoom lens in the range of 24-100mm.
- Telephoto lenses are optional but may come in handy for distant storms and cloud patterns.
- Bring a circular polarizer filter and or 3-stop ND filter for your wide angle and mid-range zoom lenses.
- Lightning trigger. We recommend the Lightning Trigger Brand LT-IV for best results.
- Extra batteries for your camera and lightning trigger along with extra memory cards.
- A blower and micro-fiber cloth for cleaning.
- Remote cord for your camera. We recommend a remote where you can lock down the button for back-to-back exposures.
- Backpack or case for your gear.
- When it starts raining, we will be packing up. You are welcome to bring a waterproof sleeve for your camera, but it's not required.
- Laptop if you wish to backup your photos or follow along during the post-processing instruction.
- We may be able to rent you gear if you don't have everything you need.
Personal Gear List
- Sturdy footwear, hiking socks, and long pants.
- A rain jacket since it can get cold when storms roll in.
- Headlamp for when we are out at night.
- Sunscreen, Sunglasses, Sun Hat
- Water bottle.
"I was fortunate to be able to join the 2019 Storms & Saguaros. David and Greg are amazing. They are experts on lightning photography and nimbly adjust the day's course to put you in front of incredible views."
"Exciting and Educational! These guys know their stuff. Shooting stars, Lightning and Sunsets in beautiful locations. Following the storms was a thrill! Thank you!"
"Fantastic workshop. Super knowledgeable instructors providing precise expertise in photography and post processing techniques. Highly recommend and will be attending many more workshops in the future."
"David and Greg worked tirelessly to put us on storms as much as Mother Nature would allow. The pace is a little hectic as expected, but the excitement of getting good lightning and storm pictures far compensated for the pace."
"This was my second workshop with APT and as a photographer you will enjoy it in a unimaginable way. I recommend it 100%."
Instructor - Greg McCown
When he was just 9 months old Greg McCown moved to Tucson, AZ. Greg especially loves the mountains. He has spent many days and nights camping, hiking, skiing, and rapelling in the Catalina Mountains.
At age 21 Greg met the girl of his dreams. They quickly married and had 5 children together. Greg soon found that he really liked working in real estate, buying and selling properties both for himself and others. He has built spec homes, split lots, done rezonings, and been a landlord. He found that he truly enjoyed helping others in the process of buying and selling real estate. Even after obtaining an MBA in Global Management in May of 2002, Greg found that any new career would not be as fulfilling as the one he had come to enjoy so much.
In 2004, on a trip to Hawaii, Greg stole his wife’s camera. She never got it back and Greg became instantly obsessed. He spent years studying and practicing the art of photography and has become a well known landscape photographer specializing in storms, stars, and sunsets. His work is now found in magazines, calendars, the local news, and has been published internationally.
David Swindler is a National Geographic award-winning landscape and wildlife photographer. He received a degree in chemical engineering and worked in the semiconductor industry specializing in optics and photolithography. Back in 2014 he quit his day job to follow his true passion. He has traveled to many locations around the world and has extensive experience photographing a wide variety of subjects and conditions. He finds great satisfaction in helping others learn photography, especially in the wild desert environment near his home in Kanab, UT. David is an expert in night photography and loves to get out and shoot the starry night skies. Catch a glimpse of David's work in the slideshow, and follow the links below to see more!
David has been leading guided photo tours for many years. He is very familiar with many different types of cameras and how to capture the best photos. And most importantly, his clients are the top priority while out in the field. Just read what others are saying here: Trip Advisor.