Tucson: The Best Place to Photograph Lightning

Real Estate Sales Representative with Century 21 1st American

Lightning bolts streak across the sky during a monsoon storm in Tucson, Arizona while a saguaro stands watch

Tucson: The Best Place to Photograph Lightning

Tucson is the best place to photograph lightning.  I grew up here in Tucson, Arizona.  I moved here when I was 9 months old and lived here until I was nineteen.  Huge monsoon storms filled with incredible lightning displays were a common sight during the summer months.  I never realized how rare this was outside of Tucson until I moved away.  What I thought was no big deal was something that I missed during the years away from my hometown.  I moved back in 1999 and have enjoyed these awesome storms ever since.

lightning, bolt, storm, monsoon, tucson, AZ, arizona, sky, clouds

In the past 6-7 years I have developed a passion for photography.  With the amazing storms we have in Tucson I realized I had an opportunity in my own backyard that many people travel great distances to get.  Although the hot weather of the day during monsoon season is something to avoid, the storms that begin in the late afternoon and evening are something not to be missed.  Awesome displays of rain and lightning mixed with incredible sunsets make for quite a show on almost any monsoon night.  

lightning, tucson, bolt, arizona, storm, monsoon, az

Storms in Tucson are different.  When most places have a storm it covers the entire area.  This is very difficult for a photographer not knowing which way to point the camera.  When storms hit Tucson it's often in just a concentrated area.  This works perfectly for viewing and photographing lightning.  More than half the time I am photographing lightning I am completely dry.  The rain and lightning is at a safe distance.

lightning, bolt, saguaro, silhouette, storm, monsoon, tucson, az, arizona

There are some cities that have more lightning than Tucson.  But no city has a better setup to photograph and view lightning.  The mountains are the most important part.  Tucson is surrounded by mountain ranges.  This gives photographers many high viewpoints.  More importantly, the mountains are responsible for much of the lightning.  As storms roll in they bump into the mountains which in turn causes the clouds to slow down.  Following clouds then bump into the first clouds causing lightning.  Clouds bump into each other all the time but the many large mountains around Tucson increases that likelihood.  

lightning, storm, monsoon, city lights, tucson, arizona, az

Tucson also has the city lights.  The Tucson area now has over a million people.  Many large buildings and a large downtown area make for a beautiful foreground to a lightning storm.  The surrounding mountains allow the photographer to get a good view of this combination.

lightning, bolt, highway, interstate, I-10, Tucson, arizona, storm, monsoon, az

The last reason Tucson is the best place to photograph lightning is the saguaros.  Trees and electrical towers make really cool foregrounds for taking pictures but every place has those.  Saguaros are unique to our region and make for an awesome foreground element.  The actual shape of the saguaro mimics lightning in reverse creating a symmetry that trees and electrical towers can not.  

lightning, bolt, saguaro, tucson, arizona, storm, monsoon

If you plan on photographing lightning please keep in mind there is an inherent danger in doing so.  Please be careful.  Lightning is one of my favorite subjects to photograph but it is never worth putting yourself in harms way.  All of my photographs are copyrighted.  Please do not use them without my permission.  They are available for purchase at www.saguaropictures.com.


If you're looking to buy or sell real estate in Tucson, I would love the opportunity to show what I can do for you.  Please call me at 520-907-6760.

Greg McCown

 Century 21 1st American

(520) 907-6760


Century 21 1st American at 8830 E. Speedway in Tucson, Arizona


Comments (11)

Chris Alston
Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty, Silicon Valley, California) - Campbell, CA
Silicon Valley, California

WOW!!!!! Out here in California, we get lightning maybe once a year, if that...  So these are amazing!

Sep 07, 2011 08:54 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Greg - Those are some of the most dramatic lightening photos I think I have seen.  There is another thing I would like to add to this title, "The best place to photograph lightening."  It is not just Tuscon - BUT inside a protective cave, so you don't become a french fry in the process:-)

CONGRATULATIONS on having this blog FEATURED in the Photos group!

Sep 07, 2011 01:50 PM
Greg McCown
Century 21 1st American - Tucson, AZ

Chris - Thanks!  It's become my favorite thing to photograph.

Myrl - I'll definitely try to avoid becoming a french fry.  It's funny you bring that up.  The last couple of times I've shot lightning I took my wife's minivan.  I pulled out the middle seat and set up my tripod inside...kind of like a protective cave.

Sep 08, 2011 03:39 AM
Kristin Hamilton CA REALTOR
Berkshire Hathaway California Realty - Beaumont, CA
(909) 557-6966- Specialize 55+ Communties Banning


 These are fastasic pictures. I love thunderstorms. I always open the windows and love to smell the rain. Thanks for reminding me what I miss most of the time as we have very little rain here. Yes, be careful as you do not want to attract the electricity.

Sep 09, 2011 04:38 PM
Jeanean Gendron
The Address Realty - Redding, CA
Specializing in Selling Unique Properties

Greg, those are truly amazing. Over what period of time are these taken? One storm or many. Love the one where the night highway lights (?) really set it off. Great shots!

Sep 11, 2011 02:27 AM
Greg McCown
Century 21 1st American - Tucson, AZ

Kristin - There is nothing quite like the smell of rain.  I love it too.  And thank you.

Jeanean - Thanks, they were all taken this year but on a three different nights.

Sep 12, 2011 10:20 AM
Michael A. Caruso
Surterre Properties - Laguna Niguel, CA

My son goes to school at U of A in Tucson and he has told me about some of the amazing lightning shows there.

Sep 16, 2011 12:02 PM
Sondra Meyer:
EXP Realty, LLC - Corpus Christi, TX
See It. Experience It. Live It.

These are some really good lightening pictures.  Granted, I think those types of lightening storms would almost be scary. 

Sep 25, 2011 04:08 PM
Greg McCown
Century 21 1st American - Tucson, AZ

Michael - They are amazing.  U of A is a fantastic school.  Your son chose well.

Sondra - Thanks.  They can be a bit scary.  I try to keep a safe?? distance.

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Feb 29, 2012 02:16 AM