AZ storm-chasing photographers thrive on monsoon action

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Shelf cloud (Courtesy of Bryan Snider) Shelf cloud (Courtesy of Bryan Snider)

When monsoon storms roll in to town, die-hard photographers grab their cameras and hit the road.

CBS 5 News spent Tuesday evening with a pair of Arizona storm chasers, as they traveled from Tempe to Tonopah.

It's hard to believe, but they didn't see much rain; and that's by design.

In order for photographers to snap the best pictures, they need to stay ahead of storms.

"This tower that we saw earlier has just shot up," said Bryan Snider, who's been chasing and photographing storms for about a decade, as he pointed to a billowing cloud that hovered over the southeast Valley. "It's pushed in close to 60,000 feet."

CBS 5 photographer Andrew Bautista videotaped the storm as it charged its way north, while Snider and his colleague Kerry Hutchings furiously clicked away on their cameras – before rain began to fall near Tempe Town Lake.

"The monsoon is one of those things, you can throw textbooks out the window because it has a mind of its own," Snider explained.

As the crew prepared to head west just after 5 p.m., Hutchings – who has been storm chasing more nearly five years - predicted the type of storm pictures they'd get as the evening wore on.

"Epic," he said. "Absolutely epic. It's going to be something we haven't seen in awhile."

Sure enough, just after 6 p.m., they stopped at Indian School and Perryville roads near Buckeye just in time to capture a dust storm and what Snider called "the money shot."

"Just seeing a shelf cloud, I mean, a lot of chasers envy us right now," he said about the exhilarating sight and rare cloud formation.

From there, it was on to Tonopah where they trained their lenses on captivating clouds and an Arizona sunset only a monsoon storm can deliver.

"One of my missions is to show people that there is incredible weather here in Arizona," said Snider.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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