Weather photographer shares photos, adventures at William Woods

Jim Reed, extreme weather photographer, speaks at WWU Wednesday night.

It was a cold start to spring with temperatures about 20 degrees below normal, but severe weather is just around the corner.

That's great news for Jim Reed.

Reed knew early on he wanted to be an extreme weather photographer. Growing up in central Illinois, he saw all that the Midwest has to offer, from severe thunderstorms, hail, snow storms and floods.

He said the the winter of 1978 is burned into his memory due to the numerous blizzards and winter storms -- not unlike winter 2013.

Decades into his career, Reed still has a passion for Mother Nature's fury, and has documented countless storms, including 19 hurricanes. He said the most memorable storm is Hurricane Charley, which struck southwest Florida in 2004.

"It almost killed my parter and me. It was a hurricane that changed directions and strength suddenly...And we were basically caught off guard," said Reed.

Not every day brings the perfect storm, though.

"There are days where we do our best to forecast what we think nature's going to do, and you get out there and you end up kicking rocks and getting a sunburn. It's what we call a bust day, where the cap stays strong and thunderstorms just don't verify," he said.

As for advice for beginners, he says don't start out alone.

"I would suggest going to your National Weather Service and attending the spotter program, they can teach you all kinds of things about storm structure, they can hook you up with people who have been doing it for awhile."

About one hundred students attended the presentation at the Cutlip Auditorium. Many thought Reed's talk was something new and fresh. It was different from the lectures they've had in the past.

"It was amazing to see how he could take these daunting storms and then turn them into amazing photos, and just find the true beauty inside of these storms," William Woods student Jenny Morris said.

"I'm really interested in photgraphy just in general, so I wanted to see what his take on photography was, and he had some amazing shots so I really enjoyed seing what his experiences were," student Katherine Wortmann said.

Reed is sponsored by Nikon, and has won several awards and appeared on countless magazine and book covers.

This spring and summer he will be leading a tour of storm chasers interested in learning photography skills. Right now, he is working on a project with the Weather Channel that will air in about a month.