Cloud Rings Around a Volcano Takes Top Prize in ‘Weather Photographer of the Year’ Contest

Lenticular Cloud Surrounding Villarrica Volcano.

“A Perfect Cloud” by Francisco Negroni. Overall winner. Photo location: Pucón, Chile
“Nope. That’s not a photo of Mount Doom. This is a gigantic lenticular cloud surrounding the crater of the Villarrica volcano, while the lava illuminates the cloud from within. Francisco Negroni camped out at the volcano—one of Chile’s most active—for ten days to capture this special moment, during a period of intense volcanic activity.”

Chilean photographer Francisco Negroni has been named the Standard Chartered Weather Photographer of the Year. His incredible photograph of a lenticular cloud surrounding a volcanic crater beat out a strong list of finalists and earned him the title, as well as a £5,000 ($6,100) prize. Negroni can add the award to his impressive resume, which is filled with prizes from international photo contests.

In addition to the overall winners, the contest also revealed the winner of the public vote. Brazilian photographer Fernando Braga beat out the competition with his image of lightning strikes swirling around the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. Braga's series of images showing the monument in a lightning storm went viral earlier this year and the award is a fitting reward for his artistry.

The awards, which are run by the Royal Meteorological Society, also honor young photographers. This year, 17-year-old Jamie McBean was named Young Weather Photographer of the Year. His evocative image of Mammatus clouds over beach huts at sunset is wonderfully moody and shows that you don't need a lot of action in weather photography to take a memorable photo.

Clouds take center stage in another category as well. Lez Irwig won the title of Smartphone Photographer of the Year for his image of a surfer in Sydney contemplating whether or not he should catch some waves in some stormy weather. Irwig's beautifully balanced composition is a clear winner.

Check out all the winners and runner-ups below. They'll have you looking at the weather in a whole new light.

Here are the winners of the 2023 Standard Chartered Weather Photographer of the Year contest.

“Divine Power” by Fernando Braga. Winner (Public vote). Photo location: Flamengo neighborhood, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
“When you see photographs like this, it’s easy to understand why our ancestors reckoned thunder and lightning were signs of angry deities. This photo captures bolts of lightning surrounding the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photographer Fernando Braga used every opportunity he could get to achieve this result taking advantage of storm forecasts and capturing a series of long exposures to maximize the chances of capturing lightning framing the statue. ‘This night was simply unforgettable for me. Like a dream come true.' Lightning strikes when electric charge builds up in a storm, creating sudden discharges either between parts of the atmosphere, or between the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. Fernando framed the shot to include ground-based antennas since lightning often strikes tall electrical conductors like these. Lightning can cause major destruction damaging property and triggering fires. And climate change is expected to make lightning more common across the world, by creating a hotter atmosphere that holds more water vapor, and so can produce more frequent and intense thunderstorms.”

Forest Fire Boundary in Vietnam

“Forest Fire Boundary” by Tran Tuan. Runner-up (Second Place). Photo location: Bac Giang province, Vietnam
“This scorching snap captures the devastation that forest fires cause to the natural world. Photographer, Tran Tuan, used a drone to reveal a forest split in two: one side ablaze, the other still lush with life… for now. Tran took this photo in the Bac Giang province of Vietnam, but forest fires like this one are devastating every corner of the globe (except for Antarctica). While wildfires are often sparked by human activity or lightning strikes, climate change is pouring fuel on the fire, by creating hotter—and in many regions—drier conditions, and more combustible material. This has been linked with fires that can burn longer, and spread further.”

Mammatus cloud over beach huts on Herne Bay

“Overhead Mammatus over Beach Huts at Herne Bay” by Jamie McBean. Overall winner (Young). Photo location: Herne Bay, Kent, UK
“This dramatic photo of these bulbous Mammatus clouds was captured by 17-year-old photographer, Jamie McBean. As Jamie explained, ‘A thunderstorm made way for an amazing overhead Mammatus display that caught the setting sun and gave them a golden glow.' Mammatus clouds are some of the most unusual and distinctive clouds and are usually connected with large cumulonimbus storm clouds that form as warm, moist air rises in the lower atmosphere. The bulges emerge from the base of the cumulonimbus and form due to turbulence within these giant storm clouds. The name Mammatus comes from their peculiar shape; the Latin ‘mamma' translates to ‘udder' or ‘breast.' In this photo, the clouds’ bumpy structure is dramatically highlighted by the evening sunlight.”

Surfer heading out on a stormy day

“Braving the Storm” by Lez Irwig. Overall mobile winner. Photo location: Sydney, Australia
“Would you surf a scene like this? Photographer Les Irwig captured a surfer’s contemplation of brooding weather conditions on one of Australia’s beaches in Sydney. ‘One wonders what was on his mind as he stands in readiness.' The early morning light of the sunrise illuminates heavy convective clouds, as they rain off in the distance. Sunrises have such warm hues, since the sun’s rays travel a long distance through the atmosphere, and the bluer frequencies of light get scattered away en route, through “Rayleigh scattering.” Convective clouds form as warm, moist air rises in the lower atmosphere. And they’re not just dramatic to look at. These clouds are associated with heavy downpours and lightning. Perhaps that explains why the surfer seems so pensive!”

Snow covering Fichtelberg Moutain Meteorological Station

“Fichtelberg Mountain” by Christoph Schaarschmidt. Runner-up (Third Place) Photo location: On the Fichtelberg in Saxony, Germany.
“A number of factors conspired together to sculpt this scene: strong winds; over a meter of snow; and temperatures far below zero. The icy build up in the landscape is actually a combination of snow and rime—ice that forms when supercooled water droplets in a fog freeze onto a surface. Also essential to this landscape was the clear view—unusual on this mountain, which is often covered in a thick fog—and the Fichtelberg meteorological station, which sits at an altitude of 1214 meters and has been measuring the weather since 1916.”

Beautiful sunset in Malibu

“Reflections Over the Pacific Ocean” by Siyana Lapinsky. Runner-up (Young) Photo location: Malibu, California, USA
“What’s better than a beautiful sunset? Two, of course! 14-year-old photographer, Siyana Lapinsky, captured the evening light near home in Malibu, California. When the sun is close to the horizon, its rays need to travel long distances through the atmosphere. Thanks to Rayleigh scattering, blue light is scattered more strongly and tends to be deflected away in other directions leaving more yellow, orange, and red light for us to see. Salt particles in the air can make sunsets over the sea even more colorful. The more moisture and dust in the air, the more scattering takes place, leaving us with beautiful pink colors as shown in Siyana’s photo. What’s more, the low angle of the light from the sun illuminates these clouds from below, creating an even more magical moment.”

Close Up Photo of a Snowflake on a Tree

“Snowflake Fall” by Diana Neves. Runner-up (Mobile) Photo location: Staffordshire, UK.
“Diana Neves captured the fragile beauty of a snowflake while enjoying a walk with her partner in Staffordshire in the UK. While each snowflake is unique, this one also holds a special significance for Diana: ‘I was recovering from depression at the time, and the snowflake reminded me to look for happiness in everything you see.'”

Royal Meteorological Society: Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by the Royal Meteorological Society.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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