The scenes feel like something straight out of 2012 or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Frost overtakes a window pane, bolts of lighting, extreme drought. The Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) has selected the finalists for its Photographer of the Year Awards, and the voting is now open to the public. Winners are announced on September 21 and they, along with the finalists, will be featured in the annual calendar available later in the year. Here are some of our favorite contenders. 

Related: Parasitic zombie fungus takes first prize in BMC Ecology & Evolution photo competition 

Departing storm over Bembridge Lifeboat Station, Jamie Russell

rmets weather photographer of the year bembridge lifeboat station
“Rainbows are optical phenomena that occur when sunlight shines through raindrops. The light is refracted as it enters the raindrop, then reflected off the back of the droplet, and then refracted again as it exits and travels towards our eyes. This causes the sunlight to split into different colors. The sun needs to be behind the viewer and needs to be low in the sky. The lower the sun in the sky, the more of an arc of a rainbow the viewer will see.” Jamie Russell

Jamie Russell was chasing storms across the Isle of Wright when he reached Bembridge and was rewarded with an exceptional rainbow, which he took drastic measures to photograph. 

“In a panic I waded into the waist-deep water, fully dressed, just to compose this scene.”

Highway to paradise

rmets weather photographer of the year Črni Kal, Slovenia
“Fog is a low cloud that forms at the surface. The relative humidity is above 95%, and visibility is reduced to less than 1,000 meters. Fog is caused by tiny water droplets suspended in the air, and there are a few different types of fog: radiation fog, valley fog, advection fog, hill fog, and evaporation fog.” Sara Jazbar

This otherworldly scene, captured in Slovenia, is thanks to a temperature inversion that causes fog to form on the water’s surface. It happens just a couple of times a year, and Sara Jazbar was there to get the shot. 

“The fog stopped under the bridge and lingered there, flowing, moving, as if alive,” Jazbar says. 

Winter’s icy grip

rmets weather photographer of the year Kurravaara, Kiruna, Sweden
“Very tiny imperfections such as scratches, specks of dust and salt, or the residue from washer fluid are what can cause beautiful leaf-like patterns of frost to form on windows. These surface variations affect how ice crystals form and branch out, forming beautiful patterns, as seen in this photo.” Felipe Martin Menzella

From Sweden’s northernmost town of Kurravaara, Kiruna, RMetS Weather Photographer of the Year Felipe Martin Menzella documented the chilling beauty of an icy window. 

Scotch mist

rmets weather photographer of the year Tarbet, Loch Lomond, Scotland
“Mist, like fog, is a low cloud or small water droplets suspended in the air, close to the ground. The relative humidity in mist and fog is more than 95%, but the difference between the two phenomena is all down to visibility. If you can see more than 1,000 meters, it is called mist, but if it is thicker and the visibility drops below 1,000 meters, it is called fog.” Vince Campbell

In this image, we’re not quite at Loch Ness, but rather at Loch Lomond, in Southern Scotland. 

“The woods, the alps, the loch, and Ben Lomond were bathed in ‘Scotch mist.’ This shot was taken just before the sun put in an appearance,” notes photographer Vince Campbell. 

Waterlily harvesting

rmets weather photographer of the year Barrackpore, West Bengal, India waterlily harvest
“A monsoon is a seasonal change in the direction of the prevailing winds of a region, bringing a marked difference in rainfall. Monsoons lead to distinct wet and dry seasons in many parts of the tropics and often occur in and around the Indian Ocean. They are driven by a strong temperature difference between the land and sea, effectively like a large-scale sea breeze.” Shibasish Saha

Monsoon season means it’s time to harvest waterlilies to sell at local markets. RMetS Weather Photographer of the Year finalist Shibasish Saha takes us to Barrackpore, West Bengal, India, with a drone to capture a unique perspective on the process. 

Dam wet

rmet weather photographer of the year Wet Sleddale reservoir, Shap, Cumbria
“Storm Dennis impacted the UK on 15-16 February 2020, bringing high rainfall totals and causing flooding in parts of south Wales and England. Strong winds were also associated with the storm, with Aberdaron in northwest Wales recording a wind gust of 91mph.” ©Andrew McCaren

“Wet Sleddale [reservoir] more often than not doesn’t overflow, but when it does, it’s an amazing site, and the noise is deafening,” notes Andrew McCaren. The overflow was a result of heavy rain and though the subject is cheerfully decked out in rainbow umbrella and electric green rain slicker, we’d guess this is not what Gene Kelly had in mind for a little singing in the rain. 

In search of water

rmets weather photographer of the year Purulia, India
“Periods of extreme heat in India can cause rivers and ponds to completely dry up, leaving humans and animals struggling to find water.” Barun Rajgaria

The cracked earth only highlights the feeling of desperation in the search for water, two pots dismally empty. Barun Rajgaria shares that during a “drought, the women and children of the village [in Purulia, West Bengal] have to make deep pits in the dry river, in which the frozen water quenches the thirst of the people here.”

Rain bubble

rmets weather photographer of the year Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
“Raindrops are usually represented in the shape of a teardrop, but in reality, they resemble a jellybean. When raindrops first form high in the atmosphere, they are a spherical shape. As the drops begin to fall, their shape changes as air resistance cause the bottom edge to flatten and curve, resembling a jellybean. Rain bubbles form when the raindrop traps gas as it falls on the surface, and there is enough surface tension of the liquid to capture the gas in the form of a bubble.” Betel Tibebu

In stark contrast to the previous entry, Betel Tibebu’s image is an abundance of water. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, experienced flooding after intense rain. Bubbles form when a raindrop hits the surface, trapping the air.