Winner’s Spotlight #1: An Interview with Jamie McBean, winner of the Standard Chartered Young Weather Photographer of the Year, 2023
Jamie McBean was 16 when he captured his shot of mammatus clouds at sunset over the beach huts at Herne Bay, Kent, which won him the title of Standard Chartered Young Weather Photographer of the Year. Jamie has been taking photographs since he was 10, is hoping to study Meteorology at university, and has already gathered an impressive knowledge of weather forecasting. Read on to learn how Jamie captured his winning shot, what he loves about the weather by the sea, his concerns about climate change and his top tips for taking a good weather or climate photograph.
As part of his prize, Jamie's image received a double-page spread in The Week Junior Science+Nature, media sponsor for Young Weather Photographer of the Year.
How do you feel about winning the title of Young Weather Photographer of the Year?
It feels amazing to have won Young Weather Photographer of the Year and I never believed I actually would, because it’s an international thing! I just thought I’d put my photo in, I might win, I might not. I’d like to thank the Royal Meteorological Society for the opportunity, the award and the support I have had over the years, which has allowed me to develop my photography skills. I hope this inspires others to take more pictures of our British weather as it is undoubtedly changeable and beautiful at times.
Have you won or entered other photography competitions recently?
I think that’s the first one I’ve entered to be honest, which is a good roll!
Tell us the story behind your winning shot
It was last November, I was walking home from school to the train station and thought, ‘there’s a bit of a storm on the horizon’. I got on the train, which took forever, and the train got absolutely battered by the storm as it was rolling in! I think I saw the mammatus clouds above the house and then I ran to the seafront to get the shot. I thought, ‘it’s a shot I’m probably not going to get again’. The atmosphere when taking the shot was certainly breath-taking and incredibly photogenic with the mammatus on the back edge of a line of storms, hanging over the beach huts and glowing orange in the setting sun.
How did you get into photography?
I’ve just always had that passion really, I don’t know how I got into it. My mum’s fairly into photography herself so it’s probably passed down. I did shoot the storm with a Nikon D3400 but I’ve now got the D7500 so it’s a bit of an upgrade. I think it was Christmas 2017 I got that first camera, when I was 10 or 11 and it lasted me six years. I’ve never done any photography at school or had any training.
What inspires you to photograph the weather?
I like photographing weather and landscapes mixed in, because you can have a good landscape but if you’ve got the weather with it, it adds pathetic fallacy. Since I’ve had a Twitter account, I see all the different sorts of weather types that are around Europe and also around the UK, because it varies from here to Cornwall. It gives me a bit of a kick up the backside to go and take pictures! If I can get a shot that no-one's got, I’d say that’s really good.
Tell us about two other favourite photographs that you’ve taken
There was another photo I entered in the competition. You could see the updraught and downdraught of a storm, quite clearly separated. That’s one of my faves! I also took a picture of the sun over a helter skelter, with the sun right over the tip of it.
How did you become interested in meteorology, and weather and climate photography?
To be honest, I think it was making my Twitter account in the first place. I don’t know how old I was, but I was quite young. You see all the different meteorology from elsewhere. It gave me a passion to pursue it further so I can see more and more of what’s changing and the different types.
What are your three top tips on getting a great weather or climate change photograph?
- First of all, you need to know when the weather is going to happen. Follow forecasts, people’s models. But if there’s a good sunset you might not be able to tell that from a model. I mostly get my info from Twitter and different weather models. When you get met opinions you can form your own opinion and it’s a bit better than what you knew before.
- Make sure your picture is in focus or that your auto-focus is turned on, not off – I’ve done that a few times!
- Make sure your subject is in the centre. You can take a really good shot but if it’s off-centre it’ll probably do your head in – it does mine!
What else would you say to a young person wanting to take up weather photography or to tell climate change stories through their photography?
I think you just need to delve in. There are loads of met weather forums, there’s Twitter with loads of people on there. You can gather knowledge from what other people are saying. Most of the time when someone’s tweeting, they’re going to explain it a bit and you can pick up bits of knowledge from that. You also have other photographers on Twitter and other forums. Learn from other people and pinch things from other people. I think it’d be a bit of a struggle if you’re just going solely alone and not relying on different models and knowledge. I have a friend in Ireland, Sryan Bruen, and he’s one of the main people that have inspired me, he’s always around Dublin taking beautiful pictures of the weather, and I just thought, I need to beat him!
But even without knowledge, I think if you see something good then just get out there. There’s been multiple times I’ve gone out into the street to get a shot of a shower that I had no idea was going to happen and it’s worked.
What are your favourite types of weather in your part of the world?
I like the sea because I’m a big fan of thunderstorms and showers. I still like the hot sun in the summer. Also snow, though we don’t get it often. But if you have nice snow showers coming off the sea it makes for a pretty good picture. Normally for snow to happen here, you have to get a very cold air mass off the sea and the chances of that happening inper winter, especially with climate change, is a bit slim.
I plan to go to the University of Reading to study Meteorology. I’m studying A-Level Maths, Business Studies and IT. Maths is the core of what you need for meteorology, the rest isn’t really related so I’ll have to crack down on the maths! If meteorology doesn’t work out I’ll probably do photography somewhere else, but hopefully I can intertwine the two. Career-wise, I’ll probably be a meteorologist or something along those lines, but I don’t know what I’ll slip into, because you don’t really know until you’re there.
Also, the world’s warming up. Climate change is a very real problem. The extreme heat of July 2022 certainly woke me up to the warming climate a bit more because the extremes we were seeing then were just crazy. Coningsby hadn’t even recorded 35 degrees before and then it recorded 40.3°C. I feel like if I can at least raise some sort of awareness about it that will help.