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The Chase


Watch the video in 4K over on YouTube!

The music in this film was composed by Kerry Muzzey and is a track called The Secret History from the album The Architect. Please consider purchasing this album over on iTunes! I am forever his Kerry’s debt for his kindness and generosity in donating this song for my film. I do not have enough words to thank him!

If you’d like to purchase a digital download of the film for your iPhone or iPad, see below! You can find prints from this chase and also my entire storm collection by visiting my gallery.

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This past spring I spent more time chasing storms on the plains than ever before. The most I had spent prior to this was seven total days and that was last year. What I came away with from that short time made me realize that if I could double that…the stuff I could capture would be amazing. Of course I long to be out there for a month or longer, but when you live in Phoenix and have a wife and three kids…you have to be realistic.

I turned 40 years old this year and I told my wife all I wanted was 10 days chasing on the plains. She loves me though and it ended up being 14. Two days in April and then 12 straight days from May 23rd – June 3rd. Those 12 days were absolutely incredible. I’m friends with other chasers via social media, met them on the side of roads while chasing, even grabbed dinner together…but never have I felt more of a part of the chaser community than being out there for almost two weeks. Living the life…seeing the same amazing chasers over and over…it was overwhelming to me. I missed my family, it was hard at times, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Both chases originated from where I live in Arizona. In April I drove out all night to Colorado, slept maybe an hour, chased all day, got a good night’s sleep, chased the next day in the Texas Panhandle and drove home that same night, stopping only for a quick nap in New Mexico. The second chase was the same. Left Phoenix late on the evening of May 22nd, never really slept and the chase was on the next day. All in all I drove well over 12,000 miles over the course of those two weeks, visited 10 total states (New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota) and shot over 45,000 frames of footage for this film.

I have many people to thank. Pat O’Brien for being my first private tour attendee this spring. Mike Mezuel II for one very big tip on a spot above Rapid City, SD. To James Langford who not only guided me to that spot over the phone, but “now-casted” for me many, many times. I may have missed out on four crucial clips in this film if it wasn’t for him suggesting I punch the core in South Dakota. Thank you sir. And to my pal Andy Hoeland…who was with me for over a week of my time out there, driving, looking at forecasts, talking to weather experts and always helping us have a great target for that day. He’s become my chase partner for most of these big plains trips and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Also thanks to Cinetics for sending me their Axis 360 to play with. I used it one time in this film and wish I had used it more. I love that scene.

Finally…above everyone else, of course…is my wife. To let me go for that long, to never complain, to never discourage me…but to only believe in me…how could I be so lucky to deserve a wife like that? We have three kids and that’s tough on a parent to have her husband away that long. It will never cease to amaze me that I’d never, ever be here, doing this, if it wasn’t for her support and encouragement.

Technical details…everything was shot on Canon 5D3’s, along with an array of Rokinon lenses. I got sick of lens-twisting (mostly sick of FORGETTING to lens twist) so I mainly used those manual lenses on this trip. Everything was processed using LR Timelapse, Lightroom, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Was everything perfect? Almost. Dust and dried water spots are the bane of a time-lapser’s existence. Even when I thought I cleaned my sensors, I missed something or didn’t do a good enough job. Or maybe a lens was the problem when I was focused on the sensors. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting things right IN-CAMERA. Trying to fix that stuff in post is tedious and aggravating. And sometimes it’s very hard to fix it at all.

Other than that issue, I’m in absolute love with this film. The stuff I saw rivaled anything I’ve ever seen on the plains minus that insane Booker supercell in 2013. We saw four tornadoes (one of them appears in a deleted scene at the very end of the film), countless supercells, gorgeous shelf clouds, stunning mammatus and some awesome lightning shows. The song..well, the song for this film blew my mind. I loved it when I heard it, but then seeing how everything started coming together on the timeline, the pace, the slow build-up, the huge ending…I’ve said it before, but the song is 50% of the film. Thank you again Kerry for everything!

All this movie does it fuel me to want to do better next year and this summer in Arizona. Stay tuned for Monsoon II and for The Chase II next spring!

I sincerely hope you enjoy and share this film around. Thank you for watching and if you have ANY questions, please ask in the comments below or visit my website and contact me through that!


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In the field

In the Field
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 100, f/16, 0.5 sec, Lightning Trigger // buy print)

Earlier this week I decided out of nowhere to fly out to the plains to chase me some storms for two days. I didn’t even make the final decision until 12:45am on Tuesday, which was 5.5 hours before my flight left. But I’m glad I went. This was taken yesterday north of Blair, Oklahoma. I recently picked up The Lightning Trigger after the Nero one failed me miserably last year (hat tip to Ruth Montgomery for showing me how good this new one is), and luckily it was just in time for this trip.

I caught all kinds of strikes, but this one was the most crazy. The bolts were landing all around me, so I quickly set up the camera and jumped back into the car. I didn’t even see this strike because I was looking at radar or something, but I definitely saw a huge flash and the crack of thunder was amazing. You can see where it lands, which I guess was about 1/4 mile away or less. Super close, it was pretty freaky to have strikes everywhere. What a blast!

Lots more to come from this trip…photos and some cool time-lapses!

 

The Boise City supercell

The Boise City Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 2.5 sec // buy print)

I’ve been saving this image for awhile. It was taken during my storm chasing trip in early June of this year…and posting it kind of closes the chapter on that time. And what a time it was for me personally. Capturing that Booker supercell on timelapse and the way it was received turned that trip into one of the most important moments of my life.

And thus…sharing this photograph basically ends what I have to share from those three days. So I’ve been putting it off.

Beyond that though…I love this photo. I almost didn’t want to share it (might be hard to understand). It’s every reason I went out there. To see stuff like this. Yes, the Booker Supercell was incredible. The images of it with the orange backlight are surreal and I’m still astounded that I was there to capture that storm.

But this photo…once I started working on the black and white version of it, I fell in love with it.

Leading up to capturing this image, it felt like the day was going to be a bust. This was the day after Booker. We sat in the eastern Oklahoma Panhandle for most of the day, waiting for something to happen. But we got that target wrong. Storms to our west and northwest, in COLORADO, were going nuts and moving down into the Panhandle.

I take credit for this storm because at one point I said to Andy “F it…we’re going west until we catch those storms or they die out. Let’s go.”

And we blasted west. And we caught up to them.

We did make another mistake though, which was to sit too far to the east of this storm waiting for it to come to us. We definitely should have gotten closer and to the southeast of it right away.

But then I wouldn’t have been able to get this photo I don’t think. As it kept traveling southeast, we went southwest and met up with it right here. Driving down deserted farm roads…I told Andy I had to stop and grab this real quick.

Moments before it hadn’t looked as good as this and then suddenly…bam, this gorgeous supercell with sick structure was hanging over the road.

I couldn’t believe we were seeing one of these again, they very next day after Booker. I’d made three trips before to the plains to chase and had never caught anything remotely close to this and now we struck gold TWO DAYS IN A ROW.

Needless to say…that trip continues to live on in my memory. Not sure any future ones will ever equal it.

But you can always hope.

Roadside | Oklahoma & Texas

A few weeks ago we found out my wife’s grandfather passed away. Because air fare at the last minute was expensive for our family of four, we decided to drive the 927 miles to Alva, Oklahoma instead.

We had our two kids in the back and it was a long drive, so stopping to get out of the car and take photos was pretty much out of the question. But when we hit Texas and then Oklahoma, we ended up off the Interstate and started passing these old towns with abandoned buildings. I love that kind of stuff and so badly wanted to take some shots.

So I decided to be quick about it. I would roll down the window, stop, take a quick photo, and keep driving. We were already going 35mph so it wasn’t much of a time-suck. Sometimes I didn’t even stop all the way. The train image was actually my wife holding the wheel while I snapped away.

Was fun to do something different. There are some other things here besides buildings, but mostly I was looking for symmetry and decay. Hope you enjoy.

The first five photos were taken on our way there and it was completely foggy and overcast. The rest are from the trip home.

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

Roadside Series

The hand of God

The Hand of God - Oklahoma Panhandle Thunderstorm

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/400th // buy print)

When we saw this thing explode along the dry line in the Oklahoma panhandle…it was a sight to behold. It’s weird how stormchasing works. You setup in some location, the skies are clear and you wait. Your forecasting buddies have told you that a dry line will be moving eastward, hitting moisture and instability, and somewhere west of Woodward, OK…storms should start firing off in the next hour.

And then boom, clouds go nuts.

I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to predict weather even with all our technology, but at the same time, I marvel at how much we do know.

This storm ended up being the cell that produced that massive anvil in a photo I posted last week. The scene above was about 15-20 minutes before that.

The way the anvil starts spreading at the top right of the cloud reminding me of a giant hand reaching out. And with an angelic light behind it from the sun…who else could it be but God?

A giant anvil in Oklahoma

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 125, 1/400th, f/8 // buy print)

This was a storm that had a ton of promise when it first exploded out of nothingness…we watched the entire thing happen in front of us. But it just kind of sat in one spot, looked pretty for a bit, but eventually got busted by a weather term known as a “cap”…a lid on the atmosphere that prevents storms from getting any higher and thus more severe.

A tough image to process from a single exposure…lots of harsh light from behind the cloud. I’ve been using nothing but luminosity masks and levels adjustments in Photoshop lately for all my landscape/storm processing, plus RAW adjustments in Lightroom. Still learning…I love the results compared to ways I’ve done it in the past.

Storm chasing in May

(NOTE, all photos in this post are those of Shane Kirk)

It’s almost like Disneyland or maybe your 21st birthday, or something you’ve always wanted to do but it’s still a month away and you feel like you’re going to explode from what feel like an eternity to wait.

That’s sort of what is going on inside of me right now. All I see are storm photos flooding in from the weather this week in the midwest all the way to the east coast. And all we have here are sunny skies!

I have big plans this summer. The biggest is chasing the monsoon here in Arizona, but that’s another blog post for another time.

The more immediate event is storm chasing next month somewhere in the midwest with my friend Andy and perhaps a few more people.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am. The idea of chasing storms and lightning is so much fun for me NOW living here in Arizona, but to go to where the monster storms are, the real weather…the supercells and wall clouds and tornadoes and hail and endless strikes of lightning…oh man.

Shane Kirk

We’re not sure when we’re going yet. The forecasts are good sometimes 7-14 days out, so we’ll be looking in early May to see when the weather looks to be the best. Then we’ll fly out to a good city, drive all day, stay in crappy motels, process photos and then hit the pavement again the next day.

Four days of storm chasing fun! And don’t worry, while I may be nowhere close to a weatherman (although I pretend to be), Andy knows his stuff plus we may have an actual meteorologist with us anyways.

The plan is to keep up with all the real storm chasers are headed, like Reed Timmer over at Tornado Videos or Dick McGowan, another Facebook friend of mine.

My other friend Shane Kirk from Kansas may meet up with us too. He’s the guy who is probably responsible for inspiring me to get out and photograph lightning. He takes brilliant shots, not only of the strikes themselves, but of monster storm clouds. The photos to the right are all his work.

Shane Kirk

One of the storms he calls the best he’s ever seen is also to the right…the spaceshape shaped, circular looking stormcell. Amazing looking…simple amazing. More shots of this incredible storm are right here.

I urge you to check out more of his work, it’s absolutely amazing and some of the best stuff out there when it comes to storm chasers. He’s also quite skilled and nature photography.

So that’s the big plan for May. I will be Twitpic crazy I’m sure…and try to post a couple of the best shots every night. Although I’m sure we’ll be plenty exhausted from non-stop driving and adrenaline rushes from what will hopefully be some powerful storms.

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