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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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On Approach

Approaching
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/5, 1/200th, 8-image stitch // buy print)

After seeing that amazing supercell near Booker, Texas…it’s tough to imagine anything looking more ominous. But this storm was close. This is a big, 8-image panoramic, so things look further away than they actually were. The wall cloud was rotating violently, and we stood there in awe of what we were seeing. You can see in the darker area of the wall cloud how low the base is to the ground. Incredible.

This storm was marching on Denver International Airport and while a few tornadoes were reported, there was no real evidence of any on this day. But this was the second best wall cloud I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait to get back out on the plains next spring!

A Colorado sunset

A Colorado Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/50th // buy print)

Sometimes you do all you can to get in front of epic supercells for those amazing structure and lightning photos…only to find out that a retreating cluster of storms at sunset can be equally as beautiful.

This was from last week on Interstate 70 on Colorado’s eastern border. We were chasing these storms in hopes of getting to the other side for some lightning imagery, when we realized we just had to stop for a few minutes. My dash Sony Handycam, that does my live stream feed, was bringing out some contrast that we couldn’t see with the naked eye too well.

And when I walked out and took a shot with my 5D3…wow, it really popped. It was almost like the camera could pick out the separation between two storms right there in the middle of the road. More than I could see with my own eyes.

Glad we stopped.

An old house in Colorado

The House - Colorado Thunderstorm Mammatus

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, 1/320 f? // buy print)

Here’s another image from our brief trip to the central plains for a little bit of spring stormchasing.  An amazing display of mammatus was headed our way and I was on the lookout for something special to capture in the foreground. Sure enough, we stumbled upon this old house just beckoning us to include it in our compositions.

I’ve never seen mammatus clouds like that before, so it was kind of a thrill to get them on camera finally.

I used the Rokinon 14mm on  his one, which not only is manual focus, but also has a manual aperture ring, so I have no clue what I shot this at. It was handheld, so probably wider than f/8.

A fun trip, I still have a few more images to share at some point!

A Colorado gust front

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso400, 1/250th // buy print)

Gust fronts are pretty cool to see. What you see in the photo above is akin to a tidal wave that has passed over you, heading for somewhere else. That hard edge is the front and all the creepy clouds behind it are in its wake.

These are also known as outflow boundaries, which is what we see A TON of here in Arizona during the summers. Except ours usually include a giant wall of dust to go with it. Out on the Colorado plains, there was some dust, but mostly you just had crazy strong winds and a wicked sky.

My wife Jina loved this image and picked up on something I didn’t…the juxtaposition of the green wheat and the dead field on the other side of the road.  I was there, so it didn’t stand out to me as much as the clouds did. I find it hilarious what I can miss in my own images…God bless my wife.

Not too long ago I picked up a cheap-o Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens to use for timelapsing while stormchasing this summer. With an extra body now for weddings, I’d like to be able to timelapse and take normal photos with two wide angle lenses at the same time. Shouldn’t have sold the old Tamron 17-35, but I did when I bought the Canon 17-40.

Anyways, since this lens is not only manual focus, but also a manual aperture, I don’t remember what f-stop I was at for this! But regardless, I love the lens…so crazy wide, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

 

Timelapse of a little Colorado supercell

This was our first stop last Saturday after flying into Denver to storm chase for a few days. We made our way to the southeast portions of the state and pulled off onto a dirt road 10 miles north of Springfield. Radar showed a small supercell with rotation heading northeast.

We must have hung out here for around 90 minutes. Gave me enough time to set up a timelapse and capture this supercell emerging from the gloom and racing across the horizon. When it finally pops out, you can really see the rotation and some intense updrafts happening even as it starts to die out at the end of the clip.

Some technical timelapse notes. This was 65 minutes of real time, 1300 images, 3 seconds apart.

One issue I always seem to run into is what is always my problem: Slowing down. When I storm chase, I tend to rush around, toss gear here and there, no worries for anything in an attempt to get the shot. And that leads to forgetting things. Whenever I timelapse, the one thing I fail to do is put white balance into a manual K mode. I tend to forget it and leave it on AWB. That can cause problems…mainly a bit of flicker and color variances.

That’s just a heads up to myself and anyone else wanting to learn this. Gotta remember…EVERYTHING in manual.

This is in 1080p, so enjoy full-screen goodness.

A little Colorado mothership

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 200, f/8, 1/250th // buy print)

When it comes to stormchasing, one thing that Arizona lacks 95% of the time is iconic storm structures from supercells. Don’t get me wrong…they are beautiful and fun to photograph. But in Arizona, our storms tend to build up, drop a ton of rain and lightning, and then die out. If you don’t know what a supercell is…sometimes a storm cell is so intense and powerful, that it almost becomes it own entity. It’s rotating, pulling in gobs of moisture…and most of all, it moves across the land like a low-flying spaceship.

Which is why every spring/early summer I try to get out into the central plains to chase these unique storms, because the structures are just so amazing.

This past Saturday I flew to Denver along with a couple of buddies…Matt Granz and Andy Hoeland. We had a whirlwind two-day adventure which saw us drive almost 1500 miles across three states. We started on Saturday in Colorado where severe storms were set to explode over the eastern portions of the state.

We got lucky enough to see the storm above. We waited patiently for it to get closer to us, because the roads out there were a bit scarce. It was overcast and a bit gloomy, so it took a bit of time, but finally the cell we were watching on radar emerged from the dark and we got a good view of it. You can see in the center portion of the image…clouds that look like striations from right to left, going upwards. That indicates rotation in the storm. Also, below those striations is a low hanging cloud…probably just the base, but I think there is a little wall cloud in there too. Hard to tell.

For me…this was the kind of thing I have been trying to photograph. It wasn’t monstrous or epic…but it was fun to watch. I also have a timelapse of this entire scene…so stay tuned for that. You’ll get to see the rotation I’m talking about, and also how the cloud kind of flies low across the ground.

In the upcoming months I’ll be showing more images from this day and the next!