Hi again! 🙂
…it’s been awhile. Sorry about that.
I’m occasionally tempted to post about other subjects during the chasing off season, but I want this to be a fun and partially educational sort of thing. I think people are figuring out that the internet isn’t always the best place to dump out your private thoughts and if I start dumping thoughts about, oh say Information Technology, the blog would probably devolve into page long rants.
Anyway, it’s Sunday, and today was the last day of Chasercon 2018. I’m home now and I had a great time. Saw some people I remembered from last year, met some new people, and learned a few things.
I was extremely impressed with Dr. Jason Persoff’s talk about chasing addiction, depression, and personal safety. I think he broached a difficult subject in a graceful, thoughtful, and diplomatic manner. Heather and I got to speak to him for a little while during one of the breaks and we talked about one of the main reasons he spoke about this this year.
Chasers keep dying.
Heather and I sat with Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnell at Chasercon 2017 last year. Corbin Jaeger sat a few tables over, which I didn’t know until Dr. Persoff told me.
Maybe it’s cliche or just human nature to identify with someone you know on tangentially, but having so many similarities with Corbin bothered me. Corbin had moved from his hometown in Castle Rock (where we were currently living) to Arizona a few years back, and before I had moved to Colorado and started chasing I’d see his Radarscope dot occasionally out in my neck of the woods.
But we didn’t know any of them…not really. Heather and I had talked to Kelley and Randy occasionally during panel breaks and during the catered dinner at the convention. They were really nice guys. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know that Corbin was there at the time or I’d have introduced myself. I knew his name and thought it was kind of funny that we’d basically swapped living locations, and that I’d never bothered to chase the Arizona monsoon season despite living there my whole life. I wondered what he thought about chasing in Arizona.
It was surreal that little more than a month later all three would be dead in a horrible, avoidable vehicle accident.
I’m going to change the subject now, because it’s gone a little more somber than I wanted to be for my first post of the year. But I think our community, such as it is sometimes, will feel the effects of their absence and I hope this tragedy and Jason’s talk makes chasers even just a little more aware about priorities when chasing.
Enough said for now. I’m back to writing and soon, hopefully VERY soon, the storms will be back too. 1
Right now I’m going to talk about photography.
It’s 2015, and I hate photography.
I don’t want to carry a camera around. I also hate, HATE, being in pictures. 2 Heather is learning photography and has been for a few years now. She’s taken a few classes at the local community college, and she’s enjoying herself.
We occasionally go on little day trips, but these have become kind of annoying for me because every walk takes three times longer with her camera out. I try not to be too grumpy because I genuinely like seeing her enjoy her hobby. She has a great macro shot of a flower with I think a bee on it, and in the distance you can see a blurry outline of me, sitting on a log in the most classic “Can we PLEASE go do something else” pose. I’ll see if I can find it. UPDATE: Found it!
Sometimes I pass on a trip and she goes out alone, but I always go with her on astrophotography trips so she isn’t nervous or weirded out being alone in the desert or forest at two in the morning. Most of these trips are a lot of fun. I usually sit in the car and read, or we talk, but occasionally I’d help with light painting 3 or convince her to take scary photos instead. She posted a few of our “creepy tall guy” photos on her old blog (now unfortunately gone) and a budding author contacted her to see if he could use it as his book cover. I don’t think she did it but we both thought it was pretty flattering.
It’s early 2016, and I don’t care about photography much.
I’m focused completely on learning how to storm chase, but in the back of my mind I’m slowly coming to the realization that I should spend some time on photography too. But I’m busy learning to read radar, to forecast 4, and how to stay safe in general. I’m spending a LOT of time on Youtube. But occasionally I’m poking my toe into the photography pool and watching a video or two about that.
Now it’s May 7th and I see my first tornado. Fifteen minutes before the first touchdown south of Wray, I leave Heather’s point and shoot camera unattended for a second on a cheap tripod and it tips over in the inflow winds. Now all I have is my iPhone. I know next to nothing about photography, but I take this picture.
Heather is with me too. She has a Canon 60D DSLR camera, and she takes this picture (and many others). Click on this sucker to fully appreciate it.
This bothers me.
No, not in the way you might think. It’s not jealousy that she took a better picture than me. I knew she would, and it’s why I brought her 5. What bothered me was that I’d just seen the most amazing damn thing in my life and I wanted to remember it like HER picture came out. I wasn’t satisfied with busting out the phone and hoping something good might come of it. I…felt like I needed to do a little justice to what I was seeing out there. I guess.
On May 22nd, I finally borrow Heather’s camera and take it with me on a three day chase trip. I get stuck out in the middle of the Texas panhandle, trapped by muddy and flooded roads, so I start taking pictures with her camera at sundown. Results are mixed, and I know I don’t know what I’m doing.
On May 23rd, I force myself to sit at a truck stop for two hours and take pictures of semis with her camera to learn it. I take pictures of random wheat fields. I spy on local cattle.
On May 24th, the Dodge City tornado sequence starts, and I’m in position right before the first touchdown. I take a lot of pictures. Many of them are terrible.
Some aren’t. I’ll go into that more in a bit.
By fall, I have a camera, and I’m doing things like this.
I think this is progress.
It’s 2017, and I’m loving photography.
I originally wanted to focus more on videography when chasing, and sometimes I struggle with juggling both in the field, but I’m getting kind of proud of my pictures and surprisingly that becomes my main focus.
I don’t get to chase much this year, but Heather and I go on a few nature trips and now I’m having fun wandering around taking pictures of fall colors, sunrises, and other non-water vapor related activities.
The chase pictures are fewer but noticeably better. Even to me, who usually hates on anything I do that isn’t perfect.
It’s 2018, and I’m sitting at Chasercon on Saturday. David Mayhew is giving his photography presentation, and while I admire his photos and enjoy (and learn from) his talk, it’s mostly doing something to me that I keep noticing every time I open Facebook and see my chaser friends images.
His pictures make me want to go out and take my own. I want to get that good.
On Sunday, I watch another Chaserson presenter. He mentions that his pictures suck, so he’s not too worried that someone will rip him off. After all, that’s not why he does it. We laugh. But I’m thinking about it, and while I get what he’s saying in some sense and respect his decision…
…I don’t completely agree with it.
I watched a LOT of photography videos from various sources to learn, but two of the channels that helped and encouraged me the most are Mike Browne and Tony & Chelsea Northrup. Mike’s philosophy and approach to pursuing photography was something I could really identify with, and Tony and Chelsea helped me out with a lot of technical gotchas, equipment purchasing recommendations, and if nothing else, the idea to always have a Fog Plan.
They also do weekly photography review shows, which I enjoy watching. In December of last year, they chose weather as their subject matter and I thought to myself “Well, I can do weather.”
I took one of my 2016 Dodge City shots, one of those that I took after learning the camera the day before, and tried to polish it up in Lightroom a little more. Then I uploaded it and watched the show live.
Their reaction made me feel pretty good. I can’t seem to make my link skip to the right part, but you can manually skip to about 6:10 to see someone else’s great wolf in the snow picture, followed by my picture. They mess with my photo a little in Lightroom, but I don’t really mind. They do that. Everyone has a different eye.
It’s kind of goofy in retrospect, but having someone who helped me learn (and they have no idea they did) show that much approval over my photo was nice. Were I not so broke in 2016, I would have bought their book. I still might.
To be fair, I think using the Dodge City event for my entry might have been cheating a little.
In conclusion (and I promise, no more horizontal lines)
I’m mostly talking to chasers now.
Think about the things you’ve seen, or that you might see this coming year. Or the year after that. Think about the feeling of seeing your first tornado, and bring up that image in your mind.
Now take a look at your last years photos, if you took any, and while enjoying the memories they bring back…really examine your work. Could you have moved away from that telephone pole, crossed the street to avoid that truck blasting past, fixed your horizon, or maybe just practiced a little more before making the trip so that you didn’t underexpose your shots? Can you make your coming years pictures just a little better? The cameras in cell phones do keep getting better, but is it time to take the plunge and get an entry level DSLR or mirrorless camera. Expensive, you say? Have you looked at the used market? Maybe think about a temporary Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop subscription for your chase season, if nothing else? Might as well make a subscription plan work for you.
You don’t have an eye for photography? Man, you are reading the blog of the most logical minded, unimaginative, non-artistic guy out there. But I think I’m improving, and that process is encouraging me to keep trying.
My first tornado was Wray in 2016 that was amazing luck in and of itself. If you were there, you know that day deserves a photo a hundred times better than the ones I took.
As a chaser you will get to see things that many people will never see. You’re already driving hundreds of miles to see it. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t like the idea of embracing sucking at “the photo part”.
Practice a little, watch a few videos, learn your camera, and see if you can take a better photo than last year.
You might find it’s worth it.