Here’s a small list of questions that nobody is asking about why I’m doing this.
How do I contact you? (Added 8/28/2018)
I used to use a contact form I had built into the site, but it turned out to be a never ending source of spam. Probably the best way is email. You can email me at Gmail. It’s my first name, dot, last name for the email address.
Why are you doing this?
I’ve wanted to since I was a kid. Some people love horses. I love severe weather. The page about me goes into it a lot more.
Why wouldn’t you just go with a chase tour?
Money isn’t something I have in large quantities and tour groups can get pretty expensive. Right now what money I do have I’d rather spend on equipment.
I’m also a very hands-on type of person and I don’t mind working hard to figure things out. I enjoy it, and there’s probably an element of pride somewhere in all of this too.
I won’t rule out chasing tours though for the future. I certainly wouldn’t steer anyone away from them either. If you’re interested in this storm chasing it’s a good idea to go with people who have been doing it for a long time. You’ll probably learn a lot, depending on the tour, and if nothing else you’re much more likely to have successful chase days! It’d also be a good way to make some friends with similar interests.
Why don’t you chase with a more experienced partner? (Updated 8-19-2016)
Are you interested? Shoot me an email and we can talk! I have no problem sharing costs and I have a high amount of long-distance driving endurance. I’m also always up to meet more chasers.
Right now I’ve been mostly chasing alone or with my girlfriend when our schedules line up.
What camera(s) and equipment are you using? (Updated 8-28-2018)
Still pretty minimal, but I’m starting to think that even if I had unlimited funds I might keep it that way. It’s nice to travel light.
I have a Sony Alpha a6300 mirrorless camera which I primarily use for photography. It’s a serviceable video camera too, but I’m still really enjoying shooting pictures. I only own the 16-50mm kit lens at the moment. I may buy a zoom lens later, or save up and go with a full frame camera down the road.
I bought a GoPro Hero 5 Black in early 2017 which is serving mostly as my dashcam but sometimes I stick it on a tripod and film. I’m going to get a dedicated dashcam at some point and just leave the GoPro on the tripod so it’s ready to go. I usually shoot at 1080p, 30fps (frames per second) because I usually end up doing timelapse with the footage, so 60fps is kind of pointless. The GoPro can shoot at 4K, 30fps but my computer is really feeling its age and rendering anything in 4K takes forever right now. I’ll upgrade the PC later and then upgrade my video quality. Additionally, I shoot in Linear mode so I don’t get the super exaggerated fish-eye effect.
I have a Google Pixel 2 that I can shoot video with, but I don’t set both it and the GoPro up. I still bought the FiLMIC Pro app for it though so I have the option.
I have an older iPad 4 mini that is my primary radar/offline map device. I use Radarscope for the radar app and pay the Tier 1 yearly subscription for the dual-pane and lighting options, both extremely useful. I’ve been using Maps.me for offline maps, and Ultra GPS Logger to capture my chase routes (and waypoints/POIs for cool things for photography).
That’s about it. I used to use only an iPhone 6S with FiLMIC Pro for photos and video, as well as an old Samsung Galaxy S5 with a 64GB memory card as the worlds worst dashcam. All of my early blog entries will inevitably mention my frustration with that dashcam setup. Still, it shows that you don’t need tons of high dollar hardware to chase storms successfully!
I’m reading your logs and you do seem to make some really glaring mistakes! (Updated 8-19-2016)
Right?! Looking back, some of them do seem pretty obvious. I know that I’m not done screwing up either. I was really tempted to edit away some of my dumb ideas, embarrassing situations, or rambling thoughts while I was converting this from personal Google document files to a blog. But I decided to leave it all in.
Why? I’m not writing this to impress anyone. This blog sort of documents my journey from point A (complete newbie trainwreck) to point B (a halfway competent chaser and photographer). Other new chasers might also find it and let my life serve as a warning to their own.
Here’s the thing. I’ve learned so much simply by getting out there and trying. Just re-reading my 2016 chase logs, I’m amazed with what I learned from experience alone and it’s helped me see how far I still need to go.
If you’re sitting on the fence waiting for someone more experienced than you to show you the ropes….don’t! Chase locally! Chase low risk days! Look at a setup, make your own forecast, decide on a target area, then and see how accurate you were the next day!
Just be safe and error on the side of caution. Please.
You don’t put a lot of weather/forecast information into your blog posts! (Updated 8-29-2016)
There’s a couple reasons for this.
Reason 1: I’m an amateur (VERY amateur) forecaster at best. I’m getting better though. It’s funny. The more I learn, the less I understand completely though. I also tend to be a little self conscious. At some point I may pick a chase and go over my best effort process in detail, but I think that I’d bore a lot of people and make the other group of people roll their eyes at my efforts.
I used to mostly check the Storm Prediction Center’s (SPC) “Convective Outlook” page and pick a “soft” chase target the night before, then check it the next morning with the new update.
Experienced chasers will scoff at this, and that’s fine. WeBut I had to start somewhere and that’s where I started. Modern meteorology has progressed to the point that this “forecasting” method isn’t a total crapshoot. But there’s always more to learn and I’m still plodding along with it.
Everyone was new to this hobby at one point. I’m using the tools and information available and understandable to me to facilitate my hobby and get better. Don’t most other hobbies work like this?
Reason 2: Chasers aren’t my only audience. Hell, I don’t know if I have any chasers in my audience. Do I have even have an audience?
I come from an IT background. My job and what I do is confusing to people with no experience with it, and I try to help people understand what I’m talking about. Other people might eventually read this, and maybe they aren’t weather nerds like me or they want to learn. I’ll probably still take it easy on heavy meteorology jargon, or try to explain whatever it is I’m talking about as needed.
Couldn’t you just like, follow other chasers around? (8-19-2016)
REALLY BAD IDEA. Here’s a few reasons why. (oh god another reasons list)
Reason 1: Your lack of knowledge could put you in a dangerous situation. Chasing someone blindly and counting on them to keep you safe pretty much guarantees that you have very little situational awareness. After all, you’re just chasing a person! This ties into the next reason.
Reason 2: Chasers in general don’t like being chased, and you will make most (if not all) of them very unhappy if you do it and they catch on to you. Additionally, by following them you are indirectly making them responsible for your personal safety and possibly endangering their own safety.
Well, let’s say I’m chasing a supercell, and you’re chasing me. Maybe there’s even a tornado on the ground. At some point I might interpret that something has changed (remember, I have the experience and probably some gadgets in my car to help me out) and I need to take my escape route (you have one of those, right?). Or maybe I’m going to do something a bit risky and brave some high wind and possible hail dents to get into a better position (were you aware that car damage can be par for the course as a chaser? I didn’t until I started).
The last thing I want to be thinking about is whether or not Random Guy behind me will be safe if he follows me, or that his vehicle won’t get damaged. If I have to change the way I chase to make sure you don’t get hurt, I’m going to be a little upset.
Or, maybe you see me suddenly stop and start to turn around because I’ve seen something concerning. My plan is no good, so I turn around and you start to do the same and get stuck, blocking the escape route. Or you hit me. Or worst of all, you don’t turn around and drive on because you’re mesmerized by the scene in front of you. Now we both might get to see the show of a possibly shorter lifetime.
Finally, I may not have even clued in that you were actually following me. I’m probably focused mainly on the storm! If I saw you, I probably assumed that you’re a chaser and that you can take care of yourself. Imagine your surprise when I do something quick and accidentally lose you. Do you know which way is safe to drive? Is it safe to just stop and wait where you are? Hint: Driving towards clear skies isn’t always a guaranteed solution. The May 2013 El Reno tornado fooled very experienced chasers that counted on this as their default exit strategy.
Reason 3: Unless you grew up in tornado prone areas (I did not), these storms can be dangerous on a level that you may not be accustomed to. I thought I’d experienced powerful storms living in Arizona during monsoon season. Those storms were nothing compared to what I’ve seen chasing in the plains in just one year. But any thunderstorm can be dangerous. Lightning and flash flooding are much bigger killers then tornadoes are.
I’ve beaten this horse to death now I think. I understand that you want to chase, but please educate yourself before you jump in.
Fine! I get it. I’ll learn! What resources do you recommend?
Here’s some linkslist to other sites and videos that you might find helpful.
More Q&A to come later…