a few people (usually at gas stations, noting my hail destroyed car) have asked, “why do you storm chase” and the only good answer I have is “why don’t you?”
it’s true I’m not a classical storm chaser. I tend to entirely different areas of the storm than most do (the part that still has some light if possible) and really, I’m a photographer chasing a photo more than a storm chaser but I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to scream across the prairie after some monster so big and alive you can hardly take it all in (even at 15mm). the complexity, drama, violence and power make almost anything possible. I’ve seen things that took my breath away, and cowered in my car praying my glass would hold and that nothing terribly nasty was living in that shroud of rain that pinned me to where I was.
I’ve wasted entire days on hope.
I hope that storm can organize itself despite all the science saying it can’t. I hope I can get to this spot on the map before it does. I hope the light holds. or the road hasn’t heaved too bad this winter.
every year i commit myself to only chase the big bad boys that have structure, and form, and the rare magic of a fully formed super cell and every year I find myself rolling across the gravel roads after some pulse storm that maybe, just maybe has something pretty in it.
so entering year three of really learning and chasing more seriously my answer would be, why aren’t you out there, living and dying with the gust fronts and hail cores and living creatures sucking up the prairie moist. really. why?
those of you who spend any time around me in person know the one word that will trigger endless talk from me. it’s “drone”. i’ve been pining for one for almost 5 years waiting for the tech to get better, cheaper and safer. well, the wait is over.
my principal interest is adding aerial photography to my work but don’t be shocked when videos start popping up of silky smooth flying over golden canola fields and long gravel roads.
every big storm carries it’s own challenges. geographic and aesthetic. this one, a tornado warned storm that rolled over Olds on its way to Torrington presented massive hail and blinding rain if you got too close, and the very real chance of being in the wrong spot at the wrong time if it chose to drop a tornado on you.
for a good while I stayed directly in the path, right in the little spot they call the notch but it caught me a couple times by moving faster than I thought it was and I eventually used my escape route out. The utter power of a storm like this is enough to make your hands tremble then you throw in moving at high speeds, trying to keep an eye on radar, bad roads, tracking where you are, what escape routes there are, and doing video and taking still pictures and sometimes you just have to drop back and out to a safer distance.
it was an utter beast and I’ve been on some beasts. that it magically collided with sunset.. well, I’ll never be able to express how gracious that was of it.
because it was pretty last minute and we’re bad at planning it wasn’t until we were about to get onto Road To The Sun after eating supper that we learnt from locals that it was still closed for the year. Snowed over.
This caused a three hour re-route. A good portion of which was on what is now and forever known as DEATH ROAD. the locals told us not to go that way but what do locals know that we don’t. /fp
leading up to it were signs that in hindsight accurately describe the experience. intermittent pavement, they said. we laughed, like what the hell is that.
turns out it’s very very bad road carved into the side of a mountain with a very deadly drop inches from the road. it was terrifying and amazing all at the same time. unfortunately there was no where to stop to take pictures that didn’t mean sure death so here are a few from the other side of the mountain once you’ve cleared the death road.
ps. always listen to locals. don’t be dumb like us and find yourself almost at dark on very bad roads hanging off the side of a mountain in a strange country.