Chase 2021 - New Technology? - Target Areas? What Will You Do Differently?

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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1,742
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
So I ask this question at the end of each and every year and it's always interesting to see what's new for the coming season.

A lot will, of course, depend on weather patterns and...... COVID. I should be getting my first responder vaccination in the next 2-3 weeks.

I will hopefully be deploying a new chase vehicle. The 2013 Xterra has 140k miles and it's time to upgrade, with modern safety features.

Nothing new in the technology department. I'm still waiting on a global shutter, 35mm camera that can handle low light, e.g., lightning, but it's still a few years away. It's likely to require a much larger sensor, like 2"+. We are currently in "camera technology limbo." Technology is stalled. Processor speed vs. heat dissipation and battery life are at war. A lot of camera manufacturers are fudging right now and their cameras suck, e.g., overheating / shutting down.

My chasing deployment remains unchanged. Always be ready for a super outbreak and fly in if necessary (COVID protocols, of course). Come out for the regular season in mid-May and chase into June. I'll continue to focus on the photogenic long shots (Campo) instead of Ripsnorting crowds near population centers. My priority is enjoying time with my chase friends. I considered deploying rockets next year, but I figured my time as a volunteer EMT might have more actual benefits to humanity -- although it's not as sexy on social media.

Southeastern Arizona had the driest monsoon on record, so hopefully next year will be more "enlightening." Dust storms are a priority. The hurricane season is always dependent on lot of screwy factors, but hopefully LA in darkness won't be the epicenter next year. I've learned the eye-popping drive from Tucson to Biloxi is not that bad, if you are sniffing glue.

Cheers and happy holidays!
 
Jul 5, 2009
1,130
965
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
After missing 2020, and a string of bad years from 2017-2019 (some bad just for me, some bad for everyone), I’m just looking forward to getting out there again, and trying to appreciate each day. Redefining success to enjoy the process, without allowing satisfaction to be solely dependent upon outcome. Not taking anything for granted, because as we have seen you can’t always count on ”next year.”

Having said that, I must admit to being completely out of the chaser mindset, not just because it’s the off-season but because it has been over 18 months since I last chased. The longer you go without something, the less you miss it. Normally I always think of November 30 as a milestone, because it marks the halfway point to “next year.” This time, November 30 came and went without me even noticing. On January 1, I usually get excited that chasing is now “this year,” no longer “next year”; we’ll see if the excitement comes back then. Not at all saying that I’m thinking of not going. I know I will be out there as long as I am able.

My work situation is also very much in flux. At one point I thought I could use my COVID-driven remote working arrangement (headquarters office still closed) to make a case for spending three or even four weeks on the Plains, instead of my usual two. But now it looks increasingly possible that I could be in an entirely different work situation that may make it difficult to get away for more than even one week.

I know I am going to be very rusty in both forecasting and field strategy, as by the time May rolls around I will have gone two full years without chasing. I haven’t even touched my camera equipment since my last trip.

Not going to let COVID stop me, that’s for sure. Last year‘s decision not to chase was sort of COVID related, but mostly indirectly (i.e., restaurant closures and other shutdown restrictions, work demands at a healthcare company, leaving my family alone during the shutdown and my wife dealing with all three kids at home every day, etc.) For 2021, hopefully none of that is an issue anymore.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
634
650
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55
Menominee, MI
The big change for me this year will be a new chase vehicle. It’s a Suburban so it’ll have the room for extra passengers.
This year I’m going to chase a little different on weekends and higher risk days. In the past I’ve always enjoyed getting on a storm early and watching it progress. On these days I’m going to try and stay in front of it a bit until a tornado looks imminent. I’d rather not get caught up in traffic BEHIND the storm if I can help it. Of course, all bets are off if there are slower storm speeds.
 

Bill Hark

EF5
Jan 13, 2004
1,299
230
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53
Richmond Virginia
www.harkphoto.com
I plan on being out again on the Plains next May, and anytime in the Mid-Atlantic region. As for equipment, I'd like to upgrade from HD to 4K, but I haven't been happy with current options. I keep hoping for something really good. Maybe there will be an announcement at the CES 2021 for a new camcorder. Camcorder offerings were not good last CES or other shows. Otherwise, I'll muddle through with my Sony Z1 and Canon HV20. I like the instant infinity focus on both of my camcorders that seems to be lacking on current 4K camcorders. I've noticed that many "go beyond infinity. That is, while in the heat of the chase, if I rotate the focus ring to infinity, I'll likely go past and lose sharpness. I do have a Nikon D780 and plan on shooting more stills. It can do 4K video, but I'd still prefer a camcorder. Agree with Warren above about technology. Otherwise, no major changes. I'll just appreciate being able to go out after missing last season. No Plains trip and only one chase where I intercepted a tornado-warned storm in Maryland. No tornado, but interesting shots.
 
Jun 4, 2018
88
71
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Altus, OK
This year will hopefully be my break out year for chasing. I have enough leave saved up to take 3 weeks off at the end of May (may push that last week into early June though). The extended time off coupled with my recent assignment to Altus AFB, OK, should hopefully mean I'll be able to chase more this year than I ever have.

For equipment, last Christmas I was given a used Canon T2i. First DSLR, so a significant upgrade over my phone/ gopro combo. Of course Covid happened and I never got a chance to use it on a chase. So this year I'll be taking it with me along with my new tripod. I will keep the gopro as a dash cam/ timelapse camera.

As for chase vehicle, I'll still be in my 2004 Subaru Forester. The first half of this year will be doing a lot of much needed maintenance. All new front suspension parts and replacing the leaky rack and pinion are the priority for safety reasons. If I have time before the season kicks off, I'd also like to pull the motor, install all new gaskets, new clutch, timing belt etc. Not critical things as of now, but not a bad idea for an older vehicle if I have the time.

For tactics, I'm not really sure. I haven't been able to chase but a couple of times over the last few years, so my chase style is still very much in flux. I've had decent luck in the past with my forecasts getting me to a workable area, so I think that will be my priority. Once I'm on a storm I suppose I'll just sort of "feel out" my comfort level and adjust accordingly.

All in all, if Mother Nature cooperates this year, I'm looking forward to a good and successful season.
 

James Gustina

Supporter
Mar 9, 2010
651
272
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26
Dallas, TX
www.thunderingskies.blogspot.com
Theoretically, I should have the ability to chase quite a bit more in 2021. I had saved up my time off last year due to an impending wedding and honeymoon but seeing as that kind of travel isn't a great idea still and likely still won't be into next year, I have quite a bit banked up to have a bit more free rein this year. I don't think I'll end up doing a chasecation like I did in May of 2019 but I'll definitely plan out some 3-day weekends and/or extended days off so I can still base out of DFW without having to overnight unless I get too far onto the High Plains.

Equipment-wise, I picked up a Nikon D3500 to start cleaning up my photos a bit after 13 seasons. The previous camera I had did a great job for days like Dodge City 2016 and Elmer 2015 but just couldn't handle low-light, HP situations well enough. Otherwise, standing pat with everything else I've got.

I can't imagine my approach is going to change much (although, after the disastrous 2019 I had, I probably need to change some things). I still favor the Caprock/Llano Estacado and SW Kansas over most chase areas within a reasonable distance but I do want to try my hand at one of the Trans-Pecos targets once we get into May. I don't believe I've ever chased anywhere south of Pecos previously.

Having said that, I must admit to being completely out of the chaser mindset, not just because it’s the off-season but because it has been over 18 months since I last chased. The longer you go without something, the less you miss it. Normally I always think of November 30 as a milestone, because it marks the halfway point to “next year.” This time, November 30 came and went without me even noticing. On January 1, I usually get excited that chasing is now “this year,” no longer “next year”; we’ll see if the excitement comes back then. Not at all saying that I’m thinking of not going. I know I will be out there as long as I am able.
I feel the same way. I used to be very conscious of the countdown to March/planning out or thinking about chasing well into winter but I just haven't been able to muster the interest with everything else going on. I think the 2 complete crap seasons I've had previously put a damper on the hobby that will likely go away whenever my luck turns a bit/I stop being a dingus in crunch time.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
Trust me, the excitement will come back when the Day 2 shows a moderate risk over favorable chase territory. I figured I'd burn out after 32 years of this -- but no. I'm not as "long term excited" as I just to be. This is because I realize how many monkey wrenches are hanging from Mother Nature's tool belt -- and disappointment is a big part of chasing.

The hurricane season keep me going and reminded me to stay up to date on equipment, data sources and procedures. It's easy to get rusty after a long break. I'll likely deploy a few days early next season to make sure I'm up to speed.

I can't wait until spring!
 
Feb 22, 2015
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Norman, OK
For the love of all things holy just give me a better year than 2017, 2018, and especially 2020 please. I finally got a decent wide angle lens for my DSLR recently and I'd like to put it to use.

Ongoing major drought is of course a concern, at least we have seen some improvements in the storm track so far in December to have some snow in CO/NM and NW OK/SW KS.
 

Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
1,851
1,742
21
Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
For the love of all things holy just give me a better year than 2017, 2018, and especially 2020 please. I finally got a decent wide angle lens for my DSLR recently and I'd like to put it to use.

Ongoing major drought is of course a concern, at least we have seen some improvements in the storm track so far in December to have some snow in CO/NM and NW OK/SW KS.
Interesting note about "snow fall" this winter. We've also had more wind out west this fall and early winter than last year. I use to judge the coming chase season by winter weather out west, but it does not always work that way. After January 1st., someone can start the "State of The Chase Season 2021" thread and we can cross our fingers.
 
Aug 9, 2012
393
705
21
Galesburg, IL
www.facebook.com
Probably not much change here chase style wise. I'll probably continue to be picky about what I chase to save money, it worked well this year aside from 1 day I missed in OK (4/22). Maybe chase more if restrictions aren't tight in spring, be more oriented on getting great photos versus video (video doesn't excite me much). Gear wise, I'm selling off my DSLR gear and video gear (already gone), in favor of full mirrorless. I may upgrade to A9 III when that gets announced next year, otherwise, no other gear upgrades planned this winter or next spring. Car remains the same as well (2011 Ford Escape with All Terrain Tires). Still may try to find a way to mount my mirrorless cam on dash, but other friends who have tried, there is no real easy answer aside from building something yourself, which I'm no good at.

One thing I've learned since 2019 is that chaisng isn't all about getting close to tornadoes or even seeing a tornado at all. Yes that remains my primary goal, but I find a lot of other things very interesting too. There are many great photos you can get even on a bust day that make it memorable. I'm learning to be thankful for those things and seeing friends I don't usually get to see. You have to get up in the morning with an idea of what you want to capture that day and go for it. Take every shot you can, because you don't know if that will be the only shot you get for that whole day :).
 
Oct 31, 2013
431
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Eastern TX Panhandle
The biggest thing for me this year is I get to chase everything due to being retired! Like Warren, I highly prefer those long shot targets on high end days over getting right in the middle of all the traffic and madness. I will never do that again. I'd rather miss a tornado than be stressed all day along with possible dangerous situations. Of course I bought a nice ham radio rig this year, but never really got to use it. I'm ready to chase!!!

EDIT: I will also cherish every chase moment I have with friends, because you never know when it will end.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
634
650
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55
Menominee, MI
Congratulations Jason on your retirement! I joined the club last year.
I forgot one thing that I’m going to do differently. I have a decent Nikon that I never learned how to use the settings on. Instead of continuing to pretend that I’m going to learn how to use it right, I’m just going to take the pictures with my phone. The pictures probably turn out better with that anyway since I never use the right settings on the Nikon
 

Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
36
41
6
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eagle, michigan
Hopefully your retirement years will start out much better than my first 3yrs have ..2018 lame..2019 meh..2020 puke. Looking to be out as much as possible. I dont see much air travel for me in the first half of the year..so driving targets..beer drinking..greasy spoon eateries seem to be in order. I am still an apprentice storm chaser so i will keep it simple.Thinking about building a jeep Storm chasing-Upper Michigan swamp buggy later next year.Hope to see some of you in the spring!
 
Apr 10, 2008
480
160
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Tulsa, OK
www.facebook.com
Looking ahead to 2021, I am hopeful for a solid season in the traditional tornado alley, however what ends up transpiring is the great unknown. I don't have many quality tornado days in Kansas (my favorite state to chase) since 2016 and I hope that changes in 2021. Aside from 2019, the past few years have been disappointing. What the atmosphere decides to throw at us is out of my control, so I have to make the most of what opportunities I am given.

I recently acquired a Canon 90D and have been working with it to get familiar with using it. I am excited to take some quality tornado/supercell shots with it this coming spring. Aside from the new DSLR I haven't made any other significant upgrades to equipment.

As far as chasing strategy, at this point in my chasing career I have pretty much developed a "style" to how I chase, so no major overhaul there. I am always looking to refine my approach and improve on success. Right now that looks like improving how I document storms. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and make simple mistakes when shooting photos/video that end up plaguing the quality of your work. For me I am focusing on making sure my photos are properly exposed and in focus, and that my video is the same while holding steady shots long enough to use later in video production. For the most part I do a good job with this, but I still make mistakes and there is always room for improvement.

With the doldrums of winter upon us, this is the most painful time of the year as the agonizing countdown to spring slowly marches on. Here's to a safe a productive spring for us all, hopefully with COVID-19 waning by the time we get into the heart of the season.
 
Jul 1, 2014
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Time after time you hear the horror stories of others that miss tornadoes due to a wide variety of reasons, including sheer laziness. After largely getting shut out during primetime last year, I had a storm system roll through Hoyt, KS on July 29, 2020. This system had created a few unconfirmed tornado warnings not too far from where I was. There was evidence of some rotation on radar, but no warning.

Radar Screen Shot West of Hoyt.png

I filmed the below video of a possible tornado which I was only a mile or so away. For some reason which I'll never understand, I just sat there filming instead of driving the whole quarter mile where I would have had an unobstructed and elevated view where I could have been in a position to confirm and film a tornado over a sparsely populated area.

View attachment Tornado West of Hoyt.MOV















I resolve that in 2021 that if I am not in a good position to film that I get off my lazy *** and get to where I need to be!
 

Drew Terril

Staff member
Aside from hoping that things time out better with my work schedule, I doubt I will change much in 21, other than possibly getting a full frame camera and maybe a larger camcorder (easier time to keep steady if I have a bit mass there to work with, current one isn't cutting it if I have to shoot handheld). I try to not use a ton of bandwidth when I'm chasing as it is. Basically radar and that's it. As far as changing how I chase, probably not. I'm mostly set in my ways and there's not a lot of reason to change to a more risky chase style. I'm a big believer in telephoto lenses. Given my limited amount of vacation every year, I'm simply not willing to burn half of what I'm allotted on a single week of chasing.
 
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Feb 20, 2019
12
8
1
30
Decatur, GA
I spent the better part of 2020 preparing. Ironically, much of that preparation began with a tree hitting my house at the end of April (not even from a severe storm, just a random downburst or something). I got stuck living with my parents again for 7 weeks and since I didn't have my normal toys to keep me occupied, I ended up outfitting my truck for chasing and better railfanning. It's something I've worked a lot on even once I got back in my own house. I have a RaspberryPi3 which chasing-wise will principally serve as an position server, and a 4G router with big external antenna. Meaning I have a GPS puck mounted outside on my antenna rack feeding the Pi, and it in turn can feed anything that connects to GPSD running on it over the network the router manages. I had to write a fair bit of software to do what I needed, and I'm intending to share it all here in another few weeks. One is a script on the Pi that directly updates SpotterNetwork with my position. When I'm not in 4G range, I've been working on a standalone Windows program to intercept APRS packets from the internet and update your SpotterNetwork position, the Pi in the truck runs Direwolf to provide APRS. The final little bit is another Windows program that connects to GPSD and then sends that information over a COM port that I can connect GRLevel3 to. All of this is controlled by a little switch and button box right next to my shifter. All of this is designed so when I get in, I mount my tablet, flick a switch, and push a button and that's it. I don't have to mess with cables other than the tablet's power, and I don't have to fumble with programs other than connecting GR3 to a COM port at the start, everything else through the Pi is headless.

My chase region is basically Georgia south of Atlanta as far as Macon and as far west as Columbus. Given my full-time job, chase days are hard to come by, on top of being rare for the region anyways. I might get one good one each year if I'm real lucky. But this year, thanks to corona and no one having a reason to use days, my company is letting us roll over 10 days instead of the usual 5, then they gave us 3 more as a Christmas bonus of sorts. With my normal three weeks and other days, I have 31 days next year. Even keeping a full set of roll over days, I have more days to mess with than ever before. So if a good event starts setting up, I might actually be able to take the time and go chase!
 

Jeff House

Supporter
Jun 1, 2008
561
518
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Chattanooga, TN
www.linkedin.com
First practical housekeeping. We should de-politicize the COVID thread and update each other on states restrictions and/or relative openness. For example Tennessee is open, and most cities have mask mandates. Restaurants seating varies. Last year I think Members in very restricted states assumed the Plains was closed, when in fact the Plains was open.

Next we have decided to get a little closer. Nothing crazy, but more like we did 15 years ago. For varying reasons all in our chase group got more cautious. Reasons are good. However with more discernment, some tornadoes can be approached closer. Think DDC, Rozel. I remember in 2004 getting just right close to Attica-Harper and that was such an incredible feeling.

Yup, chase Dixie more IMBY. Saving it for the Plains sounds responsible and adult-like. However what if the Plains doesn't happen? I have a good feeling about 2021 Plains. However just in case, I will chase Dixie early and often. Perhaps as early as 12:01 am Jan. 1

WFH = work from Hutchinson. Actually Wichita but Hutch has the H. We keep saying we'll chase the northern Plains next year. Reality is that May is the best time for us to go, and that's still central Plains.
 
Sep 25, 2006
284
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Denver, CO
stormdig.com
New in 2021 I'll be acquiring and publishing my storm chasing videos in HDR. The potential of this format to better convey the high contrast and dynamic visuals I encounter while on the chase is huge! I installed a second 4K camera in my Turretcam last year and finally got a HDR-capable display for grading. The wow-factor from the SDR to HDR jump far exceeds the jump to 4K UHD to my eyes so I want to take full advantage of it. I've published a short preview video I rendered as a proof of concept here (be sure to watch on a HDR-capable device):


I'm still sorting out the workflow and working through improvements so it's a work in progress yet. But this provides a glimpse of what to expect.

This will be season #4 for my Subaru Crosstrek. Still loving my Geolandar A/T shoes on 15" wheels. Zero reliability issues though I did get the transmission replaced under warranty last September when it started making a noise.

Target areas will be the usual for me...the high plains. High plains insanity was offline for 2020 but it will be back. I'll be happy if I don't have to venture into northeast North Dakota again this year. Every year has something good to offer though some years make you work for it (and often blow it).
 

Michael Onesty

Enthusiast
Dec 17, 2017
9
12
1
St Louis, MO
This will be my second season counting 2019 (I was not able to chase due to my son being born in May). The La Nina pattern into early spring looks like there may be some chance for elevated activity in April (similar to 2011). I have planned my 3 weeks chase-cation from May 14 to June 4 as that is when my girlfriend will complete the college semester but I will be chasing on weekends if the conditions are right. This year I have upgraded from my old Chevy Sonic sub compact to a 2007 Ford Ranger sport (4x2). The gas mileage is slightly worse but the truck has more power and weight in case road conditions are compromised. Getting all of the ducks in a row by revisiting some educational videos and learning from the mistakes I made in 2019.

I think this year, I will try and find a chase partner whenever i can to assist with navigation and spotting as well as forecasting. I missed the Tahoka, TX event in 2019 by choosing to target the Oklahoma panhandle instead of going south. I will also be more focused on documentation and plan on picking up some extra batteries and SD's cards. Lastly, I hope my decisiveness will be more productive this year as I bounced from storm to storm in 2019, missing some action.

I do wonder what tools I can add or adjust to my belt this year (other than a chase partner) that would benefit me.
Here's what I have for this season:
- Delkin Fat Gecko Tri-cup Mount
- Panasonic HC-VX981K (with one backup battery)
- Back up paper maps
- iPhone with Radarscope (for navigation and radar)
- HP Pavillion X360 laptop (for forecasting and radar)
- Bosch 61" Tripod (with quick disconnect)
- Uniden Bearcat 300 (for traffic and police reports)
- Road Flare (for emergencies)
- Verizon Unlimited plan (with hotspot)
- Solar charger
- Ford Ranger Sport V6 3.0L 4x2
 
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Mar 5, 2010
328
51
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Cascade, CO
Also getting ready for 2021.

Got rid of my 2011 Outback with 201K miles It was time. Needed some more tech

Moved up to the 8 passenger Subaru Ascent.

Upgraded the dash cam to the Canon HF R80.

Adding a GoPro Max 360 Cam to the roof.

Getting rid of the ebay special mount and adding a ram mount.

I think thats it!
 
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