Would you chase without cameras?

Mike Hollingshead

I always ask myself this question and if I'm honest I say no. I'm not sure I would have when I first started let alone now. I mean sure I'd still enjoy a good storm from home, but would I drive 2 states away if I had to leave the camera at home? I can't say that I would. That is probably a very "un pure" thing when I think about it. It forces me to do some "soul searching" lol. I guess I want to take a picture of a cool sky more than I want to *just* see it. I guess maybe it's not a lot different than say an artist wanting to draw what is in their head more than just enjoy it. That's not saying you are an artist if you can snap a photo of a storm, as I actually have a very hard time considering pointing a camera a storm art. The storm or sky is the art, the photo of it would just be done well or poorly.

I guess I'd love to be able to feel like I'd chase right now without taking anything with. Back in the day when it was just a local thing, not chasing, having the camera with didn't matter as much(though I had no reason to leave it at home either). It's like coming home with the prize is a big driving force in causing you(or at least me) to drive forever frequently. I'm wondering way too much tonight. I'm not saying chasing for the photos or anything is bad. I don't care why anyone chases, even those "evil" thrill seekers. I just always find the question of chasing without cameras interesting. I'm not expecting many to say they'd stay home with their cameras, but maybe I'll be surprised. I try and picture myself leaving early some morning for a far away target and purporsely leaving things at home and I just can't see myself in that car on the highway after doing so. It's easy to say you would, but at least with me when I really think about it, it's just highly.

All that said, I can already think of a few people I know that most certainly would still make that drive. I am not sure why I feel like I have to be the same way and then if I'm not sit here and wonder on and on about it. Oh well I guess. In some ways I think about it like seeing a great movie and you become the person that forces people to see it. It's like you aren't ok with them not seeing it, you become so convinced they have to. I'd be very annoyed not being able to share a crazy sight. Bah, I need to let this one go for a while. It's funny when you realize something that seems like it is bad, yet you know it is not, but your mind hasn't gone through it all to understand it exactly. So my answer remains a no. I'd not chase without the cameras. God I hope I'm not the only one that answers that(if anyone else even answers I guess) but it would not surprise me if I was. Well I guess I do know of one other that will answer the same.
I didn't own a camera when I went on my first chase. I was poor and the Radio Shack 2 meter radio ate up that year's chase "gear" budget. I bought a manual SLR later that fall and haven't chased without a camera since.

I wouldn't chase without a camera given the choice, but I would if it were some absolute condition. The imagery isn't so important to me that I would ditch the whole experience. Still I'd be annoyed as hell if I saw something great and couldn't record it. Since I've only chased without a camera once in ten years, I don't see it becoming a habit, lol.

At one point during the Trego tornado in 2005, I reminded myself to lower the camcorder so I wouldn't remember the entire thing through a viewfinder.

But I started taping again pretty quick. :cool:
I've asked myself this very question on many occaisions Mike. The thing that most makes me wonder, is when I miss getting something cool on video or photograph. The most recent occurence I can think of is back in July of this summer. I chased a storm in northern Illinois and before I knew it, a white funnel began developing very near the car. I got out the video camera and pointed it at the funnel, but apparently forgot to hit record. I managed to snap one photograph of the funnel roping out


Now, I had just witnessed one of the coolest things I had seen all year. A gorgeous white funnel cloud danced in the sky next to my car for several minutes. But once I realised I had nothing to show for it, I felt like it was a complete waste. I was pissed off the entire drive home, and for some time after that. So that's what got me thinking on this topic as well. I wondered why I was so mad. I made the drive, saw the funnel, but was angry that I didn't have video or photos to show, aside from the crappy roping out photo. I started wondering why it was that I was so upset. Part of me was simply mad because I felt like people may not be so quick to believe such a neat story without images to go along with it. Then I asked myself why that would make me so mad.. I saw the funnel, who cares if no one believes me. Then I thought maybe it was just the fact that I would never be able to relive the experience. Thats a big part of it for me.. I frequently watch my own videos from my personal chases simply to relive the chases.. and now one of the coolest things I see all year wouldnt be something I could do that with.

I'm starting to wonder and ramble too much now as well.. but I've asked the same question, and I guess to be honest I can't give it a yes or no answer. A lot might depend on the situations, including distance and set ups. If the chance to see significant tornadoes arises, seeing it with my own eyes will be treat enough.. but it will still be a lot harder to get me out of the house not being able to document it.
Photography and/or video is such a big part of chasing that it would not be what it is today without it. My first chase was the *result* of me getting a camera. I have never driven a mile after a storm without one - and have never been without immediate access to a camera for over 5 years now.

I can explain the answer to the question with this simple analogy. Chasing without a camera is like a hunter going hunting without a gun. In fact, in having several close friends who are hunters, there are many similarities between our obsession and theirs.

In chasing (like hunting), the goal is to take something home after expending so much effort, time and cost. The 'catch' is the reward for the effort. Hunters can spend as much money on their weapon as we do on a camera. On the day of the hunt, they will awaken before dawn, stake out their position, and wait - in total silence, in one spot - for over 8 hours in some cases. Would they do this if they couldn't take something home after it is all said and done? What good is driving thousands of miles to the tune of $200 per day to see a tornado when you can't take it home with you?

It is human to want something tangible in return for effort. Memories have their place, but they just aren't sufficient. If there was no medal, would the Olympic hopeful work as hard? Severe weather events are surreal enough experiences for human beings that our memory has a hard time accurately assessing the scene at hand.

Then there is the issue of many of the things we describe seeing not even being believeable to non-chasers (and even some chasers). As a child, I always watched storms from the car or from our house. I saw things like close lightning strikes, lightning hitting the sides of mountains, lightning that looked like trees growing upward through the clouds. When I tried to talk about what I saw, I was sometimes even scolded for this 'overactive imagination'. Many people who don't pay attention to storms don't have any idea of what nature is capable of, and can't believe it is possible to see what we see. It is the video and photography that 'settles it', it is the only proof we have to go along with our amazing stories - things that are sometimes even hard to believe ourselves.

For me, seeing a spectacular weather event and not having a camera is a nearly traumatic experience. I even have bad dreams about it. If cameras didn't exist, would I still chase? Maybe. But having the pictures to take home is what makes chasing what it is.
Yes I would chase if I did not have my cameras, but would rather not... As mentioned by someone else above, video or still images are a big part of chasing otherwise things tend to fade from memory in time.

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Yes. I have before and would do it again, but would prefer to have my cameras. The experience is just too hard to duplicate with a picture or video.
I have thought of this one also. There was a time when I realized I forgot the camera at home (on a local chanse), and before anything happened I was so frustrated that I felt like the whole chase was ruined, and that I should just turn around and go home. Apparently, being able to record and more importantly share with others is half the importance of the chase for me.

Say I happened across a spectacular northern lights display, I bet my enjoyment would be severely dampered by not having a camera when I finally saw one.
A worldwide glass virus strikes camera lenses and all photography stops, huh? I would still chase, absolutely.

In fact, as I think back on the last couple seasons, I realize that I spend less time taking vid and stills while chasing than before. Part of that is because the last couple seasons have been tough (other than a few primo events), but I'm sure it's more than that. I recall one June day in particular this year, when chaser convergence in ND led to a really fun day of hanging out with some of you guys. I was the one who left the cameras in my truck almost the whole day, and just watched the sky, while everyone else had their cheekbones glued to their viewfinders.

That's not a dig at any of you, no way. That's just me.

I've even impromptu-chased in PA a little bit with no camera. We didn't go very far, but hey, that's for plenty of reasons: the parameters for sups sucked, it's right in the Allegheny mountains, the road networks suck, and we had no access to data. We still enjoyed it, and will do it again I'm sure.
If the chase is the hunt, then the imagery is the capture/kill, right? Otherwise, chasing becomes reconnaisance where visual sighting for information and instruction (and entertainment) is the result.

Many of us have launched chases-of-opportunity when conditions didn't allow enough time to go home for a camera. I will always do that, especially since some of the places I have to park for work would be risky areas to leave camera equipment in a vehicle.

However (and this may be a coarse profile), I think so many of the people who post on ST are a successful mixture of scientist/adventurist/artist that photography and video are simply the manifestations of the artist part of the personality and reflect the drive to create using the images captured in the field.
For me, seeing a spectacular weather event and not having a camera is a nearly traumatic experience.
I will use Dan's words here...that is painful believe me. I did this few times in the past, we went to a trip or similar vacations and I forgot to take camera with me. It always, really always happened something which was killing me for few days later, because I missed it. So I always take ma camera everywhere I go, if only is possible, no matter what.

Its the same with chasing, I'd probably still chasing without camera, but would be hard to accept that. Its just too good when you're looking at some pictures and making memories of those events...
'If a tornado drops in a field and there is no one there to film it, was there a vortex at all?'

If there were no such thing as cameras I would still be out watching the storms just for thier raw beauty. But given that we do have cameras I find myself needing not just one camera, but the best HD video and Digital SLR, power cords, extra batteries, a box full of blank tapes, etc, etc.

I think as a chaser you want to watch what you experienced and share it with others - that somehow makes it more real and not something that you just imagined by yourself out in some empty field.
June 11, 2003

Ah, memories of June 11, 2003. That morning it looked like a decent day for supercells and a tornado or two in SW Oklahoma. I had to be at OU until 4pm and my wife Mary was off work so I thought it would be a good opportunity to take her on a relatively short chase with the possibility of her seeing her first tornado. Mary doesn’t like long drives so she does not go chasing with me very often. I talked with her a few times on the phone and convinced her to go but she didn’t seem very excited. As 4pm approached the setup was looking a little less favorable for tornadoes so I decided to let Mary off the hook and chase alone. I got home at 4:10pm and was surprised to find Mary very excited and ready to go chasing. We quickly jumped in the truck and headed towards Altus, OK. When we reached Chickasha I started to get the feeling I had forgotten something. I looking around the vehicle only to find that I had forgotten to bring my cameras. I was embarrassed and ashamed, what kind of storm chaser forgets to bring their cameras? :rolleyes:

It was 4:30pm and CI was already underway at my target in SW OK so I had to make a choice. Chase without any cameras or give up on the chase and go home. Without a camera I knew that tornadoes were definitely going to occur, I just had to decide if was going watch them on TV at home, or see them in person and have nothing to show for it. Lucky I came up with a third option, bought a cheap (not so cheap at a gas station) through away camera and continued on the chase. Because of the camera no tornadoes occurred but we did see three supercells with great structure, baseball hail, and two mesos’ that came close to producing.

So in the end my answer is no, I will not chase without a camera even if I have to pay $12 for a $5 throughway camera.

To this day I am plagued by nightmares of amazing tornadoes that quickly develop while I helplessly search my vehicle for cameras that aren’t there. That and the one where the zipper on my camera bag gets stuck and I can’t get the camera out of the bag until the tornado dissipates. Thats another story,LOL!
I often have to drive 2-5 states (or more) away from home for a chase. If I didn't have something to capture imagery with, I'd have to say it'd be almost unavailing for me to chase that far. I'd still chase around the state, but me driving from Detroit to KS or OK and having nothing to show for it is nearly pointless.

For instance, I spent ~$700 in chase-related costs in 2004, ~$2,100 on chase-related costs in 2005 and ~$1,250 on chase-related costs in 2006. I have since captured around 30 hours of chase footage. What if I chased without any cameras all of that time? The nearly 40,000 miles and $4,000 spent in three seasons would have been kind of a silly task for me to perform, no? All of those tornadoes I claim to have seen could have been a non-entity.

Even just one chase on the plains without a camera would be sort of worthless for me. The average one-day chase for me on the plains costs me rougly $200 in to-and-from fuel costs. I shoot video (and stills when I get the chance) for my own pleasure. But, I like to make highlight DVDs when I can, to help pay myself back for some of the extreme costs I've had to spend in the past three years -- since I was 14 years old -- and that's only possible when you have a camera.

There has been a couple of times this year I've driven out of my way to view storms around southeast MI -- without cameras. I can recall a day back in March when I was driving to my cousin's near Lapeer and I drove much further west then I needed to, just to view a SVR-warned, elevated supercell that was giving off beautiful lightning. But, like I predicated before in this post -- this type of chase costs me like $10 in fuel, not $200 or more.

It's totally not just the money either. I want to remember my supercells and tornadoes. Storm chasing is an important part of my life and I want to remember it. I seem to recall chase-related dates and info in my head better then any other thing in my life.
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Well, I guess a person could chase for the sole purpose of the experience and to report what they see to the local SKYWARN/NWS. Alas, it seems reporting and contibuting to the warning process is no longer as noble of a cause as taking pictures though.
There have been many times that I've looked at my video at the end of a chase just to check if I really saw what I thought I saw - and that I wasn't just dreaming. Cameras can be an alternative to 'pinch me' to see if I'm really awake :)
The ability to capture the experience is such a large part of the dyanmic, I know I would still chase but it would certainly make it different. I want to document, capture, photograph it so the story can be told and the experience can be re-lived for myself and others. Outside of weahter officianados I don't think many are as interested as I give them credit for but that doesn't change anything. Being able to make the forecast, give chase and 'be in the presence' of such stunning storms is reward enough. To me what's worse then chasing without a camera is chasing with one and being unsatisfied with the result. But if all means of visual documentation ceased, that would be a major loss. The experience is largely visual, without that there is no way to come close to being able to convey the experience towards others, unless you are a writer of epic proportions. Capturing the storm seems as pure to me as just wanting to absorb it.
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I've been going since late may without a camera. The way I look at it, snapping a shot of one is just iceing on a cake of actualy haveing a succesful chase.
I would not chase if I hadn't the camera. Since currently I am watching storms, whenever I am, it wouldn't be a big deal for me so far. Still, it has happened with me, that I am standing in my driveway, looking powerful cloud in the eastern sky with my binocular and sorrowing that I can't photograph it. Usually during thunderstorms, I concentrate on collecting weather data from the storm. Also, sometimes, I record rumbles of thunder.
I would chase without a car, with a guitar, while smoking a cigar; I would chase in a hat, with a bat, petting a cat; I would chase without a camera, I would chase.....uhh, anyone know what rhymes with camera?
Well after reading a few replies it made me remember March 12, 2006. It was getting late, probably around 8 or 9 and we were in stand still traffic on I-70 probably about 70 to 80 miles east of KC and we could see on our threat net a fresh new wave of tornadic storms heading right for us. We were actually getting quite worried because we had no way of escaping due to the fact that Missouri has something like a guard rail going threw the middle of the interstate so we couldn't turn around to go west if we had to. We had about an hour or so to contemplate what to do, we were actually more worried about the thousands of civilians stuck in this mess having know idea what was heading towards them. Anyways, the storms arrive and just a few hundred yards to our north just off I-70 we can see two tornadoes that seemed to be just sitting there, we pull off the interstate to get out and I didn't even get my camera out, I didn't even think of it and I didn't care. I was in such awe of what we were seeing I just stood there, things seemed to move in slow motion, bone rattling thunder didn't even budge me. No, I knew I'd remember this for the rest of my life, some things just need to be witnessed, not caught on tape, you know what I mean. But have no fear I ended up getting plenty of tornadoes on film that night I just had that one moment and it felt great.
my biggest problem thus far is not bringing my camera everywhere I go. For Instance, storms were occuring in Southern Ca and I had to drop my nephews off at there house. I figured I did not need my camera since convection was weak. Well it just so happened a mile away from there house A funnel cloud was taking place and I had no chance to get a photo.

Unless you are specifically Taking readings from the stormcs you chase, then I dont see a need for a camera. For myself, I need a camera for every storm I intercept and for those storms that pop up that I didnt expect.

Not sure if anyone else has it this bad. But nightmares for myself these days include severe weather in my dreams and my cameras are no where to be found. So I do my best to always bring my camera with me and sometimes leave the camera in the truck when its not too hot.

So In End, I do my best to chase with my camera. Without it, for myself, its pointless..... The memories & photos are by far the best part after the stormy day....