Jennifer Brindley Ubl

Location: Milwaukee, WI
Started Chasing: 2007
Tornadoes: 26
Web site: http://faceofastorm.com
Blog: http://www.faceofastorm.blogspot.com
Photo Gallery: http://jenniferbrindleyphotography.com/storms/portfolio/

Bio: Jennifer is a female storm chaser and photographer based in Milwaukee, WI. When not chasing storms, Jennifer runs her business, JBe Photography – a wedding and boutique portrait studio based in the 5th ward, Downtown Milwaukee. Jennifer is married, has two cats, loves coffee and cheesy jokes.

Favorite Storm Chasing Photos

Favorite Chase Video

Chaser Q&A

How did you realize your love for weather?

I have always loved the sky. I think growing up in Colorado will do that to you. I never had a childhood storm experience or anything like that, but when the weather changed or the sky got turbulent, I always found it to be beautiful.

When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?

I didn’t really know it was something a person could decide to do. I saw the movie Twister and fell absolutely in love with it – but it still seemed like something that was not in the realm of possibilities for an average person. (I wasn’t very good at thinking big.) One day I met Tony Laubach and found out he was a storm chaser, and subsequently I begged to go along. He was kind enough to take me chasing if I split expenses, which I was more than happy to do. He didn’t know it at the time, but he forever changed my life that day.

How long have you been actively chasing?

I’m not sure what “actively” means. My first chase was in 2007, but I only got to go out twice or three times a year. I began chasing full seasons (25,000 miles +) after meeting Skip Talbot in 2011.

Do you chase for a reason?

I am not a scientist or a meteorologist. I chase because I can’t not. I’m a photographer who is in love with weather and road trips and traveling and people and weather. I’m not providing a service to humanity and it is not my job. It’s merely an obsession.

Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?

I can’t imagine life without passion. How boring!

Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?

I prefer to chase with a singular person that I trust implicitly. Beyond that, occasional chases with additional people can be a nice change of pace, not to mention easier on the pocketbook. It’s difficult to find a group of people that you can jive with personality wise, and storm chase approach / style-wise. But, if you can, it can definitely be rewarding.

Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?

I did back before I had a regular means to chase on my own. I am considering a run with COD (College of Dupage) with my chase partner as a possibility in the future but I don’t need to look at it as a means to chase right now.

How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?

No comment.

Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?

I find happiness in chasing as it is, I feel lucky to have so many resources at my fingertips. Having said that, it would be a really interesting challenge to try an old-school chase. 😉

How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?

If I had the means I would even travel to a different country. We do tens of thousands of miles a year. Traveling is part of the fun. Montana. South Texas. New Mexico. Whatever.

What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?

Anywhere with a grid. South Dakota is the promised land! Central IL is also really nice. I hate Oklahoma, it’s sooooo overrated. I will never chase metro OKC again. I love the high plains. I dislike Dixie Alley.

What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?

I really like the first setups of the year – not because they are more or less likely to produce, but because I am OMG SO DESPERATE to go chase in March and April. That’s not a real answer though. I like classic dryline setups. I dislike crashing coldfronts (THEY RUIN EVERYTHING.) There are lots of ways a great chase can come to fruition. Ones that involve slower storm modes with isolated supercells are easiest to chase and provide more opportunities to sit and watch.

What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?

That’s really tough. I’m not sure how we would define most memorable – maybe that doesn’t mean “best.” So, if not – El Reno (5/31/13) would certainly qualify there. The Girard, IL (4/19/11) tornado was extremely intense as well.

My least memorable?

It’d be one I can’t remember, I guess! 🙂

Have you ever feared for your life?

After El Reno, it’s been extremely difficult for me to approach chasing without being fearful. I was probably most nervous on our first big intercept back, which was the Tupelo, MS chase (4/28/14). That was probably the most “afraid” I have been.

Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E – core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)

Yes, certain maneuvers are not among my favorite things to do. Driving under the wall cloud, etc. Having said that, some of the most amazing views come from hook slicing. I dislike the rain and hail, so core punching isn’t on my list of favorites. In general I am after a beautiful shot and most of the time these maneuvers don’t allow the opportunity to get out, watch safely and get a great photo. There are always exceptions to that, however. My comfort level is always in the safer place, though.

Do you have any superstitions?

I love this question. I don’t really have any, but maybe ‘rituals’ are more appropriate to say. We like to do a ‘break the cap’ dance while waiting for initiation sometimes. Cranking some Kimbra (Settle Down) and dancing outside the van in the middle of nowhere. It’s a lot of fun.

Would you sacrifice a salaried job with full benefits, but only 2 weeks out of the year to chase for a paycheck to paycheck life with unlimited chasing?

I choose option C: Successful self employment.

Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?

Nope. Unless you count worrying about rain on a wedding day. 😉

Have you ever been to ChaserCon?

Yes, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015.

Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?

Definitely the latter. The best chase is where you don’t see another chaser all day. That’s not to say I don’t love seeing other chasers because I do. But I don’t chase for the social aspect. Saying hi to friends is fantastic but that’s not why I do it.

What is your favorite storm chase and why?

Pilger, NE (6/16/14) is the greatest chase of my life, it was like living out my wildest dreams. Two sets of twin EF-4 tornadoes, with a rope-out screaming around a huge cone tornado at 90mph. It’s just unreal.

What date burns in you (think bust) and why?

There are so many tornadoes I didn’t see that I wish I did – ones I couldn’t chase for one reason or another (Campo, Bennington, Rozel,) – but worse than not being able to chase a big event that produces a tornado of a lifetime is chasing an event and missing the tornado due to a mistake. We were doing waterspout chasing in Michigan in 2012 and missed a huge, beefy waterspout close to shore because we sat down and ate breakfast. New rule: NO EATING! (ha.)

Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?

If you’re referring to what is seen in the setup that influences the decision to chase or not chase, I would say: sometimes. Skip is obviously the one with the experience and meteorological forecasting knowledge, and we look over the setups together. But, he’s the one with a much deeper understanding of all of it. I can hear what he’s telling me, but the level to which it resonates in my core understanding will vary.

How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?

My chase partner Skip has taught me more than I ever thought I could learn. I learned some basics from Williamson a few years ago, and I have watched the Hollingshead DVD a hundred times. The rest is just classes, reading, case studies, and live experience in the field.

Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?

Most of the time, yes, but it depends on the circumstances. If we were way out of position due to a forecasting error and couldn’t get there in time, then that’s obviously not a success. If it’s a chase where tornadoes don’t occur but we have a chase anyway, then yes it’s a success. A blue sky bust can even be fun. All you need is the right attitude and the right company.

Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?

No. Mother nature / circumstances don’t owe me anything. Being a successful storm chaser is up to me.

How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?

No comment.

Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?

Emergency vehicles get respect around storms?

How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?

No comment.

Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?

Tony Laubach and Skip Talbot are the chasers who have had the greatest impact on me in regards to chasing, obviously.
My biggest chase heroes are: David Hoadley, Tim Samaras, Tim Marshall, Roger Hill, Mike Hollingshead. I have a great deal of respect for a huge number of chasers. These individuals are just ones who have impacted me profoundly in one way or another. There are plenty of chasers who are influential in their own right as well.

Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?

N/A

If you didn’t know anything about storm chasing, how would you react if your child said they wanted to be a chaser?

N/A (But hypothetically, probably with terror.)

What do you fear most about a storm?

Lightning.

What type of storm do you prefer to chase? (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)

I absolutely love a classic or LP chase. Least favorite: HP anything. I also love days with exceptional structure. Squall lines can be interesting, visually – but that’s most certainly not my preferred chase mode. Slow moving storms. Pretty ones.

Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?

Most of the time, yes. If it’s tornado warned, no way. I’ll shoot out the window! 😉

How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?

I think it’s good for potential victims.

Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?

Nobody is more entitled than anyone else to see storms. Our focus should be to have a positive impact instead of a negative one, and to not impede emergency response.

Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?

Everybody’s job supports storm chasing, just in different ways. I have a great deal of flexibility being self employed.

Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?

No.

How long do you plan on chasing?

As long as I can! 🙂

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