Bio: I am an Arizona native, art director, graphic designer. I’ve been photographing monsoon thunderstorms and lightning since high school in the ’80s, but didn’t start chasing in the plains until 2010. My daughter and I saw our first tornado near Bowdle, SD on the second day of that first chase chase—May 22nd. It was an amazing privilege and it set the hook for at least one chase-cation in the Great Plains every year since then. Seeing tornadoes is the main goal on each chase trip, but every supercell is a win. I am awed by the complexity, dynamics, and almost living expression of the atmosphere’s power. I’ve been working hard to improve my photography and capture the feel, character, power and beauty of every storm. Video takes second place, but I’m trying to get better at that too. I mostly chase solo and juggle a lot of roles, but that makes every success even more rewarding.
Favorite Storm Chasing Photos
LEFT to RIGHT: Goshen County, Wyoming – 20 May 2014; Bowdle, South Dakota – 22 May 2010; Bowdle, South Dakota – 22 May 2010; Rozel, Kansas – 18 May 2013
Favorite Chase Video
How did you realize your love for weather?
I’ve loved threatening weather since I was a kid—but it’s part of a larger enjoyment of the beauty and complexity in nature.
When did you decide you wanted to storm chase?
I remember a casual conversation with my older step-brother somewhere in the ’80s after watching a storm chase documentary about how awesome it would be to chase storms one day. Awesome, yeah, but I figured I’d never actually do it. Then I ran across Hollingshead and Nguyen’s “Adventures in Tornado Alley” book at Hastings in 2008. I bought it on the spot and spent the next couple days engrossed in the stunning photos on every page and the stories that went with them. It was like a fuse got lit, and I joined StormTrack shortly after—scouring the archives, participating in the Chase Cases, learning everything I could, and making my first chase in the plains in 2010.
How long have you been actively chasing?
Do you chase for a reason?
I chase to see and photograph powerful storms and tornadoes.
Do you see passion as a good or bad thing?
Sorry, no simple good or bad answer on this. I think it depends on what you channel that passion into, whether it enriches your life and your future, and consider its impact on the world and people around you. This is philosophical stuff and people write gigantic books about it. Writing about the implications of passion is not really my passion.
Do you prefer to chase alone or with a group?
I prefer to chase alone and be responsible for my own successes and failures. I have taken both of my teenage children with me on a few chases—and exercise additional cautions when they are with me.
Have you ever considered going on a storm chase tour?
Before my first chase, when I was first researching the process, I briefly considered it. But the expense helped make that decision—and I’m a pretty intense self-learner and wanted to see how well I could do without a tour group to lead me there.
How do you feel about the current state of storm chasing?
I’m a n00b to this, so I don’t think I have broad perspective. Still, there are definitely behaviors and attitudes that annoy me. So I do what I can to avoid those situations/groups/people.
Which era of chasing would you prefer to exist? Old-school or new-school?
No choice but new-school. There is no way I have the right location or circumstances or time to develop the tight relationships that would be needed with key WFOs—the kind of relationships needed so you could walk in the office and read charts with them, and then land at pay phones and get verbal forecast, satellite and radar updates along the way. No doubt it would really enhance the reward of a successful chase, knowing you went paper-pen-payphone and Big Teamwork the entire way. Not to mention storms all to yourself. But I know there’s no way I could make that work. So I don’t know…was I assuming too old-school on that question? Anyway, taking it to the image side: I love the historic qualities of old blurry, grainy photos and low-def video. But I am so glad to be photographing and shooting video in the high-definition, crisp clarity of the 21st century. That gets a new-school vote too.
How far are you willing to travel for a good set up?
I seem to run over 3,000 miles per chase trip. My first chase day in 2014 took me from northern Arizona to southern Montana—about 1,000 miles for Day 1. I also busted that day.
What are your favorite areas to chase? Least favorite?
Favorite so far is western Kansas for the road network, sparse population, and clear, flat horizon. For least favorite, although the Sandhills are a pain for road network and views, I’m kind of enchanted by the desolation. So that makes the I-35 corridor my least favorite so far. Hills, trees, crowds, towns—it induces anxiety and poor views. I imagine if I ever tried the jungle regions further east, I’d pick those as the worst in a heartbeat—but I haven’t even bothered considering it.
What is you favorite type of set up to chase? Least favorite?
Favorite would be a dryline setup with strong enough capping to keep storms discrete. I think least favorite so far would be an inverted trough setup north of the triple point. I tried this in 2011 and was utterly confused and busted in the middle of clump of tornado-warned storms.
What is your most memorable chase? Least memorable?
Most memorable would be Rozel/Sanford, Kansas May 18, 2013 – for every possible and obvious reason. Least memorable would be every chase-cation day in 2011. I was still learning, making dumb mistakes, getting ruined by unanticipated MCS setup-destroyers, and basically chose a terrible chase period.
Have you ever feared for your life?
Not a fear for life. But I have been anxious getting overtaken by developing squall lines when I was ready to quit the chase.
Are you afraid to make dangerous maneuvers while chasing? (I.E core punching/hook slicing/living in the bears cage)
Do you have any superstitions?
No. I do not knock on wood, keep fossilized cheeseburgers on my dash, or wear lucky articles of clothing.
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 am already doing that first option, and do not have urges to go for the other.
Are you currently doing anything job related to the weather?
Have you ever been to ChaserCon?
Are you more likely to hang out with other chasers while waiting for initiation, or sit alone on a country road watching the sky?
More likely to just sit alone and watch the sky. I don’t mind if someone stops by for a chat as long as things haven’t gotten interesting yet. But once a storm is getting good, I can’t enjoy it and photograph it and hold a conversation at the same time. So I like to be in loner mode at that point for sure.
What is your favorite storm chase and why?
Same as the most memorable: Rozel/Sanford Kansas – May 18, 2013. It’s like a got the whole enchilada with this chase—twice—and what a beautiful pair of enchiladas. I was on the Rozel storm from bubbling Cu to elevated convection to rooted-n-sculpted supercell to the entire life-cycle of a long-lived, spectacular tornado. Then came the incredible encore near Sanford.
What date burns in you (think bust) and why?
May 11, 2011 in western Kansas. This was my last ditch hope for a chase that had been a busted wreck so far. It seemed like it was going to be a great dryline play to save the trip. But an MCS blew up overnight, came out of the panhandles and soaked, clouded-up and stabilized the warm sector. Then early Texas storms blew anvils overhead to beat down any clearing. I had to last-ditch race up to northwest Kansas to catch the wrong side of a messy supercell to pull at least something out of the trip. Makes me frustrated every time I relive that.
Do you always know why you made the wrong or right decisions to chase a particular day?
No. There are too many variables, and I’m too new to this. From a forecasting standpoint, all I boil it down to is trying to get as many variables correct, and hope that whatever else I missed works out in my favor for being in the right place on the right storm. I think I do clue into the key parts that definitely did or didn’t work, and I try to learn from those, but I know there are a lot of other fine-grained influences that I’m also missing.
How did you learn what you know about forecasting and meteorology?
Digging through everything I could on StormTrack with help from Tim Vasquez’ books and Mike Hollingshead’s first forecasting video. Then I spend time each year testing myself on old SPC storm records—looking at the archives for different days, trying to estimate where I would position, and then seeing if the reports coincide.
Do you consider the day a success even if you don’t witness a tornado?
I do. I’m kind of analog about this. I chase on a spectrum of success. If tornadoes are possible, then that’s my goal. But I still get a huge amount of satisfaction out of catching a supercell in action. It gets a lot more successful if a tornado is part of that catch. If my storm spits out a tornado and I’m not in position to see it, that will dial the needle further away from success than if the storm didn’t tornado at all—but it still doesn’t land flat on failure if I still chased a great supercell.
Do you feel short changed if you see a tornado from a greater distance to you than you prefer?
I don’t know if I’d call it short-changed. But I would much rather see some definition on the tornado than a hazy silhouette. I do not want to be bear’s-cage close though. I was 3-4 miles out on Rozel with side-lighting and I think that was just about perfect. I caught three of the southwest Oklahoma, March 18, 2012 tornadoes further out, in fuzzy silhouette, and that was a little disappointing photographically…but not enough to feel short-changed by the distance. My perspective may change on this with time.
How do you feel about the post “Storm Chaser” generation?
This has been ranted about so much, I don’t have anything interesting to add.
Do you feel like the scientific community should get the same respect as emergency vehicles around storms?
Everybody should get respect around storms. Emergency Vehicles should get respect plus immediate right-of-way.
How you do you feel about the media in regards to the weather and chasing?
Mainstream media’s knowledge and portrayal of chasing is shallow, sensational and frequently off-base like just about everything else of a technical or scientific nature that gets covered.
Who are the most influential people to you out in the field?
Skip Talbot for in-the-trenches chasing knowledge, experience and responsibility. Mike Hollingshead for the inspiration I got from his photography.
Would you considering getting your children into storm chasing?
I have—and will continue to anytime they want to go. My daughter and I saw our first tornado at Bowdle when she was 13. My son and I watched a supercell multivortex funnel a couple years later when he was 12.
If you didn’t know anything about storm chasing, how would you react if your child said they wanted to be a chaser?
Probably pretty suspicious at first. They’d need to give me a whole lot more information & show what they’re learning to get me up to speed on the risks and practices. Even then, as driving-age teenagers, I wouldn’t want them going at it on their own. I’d want them to have some adult-level due caution under their belts first.
What do you fear most about a storm?
Lightning. No warning or time to enable an escape-route for that.
What type of storm do you prefer to chase? (Ugly HP/sculpted LP/classic/squall line)
Classic supercells, please.
Do you stop your progress toward a storm for a great photography opportunity?
Most likely yes, unless there is a risk I’ll lose the storm by stopping there (assuming I think the storm will have more to offer).
How do you feel about law enforcement immediately around a tornadic supercell?
I’ll do everything I can to not aggravate law enforcement in a stressful situation. If I can find another route, I’ll do that. They’ve got a tough job. They’re also not storm experts and no-doubt make a few bad calls around supercells. Still, I’m not going to challenge them unless lives—such as mine—are in immediate danger due to being roadblocked in the path of a tornado.
Should storm chasers feel more entitled to be around storms than law enforcement or locals?
Do you have a job that supports storm chasing?
Yes. I have really good flexibility for vacation time which makes the difference.
Do you have a family that supports storm chasing?
Yes. I don’t chase for huge amounts of time. Typically one week on the plains, and then a couple other day trips around Arizona, besides miscellaneous local photo ops.
How long do you plan on chasing?
I have no plans to quit—just take each season as it comes.