Excellent Photo Adventures…Storm Chase 5

Today was the highest risk day for severe weather so after a quick orientation we headed off towards what Brian considered the area of greatest risk due to wind direction, moisture, weak cap and other storm ripe conditions.  We did the usual driving to get into a good position to move as the weather developed with a stop for lunch and then later another stop for ice cream as we waited it out.  Finally the weak, flat clouds began to get juicy and start to updraft, a good sign.  We had a storm brewing right near us and another one further to the south.  Now comes decision time.  Do we head south to what may be a better storm or hang with one that is a given…

Brian evaluated radar and the other data and based on an educated guess and a gut feeling decided to stick with the storm at hand and the chase was on.  We stopped every so often and got out of the van to make some photographs and look at the storm.  Mammatus clouds were filling the sky, ripening it for the upcoming storm…

 

When chasing it is crucial to keep a constant watch on the radar as well as out the window both to get in the best position possible and for safety.  That’s how we saw the beginnings of the first tornado when Brian called out that there was a funnel cloud forming…

 

We quickly pulled over and jumped out of the van in time to capture our first tornado of the day.  It was a bit rain wrapped and low contrast but, it’s still an incredible thrill to see and photograph one…

 

It was short lived so we jumped back in the van and continued on to get in better position for photography when our second rope tornado began.  This one had a bit better contrast and showed up nicely against the brighter area of the sky…

 

To say we were thrilled was a complete understatement.  We were expecting severe weather but the risk of tornados was so slight that no one expected to see one today.  When storm chasing it is important to keep moving in order to stay out of the core which is full of rain and hail both for safety reasons and to make good photographs so, back in the van we went to keep up with the storm.  I was watching out the van window when I saw a dark column about six miles out and asked Brian if it wasn’t another tornado to which he replied affirmative…

 

Initially we weren’t sure if we were seeing two tornados side by side but after reviewing the film and video we decided that it was a concentrated rain shaft.  This tornado was also rain wrapped and low contrast but, we enjoyed watching it morph before our eyes.  First it was a fat stovepipe tornado, then it pulled up into a cone shaped tornado pulling dirt and debris with it before getting fat and stovepipe-like again…

 

It’s amazing to see a tornado in action.  It’s a true wonder of mother nature.  When chasing it is crucial to be ready at all times as some weather phenomena only lasts a brief instant so, I had my D800 with the AF-S 14-24mm 2.8 and my D4 with the AF-S 28-300mm 3.5-5.6 VR at my side.  Back at the hotel we learned that several tornados had touched down in the area.  One report claimed nine.  Luckily the damage was not significant and no one was injured or killed in this series of storms.  I can safely say that we all went to bed tired and happy.  Stay tuned.