Chat with Chris Chittick of Team Tornado Hunter

Chris Chittick

I’m excited to be able to chat with Chris Chittick.  A man of few word and great skill with a camera.  I first saw Chris on TV a few years ago and really liked his quiet presence and passion for what he does.  This year he teamed up with Team Tornado Hunter and I was thrilled.  He brings a new element to the team and they fit really well together.  This summer I really enjoyed watching the three of them banter back and forth while on chases.  Chris has been one of my favourite chasers for many years and I was honoured to be able to ask him some questions!

Thank you Chris for being willing to chat with me!  Tell us how you got into storm chasing and storm photography?

 I got into storm chasing back in 1998 as a hobby.  I fell in love with it in 2000 when I saw my first tornado in WY.  I didn’t start picking up the video camera until about 2008….I realized I have the photographic eye and have been in love with shooting and editing ever since.
You certainly do have great skill with a camera!  Do you only chase tornadoes or is it all weather you love to chase?
I chase all extreme weather from ice and snow storms to hurricanes to tornadoes.
Well, you’ll certainly get a chance to chase snow in Canada!  Can you tell us about the very first tornado you remember?
First tornado was in 2000 in south-east WY.  It formed over our heads and dropped just to our west close to some hills and I fell in love with it right there.

What made you get behind a camera when storm chasing?

I first picked up the camera in 2008 and shot some things then realized I was really good at framing and just shooting in general.

Did you then take classes on photography or are you self-taught?

I am self taught.  I learnt a lot on the road and being next to Discovery Channel camera operators for 4 years.

Chris Chittick strom

That’s a great way to learn!  What was the most memorable chase you’ve ever been on?

The most memorable chase I have been on was this year May 31, 2013 El Reno.  It was unbelievable.  The sights and sounds and smells.

That was an intense chase to watch, I can only imagine the intensity of being there.  Besides tornadoes, you’ve also filmed hurricanes.  What makes a hurricane so interesting?

Hurricanes are interesting to me because it’s a whole other beast…. new things to worry about, like how am I going to get this shot etc…..It’s basically a really big tornado.

Will you be coming up to chase blizzards in the winter?

I live in Regina now, so yes, I will be chasing blizzards with the team.

How did you wind up riding with Team Tornado Hunter?

I had met Greg a couple of years ago and thought he was a great guy.  I met Ricky last year in the U.S. Plains and couldn’t get enough of him.  So, this winter I left my old team and Greg reached out to me…next thing you know I’m living in Canada.

Tornado Hunter Truck

I had no idea that you’d moved to Canada!  Hope that you like it up here!  What was the scariest moment you’ve ever had chasing?

The scariest moments I have ever had chasing was in the earlier years when we didn’t know what we were doing out there.

You sure know a lot now!  What advice would you give to aspiring storm chasers/storm photographers?

Go to some spotter training courses and soak up as much knowledge as possible, or go on a tour with a respected tour company and ask lots of questions.

Great advice!  If you couldn’t storm chase, what would you do?

If I couldn’t storm chase I would be a camera operator for TV shows.

Is storm-chasing your full-time job?  What do you do in the off-season?

Storm chasing is my full time job.  In the off season I do speaking engagements and get ready for the next season.

I’m already looking forward to watching you guys chase next year!  What do you like to do when you’re not out chasing?

I like to play golf hang with friends and family and most of all hang with my girlfriend.

Thanks again Chris for taking time to chat with me.  I look forward to watching you and Team Tornado Hunter chase this winter and, most definitely, next summer!

You can follow Chris and his photography on:

TWITTER

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TORNADO HUNTER WEBSITE

Also, check out my other Chaser Chats with Ricky ForbesCraig Hilts and Sean Schofer!

Chat with Ricky Forbes: Team Tornado Hunter (Part One)

RFD Ricky

You’ve all heard me talk about team Tornado Hunter and how much I look forward to the summer storm chasing season.  These guys are awesome.  Okay, in all honesty I’ve only met Greg, but I hope to remedy that sometime soon.  I’ve chatted with Ricky a fair bit and I am so glad that he agreed to be part of this blog series!  In fact, he’s going to lead the way in what I hope will be a good bunch of storm chaser chats!

Hey Ricky, thanks for being willing to answer a few questions for me!  I’m a pretty big fan of storm chasing and I’m excited to chat with you about it.

Tell me, what drew you to storm chasing?

Originally it was the elusiveness of catching a storm and the majestic beauty of Mother Nature. Now it’s all that plus the adventure and friends. It has become one of my favourite pastimes.  

It does look awesome!  I can’t wait to get out there next year!  Do you remember the first tornado you ever saw in the field and can you tell me a bit about it?

I’ll never forget it! It was the Great Bend EF-4 of April 14, 2012. It produced 12 tornadoes over a 3 hour period with little damage to a few farm yards and no one injured. At points we were within 100 yards, right beside it, hearing the whistling roar, seeing debris flying everywhere, and other points we were sitting still watching it off in the distance only to meet up with it again. It was the best day for a storm chaser. I was definitely spoiled.  

15_tornadohunter 2012 favorites

That would have been amazing to see!  How did you end up teaming up with Greg?

I got in touch with Greg through a mutual friend. Originally I was meant to go out in the backseat handling the computer and camera gear – and immediately got put in the driver’s seat! It’s been a great trip and only getting better.

I know that you are an integral part of the team and that there is more to your role than just driving ‘Flash’ to the storm, can you tell me what your role involves?

Behind the scenes I handle all aspects for the website – it’s my profession in the off-season so I am the go-to guy for that. On the road it is also my duty to share our adventures real-time with social media as much as I can, as Greg and Chris are busy capturing the storm.

On the live feed we often see Greg giving you directions on where to drive.  Does he make that decision alone or do you guys discuss it before you head out for the day?  Is it always a group decision when you are debating on staying with your current storm or chasing another more promising one?

Lots of times those directions are last minute decisions. We can have a general idea before the storm of our road networks in relation to where we think the storm will be, but that all changes once the game starts. Factors such as the storm direction, high traffic areas, damaged roads, etc. impacts our directions. Once in the moment it is very much up to Greg and Chris on what they think the best routes are as my focus is on driving. 

It is always a group decision on deciding whether to leave a storm or stay on a storm. We all bring our different backgrounds and experiences to the table and we quickly discuss all factors to make a smart decision.

It’s awesome how you guys work together so well!  If you can narrow it down, what was the best chase you ever had?

That’s a tough one! It would have to be the first tornado I ever saw – the April 14, Great Bend tornado. There was so many amazing moments and sights we got to see. At one point we were on a closed off freeway with the tornado slowly circulating over top of us, moments like that take your breath away. 

This year you had some pretty intense experiences.  Was El Reno the most intense chase that you’ve ever been on?

El Reno was the most intense situation I have ever been in! That tornado was later declared to be the world’s largest tornado on record and for good reason. The way it moved and built so fast was unreal. 

In the El Reno situation, when you found yourselves in a very dangerous situation, what went through your head when you knew it was up to you to get the team away from danger?  Did you just rely on instinct at that point?

That’s a tough one, gives me the chills a bit thinking back to that moment. The roar of the tornado was all around us, our ears had popped from the pressure change, buildings were be torn apart and being thrown into us, and our exits were blocked. I hit the sketchy ditch as our last resort and hammered on the gas. We lucked out making it through there, at one point all of our tires were off the ground. While in the ditch we saw a large 2 ton grain farm truck fly through the air and land in the ditch, barely dodging it bringing us out of the ditch and on our way to safety. Literally felt like a moment out of Twister. 

I remember that on the live feed.  My heart was nearly stopping and I wasn’t even there!

I’ve really enjoyed Ricky’s answers to these questions!  

Check out Part Two of this awesome chat: here

Find Ricky here:

Twitter  

LinkedIn 

Danger Dynamite

Tornado Hunter

Instagram: @forbesricky

Also, check out my other Chaser Chats HERE!

Thanks for coming by!

~Sarah