Chaser Chat with Nick Schenher

Nick S

Welcome everyone! I’m grateful today to be chatting the Nick Schenher (aka Nick the Body). Nick was one of the first chasers I ever started to watch. There was a day back in 2012, an incredible season and my first as a storm enthusiast, when Nick was out chasing a nice tornado near Wadena, SK. Nick makes mention of this day too. Nick was near another team that was right in there, but he was hanging back. It was amazing to watch the tornado on Nick’s live stream. The other team was too close for us to see the tornado well but Nick kept an awesome view for those of us watching. It was so cool.

Thanks, Nick, for chatting with me. I appreciate it! Tell me, what drew you to storm chasing?

I was always interested in storms from a young age. Not sure what the draw was, but I always knew I wanted do pursue some kind of career/hobby in weather.

How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to chase storms?

The first time I found out what a storm chaser was I was about 10 years old, watching a National Geographic documentary. It was about that time.

Tell me about the first tornado you ever saw.

The first tornado I saw was extremely brief, and occurred in southwestern Saskatchewan. The only thing I remember was that by the time I got my old film camera out and fired up, the tornado was over. It kicked up a lot of dust, and I was immediately into heavy rain and hail right after.

I bet that was so cool to see! Nick, what is your goal when you go out storm chasing?

My goal is safety – being able to provide whatever entity – whether Environment Canada, the National Weather Service, or the general public information about severe weather so loss of property or life is minimal.

That’s a great goal! What vehicle are you chasing in this year?

I have chased almost exclusively in my 2006 Toyota Yaris. It is a subcompact car that I trust. My goal is not to get into the middle of severe storms like other chasers, but to be able to stay dry, and keep a visual on rotation. With this in mind, there are times when I choose to stay a greater distance away from severe weather. I always want to give myself as much time and as many directional options as well in order to report and escape, if necessary. The Yaris relieves me of my temptation to go off-road or get into more precarious situations, as it does not handle well on anything but pavement. I also have a 2007 Jeep Compass which I utilize if storms are going to be a little more unpredictable, or if the road system in the area is less favourable than around the City of Regina.

I like that you deliberately drive a vehicle that will keep you, hopefully, out of danger. When you are out chasing, do you chase alone or do you have a team you usually go with?

I typically chase with a local photographer named Chris Graham (@cgphotography). I am not a photographer, and hate taking pictures of storms. The set up in the car allows me to live stream HD video in real time, but that I can set and then forget about. My dashboard camera captures any images I wish to reproduce, but Chris captures incredible images which are nice to look back on. I usually attempt to take another person for a ride-along when possible.

Now I have to ask how I get on that list for a ride-along! 😉 What do you find most amazing about chasing storms?

The fact that there are never any guarantees despite favourable conditions or high-risk ingredients atmospheric ingredients mixing together. I am always intrigued by how every chase is different, and always produces different memories and moments, and often times I hear myself saying, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

What was the most memorable chase you’ve ever been on?

Probably the Wadena tornado in 2012. I had two persons with me who had never seen a tornado before, and the progression of the day was excellent. We were correctly positioned all day, never got touched with a drop of rain, and had a clear and safe road with which to run parallel to the storm until it fizzled out.

That was an amazing day even to watch on the live-stream! What was the scariest moment you’ve ever had chasing? Was it when your car caught on fire?

My car catching on fire was more frustrating than it was scary. Even though we were under a tornado warned storm, with a wall cloud rotating a short distance away from us, it would have passed a few 100 metres to our north, so we would have been fine. Scariest for me is always chasing at night with little visual. I have had a couple of tornadoes pass not far in front of me, one of which was not noticed until a lightning flash while we were parked on a highway.

Yikes! That would be scary for sure! If you could go back and experience one tornado again, which one would it be?

I probably wouldn’t go back. Each experience is different, and with the chaser community being so large now, tornadoes are rarely missed. I am passionate about the weather, but the reason I chase is to keep people safe and educate others about storms, their risks, and why people do not need to fear the weather.

That’s one of the most unexpected storm-chaser answers I’ve ever had, but I like it. What advice would you give to aspiring storm chasers?

Do as much reading as possible, get comfortable understanding severe weather, watch as many videos observing movement and structure of tornadoes and storms, understand the risks, and then just go and do it. It astounds me that many chasers have a problem with so-called “members of the public” chasing or taking pictures of severe weather rather than huddling in a basement somewhere. I firmly believe people have the right to do whatever they want as long as they are not harming anyone else. There are certainly risks involved, but to say, “leave it to the professionals” when the whole system is reliant on the public is crazy to me. Many chasers will be happy to take anyone out with them for a share in gas, and if it’s about fulfilling a thrill or desire for excitement, then that is the way to go. If you are interested in weather or photography or contributing to the chaser community, then get educated and do it.

As someone who is trying to get educated, I can say there is a LOT to know. Nick, what is one thing that you wish the public understood better about storm chasers?

Nothing here. I think the public knows exactly what they need to about chasers – some do it for photography, some for the adrenaline rush, some for education, some for science, many for a combination. Some take a lot of risks, others not as much. The chaser community, like any other community is filled with an eclectic bunch of people who all have their own reasons for doing it, and any of those reasons are acceptable. To try and box everyone in and say that the chaser community is filled with a bunch of safe, responsible role models would be incorrect, though there are many out there who do fit that role. They all serve a purpose, and that is that. Let everyone do their thing. 

What do you like to do in the winter? Do you chase blizzards?

In the winter I curl a few nights per week, and watch a lot of hockey. I enjoy getting out a couple of times to show everyone what a good Saskatchewan blizzard looks like, and why people should be much more afraid of cold weather over and severe summer storm.

When you’re not out chasing in the summer, what do you do? Professionally, and for fun!

I have a job where I get to help people 365 days per year, which I love. I am currently finishing a graduate degree in science (psychology). I love playing tennis in the summer, spending time with my wife and daughter, and reading as much as possible.

Anyone that you’d like to give a shout out to that supports you in your chasing?

Just thanks to everyone who enjoys watching the live stream and conversing on twitter. I appreciate the conversations we have had.

Thanks so much, Nick!

You can find Nick on http://www.stormwatcher.ca, Stormwatcher on Facebook, stormwatcherca on Instagram, and @NickTheBody on Twitter.

~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa: Part Two

Welcome back to my Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa! If you missed part one, you can find it HERE! If you already checked that out, let’s dig into part two!

Notanee, if you could go back and experience one tornado again (or see one you missed), which one would it be? 

If I could turn back time. I would experience the EF-5 Moore Oklahoma Tornado of 2013. It would be in my fantasy, to go west instead of east, making the intercept well outside of Moore, getting the truth into the National Weather Service and contibuting to saving lives if possible. That very afternoon, I felt it in my guts, I saw the sky before I left Norman heading south. Greg J and myself happened to meet on the highway prior to going through Oklahoma City towards our separate targets. After only just leaving the Norman area, I stopped for gas at a Shell on the main highway and saw the stormcells forming. I decided to go east towards Norman instead of west towards the cell heading to Moore. I am slightly grateful I didn’t intercept that EF-5 as I would have personally seen it unleash unimaginable damage on Moore. After several days I went to Moore and documented the damage discretely on foot, as I needed to have that to show my family and children. As part of the respect nature value I want to program in them.

Chamberlain Tornado Notanee

That tornado would have been incredible to see. We’ve talked a lot about storms and the fascination of chasing. I ask all chasers this, what advice would you give to aspiring storm chasers? People who would love to get out and do what you do? 

My advice for aspiring storm chasers is to make safety the number one priority. Perform your chase safely. Don’t endanger others by anything you do. Report the weather immediately for the safety of others and THEN take your photos and videos. Also keep YOURSELVES safe. You and the occupants of your vehicle rely on the ability to move out of danger. Don’t risk getting stuck while in front of the storm. Don’t chase a storm without an escape plan. Have a plan B. Have a place to drive to get you out of danger. Personally, I think aspiring chasers should start out as “spotters” until groomed by experienced chasers by accompanying them on many chases. As far as CANWARN is concerned. CANWARN wants spotters not chasers. No one is encouraged to endanger themselves or others to report ground truth. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a spotter. But I do come to realize Environment Canada and the media will take whatever they can get. Particularly if it can buy time to warn others of impending danger heading their way.

You don’t only love storms, you also have another favourite thing to chase. Tell us about your passion for the Northern Lights! 

My favorite thing to chase is supercell thunderstorms. I particularly love their formation, shape and tilt. The amazing power. The unimaginable amount of physical weight in that storm. How you can see the ingredients coming together, wind shear, moisture, low level jet. Textbook stuff. You can read so much but when you see it, you are much more confident and a believe of the science you’ve studied. Speaking of science, my grandfather taught Physics and Astronomy at the Univeristy of Regina and taught me to appeciate the night skies as well. I learned of constellations, meteors and the aurora borealis on my sleep overs at his place in Silton when I was a kid. Throughout my childhood in Moccasin Flats in Regina, I was always looking to the nightsky in hopes of a glimpse of heaven to take me away from the reality of living there. I remember one particular day in the eighties when an awesome geomagnetic storm had joined the north and southern bands of aurora together! I stayed up late watching it dance overhead while I stood in the back alley in the cold for hours. Since then I watched it whenever possible. After my tornadic intercept of April 12th, 2012, my mother bought be a DSLR camera in May 2012. This allowed me for the first time to potentially capture the magical lights (aurora) in the sky. A dream come true. Since then I have taken every opportunity within my price range to learn about how to use my camera and be better at shooting severe weather and the northern lights. To this end I have grown successful. I have learned to timelapse these events and CTV has invited me to share with them my knowledge and experiences with the northern lights after I released a YouTube video timelapse aurora compilation of the year 2013. I had an interview on the weekend at my house and then later in the week, their producer invited me on their morning show for 10 minutes or so. The aurora is a reflection of the awesome power of our closest star and is unpredictably beautiful and humbling. It is yet another reminder of how humble the human race should be in the face of natural power. Be it tornadoes or the northern lights, as both have the power to send us back to the Stone Ages.

Space Weather Prediction Center issued a G1 Magnetic storm WARNING

They sure are amazing to see! What do you do when you’re not out chasing in the summer? 

When summer is over and chase season is done, I shift my focus to capturing the colorful turn of nature when fall heralds the end of life (winter). I continue my obession with the northern lights and capture foggy mornings in the valley. In September, on the 19th, I fully participate in International Talk Like a Pirate Day! I dress completely as a pirate and bring a prop replica of “Dead Man’s Chest” from Pirates of the Carribean to work full of gold coin. I participate also in Regina Costume League, as the character Darth Maul from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. This allowed me to be a part of the Regina ExPo parade for the past few years and help fundraisers for various charities. I DJ for 91.3fm CJTR – Regina’s Community Radio since January 2002. I host a radio show named Hardwired featuring a futuristic industrial atmopshere for my listeners from 10-12pm on Friday nights. I also DJ at clubs in Saskatoon when opportunities arrive. One such opportunity lead to me making a tornado intercept near Craik in 2008. I have volunteers as a member of the Board of Directors for Radius Communications, the membership commmittee, fundraising committee and also volunteers countless hours to help 91.3fm keep the computer systems running and sometimes completely rebuilding after catostrophic hardware failures. I professionally work as a Trunking and Switching Techician for SaskTel. I sheppard IP traffic from cellular towers, optical cabinets and analogue cabinets throughout the province which supply internet and IPTV. All the way from the user end points to the IPcore to the IP transcanada backbone.

Notanee Darth Maul

Chasing takes a fair bit of time and money, anyone that you’d like to give a shout out to that supports you in your chasing? 

My family unit, the most important shout out has to be to my family. My wife is an incredibly understanding woman. Over time, we have witnessed the disintegration of other family units engaged in similar activities. It can put an unfair workload on your partner at little notice. I must give respect to every social networking contact who has come to trust my words. I try tremendously to give brief accurate information and secure trust in others. I have reached out to contacts in the Environment Canada, The Weather Network and local media to establish trust. I shout my thanks to them. I also thank everyone who has placed their faith in me and perhaps grown to like me over the years. I try to be a good person. Finally I shout out to the TVNweather.com family whose patience and generousity makes the live video streaming coupled with live positioning and reporting possible in the internet world. I thank Severe Studios (Kory Hartman) for allowing the public to follow Andy Gabrielson. I’d like to thank Sean Schoffer for allowing me to setup Dominator 3 video streaming.

Thanks again, Notanee for chatting with me! Where can people find you online and follow your chasing? 

I can be followed at www.tvnweather.com as RAIDEN, SpotterNetwork.org and also http://www.hardwiredradio.ca/raiden/ I have two sites under development. www.skstorm.ca and www.theflyingcow.ca.

You can also find Notanee on Twitter!

Thanks for checking out this Chaser Chat, you can see the rest of them HERE! Also, check back regularly as I have some more very exciting Chaser Chats coming up!

~Sarah

Chaser Chat with Notanee Bourassa: Part One

Notanee

I ‘met’ Notanee first on Twitter. Then at a few of events locally I was able to chat with him more. Notanee has a definite passion for weather and it’s contagious when you talk to him. You’ll see that in his interview below!

Hey Notanee, thanks so much for being willing to chat with me about your chasing! It’s awesome to be able to chat with Canadian chasers!

So, tell me what drew you to storm chasing?

Since my enchantment with the sky since the tornado of 1979 I was drawn to chase the storms because they frequently would miss Regina or a part of it that was extremely interesting would pass through and I would want to pursue it to see what happens. I grew up in Mocassin Flats of Regina and didn’t have a vehicle while growing up. So I biked to the nearest field to get an open view of the storm front. Then I joined the Navy and terribly missed the raging violence of a good prairie storm for a good decade. My only reprieve was to watch Twister in the theatre on the west coast at least thirteen times.

Love that you’ve seen Twister so many times! Do you remember your first tornado?

The first tornado I witnessed was when I was 7 years old living on 12 block McTavish Street in Regina and remembered that I was playing in the front yard in a very warm clear afternoon. When the storm hit in later afternoon, I remember the incredible horizontal rain. Trees bending to unnatural angles, branches ripping, VHF/UHF TV antenneas torn from roof tops, debris flying. We had a windowed front porch and watched the show from it but retreated into the bedrooms after a while, especially when the windows were bowing inwards.

Wow! That would be one heck of an experience! What is your goal when you go out storm chasing?

While chasing in the United States, my goal is to gain experience to be better at spotting, recognizing and learning from models, my forecasts vs others vs NOAA. I also participate in forwarding ground truth through SpotterNetwork and also transmitting video through TVNWeather.com. Photos I take are for my personal reference and also to teach my family and children the respect nature deserves. The United States provides a longer season in which to chase. So It’s a great warm up to chasing here in the Canadian prairies. While chasing in the Canadian Prairies, my goals are more focused as I have personal attachment to my country and province. I push myself alot harder and am challenged and frustrated by the lack of information from Environment Canada. I truly desire to get that ground truth in as expeditiously as possible. Brief, clear and accurate. Leaving out speculation.

What do you feel is the best thing about chasing storms?

There are many things that are close to “the best thing” about chasing storms, but from a personal view, it is scoring a tornado and calling it in successfully to Environment Canada. There are other romantic things about chasing storms, such as the personal escape from the city life so many of us are familiar with. The open road. The open skies. The landscapes. Mood appropriate music (which is a big deal for me as music is close to my heart). Time to think. Then as you approach your target area, you awaken. Data and radar can only get you so far. Then the eyes have to do the rest. Especially when chasing alone. Heavy rain, insane howling winds, escaping hail, dodging congestive traffic and finally getting to the mesocyclone. A particularly satisfying feeling having travelled hundreds of miles to be in the right place at the right time. A winning feeling. After that it’s gravy, the photos, the videos, the memories of soaking in the moments of what mother nature shows you from that point onwards is up to yourself to absorb and learn from.

Thunderstorm in Regina

Where do you like to chase? How far into the US have you chased storms?

I primarily prefer to chase in the open plains if possible. For example, treed and large hills as seen in Missouri can be very difficult to perform proper any spotting. The terrain itself dictates where the roads are and therefore dictates where traffic is funneled. Very difficult to scan the horizon from such a vantage point. The furthest south I believe I’ve travelled for storm chasing was Marshall, Texas. The furthest west I’ve gone is Artesia, New Mexico. The furthest east I’ve gone is Texarkana and ALL points north to the Canadian border. States experienced chases in: ND, SD, MT, MN, NE, IO, KS, MS, NM, AK, OK, TX.

What was the best storm chase you’ve ever been on and what made it so special?

For the moment the best storm chase was the experienc of April 14th, 2012. Greg Johnson and myself had chased on several occasions since May of 2011 and we had been looking forward to 2012. Greg just picked up “Flash” before the orange makeover and we met at his house where Ricky Forbes met us. Both Flash and Ricky were chase virgins, which Greg and I took pleasure in introducing them to the experiences we both knew were forthcoming in the south. We departed and met with Chris Streaks who is from Great Falls, MT in a hotel in North Dakota. What made the April 14th, 2012 chase so special was the fact that the team was on fire. Clear, concise communications between all of us. ESPECIALLY on our first visual contact. Both Greg and I spoke aloud, “WEDGE on the ground” as it was on our right about 6-7 miles distant. For me since I was doing navigation, radar and giving driving recommendations it felt good to keep the team on the EF4 tornado for the next 2 hours. The storm occluded this tornado multiple times. Our team work kept us nipping on the heels of this tornado. Tim Samaras was there, it looked like Vortex was there too, many chasers were onsite, but we dared a few road options which allowed us best access to the twister where there was NO ONE. It felt so good to have such an exclusive experience of that tornado that no one else had. In fact we had beat the traffic because of the road options we took, otherwise we were going to be stuck behind twenty chasers. All of us did the best we could. I even tried to stabilize Chris Streaks DSLR camera on multiple occasions while still focusing on radar and roads. There were only few occasions where I could take my point and shoot camera (which I borrowed from my wife) to take a few shots and a FlipVideo UltraHD camera (which I borrowed from my co-worker Lori-Jo ) to take video. I felt this was the best chase as we all contributed to a very successful tornado interceptive chase and worked as a team. Words really don’t describe it with justice. It is experienced.

Filmore Tornado Notanee

Thanks to Notanee for chatting with me! Part Two of this chat will come out on Friday and I hope you’ll come back for it! Meanwhile, check out my other CHASER CHATS with other storm chasers like Ricky Forbes, Chris Chittick, Craig Hilts and Sean Schofer!

~Sarah

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

FACEBOOK

TORNADO HUNTER WEBSITE

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

Chat with Craig Hilts of Prairie Fire Photography: Part Two

craig storm2Seriously, isn’t this photo awesome?!  I love how the cloud is lit from above.  Amazing!  I wish I had seen this one in person!  

Let’s get back to my chat with Craig Hilts and I’ll include a bunch of my favourite photos of his for you to look at.  (You can click on any of them to go to his website!)  You can also find part one of this chat here.

What advice do you have for aspiring storm chasers and storm photographers?

Number one piece of advice is to stay safe; this is not something to be taken lightly or just for the fun of it. Storms can kill or seriously injure people. Understand what your getting into, take a course to be able to properly understand storms and to help you accurately report what your seeing, maybe head out on a few chases with a seasoned expert to help you learn the ropes

I’m hoping to get out with a few seasoned experts next year!  Did you take photography classes or are you self-taught?

I’m completely self-taught, Just a lot of reading and a desire to keep getting better.

You have amazing talent!  I hope I can teach myself half as well as you did.  You sell your prints and have stunning metal prints (that can be found on your website), can you tell us a bit about your amazing metal prints?  What makes a metal print so much more vibrant?

About three years ago I was looking for something different to set my work apart, at that time most people were printing canvas prints and I just didn’t like how my work looked on this medium. I read an article about printing on aluminium and thought I would give it a try, as it was different.  I got my first print and instantly new this was the print medium for me. The metal just brings realism to the image that no other medium does. When I see one of my images printed on metal it is like I’m back in that moment experiencing it all over again.

This is the one I have in metal print!

This is the one I have in metal print!

I sure love my metal print!  Besides summer storms, what is your next favourite thing to photograph?

I think my next favourite thing is to photograph space weather. I just love shooting the aurora really anything that showcases our incredible skies.

You have some amazing aurora shots! If you couldn’t do extreme photography/storm chasing, what would be next on the list of hobbies you would love?

Oh that is a tough question I just love storm chasing and couldn’t imagine not being able to do it, I would think maybe astronomy.

This shot is amazing!  The sun is creeping up on the left side, while the moon hangs out on the right side!

This shot is amazing! The sun is creeping up on the left side, while the moon hangs out on the right side!

That would be a very cool job!  A good storm chaser usually has a great group of people supporting him.  Want to send a shout out to those people/businesses that support your photography career?

The number one shout out goes to my wonderful wife Leanne and two incredible kids Chris and Sarah. They are my biggest supporters without them I just wouldn’t be able to do what I do. The next two are my co-workers Sandra Wik and Stacey Grose. They help me out immensely when I’m out chasing holding down the fort at work. Also, this year I got some great help from Wheatland Machine Shop and Vim Parmar in Swift Current who helped me build an incredible hail guard for my Jeep Chase Vehicle. Finally all of my fans and supporters, people who have bought prints or just given me encouragement along the way. Thank you to all of you.

Stunning shot. Love the contrasts of soft and hard, light and dark!

I’m sure grateful for the people who support you so you can go out and photograph!  I love your photos!  So when you aren’t out chasing, what do you and your family like to do?

We love to travel and go to as many new places as we can.  Both my kids are very active and I try and volunteer my time with their activities.  My daughter is a dancer and my son is into robotics and programming. They keep us pretty busy but I love spending as much time as I can with them.

That’s awesome!  Last question, do you like winter?  (random question, but I’m always curious to see if storm chasers like winter storms too!)

I hate it, ok hate is maybe too strong of a word. Winter is the unfortunate time between chase seasons.

Beautiful winter shot.  Even though he hates winter.  :)

Beautiful winter shot. Even though he hates winter. 🙂

Thank you Craig for being willing to answer some questions!  I look forward to next season and seeing the great shots you get between now and then!

You can follow/support Craig on Twitter, Facebook and on his website.

Thank you to everyone who came to read this chat with Craig.  I hope that you’ll come back as I plan to post more of these in the weeks and months ahead!

Also, check out my Chaser Chat’s HERE!

~Sarah

Chat with Craig Hilts of Prairie Fire Photography: Part One

Craig

This week I get to feature one of my favourite storm photographers, Craig Hilts!  I’m so excited!  Last winter I went to a trade show here in the city and happened upon this booth with some of the most amazing storm photos I have ever seen.  Craig was so welcoming and super friendly.  I spent several minutes chatting with him and trying, very hard, to pick A SINGLE photo to take home.  It was a very hard choice.  I could fill my house with his photos and still find more that I love!  On that note, I currently own five of his amazing prints!  The fifth one just arrived last week and I could not be more thrilled to now own one of his beautiful metal prints!!  (Thank you Craig!)  I’ve really enjoyed chatting with Craig and getting to know more about his passion for storm photography and I’m glad I get to introduce you all to this great guy!!

Hey Craig, thanks for being willing to answer these questions for me!  Tell me, what drew you to storm photography?

It was just something I always wanted to do. I have loved storms since I was pretty young and always wanted to get into photography but for some reason it just never happened. I would always head out to watch a storm roll in but never really actively chased them until 2006 when I bought my first really good SLR camera and I caught the storm chasing bug.

I’m so glad that you did!  Do you consider yourself a storm chaser or photographer?

I actually self taught myself both starting at the same time, so really I’m both a storm chaser and photographer. I certainly love taking pictures of some of natures other incredible moments like aurora and space events, the frost of winter etc but no matter what storm chasing and photographing storms is my biggest passion.

That’s awesome!  Maybe you could teach me!  😉  Is there one storm that stands out to you as one you will never forget?  Can you tell me a bit about what made it special?

Really every storm is memorable for me and each one is special in its own way.  I would say Pipestone, Manitoba on June 23, 2007 as my most memorable storm. I had been chasing for just one year and this was my first big long distance chase and I witnessed the Pipestone F4 tornado.

That would be amazing!!  What do you feel is the best and worst thing about chasing?

The best thing about chasing is getting to witness first hand some of natures most incredible inspiring moments. There are so many aspects of storms that just leave me in complete awe. The worst part about storm chasing is unfortunately sometimes these same incredible moments can adversely impact people, destroying property and injuring or killing people. I never want to see anyone get hurt and this is what drives me to not only chase but help warn people or be a spotter for weather professionals.

I’m so grateful for the warnings!  So, what is your goal when you go out chasing?

I have a lot of different goals, certainly to get a great image to share with other people but also to help warn and be a spotter to Environment Canada or the National Weather Service in the US to help get warnings out faster or provide more accurate information.

Those are awesome goals!  When you go out do you have a team of people that you usually chase with or does it vary?

A few years ago a fellow chaser named Gunjan Sinha and I would always end up running into each other on the same storm and we go talking and decided last year to team up and chase together. It is great because working as a team we can share costs, ideas and each of us brings a different perspective. Gunjan and I have the same philosophy when it comes to chasing and not only do we work well as a team but we have a lot of laughs on the road which is important as it is a lot of hours in the car together.

I bet you guys have a lot of fun!  During an average season, how many hours do you log on the road?

I have never really kept track of hours but I would say a lot. I know this year we logged more than 30,000kms chasing storms.

Wow!  That’s a lot of hours!  You often seem to be in the right place at the right time for amazing photos, but I’m sure it’s not always that way.  On average, how many shots will you take of a storm?

I would say on average I come home with about 200 shots all together and from that I have about 10% that are keepers and I will select maybe my favourite 5 to share.

I know you probably hate this question… but what is your favourite photo or photos?

I really love just about all of the pics and sometimes its is hard to narrow down but Here are my top 5 not necessarily my best pics but each one of these is special to me for a particular reason.

Bolt from the Blue 1D3C1006 1D3A9876(final) 1D3C0996-Edit(final) j5 - Danger

Please check out Part Two here!

**Click on any of the photos above to get to Craig’s AMAZING website!

**Also, here’s how you can follow Craig and his amazing talent!
Twitter

Facebook

Instagram @ prariefirephoto

Also, check out my other Chaser Chats HERE!

~Sarah

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

Ricky

Okay, without further ado… let’s get back to our chat with Ricky!  (If you missed Part One, click here to check it out!)

Ricky, are there times where you make decisions as the driver that it’s time to move locations (ex. If the storm is getting close)?

Those always are group decisions. We all have goals when out in the field, but there are limits as we all have families and want to make it home safe.

Tell us, what to you is the best and worst thing about chasing?

Best thing is that moment, that edge of experience, when you are beside that tornado seeing it’s powerful beauty and capturing that elusive shot we have travelled thousands of kilometres to find.

Ha, I don’t know if anything registers as the worst thing about storm chasing but the dry spells can hurt – driving thousands upon thousands of kilometres, week after week to have storms not produce hurts. Luckily those don’t come too often and don’t last too long. 

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you on a storm chase?

I would have to say it was seeing that 2 ton Grain Truck flying through the air while inside the El Reno tornado, definitely was a once in a lifetime experience.

That would be surreal!  What advice would you give aspiring storm chasers?

First off, just start interacting with other chasers via social media. It’s a small community and everybody is very friendly – just happy to have another face out on the chase! Ask a lot of questions and do lots of research to stay safe. A storm is an amazing sight but can get dangerous very fast, know your approach before you go. Also team up! Either invite friends to come or join others – it is safer to work as a team and makes for more fun in the downtimes.

Are ‘chase crowds’ a problem in Canada?  Have you faced scary/frustrating situations with ‘chase crowds’?  How do new chaser/spotters avoid becoming part of the problem?

In Canada there is next to no “chase crowds” or “chaser convergence” which is awesome. In the states, primarily the heart of tornado alley, we come to crowds with hundreds of cars. They can be very dangerous situations and we do our best to avoid these convergences.

To avoid being apart of the problem I guess would be to also stay away from convergences.

This is a tough question but do you have a favourite photo from any of your chase days? 

That’s like asking someone to pick their favourite child! Just joking around but that is a tough one. There are so many factors and emotions tied to each photograph on what it took to get that shot. If I had to pick I would have to say it was the Great Bend tornado as it crossed the road right in front of us. I feel that picture tells a story of how close we are and the effort it takes to get that shot that nobody else is getting.

15_tornadohunter 2012 favorites

Team Tornado Hunter is a pretty awesome group! Tell us what you like most about the guys you chase with?  What are some of their best qualities?

Do I have to lie? Ha, just kidding. These guys are my best friends and I wouldn’t choose anyone else to chase with. We have many laughs and lots of fun. Don’t get me wrong we definitely have our bickers but who doesn’t when you spend this much time together?! 

Greg is a solid dude through and through that is out to be the best of his practice and I really admire that. He is an amazing photographer that has a knack for always getting the shot and it’s cool to be apart of that process. Besides snapping shots Greg is a great father, friend, public speaker, and more. It is definitely a treat to be in his presence.

Chittick is the man. He is a storm chasing vet that is out there to capture the biggest and baddest storms and he is relentless in that chase. He has an awesome demeanour about him that is second to none when we get into the storms and he is a great friend to have on the road. 

Ricky Forbes&Greg El Reno

What, if anything, do you wish would change in the way people think of storm chasers?

You know I think people have a pretty accurate view of what we are out there to do. We are out to first inform the public via live reports and our live feed. Second we are there to document these storms. We are always received very well by the public.

Has this been a disappointing storm year for you, at least locally, or are you still pretty pleased with how it’s going?  (there’s my optimism refusing to accept it may be done)

Ha, this is another tough one! It was a slower year for storms for sure. They started a month late, missing April, and there were quite a bit fewer than last year – accounting for both the States and Canada. That said we had a great year, caught some amazing storms, had some amazing experiences and there’s always next year!

Some people don’t know that chasing isn’t your full-time job, even in the summer.  Can you tell us a bit about Danger Dynamite?

Sure! Another one of my passions is being a computer geek. When I’m not chasing I am glued to a computer screen Monday to Friday doing graphic design and coding websites. It is definitely a change from the desk to tornadoes but website design allows me to pursue my adventurous lifestyle so I maintain it for now!

You have some pretty awesome hobbies, can you tell us a bit about what you do in your free time?

If it’s not tornadoes or websites I do my best to expose myself to as many adventures and travels as I can. For my summer free time you can find me paddle boarding, white water kayaking, rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, sky diving, hiking, running and more. Then the winter is generally snowboarding, skiing, big mountain ski-dooing, and anything else that gets the adrenaline going. I really enjoy pushing the limits and always make that a regular part of my life.

You can check out a first-hand account of one of Ricky’s adventures here!

Ricky Forbes

Ricky Bike Quote

Besides storm chasing, what would you consider your next most extreme hobby?

I’m not too sure what compares to storm chasing. Fear factor wise I’d say the next contenders are sky-diving, rock climbing, and big mountain ski-dooing.

Ricky Rock Climbing

How many hours, in an average season, would you say that you log on the road?

I’m not too sure. I can tell you that last year we put on 90,000 km and this year so far we have done about 40,000 km. But we are only driving about half the time so many hours on the road! 

Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions Ricky!  I love getting to know more about storm chasing and on the great people who spend their summers chasing amazing storms!

Your most welcome! Thanks for the questions! 

Ricky making the wake

I hope that you enjoyed this chat with Ricky and will come back for the others!!  UPDATE: Check out my other ‘Chaser Chats’ HERE!

You can find Ricky here:

Twitter

Tornado Hunter

Danger Dynamite

Instagram: @ForbesRicky

LinkedIn

~Sarah