One of the points I have made with students over the years is that to take really interesting, dramatic, gorgeous photos – pick your adjective – it takes a little bit of effort. Ok often a lot of effort.
Gorgeous fields of wildflowers don’t just pop up in your front yard. Although if they do, congratulations on the awesome yard. Expansive mountain ranges, oceans, forests, urban skyscrapers, pick your subject, require you to go to where the subject is.
That is especially true with storm chasers. Tornado hunters. They loiter in the flat, Midwestern bit of the country called Tornado Alley in, sometimes questionable, chase vehicles, studying weather systems, often with elaborate data gathering equipment, listening to radio and EMS chatter, chatting with each other as well – just to get a handful of minutes of video of a tornado. The higher up the Fujita scale, the better.
Footage of an F5, the baddest of the bad, is simply worth more economically to a chaser, as is proximity. Chasers die every year doing this.
Why, you ask, would people try to intercept a tornado? Standard answers apply I suppose. Adrenalin, the draw of seeing something so powerful up close, the money, and honestly internet fame that comes with posting the best clips. Really though you would have to ask each of them why they do it.
Which gets me to Reed Timmer.
Reed is a meteorologist and storm chaser, who gained fame on Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers. He is among the best, if not the most well known, of the chasers at large. He drives a Ford F-350 modified beast called the Dominator 3, and well, it’s insane. It can shoot spikes into the ground lest some tornado wishes to abscond with it. Here is his Facebook page. Support the man.
Anyway, Reed the other day was doing what he does – chasing storm systems. This job requires total commitment. His life, I would think, most people could not handle. To get his images he has to dedicate every decision he makes while chasing, to that end. No timeouts for Netflix and chilling. The storm is brewing, he must be chasing.
And thinking. Chasing is a bad descriptor anyway. They don’t chase so much as study and anticipate.
Except this time, Reed failed to calculate that a tornado would form on his head. This was filmed by Reed as nature landed on his face. Click it.
And I hope he doesn’t mind, but here is his face. Post tornado.
Reed is a battered example of one of the basic principles of photography. Get the Shot. Are you a sports photog? Know the story lines and get the shot. Love shooting puppies? Get the shot. Wedding photos? Get the shot.
Reed knows. His livelihood depends on that maxim. Get the shot. You can have all the gear in the world, but nothing will ever take a better photo than your initiative, your focus, your drive.
Great photographers have been consumed with this idea. We will talk about D-Day and Robert Capa soon enough. And if Reed isn’t inspiring/crazy enough to motivate you, remember this.
Someone is getting the shot.