More focus in 2015. Less “chase everything”.

While I return AGAIN to editing and processing images and footage taken the past two wet seasons (spring/summer) filmed here in Florida I am realizing that I have more than enough footage as a base and now I simply need to focus on filming the most dramatic and high quality set-ups. I have multiple days that I see I did very little in actually achieving sell-able imagery and yet I spent plenty of fuel and spent lots of time acquiring versus processing. Yes, basically what I’m saying is I will focus more on better time management this season.

Now, one option that I am seriously considering (pretty much made up my mind on) is on select days is to bring some fellow photographer friends who haven’t experienced the thrill of the chase. In large part from the Instagram meet-ups I have met great artists and expanded my desire for photography and videography diversity. Now it is time to share my personal experience with them, and reciprocate that knowledge. It also will give me a chance to film/document people’s first reactions to the chase experience. Something many of the big tour groups get to see each season in the plains. I’m hoping for a couple outings like this, but I know it is hard for folks to do what I do. It is not simply something you schedule. It can be a last minute thing, all day, filled with frustration and more. In some cases it’ll probably be more of folks driving their own car and caravan along, while others it’ll be up-front in the passenger seat. In their own car, they can come and go as they wish, whereas the folks riding along will also see the full scope of what I do (seeing me forecast, nowcast, making navigation and filming decisions). What I want to make clear though is this is not a tour. Just a mutual enjoyment of photography and videography among friends. I’m not taking folks along that cold-call me. I would be open to a media ride-along, something I’ve tried for two seasons but as said, it is very hard to coordinate with a news crew because of the erratic nature of storms and chasing (and this is limited local chasing).

So have to see how it all plays out this season. At least one other change this season is that I’ll be based out of St. Petersburg, FL (though maintaining a base in Ruskin too if I need to crash and rest on this side of the bay). Also hoping that this will also increase my chances with waterspout intercepts come July (waterspout peak season).

 

Storm & Sky Paintings: the newest talent I’ve added.

2015/02/img_8317.jpgWell, a few weeks back I picked up the paint brushes again. Had not done that for some time. Mostly around high school and maybe a year or so afterwards. But interestingly enough, I have been quite impressed with myself how even the early works have come out.

The first painting was an experiment on making clouds, but it didn’t really work out. Then I did one modeled after a photo I took down in Sarasota during a storm chase outing. That came out great, love it and though I have offered it for sale, not exactly pushing hard for it.

The next two kinda also shocked me for two different reasons. The first was a sunset image also inspired by a photograph. The second was a painting that I showed an early start and a fellow storm photographer loved as is and asked to purchase as it was.

2015/02/img_8344.jpg

Then, after finding some more canvases on sale I started a couple more, the first being another storm scene and the second my first attempt at an abstract (water waves inspired).

It really started out as a curiosity, but I am really enjoying it and though I don’t (yet) have an ideal set-up for where I want to paint, it is fun and they are turning out well enough I am continuing the effort with the anticipation of selling the paintings. Would be nice to have a mix of prints (which I am still pursuing) and paintings when I way to showcase the work (like an art market or flea market).

In the not too distant future I’ll have a showcase page on the site here for all the prints, both for sale, not for sale, and some progress pictures along the way. I kinda like sharing the process of how I got to each painting. Part of the fun.

I got my wish (sorta)…..Stormtrack

Stormtrack logoI will first state that much has chanced since 2011 and I’m taking no real joy in the news other than happy to see that Stormtrack will see new life. I also SERIOUSLY encourage serious storm chasers to go post, rejoin, and participate in Stormtrack again. I also ask that you THANK Tim Vasquez directly for the work he has done. It was a challenge to maintain, one that I often criticized and didn’t praise enough.

It was announced earlier this month that Steve Miller (of Oklahoma City) is taking over ownership of the site and forum. While I don’t see eye-to-eye with Steve on things I respect him and believe this is a good move. I don’t know all the details of the transfer but as of right now the site seems to be running smooth and there is more improvements planned.

This time around, I will NOT be posting much. At least not for a long time. First, I need to make the moderators and other administrators (mostly unchanged) feel at ease of my return. Secondly, I frankly have refocused my time and energies away from the chase community and no longer feel attached enough to contribute valuable insight that others more engaged with storm chasing can do a better job at.

What I will be posting about is my weather related life and activities in Florida and elsewhere. Similar to what I’ll be posting here on the blog that I’ve started posting again. Some self promotions and attempt to sell some of my products and services.

For those unfamiliar with Stormtrack, it was a small newsletter started by David Hoadley in 1977. Yes…as old as me (and also originated out of the DC region, hahaha). It quickly united the few small faction of storm chasers that existed at the time. It became a venue to share chase stories, give advice, and make new friends. It eventually became a well edited and well distributed magazine that the then owner, Tim Marshall (who took over in 1986 as main editor). As all things eventually change, so did Stormtrack. The web was growing and folks found more and more information via the internet versus the semi-monthly magazine and Stormtrack’s website (started in the late 90’s) would take over where the publication left off (ceasing print publication in 2002). I few early iterations of the online discussion format started in the early 2000s from yahoo, IRC and a couple others. In 2003 the original framework for the php style bulletin board forum was born.

In recent years, the forum has had a difficult time keeping and maintaining a highly resourceful site compared to the various (common for the internet) flame wars, derogatory postings and more. Many have posted how, why, this happened. With the advent of social media and a now HUGE chaser community, it has been hard to maintain quality. But we’ll see if that can change. I hope so. I wish the best for the whole thing and those putting in serious time and effort.

Late, better than never (chase video from 2012).

As I continue to really put the hammer down and catch up on so much old video (along with newer imagery), I also feel that it is changing my mind about things. As you may have just recently read about my indecision about whether to head to the plains again this tornado chase season I find myself editing video from 2012 (haven’t touch 2011 yet) and feel I really do want to head back out come May and/or June.

I recently uploaded this rough edit from May 25, 2012 (no color correction, audio fix, etc.) and it was definitely pushing me closer to the idea of heading out. In part because I was remembering just how fun it was, but the other part was I really didn’t get the video or photos that I wanted.

I’ll have more and better video to share later.

Going to start sharing more videos.

I’ve not been one for much public sharing. A lot of my videos online are only available under password for producers as they are screeners for folks to choose clips for their TV series and documentaries.

This is a rough edit (a fairly quick set of transitions and crudely quick color corrections) of part of the Florida Weather edit I’m working on. There isn’t a ton of stuff in the full edit yet, but as it progresses I will share scenes here and there.

There will also be more video shares as I continue to make my work more public. This may include non-weather film work as well.

In other news, just went to a screenwriter’s group meeting where scripts were read and critique given. It was great, got me motivated to really kick up my writing. The next meeting is in a month. I don’t know if I’ll have something to be read, if their will be time for my stuff to be read, if my script will be good enough to be read. But I do look forward to participating and networking.

The ponderance. Chase the plains or not?

Granted it is early, having the new year just changed over, but it is around this time that considerations of chasing in the plains each season starts to come into view. It definitely has become a reoccurring situation for me that I chase some years in the plains, miss some years then return for a few years. Since 1997’s first chase, this is how it has broken down:

  • 1997 – initial season, with Hernan
  • 1998 – First time solo
  • 1999 – no, school and funds lacked
  • 2000 – no, school and work
  • 2001 – no, saving to move to Florida
  • 2002 – First season with Weathervine (Jeff Gammons + Chris Collura + myself)
  • 2003 – Second season with Weathervine
  • 2004 – Third season with Weathervine
  • 2005 – no, in hospital, kidney failure
  • 2006 – yes, solo with kidney dialysis supplies in tow
  • 2007 – no, too sick
  • 2008 – no, work, lack of funds
  • 2009 – no, lack of funds
  • 2010 – no, lack of funds
  • 2011 – yes, first chase with Mark Ellinwood & Ian Livingston (now known as US Tornadoes)
  • 2012 – yes, second chase with Mark Ellinwood & Ian Livingston
  • 2013 – no, in the middle of moving from Maryland to Florida
  • 2014 – no, season weak, busy filming Florida weather

So it now sits at 8 of the 18 seasons I have chased out west. Interestingly, I have never chased whenever I was based out of Florida. Being this is my third time living in Florida, the record stands as once in Florida, the desire to chase in the plains dies down. This is likely in part because with the storm activity being active here and plenty to film versus being in Maryland, waiting for the temperatures to warm and dying to see some storm action is very different.

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Happy New Year. 2015 should be good.

Lightning over Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Crawler (Anvil Crawler) Lightning over Tampa Bay’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge (Cropped).

I’ve actually been writing a few posts but never seemed happy enough to publish them. But New Year’s enthusiasm has got me motivated to just start posting more.

2014 was good but I feel it didn’t quite live up to my plan. That is OK, it was still a move in the right direction and moved toward getting where I want to and need to be. As of recent, with the coming of the new year I’m working on a new endeavor, printing my photographs and will soon be looking to sell to the public. I have not done any public sales of my work since I was part of the Hurricane Charley and September’s Fury documentary projects. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.
Yes, film-making is still the goal, priority, push, etc. But when folks start ASKING for prints, it is time to explore it. With that in mind, I finally got set up with Miller’s Professional Imagining and recently got my test/sample prints back. Not bad, I really like them. Granted they are only 8x10s so the next step is to order a larger version print. I’ll also be re-processing other images and calibrating various elements to maximize the print quality. I apparently do just fine with color correction though as Miller’s test prints with their color correction came out almost EXACTLY like the non-color corrected (my versions). Well, one was slightly different, but that was because they didn’t understand the ‘look’.

Miller test prints

Miller’s test prints and more. Looks great. Time to order up some prints

At first, will probably just try and sell online (this website and other venues). Later, I may look into an art vendor show or weekend market. This is actually where it would be nice to have an employee to do this. I’m no where close to having one though.

In other news, keep an eye out for Strange Inheritance on Fox Business which will air some of my Hurricane Sandy footage. I hope to sell lots more video this year too. Of course it would be nice to have a lot more time in the plains and tropical systems to actually chase. 2014 didn’t exactly pan out very well for footage generation. Of course I was still very busy shooting tons and tons of Florida content (from storms to sunsets).

Old topic, quick post:

Going back through some of this years top storms. We are all saddened by the loss of great chasers Tim Samaras, his son and Carl Young. But one thing that keeps nagging at me is the media’s hypocrisy, especially when it comes to one particular person. Mike Bettes of The Weather Channel.

In 2011, there was a huge rash of tornadoes all over the south and into the central US. Chasers were out in force. For many years now (since around 2008) crowds in certain chasing areas have grown from nuisance to dangerous levels with road congestion and irrational behavior. Mike bettes when on air to complain about such situation in this video:

However, in May 2013, who else but Bettes was the one guilty of driving (well, he was a passenger) straight into a tornado and flipping the Chevrolet Suburban that was wrapped with large “Tornado Hunt” graphics. I completely wrong move.

And of course he tries to do damage control with the post event interviews. Of course he only did interviews with his own station (TWC). Never once interview with exterior sources.

I kinda feel somewhat betrayed by the set of events in that I briefly spoke to Bettes after a talk he did in Silver Spring, MD at the NWS headquarters. He seemed nice enough. Never got a chance to talk with him in the field though. Seemed a little stand-off-ish, but then again I also tend to be that way while chasing in the plains.

So, that is all. Just wanted to share that. Something quick and short to maybe see if I can get back to blogging.

Hurricane Charley – 9th Anniversary

Tomorrow, August 13th, 2013 will mark the 9th year since the Category 4 Hurricane made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida in the town of Punta Gorda. It seems like yesterday while also seeming like so long ago. In part because Hurricane Charley was only my second true intercept (Floyd 99 and Michelle 02 were not direct hits or full tropical experiences). I started with Hurricane Isabel the year before but that was quite mild experience when contrasted to the event I was to encounter in August 2004. Now with 11 hurricane intercepts and a Hurricane Hunters flight, Charley is as much a memory as an experience that will always be sired into my mind.

What Hurricane Charley did was cement the idea that I truly loved the power of nature and wanted to document something that many people didn’t…perhaps couldn’t. I had seen many documentaries and photographs of hurricanes, but they never seem to match the stories I heard about hurricanes. Andrew and Hugo in particular stuck out in my mind because both were strong storms and Andrew in particular had family that lived through it, with fantastic stories but not much proof existed. It was that passion that drove me to get more into intercepting hurricanes (with the help of both Jeff & Chris whose passion was contagious).

The entire experience was surreal for me back in 2004. To this day, I have an internal debate (and often discuss with my fellow hurricane chaser friends) what would I do today now having been through that experience. What would I do if it was an event worse category 5 storm. The real danger of intercepting these top end hurricanes is real. We pushed the limits with Charley, filming OUTSIDE in the elements. True, I was uniquely qualified to find an acceptable area to secure ourselves and vehicles. The uniqueness of the Charlotte County Courthouse and to a lesser extent the Bank of America did provide some semblance of protection. At the time there wasn’t a lot of time to decide. As with some other chasers that managed to make it into the area, they didn’t manage to get in position to document the storms like myself and those I was with. It was a team effort of course. While I provided both position input and architecture/structural knowledge, Jeff & Chris provided the needed hurricane knowledge about how the winds would behave (which is why we decided on the courthouse versus the bank). So though we all did our best, during the storm, many of us truly felt we pushed it too far. Three of us (Doug, Chris & myself) at the courthouse were outside (but in a slightly protected areaway) during the eyewall passing. It was only by probably a few miles per hour that we managed to literally hang on to a handrail before getting sucked out. Very little relief was given during the eye of Hurricane Charley because it was so small and the storm moved so fast. We had little more than 10 minutes to regroup and prepare for the second half. In fact, Chris…whom often wondered off, went missing for a while and I was a bit fearful at the time of what happened to him.

In some of our footage, you can hear just how gleeful we are at the end of the storm as we all regrouped (with Jim Edds and Mark Rackley) in front of the Celtic Ray (where I’ll be tomorrow evening). At the time it didn’t seem so odd, but it was so unique looking back now after so many other intercepts. Not one other time have I been so happy to be through it. Never have I had so much adrenaline pulsing at the conclusion of the storm. The normal mode by the end of a storm is to so exhausted, so drained, so miserable from the salt water, sand blasted, hours (sometimes days) without sleep, that I’m just happy it is over. Not that I’m unhappy, just happy to finally be able to sleep and regain consciousness. Hurricane chasing is normally a dedicated experience, not an adrenaline rush ride. Charley was the exception to the rule.

So tomorrow, I will visit Punta Gorda, spending more time around the city than I have in my other short visits. I will revisit and film many of the areas I was in. Next year, maybe there will be more fanfare with the big 10 year anniversary, but this year, it mostly will be about me getting re-acquainted with the city that I spend many days in after the storm when we were selling the documentary film. Heck, next year it would be fantastic to have everyone back in one place to discuss the storm.

New Ride. Ready for action.

Well, deep into hurricane season, and getting settled for my Florida base of operations (Maryland still part of my residency) I have one more aspect taken care of and that is a new (used) vehicle to be used for storm chasing, hurricane intercepts in addition to my outdoor activities and daily driving needs. For the new vehicle, I have returned to Subaru, getting a 2001 Forester S. As much as I had a love/hate relationship with my previous Subaru Legacy GT wagon. That was in part due to numerous repairs and maintenance items that either I or a repair shop had to complete. In this purchase, I made sure that I ended up with something that was already repaired and had most work done (even if it meant a higher purchase price). In this case, I think I found that. Head gaskets, and a slew of other gaskets replaced. New brakes, new tie rods and more. Interior is clean and while the paint is a poor job (peeling already) it is a nice minty green and when the time comes, will likely keep it.

Subaru Forester

2001 Subaru Forester, the iTecture Wagon.

Overall, it is a great car. It has many of the pluses of the Legacy I owned before (mainly the superior AWD system for chasing duty). It also fixes some of the issues of the Legacy, particularly the ride height issue that wasn’t so great in the middle of a hurricane surge. I may in the not to distant future add a slight lift (approx. 1″) and slightly taller & wider tires (which hoping gets me about 1.5 of actual ride height increase. The one thing this vehicle does not have that I really miss on the Legacy….a sunroof. Really came in handy for filming and photographing, but also was super nice for sunshine lighting inside the cabin (though in Maryland it was nice in winter, Florida I might not miss it as much). I haven’t yet attempted to fit the Yakima rack which may or may not be compatible.

Now, hurricane issues are just the first one that this vehicle will likely encounter (other than local storm chasing for local filming action). However, I don’t doubt this vehicle will see some winter action (Carolinas up through the Mid-Atlantic, depending on the where a “blizzard” will be). After that, I highly expect to be taking it out to the plains for another tornado chase season. It is sizable enough to take a partner, though not sure I will or will not be doing that in 2014. If solo, at least this is somewhat gas thrifty.

This Subaru likely will also see duty as a vehicle for geocaching, kayaking, mountain (well hill…Florida ya know) biking, and camping rig. Some of which may require limited off-road needs. I also hope to do some beach off-roading (and yes, I have a compressor to air up and down on the soft sand). Keep an eye out, you might just see me out there.

 

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