WHAT KIND OF STORMS DO YOU LOOK FOR?
The ideal storm target is a triple point: for instance, where a cold front and dryline intersect. The panhandle of Texas is perfect for chasing such systems, because it’s flat—no trees and mountains to block the sky.
WHEN DO YOU CHASE STORMS?
May through the first half of June is peak time. I block two weeks in May off every year and obsess over weather patterns for weeks before. I load my car and head to where storms are, then keep up-to-date on storm movement by checking radar images on my laptops and iPhone. Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S., so I chase lightning there all summer.
DO YOU MAKE A LIVING AS A STORM CHASER?
No, I have a day job. I write, and shoot photos and video for Florida Today. Storm chasing is so seasonal, very few can make a living from it. My income from selling weather photos and video pays for travel and gear.
WHERE HAS YOUR WORK RUN?
In several documentaries, including National Geographic Explorer, and programs on the Weather Channel, The Learning Channel, the BBC, and History Channel. My photos have appeared in weather guides, books, magazines, the International Journal of Meteorology, and art shows. I get just as excited communicating work through my website. I get a lot of e-mail, especially from kids.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
In 1997 I took a storm-chasing tour and thought it was something I could do. I was then an editor at the Baltimore Sun and photography was more of a hobby. But I learned as I went along.
WHAT GEAR DO YOU USE?
I have a Nikon D80 and D70. I use a tripod or a window-mount ’pod—to shoot from inside the car, which is safer with lightning. I use a 12–24mm wide-angle lens for landscapes, and a 70–300mm for far skies. I mount my Sony camcorder on the dashboard to shoot video. I have one laptop for GPS and tracking, another for image-editing, a CB, ham and weather radio, and wind meter.
HAD ANY CLOSE CALLS?
Once, a team and I were very close to a large tornado, which had destroyed a house half a mile away. As we were trying to get away from a second twister, the storm dropped satellite tornadoes, including one right in front of us on the road. Despite what you see on TV, most storm chasers aren’t trying to drive into a tornado.
Florida based journalist Chris Kridler (www.skydiary.com), 42, chases her passion for extreme weather photography across the country.