Running towards a raging twister might seem insane to most people but for one artist, such perils are all in a day's work.
Storm chaser Jim Reed has narrowly escaped death twice in his pursuit of the perfect stormy shot.
Up close: A tornado with large Liberty Bell
shaped debris cloud swirls across a dirt road less than 500 feet in
front of an unmarked Kansas State Trooper patrol car
experiences have been brought together in the revised and expanded
version of his award-winning photo book, 'Storm Chaser: A
The awe-inspiring images
chronicle Reed's travels through more than 2,000 U.S. counties
documenting some of America's most deadly and spectacular weather.
'Storm Chaser includes the most memorable photos and experiences of 17 years of photographing wild weather,' said Reed.
'These experiences have shaped and changed my life.'Re-released in June of this year, the
book documents 17 hurricanes, including Hurricanes Charley in 2004,
Katrina in 2005 and Ike in 2008.
Drama: A lone lightning bolt strikes the ground beneath an isolated supercell at sunset near Medicine Lodge, Kansas
tornado is a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from
the base of a supercell thunderstorm (hurricane). You can only see
them when there is enough moisture in the air.The severe thunderstorms which produce tornadoes form where cold dry polar air meets warm moist tropical air.The
wind coming into the storm starts to swirl and forms a funnel. The air
in the funnel spins faster and faster and creates a very low pressure
area which sucks more air (and objects) into it.These twisters are most common in a section of the United States called Tornado Alley, with most forming in April and May.Most tornadoes spin cyclonically (anti-clockwise) in the Northern hemisphere.
Encountering hundreds of tornadoes,
super-cell thunderstorms and hailstorms that have produced icy orbs
twice the size of a softball, Jim's pictures are breathtaking.
other so-called 'storm chasers', who are often labelled adrenaline
junkies for their obsessive pursuit of extreme weather, Jim is driven
by his love for art and his interaction with nature by documenting the
unpredictable changes in weather and climate.'You might ask, 'What's the difference, really?', the 48-year-old who lives in South Carolina said.
'I don't chase anything really. What I do is about preparation, evaluation, second-guessing and forecasting.'And
if you're a pro or if you're a Storm Chaser that has pride you want to
be out in the field before that storm warning is ever issued.'Jim's professionalism and dedication is reflected in his meticulous planning for each shoot.
day before a potential event, I'm looking at the computer models, maps
and data just like any weatherman on TV does,' explains Jim.
part is a lot of science, but once I get there, it becomes a lot more
artful. I'm out there interpreting the sky and observing the landscape.
That helps me decide which camera and lens I want to use.
Wizard of Oz: Professional storm chasers monitor an approaching tornado in western Kansas on May 8, 2008 'Will
I have time for a tripod? Do I need to sandbag it? You really only have
a few seconds to make all of those decisions. I also have to decide how
close I want to get.'
Near-death experiencesYet despite his thorough approach, even Jim can't control the elements.
'In almost 20 years, I've only marked down two near death experiences in my journal,' says Jim.
'The first was Hurricane Charley in Florida on Friday the 13th, 2004.
Spectacular: A sunset occurs during a severe thunderstorm in north central Oklahoma on May 8, 2002
Storm clouds: An isolated thunderstorm threatens south central Kansas on June 5, 2004
was down there with a meteorologist partner and we thought it was going
to be a Category 2. It suddenly changed directions and intensified to
nearly a Category 5 and caught us out in the open.'We
were literally swatting away debris and getting hit by shrapnel. It's
the only time I ever videotaped a goodbye to my mom. I thought, 'This
coming out of the ground, but what saved our hides, was the centre of
the eye. In the matter of a few minutes, we went from violent winds to
dead calm. It's the only time in my career I have experienced that.
It's other worldly and bizarre in a good way.'We had a 4 minute 52 second window and we found someone with a tornado shelter and they let us in.'My
second was during Hurricane Katrina. We were in Gulfport, Mississippi,
at the same hotel we had been in for three other storms. It was built
just after Hurricane Camille so it was designed to withstand a Category
Dark skies: A super storm in Kansas.
Extreme weather photographer Jim Reed has spent the last 20 years being as close as possible to tornados
'We rode it out in this five storey
hotel about 70 yards from the water. We were poking our heads out of
the doors and windows as much as we could until the surge reached out
to us. It was about 26 or 27 feet in our area.
'We couldn't go downstairs anymore after that. When the water subsided,
it was like someone had pulled the stopper on the bathtub and the water
went out faster than it came in.
'Everything to the east and west of us had been completely raised from
the concrete foundations. Our hotel had lost half of the building. We
were the only area left standing. We could've been crushed - I still
dream about it.'Jim's
fascination in weather began as a young boy thanks to a variety of
severe storms in his home town of Springfield, Illinois, which included
tornadoes, blizzards, ice storms, floods.In
1969, Jim and his mother, Audrey, found themselves trapped by the outer
bands of historic hurricane Camille while returning from a family
vacation near Mississippi.
into writing, producing and directing, it wasn't until 1991 after
seeing footage from two Wichita photojournalists riding out an F-5
tornado, that he turned his eyes, and lens, to the sky.With
2010 marking his 19th consecutive year in the field, Jim is now
focusing on his first love - meteorological art. It may come as no
surprise that Jim is considering switching gears and slowing down.
setting new goals for 2010,' he said, explaining that the pace of
editorial photography doesn't appeal to him as much as the art.'I want to shoot less and exhibit more.'Jim
currently has images being shown at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in
Washington DC in conjunction with the new Sargent and the Sea exhibit
about artist John Singer Sargent.
Or, as Nikon, the camera manufacturer who sponsors the artist, calls them, "atmospheric portraits."'You watch the genesis of this remarkable event that will never be repeated,' said Reed.
single storm is unique to the environment. It's almost like as this
storm matures I need to stay with it (something like) karma moves in,
you get into this dance with na
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