Brady Hovermale and I decided to head east on Interstate 40 from Albuquerque to the Texas Panhandle, centering on Amarillo. Purpose? Photograph storms. With far more enthusiasm than experience, I was brimming with high expectations. Just west of Amarillo, I spotted faint outlines of cumulonimbus clouds ESE. I checked a radar app on the iPad and spotted active cells south of Shamrock, Texas.
The Gear: Canon 5D IV and a Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 III lens. Tripod mounted.
I felt as electric as the charged atmosphere. We pulled off the Interstate when we saw some good structure south of us and I set up a time lapse set on one of the cameras. Sitting and waiting during the shooting. Checking weather apps. Fighting the wind. A good hunt. Further east, and another time lapse set.
It still appeared on the iPad radar app that the line of storms would cross I-40 at Shamrock, Texas, so we headed there and parked where we expected the crossing. We were right. The storm did cross there, and we were caught in a hail barrage and the heaviest rainfall I've experienced. Even during the monsoon season in Vietnam. Noobie mistake.
Back to Amarillo for steaks and sleep and back to Albuquerque the next morning. Was it worth it? One of the best times in my life. It's similar to sailboating. The first time I sailed on a boat, I knew it was something I would love the rest of my life.
I'm going back.
Almost all severe storms forecasters are passionate about violent weather, with an intense desire to learn about and become better at predicting it. For many, this dates back into childhood--a first-hand encounter with violent storms
— The Online Tornado FAQ by Roger Edwards, Storm Prediction Center
Dallas, Texas. About 1953. Local television stations were beginning to add weathermen, not meteorologists, to the evening news broadcasts. No interactive screens, the television personalities marked up paper national maps or sat at desks with news announcers, and spoke into microphones. I used my mothers base for a Mix Master kitchen mixer as my microphone during my first broadcast. A powerful storm which created a passionate response in me. Wagnerian; mind engulfing.
What I saw that night was likely the result of a wet microburst, where torrents of rain are forced down by very heavy cold air. When the rain column hits the ground, fierce winds can fan out from its base. This is likely what caused the horizontal rain I saw. There were many rapid-fire bolts of lightning. Sixty-four years later. I remember. And I want to see more.
I'll travel mostly on the Great Plains — hence the name of the project, Heartland Light — photographing super cells and other weather phenomena for later publication as video, time lapse video, photographs, and stories.