Thursday 25th May 2017
Chasing storms is unbelievably taxing.
You wake early to check the latest models only to find that all the plans you made late into the night have suddenly been superseded by a new target necessitating a whole new slew of plans. These can get made over a hasty breakfast but usually it results in jumping in the car and trying to make up an hour you have now lost because some storm system or other has shifted further away.
Then there’s a lot of driving. Six to seven hours worth of driving isn’t unheard of. Interstates make the journey fast, but in this part of the world where it’s flat, the view can get very monotonous.
And once you are on target, the waiting is over, storms have initiated and you’re on the chase, the adrenaline cuts in. The atmosphere in the car changes from fun and jovial to quiet and focused. People are concentrating on driving down dirt roads and not getting stuck; people are concentrating on navigating trying to avoid said dirt roads (sometimes it’s unavoidable) whilst keeping us close to the storm,; people are monitoring radar to check on the position of the storm and watching for signs that show it’s intensifying or about to put down a tornado.
And then there’s the drive to your hotel, usually booked on the way, as you try and balance wanting to get sleep with making your drive the following morning as bearable as possible.
And even once you check into the hotel, there’s batteries to charge, memory cards to back up, models to study.
Sometimes the hotels are good, sometimes that hotel you paid extra for has noisy neighbours which stops you getting the 6 hours of sleep you need.
Whilst down days can help you recover a little, more often than not they’re just days to cut down your travel the following morning.
You get tired. You get beyond tired. You get beyond exhausted, both mentally and physically.
You get to see your fellow chasers at their worst. Tempers can flair, people are the worst version of themselves. You eat crap food and don’t get anywhere near enough sleep.
And today was my low ebb.
On one level it was an incredible chase day. We left early from Amarillo, Texas and drove through Oklahoma and Kansas to get to the edge of Colorado. For once, we arrived at the perfect time. For a lot of this chase, we’ve arrived a little late to storms and whilst we’ve not missed any of the action, we have felt like we were chasing our tails the entire day.
As always Shannon’s positioning was great. She bet on the southern storm and trusted her instinct (something that has proved to be good this entire trip). Whilst others went off to more northerly storms that were getting warned, we stayed on our small struggling little storm.
We got a lot of timelapse and watched as it started really kicking dust up. Underneath this huge supercell, there was a dust storm that looked like a haboob, and at one stage it was rising so vertically you’d have though it a tornado if it had been attached to the cloud base.
Storms cycle. They get strong, they start to weaken only to re-intensify. Visually this plays itself out by the look of the storm. When it’s weak it’ll look ragged. As it improves and strengthens, it’s like someone has put the storm into photoshop and used the sharpen tool on it a few times.
These supercells can get these weird layered structures that make them look like a stack of pancakes. That’s the structure you want to capture in a timelapse. Well that and the rain curtains / dust curtains underneath the storm.
We chased this storm for around 130 miles as the crow flies back into central Kansas. It was glorious and we stopped loads of times. Even though it never put down a tornado (this year has been very light on tornadoes) the structure more than made up for it.
It was a great chase, even if I was still exhausted from my late nights video editing.
We stopped as it fell apart and the wind caught the door and slammed it into my camera. Whilst it’s not easily visible, it’s put 2 huge cracks in the screen running top to bottom. I know that over time, water is going to get into that and ruin the display. To say I was pissed off was an understatement.
Chasing storms sees chasers go through kit. It happens, it’s the nature of what we do. One of the group of Canadian chasers that we’re chasing with left an expensive lens on the side of the road and wouldn’t have found it (dusty and wet) had it not been for a GPS locator). And so part of me tells myself I shouldn’t be pissy about it… but I’m tired and emotional to the extent that my social anxiety has returned for the first time in several years. I got snappy about it, and whilst I apologised and everything is fine, I hate being that version of myself.
But then, everyone is that version of themselves after a week on the road.
To add to this, some of my timelapse shots look weird, like the camera sensor has broken. Half the image is corrupted by pinks and blues. I had similar on an old sony camera I used to use for Action-Figure and my first thought was that the camera was about to die but later images turned out OK, so I’m not sure what the problem is.
It just seems that this trip has been beset by technical issues. I know that they are the least of my issues, that for every bit of lost content I have ten times that in content that I can use. It’s just that I’m on a physical and emotional low and these issues are getting to me.
By the time we got to the hotel I was super pissy. I’m not sure what it is but hotel check-ins piss me off. They should be fast and courteous like they are in the UK. I think it’s because, in the US, someone will be serving you, the phone will ring and they’ll stop dealing with you to deal with the phone query. I think that’s quite rude and the knackered version of Adrian has little patience for that.
These trips always take a physical toll on me as well. Sat in cars for so many hours, makes my legs swell up. But the skin also starts cracking after a few days, and then starts to bleed a few after that. I don’t know if it’s purely down to all the sitting in vehicles or something to do with the air, as my legs always feel dry when I’m in the US.
I got some guaze yesterday as I could feel them starting to go, but tonight I was in a lot of pain and one leg bled pretty bad. I know I’m pretty bad at ignoring pain and just carrying on but when I’m trying to get 8 people (our team and another Canadian chasing group) checked in and the receptionist is constantly booking rooms for phone calls rather than our eight people when I want to get upstairs and tend to my legs (if only to elevate them) I get super pissy.
At least the hotel internet was good. Technically I’m a day behind on creating vlogs, although I was a day ahead, so I’m now about right (if that makes sense). I got vlog0019 edited but never gave it a soundtrack, just got it done and online and then tried to get to bed so I could at least try and get 3 hours sleep before we do this all again.
With the best days still to come, I suspect I’m going to be even more tired before Chasepalooza is over.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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