Friday 26th May 2017

One of the things that has been bothering me the last couple of days are my technical woes.  Anyone who has been following The Climb knows just how much work I’ve put in to try and make my plans flawless.  And so when things go wrong, a part of me feels I’ve failed, that I’ve overlooked some partial part of the plan.
Yesterday’s camera screen woes were compounded by the fact that some of my timelapse photos look like they’re corrupt.  It reminds me of when my old sony camera that I used for Action-Figure went wrong.  It left this pink digital mess in place of the photos.  Likewise on my timelapse photos it seemed like one half of the images were corrupted by this pink digital mess.
Add to this the fact that uploading the vlogs has become increasingly difficult, I feel like this trip has been, whilst awesome on a personal level, a bit of a dud in achieving what I set out to do.
But a friend on Facebook pointed something out to me this morning that turned my thinking around a little.  He said that with his astrophotography, the challenge isn’t just getting the shot, it’s dealing with the technical issues that inevitably happen as well.
And I guess that’s true.  Sure, I’ve come here to shoot video and timelapses this year rather than photography.  Indeed, I’ve passed up a lot of lightning photography to focus on those things.  But the challenge to get those timelapses isn’t just about getting into position.  It’s about dealing with the fact that some pictures might corrupt, someone might walk in front of the timelapse, that my intervalometer might not work.
Some technology has been brilliant.  My backpack has been worth every penny I spent on it.  I love how it has compartmentalised  and organised 4 cameras and made it quick and easy for me to get to the batteries, memory cards or accessories I need without me swearing that something has been lost or misplaced.
Likewise, whilst my intervalometer isn’t great on the little lightning photography I’ve attempted, when it comes to timelapses, this thing has been incredible.  With my crappy eyesight, it has allowed me to do a live preview to my phone and then zoom in to check the focus.  As a result, I’ve become more patient about the set up. Taking my time to get the shot right.
The fact that some of those timelapses might be unusable doesn’t mean they are all useless.
Likewise, I’ve lost clips for the vlogs.  But I’ve managed to put together a 10 minute video every day (often working until the early hours to get it edited).  Just because I can’t always get it uploaded doesn’t mean I’ve failed.  I still have a video done (and edited in time even if I can’t upload).  One of the Canadians I spoke to was also doing video and only managed a 3-4 minute video covering several days, not 10 minutes every day (and he had sponsorship).
So, after feeling a bit sorry for myself for the first part of the morning, I started feeling a bit better as the day went on.
It got even better when I decided to look at some of those corrupt images on my camera and found they have no issue.  It seems the problem is the Mac (possibly something to do with fileformats).  And since I bought enough SD cards to ensure that I didn’t need to wipe any, I can have a look on my PC when I get home.
So as we drove to Denver this morning, I found my mood rapidly improving with my perspective.  I’m trying to do something very hard, and you know what… despite all the setbacks, I’m succeeding.
We had to go into the center of Denver (or at least one of the suburbs) as Shannon needed a Cabela’s to get a pair of boots.  After a week of flat landscape, the concept of hills and mountains feels almost alien.  While she bought the shoes, I marvelled at the view out over the city.
We grabbed fuel and McDonalds nearby and watched as the cell that we were going to chase for most of the day formed overhead.  We were in perfect position and it was only 1pm.
We knew it would take a while to get organised but we were happy to follow it and just get some timelapses and lightning photos whilst it sucked in other storms and ramped up.  There’s a strange calm to this not unlike the calm you get whilst in position and waiting for storms to fire.  This secondary calm is just about staying on the storm and waiting for it to do its thing.  I always find myself getting so tired at this stage.  I feel I want to take a nap even though I’m incredibly excited about what’s happening.
This storm was a bit of a tease.  It was slow moving, allowing us to keep up with it and spend a lot of time timelapsing, and so many times it looked like it might do it.  You find yourself willing it on, whilst at the same time hoping it doesn’t.
We turned down one dirt road to catch up with it after some extended timelapsing and found the road turn to shit.  This is the one thing I wish I had more experience of (and one of the main reasons that I’m not a driver on this trip).  I’d like to do some off-road driving courses in the next year.
We ended up turning back on our dirt road option and I’m glad we did as chaser friends reported sliding down some hills sideways.  I’m not sure my nerves could have handled that.
I was conscious of times.  Tomorrow’s storms are happening in MIssouri and that’s a long way from Colorado.  There’s been some debate on whether we would chase or not.  It’s going to be a historic day and everyone is talking EF5s.
Given that we’ve not seen a tornado this trip (because they’ve not produced, not because we’ve missed them) it would be nice to see one before we head home tomorrow night.  But the Ozarks is a difficult area to chase and the tornadoes are likely to be incredibly violent.  Plus it’s a Saturday so every local becomes a storm chaser and clogs up the road.  Those issues combined are going to make it an incredibly challenging chase.
But we’re going to be targeting Oklahoma City instead, which is a lot closer with storms due to fire later.   It’s still going to be a challenge but it’s closer so makes it logistically possible.
I realised today that we’ve not seen a tornado this entire trip.  In terms of tornado count, it will probably be my worst chase ever.  I thought we’d miss them from being on the wrong storm or not being in position but we’ve been spot on the entire trip.  Indeed, it’s been fun staying on targets that everyone else has dropped and then watching the chasers fly back when it’s our storm that kicks off.
As I said at the start that this year I wanted to focus on structure and timelapsing, and I’ve certainly got that.
As we watched our storm die over Colorado, we turned round to see another storm with amazing structure.  We decided to chase it only to be treated to one of the best structured storms I’ve ever seen.  I took so much timelapse of that storm I pretty much filled an entire 64gb memory card.
So I guess today has been the day when my perspective changed, where I broke out from the grind of everything feeling like it was going wrong to instead see the massive accomplishments I’ve made on this trip.
Tomorrow is our last day chasing and I have mixed feeling about it.  It’s truly going to be a historic day and I want to be there for it.  Heck, I’d love to get a tornado before the end of this trip.  But, it’s also going to be a dangerous day and almost certainly there’s going to be loss of life.
Whether I am there or not won’t change that fact.  I’m not here to chase death and destruction, I’m here to see the Great White of the plains.  And that’s what I’m going to do and just hope everyone in its path takes the weather warnings seriously.
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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