Landscape Photography Inspiration

Storm Chasing Photography

The Great Plains of the central United States, from Texas to the Dakotas, are a mecca for storm chasing photography tours and workshops. Much of the interesting landscape is in the sky. Storms develop from the clash of cold air from the Rocky Mountains and the north with warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico.

They have great clouds as they move over relatively flat land. These supercell storms can often rise to over 50,000 feet in elevation. in which case, that it has become a mecca for storm chasing photography tours and workshops.

Storm chasing photography by Bob Neiman

I recently went on a trip with Tempest Tours, a storm chasing photography company. We spent the week in Texas chasing tornadoes and supercell storms. There were two drivers and a tour director who were all meteorologists along with eight participants on the tour. Several of the participants were serious photographers but everyone was a lover of storms.

A storm over the American Great Plains.

We met every morning in our hotel with the meteorologists. They have access to online weather models which they used to decide where we needed to be later in the afternoon. We would then pile into the vans with all our gear and drive, sometimes as much as three hundred miles. As we approached the area where the storms were, you could feel the adrenaline rush as “the chase” was on.

Strom chasing photography by Bob Neiman.

These supercell storms often were accompanied by heavy rain, lightning, large hail and, if the conditions were good, a tornado. As the storms were moving, we tried to get ahead of them for the best images. Depending on our location and the speed of the storm, the tour director would tell us how much time we had at each stop.

A storm cloud over the Great Plains.

The stops could be anywhere from two to ten minutes and we had to be ready to quickly pile back in the van at a moment’s notice. After a stop, we would drive up the road to look for another spot to stop and photograph from. On chase days, we routinely stayed out until after dark.

Chasing tornadoes - photo by Bob Neiman.

Most of my images were hand-held at higher ISO because, other than for lightning images at night or when we had a long stop, there was normally no time to set up a tripod. I had to move quickly, compose, and shoot. I brought two Nikon full-frame cameras with two lenses and a tripod for the trip. I used a 16-35mm lens and a 28-300mm lens on the bodies and had both out at each stop.

Bob Neiman has been a photographer for over 40 years. Based in Delray Beach, Florida, he has a particular passion for black and white landscape photography.