This page was last updated: 2/18/2008

Storm Chasing and Photography Frequently Asked Questions

 

by William T. Hark

KV0RTX

  1. Can I use one or more of your photos for a website or school project?
  2. Are your photos for sale?
  3. Are your videos for sale for television productions?
  4. Please give me information on storm chasing and storm chasers
  5. Please give me information on tornado formation, tornado safety or on specific tornadoes.
  6. Are there any tornado books that you recommend? and for kids?
  7. What can I do to help my community protect itself against severe storms including tornadoes?
  8. Why do you chase storms?
  9. Do you only chase to see a tornado?
  10. How can you justify wanting to see a tornado when it can kill or injure so many people?
  11. Do you do anything else besides storm chasing and photography?
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Can I use one or more of your photos for a website or school project?

All the photos on my webpage are copyright 1986-2003. They may be reproduced electronically/downloaded for personal use without my permission including computer wallpaper. Any display must include photo credit. My photos may also be used for school projects and nonprofit/educational websites if photo credit and links to my website are provided. I still like to hear how my photos are being used and notified of use in websites. For commercial websites, my permission must be obtained and photo credits and a link to my page listed with the photos. Do not directly link to my photos as this increases my bandwith. I also move the locations of photos. For hardcopy material (not school projects) such as flyers, CD inserts, books etc., my permission must be obtained, and I may charge a small fee. (see next question). I will prosecute copyright violators.


Are your photos for sale?

Individual prints of my photos are not for sale. I will sell photos to books, magazines or other publications. This can be worked out through contacting me. wthark@aol.com
I have already had several photos published. Go to "publications and video" for a complete listing of publications that have used my photos along with programs that have used my video.


Are your videos for sale for television productions?

Yes, I have sold video to a number of production companies including Pioneer Productions and Unapix Productions. My storm video has been seen on 48 Hours, The Weather Channel and on many local stations including WWBT Channel 12 (NBC) and WTVR Channel 6 (CBS) in Richmond, VA and WVIR Channel 29 (NBC) in Charlottesville, VA. The video stills on the webpage, though not as colorful and detailed as the actual video, will give an indication of what is available. The older video was done on a Hi8 camcorder and the most recent (begining Spring 2000) was done using a 3CCD mini DV camcorder. Besides the popular 5/25/97 wedge tornado, I have other tornadoes, wall clouds, roll clouds, lightning, hail, beautiful sunsets, mammatus, storm chasers in action and the discovery of the 'Dillo cam which was the first object successfully dropped in front of and hit by a tornado. I also have great roll clouds, hail, and severe storms from Virginia. More video is becoming available.
Please contact me for pricing and usage. wthark@aol.com


Please give me information on storm chasing and storm chasers

This is a very broad subject. Luckily there is very good information on the internet. I would recommend starting with Storm Chasing FAQ by Roger Edwards and Tim Vasquez. This comprehensive article contains information on all aspects of storm chasing. A must read! Also check out Dr. Charles Doswell's FAQ about storm chasing and tornadoes . For the dangers of chasing and suggested safety measures,
read Storm Chasing With Safety, Courtesy and Responsibility by Dr. Charles Doswell III of the National Severe Storms Laboratory. If you have read the previous articles and are still interested, go to the Storm Track Storm Chaser Homepage . This is the main US storm chaser website with detailed chase information, scientific articles, lists of chasers and chase reports, equipment, weather data and storm videos. The website is frequently updated.

Of course, the author of this page assumes no liability or responsibility for the information provided by this webpage or by these links. This includes storm chasing which is inherently dangerous and is not encouraged by the author.


Please give me information on tornado formation, tornado safety or specific tornadoes.

The best place to start is the tornado FAQ by Roger Edwards of the Storm Prediction Center. There is information on tornado formation, damage, climatology and safety. Also go to the The Tornado Project, a very large commercial website with information on tornado formation, safety, storm shelters, school projects, tornado myths, Fujita Scale, tornado distribution and a comprehensive database of all recorded significant tornadoes that have occurred in the United States. They also sell several tornado videos, books, and clothing.


Are there any tornado books that you recommend? and for kids?

The best book on tornadoes for the general public is "Under The Whirlwind, Everything You Need To Know About Tornadoes" by Arjen and Jerrine Verkaik. There is information on tornado formation, forecasting, safety and a detailed personal account of a damaging tornado. The photos are awsome. The book also contains sections on dealing with tornado damage, insurance and even how to help children cope with the aftermath of a tornado disaster. Anyone who lives in a tornado-prone area or has any interest in the weather should buy this book. It should be a must-buy for all school libraries. Under The Whirlwind is available at most book stores and online book sellers.

"In The Shadow Of The Tornado, Stories and Adventures From the Heart of Storm Country" by Richard Bedard is a great book with accounts of storm chasing, encounters with deadly tornadoes, media competition in the "weather wars" and storm chasing for governmental research. The exciting book is written by a Harvard alumnus and graduate of the New York University graduate journalism program. This book is more difficult to find in book stores. I've seen it listed on Amazon.com, The Tornado Project or through Richard Bedard's website.

"The Tornado - Nature's Ultimate Windstorm" by Thomas P. Grazulis, director of The Tornado Project, was released in the Spring of 2001. It covers tornado forecasting, formation, historical events, myths, storm chasers and tornadoes in other countries.

The only book totally about storm chasing is the Storm Chasing Handbook by Tim Vasquez. It covers all aspects of storm chasing, forecasting, equipment and techniques along with a travel guide to the Plains. The old edition is still available but a new edition should done in 2008. It is available on the Weather Graphics website or through Amazon.com.

The best children's book about storm chasing is "Storm Chasers! On the Trail of Twisters" by Jon Davies. The author is a meteorologist and there are photos by well-known storm photographer, Jim Reed. With great images, artwork and diagrams, this book covers many aspects of storm chasing and tronado forecasting. The book is easy to understand, yet has many facts. It doesn't "talk down" to children. I can also recommend it for adults who want a basic knowledge of tornadoes and storm chasing. Here is more info about the book.

For very young children, I recommend "Tornadoes!" in the Wild Weather series (Hello Reader! Level 4 Science) by Lorraine Jean Hopping. It is an exciting book about scientific storm chasing, tornadoes and tornado safety. The book is very accurate for a children's science book yet very understandable. Many children's science books are sloppy and full of errors. Although listed as for grades 2 and 3 (ages 7 -9), many younger kids should also be able to enjoy the book.


What can I do to help my community protect itself against severe storms including tornadoes?

If you are interested in severe weather, learn to become a Skywarn Storm Spotter. These are volunteers who learn about severe storms including the signs of tornado formation. If they see threatening weather, they will call their reports into the nearest National Weather Service (NWS) office. Most will observe from their residence or workplace. Although the NWS has Doppler radar, spotters provide a ground-based visual report. Some tornadoes are missed by the radar. Spotters can be from any occupation and only a short class is required for certification. To learn more, see the Skywarn section of Storm Track.


Why do you chase storms?

This is a frequently asked question by my friends. I have always been fascinated by the weather, especially storms. I enjoy watching the lightning and the swirling dark clouds, hearing the thunder and feeling the blast of wind. Every storm is a unique example of the awsome power of nature. Occasionally, I'll even see a tornado. Although destructive, a tornado can be beautiful. Video doesn't compare to the experience of watching a tornado (from a safe distance). The rapidly rotating winds, churning debris cloud, rush of hot inflow wind toward the funnel, and distant roar are all part of the amazing experience.

Storm chasing is a natural extension of my photography. I have always enjoyed taking pictures and my favorite subjects are butterflies, landscapes, wildlife and other aspects of nature. While storm chasing, there is plenty of opportunity for photos besides the actual storm. There are beautiful landscapes, wildflowers, animals, small towns and butterflies across Tornado Alley or in the MidAtlantic.

I also enjoy the science and challenge of storm chasing. Besides looking at the NWS forecasts, I also have to make my own by studying the raw data and computer models. There is a lot of detective work. While the NWS forecast for a large area, I must forecast with pinpoint accuracy. A tornado may only exist for a few minutes and travel several hundred yards out of a watch area of hundreds of square miles. If my forecast is wrong, I may drive hundreds of miles and see no storm. Even if I find the tornadic storm, I have to safely track it and position myself to see the possible tornado. It is not like the movie Twister where every chase yields a tornado. Even the most experienced storm chasers may chase for many days before they see a tornado, and I am relatively new at storm chasing.

Finally, I like the adventure. I travel to different towns, meet interesting people, try unusual restaurants and explore different areas of the country. There is also the camaraderie with other chasers. I've made a number of friends with whom I enjoy getting together while on the road.


Do you only chase to see a tornado?

Absolutely not. If I only chased tornadoes, I would be very disppointed. Most chases don't result in a tornado. I enjoy just watching a storm, rainbow or even a sunset. There is a lot of beauty in nature to appreciate and every chase is a new learning experience.


How can you justify wanting to see a tornado when it can kill or injure so many people?

I have no desire to see a tornado kill or injure people or even damage property. I'd rather see a tornado over open countryside away from houses, livestock or farmer's fields. Unfortunately, I can't control where tornadoes strike and my chasing doesn't affect them. I am a Skywarn Storm Spotter and have called in reports to help the NWS and I'll also call in reports while chasing. Although I don't do research, many chasers do and have contributed to the understanding of tornado formation.


Do you do anything else besides storm chasing and photography?

Actually storm chasing is only a small part of my life. I am a physician, and I am kept busy at work though my hours are more regular than most doctors. I enjoy spending time with my wife and friends, going to parties, museum events, outdoor concerts, benefits, wine tastings and watching movies. I spend a lot of time hiking along the James River or in the Blue Ridge. I play tennis (not very well), go to the gym or run outside, and go fishing. I like to travel, either for the weekend or for longer trips, and I've recently been to Kenya, Guatemala and England. For more information about me and some of my other photographs, go to Bill's Photo Page.


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