TORNADO BLISS STORM CHASING PHOTOTOUR 3B 6-17 MAY, 2024
with Jeremy Woodhouse
(11 Chase Days/11 Nights)
MAMMATUS CLOUDS AT SUNSET IMAGE © DAN LEFFEL
Obtaining a spot on this one-of-a-kind 11-day tour is difficult as they book up almost immediately—2023 is already full. If you are interested in photographing extreme weather on the great plains, now is the time to book your spot.
This is exclusively a photographic tour, and with just 6 people in your van, you will have the opportunity to make some really great images. We will be very mobile, and having such a small group will mean that we will be able find daily lodging far more easily, without having to drive for miles out of our way.
The Tour in Brief
There will be frequent storm intercept opportunities in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Due to its length, this tour offers an appx. 50% greater chance of seeing tornadoes vs. a 7-day tour.
The storm chasing is led by the industry's most experienced staff and it includes lodging, weather briefings, free on-board Wi-Fi, photo tips from professional storm photographers, an exclusive chase team T-shirt, and much more. A chase will begin immediately following the mandatory 9:00 am orientation on the arrival date.
NB. As lodging is never pre-booked before the tour due to the unpredictability of the weather conditions, we will never know where we will be staying until late in the day of travel. Therefore, the hotels may be on the rustic side (2* and up) (see "Guest Responsibilities" for information about meals).
The tour begins on Monday, 6 May and ends on Friday, 17 May. The tour's base city is Oklahoma City, OK and it is for here that we will track storms primarily in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
What can I expect to see and experience if I go on a tour?
You will learn and experience all aspects of storm chasing. In essence, you will live the life of a real storm chaser. It is likely that you'll see significant storms and possibly tornadoes.
On the morning of each chase day, the Tour Director presents a forecast briefing to the group. The briefing outlines the day's target and departure time. If forecast parameters suggest an early departure, the Tour Director informs the group the night before. However, the group must be ready to depart for a chase target with very little notice. This is one of the many things that make storm chasing both challenging and exciting. The goal of each chase day is to forecast and intercept the most significant weather that we expect to develop on the Plains later in the day.
We operate primarily in the Tornado Alley states of Texas, Oklahoma & Kansas. Along the way, our team educates guests about the many dimensions of storm chasing including the meteorology, logistics and even romance of our discipline. Guests will gain a greater appreciation for the atmosphere and the Great Plains.
We concentrate on forecasting supercell thunderstorms, our initial objective. Supercells are thunderstorms with long-lived rotating updrafts. When supercells develop as forecasted, the group will intercept and view them from a safe distance. Some chase days continue after dark when Mother Nature provides us with a spectacular lightning display. Guests are afforded many opportunities for photography.
There are some days when no storms occur on the plains of Tornado Alley. Atmospheric physics require "recovery" days in between stormy periods. It is the "order follows chaos" principle of weather. We use these days to reposition for the next storm intercept. On fair weather days, we visit as many points of interest as time allows. Some of the sites on ourmaps include: the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and other weather-related facilities, the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK, Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan in Amarillo, Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, the world's largest ball of twine in Kansas, Chimney Rock National Monument in Nebraska and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. And, there are the miles of beautiful prairie landscapes, and skyscapes, that every day of the tour offers!
Will I see a tornado if I go on a tour?
There's no way to know if guests will see a tornado while on tour. Tours are scheduled during the US tornado maximum, and are lead by skilled storm chasers. It is likely that guests will, at least, see significant storms such as supercells. Each day, we will forecast and go to areas of highest tornado risk.
Do you drive into tornadoes and other damaging weather? No. We view storms close enough to see incredible things such as tornadoes, but far enough to be safe. We do not "drive into" damaging weather and do everything possible to avoid these hazards.
What are the risks involved with storm chasing?
Our team exercises safe practices at all times. However, as with any outdoor activity, there are some risks involved. An excellent document authored by our Lecture guide, Dr. Charles Doswell, examines the risks of storm chasing in-depth. Link to Chuck Doswell's article Storm Chasing with Safety, Courtesy, and Responsibility.
Is storm chasing dangerous?
Storm chasing, like any other outdoor activity, includes some risk - the biggest being traffic related. That’s because the discipline often requires many hours of driving per day. Lesser risks are storm related and include tornadoes, intense straight-line winds, flooding, damaging hail, and lightning.
What camera do I need for taking pictures of storms?
I find that a super wide lens is the best option for photographing big storms. I use a 17mm fixed prime tilt shift lens which gives me great results. It is also a great way to make optically perfect panoramas using the shift feature. Other options are a 16-35mm, a 24-105mm, and a 70-200mm (for storm details or closeups of tornadoes).
You should also bring a fast super wide in the event that we have the chance to photograph the night sky such as a 14mm f1.8 (a 16-35 f/2.8 is also a good option)
You can also photograph with a good smart phone. Use the video and time lapse features for high quality footage, and it is also a good way to set the location for each photo opportunity through GPS tagging.
A lightning trigger is a useful accessory for photographing storms. A good option is the Miops Camera Trigger (USE THE DISCOUNT CODE PIXELCHROMEPHOTOTOURS FOR 10% OFF YOUR ENTIRE ORDER).
Finally do not forget your tripod
SUPERCELL AT SUNSET IMAGE © DAN LEFFEL
Please completed the online registration form and agree to the participant agreement and waiver when prompted on the form
Rely On Experience
With decades of combined storm chasing experience, the storm chasing team is among the best anywhere. They consists of trained storm spotters, a climatologist, severe weather research meteorologist, wind meteorologist, and a National Weather Service meteorologist.
See The Best Storms
They employ the latest weather radar and tracking hardware and software, redundant GPS and weather information systems, and the most experienced storm chasers in the industry to help locate the best storms of the day.
Stay Safe While Chasing
Safety is their top priority. They use heavy-duty vans modified to carry a maximum of only 6-7 passengers for enhanced comfort and safety. All tour drivers are approved by their insurance company. And their staff attends a rigorous safety training orientation annually.
Guests are responsible for meals and extra lodging prior or after the tour. We eat at casual restaurants, usually in small towns. When we have time, we eat at eateries featuring local cuisine such as chicken fried steak, Tex-Mex, steaks, BBQ, home cooked meals, and big breakfasts. We want our guests to enjoy the taste of Tornado Alley while they are on tour. When we are in a hurry to catch storms, we stop at McDonalds and truck stops. For those needing to eat healthy, even these fast options now offer salads. Guests who require an early evening dinner should take along a snack. Snacks are easily acquired during fueling stops.
We sometimes chase in Canada so be sure to have a passport!
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