Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Weather Porn: Dangerous Close Up Money Shots Or Stunning Scene Setters?

The Washington Post's Capitol Weather Gang had an interesting post today on the relative merits of different kinds of severe storm photography and videos, stuff I like to call weather porn.
@TornadoTitans, via Twitter offered up
this long view of a scary supercell thunderstorm
in Kansas over the weekend. 

Is it better to get distant shots of storms, where you can see the gorgeous, complex structures of these supercell thunderstorms that roam the Plains?

Or do you want to get right into the storm's business, getting as close to a violent tornado as possible, or inside the damn thing, so you can vicariously live on the edge of danger when you watch the videos?

Gawd knows there's a market for both. I certainly lap up both.

But there's moral issues involved. Everybody in the storm photography and video field wants to outdo what's already been done, so they take more and more risks.

The result seems to be more and more people are getting run over by tornadoes.

This came to a head last May 31, when storm chasers were killed by a massive, unpredictable tornado near El Reno, Oklahoma.

Over the weekend, tornado chasers got in trouble once again as unpredictable tornadoes spun up in and around Nebraska.   
Even the tame thunderstorms of Vermont
like this one north of Sheldon, Vermont
in 2012 I captured, can be
awesomely beautiful from a distance.  


Luckily, nobody got killed this time, but one chase team got its vehicle smacked through the windshield by a huge piece of irrigation equipment that became airborne as a tornado approached.

Another team dodged falling power poles and lots of scary sparks and electrical currents when they got too close to a tornado.

I have to admit, I get a thrill out of these in or near the tornadoes videos, which makes me part of the problem. I'm part of the demand.

I chase storms myself occasionally, but I'm in Vermont, where we rarely get tornadoes or extremely severe storms. Just marginally severe ones, mostly. Still I'm cautious.

In the rare instance when there is a tornado warned supercell, I keep my distance. Yeah, I get into the thick of a strong storm to get a sense of the drama, but if things get dicey, I try to get out of Dodge.

I often pull back from storms,  not necessarily out of a sense of safety, but out of a desire to take in the whole picture, to enjoy the complex structure in the clouds of even the most pedestrian, garden variety thunderstorm off in the distance.  

Many storm chasers pull back also and give us stunning images of storms. Even the most aggressive, in the heart of the storm type chasers, like TornadoTitans often give us perspectives from outside the chaos of a supercell.

I want to see even more of that.

At the risk of glorifying people who take too many risks, here are a couple of the videos I was talking about, where people got too close last weekend.  The first is the crew getting hit by wind blown irrigation equipment, the second is the close call with a tornado involving electrical poles:



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