6 Day Storm Chasing Photography Workshops
Exhilarating Weather Photography Adventures in Tornado Alley
Have you ever dreamed of seeing a Tornado?
Have you ever dreamed of seeing a tornado? Or photographing a storm so unbelievable it looks like a UFO? These things have occurred for millions of years, but only in the last 25 years has hunting them down with a high chance of success become possible. Join two preeminent timelapse shooters for an exclusive and exhilerating tour around the Great Plains capturing the most extreme and photogenic weather on earth. Thanks to advances in cellular data technology, GPS, supercomputers, and even the highway infrastructure, it's easier than ever before. Using our years of experience, we will find these magnificent storms and show you how to best capture them.
Join weather expert and renowned storm photographer Chad Cowan and I during this amazing 6-day workshop as we explore Tornado Alley together!
Dates: See Dates Below
Class size: 4
Tours Available: 2
Investment: $2,700 (includes transportation and lodging.) *Discounted $299 until 4/1/18*
Tour 1: April 28th - May 5th
Oklahoma City - 2 of 4 Spots Open
Tour 2: May 6th - May 13th
Oklahoma City - 3 of 4 Spots Open
Sean Parker and Chad Cowan are both certified storm spotters. Chad is also a trained Skywarn Storm Spotter for the National Weather Service and has been storm chasing for more than 10 years. They're both qualified and insured. Safety is our #1 priority.
What to Expect:
"The Weather Waits For No Man" - Storm chasing is sort of like an ant hunting an elephant. In order to get to where they are, then keep up with them once they form, we need to be on the move. A lot. So be prepared for upwards of 14 hours per day in the van photographing any photogenic storms we come across. We will start off each morning with a weather briefing and show you what the atmosphere is cooking up for the day and how likely we are to get a good storm. During this briefing, we will use the latest weather model data from the National Weather Service's supercomputers to decide on our target area. These targets are rarely in the same area as the night before, so we will then hit the road and drive upwards of 300 miles to get into position. Depending on timing, we might stop for a nice lunch (by storm chasing standards- BBQ, Applebee's, etc.) or do a quick Subway grab and go.
Supercells are a byproduct of the sun's energy cooking the Earth's surface and creating an unstable configuration of lighter, warm air, beneath heavier, cold air. Like a pot bubbling, cumulus clouds will take their time and percolate through the afternoon until the cap breaks, and explosive thunderstorm development is underway. Once storms fire and we go into "chase mode," gas station stops will be similar to a NASCAR pit stop. You are encouraged to stock up on some light snacks and drinks before getting into chase mode because once the storms get going, we won't quit until they do. Typically, they go until an hour or two after sunset, at which point we will look into the next day's forecast and plan our night's stay in that direction. Very rarely are there any restaurants open in the small towns where we stay by the time we get in, around 9 or 10 PM. We will do our best to find you edible dinner but be prepared for fast food or gas station sandwiches. Lodging options will be similarly thin, but we will do our best to find clean and comfortable rooms.
What You Will Learn:
-How to spot and identify thunderstorm features
-How to forecast for supercells
-How to photograph lightning, supercells, tornadoes, and other weather structures
-How to create captivating compositions
-How to prepare for your shoot
-Camera & lens overview
-Introduction to Timelapse Photography
-Camera exposure settings for optimal imagery
-How to focus your lens at night
-Special tips and techniques
-Advanced camera techniques for focus and exposure blending
-How to edit your images using Adobe Lightroom to get the best detail and light out of them
What You Will Need:
-A DSLR Camera that can perform in Manual (M) Mode. We encourage you to learn your camera functions, menus, and have exposure triangle knowledge. This is not a photography 101 course.
-At least 3 fully charged camera batteries and 64GBs of memory card storage
-A WIDE angle lens that is at least 16mm (11mm on crop frame) with an aperture of f/2.8 or faster is recommended but not required. Lens Rental is available through borrowlenses.com if necessary. Students get 10% off!
-Shutter Release or Intervalometer (Please email me camera make/model so I can find the right one for you)
-Lightning Trigger (recommended)
-Camera Rain Cover
-Water resistant jacket
-Hiking / Waterproof boots
Due to the weather's unpredictability, our itinerary has to be flexible as to maximize our chances of catching an epic storm. We will be constantly monitoring weather patterns and re-positioning to the best location to achieve this goal.
Arrival dates are April 28th for Tour 1 and May 6th for Tour 2 for a meet and greet complimentary dinner. We will go over what to expect from the tour and answer any questions you might have.
Day 1 - We will meet in our hotel lobby and go through orientation during breakfast. Chad will teach us some introductory forecasting and storm chasing basics, which we will build upon each day. Sean will go over camera techniques and best practices and will field any questions you have. During this time, we will do a safety briefing in which we explain what we expect from you and what you can expect from us in order to safely conduct the workshop. After completing orientation and choosing a chase target for the day, we will load up, hit the road and start the chase. We will not return to the base hotel until after the final chase day.
We will conduct our morning briefing and go over what we saw and learned during the first chase day, and also cover the forecast for the current day. Because we will have stayed the night near the previous day's target, we likely won't have as long a drive as the previous day to get into position. If that's the case, we can take some time to sit down for a nice lunch or see some local attractions such as the National Weather Center in Oklahoma, the Badlands in South Dakota, or Carhenge in Nebraska (it's exactly what it sounds like). Storms usually fire around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and once they do, we will again be in "chase mode" until they weaken, which is usually an hour or two after sunset.
We will be getting into the groove now and you'll hopefully have a lot of storm photos to process and post. During our morning/early afternoon drives to each chase target, you can either spend this free time catching up on some sleep as you'll likely be exhausted (bring a neck pillow), catching up on emails and work, or editing your photos. At some point during this time, we will go over how to best process storm photos in Lightroom and continue to build on the best ways to capture them. Sean and Chad are excellent timelapse shooters and can teach you how to create these stunning videos upon request. We will have covered hundreds of miles on the road and you will start to think (and probably smell) like a real storm chaser- the anticipation, the boredom on the road, the adrenaline, the excitement of catching an epic storm, and the relief of finding a Pizza Hut that is still open at 10:15 PM in Wakenney, Kansas.
Depending on how far we meandered away from our base city, we might have to start heading back in that direction to ensure we can get you to your flights the next day. We will still be in "chase mode" on Day 6, but know that we might have to chase a secondary target area if the main action is out of reach. We will return to the base hotel on the night of Day 6 or early the next morning on your departure day. Please ensure your departing flight is no earlier than 2 PM so that we have more options on chase targets on Day 6.
Tuition is affordably priced at $2,700 until April 1st for double occupancy. Price goes up to $2,999 after that.
Single Occupancy: $400 additional
Deposit: $1,600 USD
Max Participants: 4
A 50%, non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your space for the workshop or you may pay in full. The remaining balance is due on 2 weeks prior to workshop. If the remaining balance is not paid in full, your space will be forfeited.
Minimum 2 participants are needed for this workshop to take place, so please do not book your flight until we have confirmed that the minimum has been reached.
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE WORKSHOP:
– Lodging at each location based upon double occupancy (single occupancy available for a $400 USD fee).
– Welcome and Farewell meal
– Daily hands on time with the instructor, you will have access to both of us all day long.
– Transportation throughout the entire workshop.
– Continuous amount of fun as we storm chase through the Great Plains!
– Spotify Song Requests.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN THE WORKSHOP:
– Airfare to and from Oklahoma City Airport.
– Food and Beverages
– Travel Insurance
CANCELLATION AND REFUND POLICY:
If you cancel and the workshop is otherwise filled, we will refund you the full amount you have paid towards the tuition, minus a $150 service charge. If you cancel and the workshop does not fill, then you will be refunded according to the following schedule, based on the full fee of the workshop:
Greater than 60 days from the start date of the workshop: full refund minus $150 fee.
60 days: 75% refund
45 days: 50% refund
Less than 30 days: no refund Refunds will be paid by the same method that the original payment was made. Refunds will be initiated within 72 hours of the time that the request is approved.
While we maximize your chance of seeing something epic by only scheduling tours in the peak of storm season, the weather, as of yet, is beyond our control. We will do everything in our power to put you in the best location but cannot guarantee you'll see a tornado. From time to time, the upper level jet stream pattern, that dictates what the weather does over Tornado Alley, can be uncooperative and not conducive to severe storm development. These "ridge" patterns rarely last for more than a couple days, during which time we will get into position for the next storm and stop for a few photo opportunities and teach you how to best process your storm photos. Since each storm is unique and exciting, expect Sean and Chad to set up their cameras and shoot the excitement right next to you!
Storm chasing is not nearly as dangerous as the movies and television shows might have you believe, but it does come with hazards. Statistically, the most dangerous part of storm chasing is the driving. We will be on the road for most of the day, and at times, in poor road conditions. Seat belts must be worn at all times in the van. Another danger is lightning. There will be times when we will be stopped and shooting a storm with lightning nearby. There is no way of knowing where or when lightning will strike, so if you ever feel uncomfortable or in danger, you can get back in the van (inside a vehicle is generally a safe place to be during a lightning storm, not because the tires are rubber, but because they act as a Faraday cage.) Though the majority of tornadoes are relatively weak and short-lived, some have the strongest winds on earth, and can be capable of widespread destruction. Because their motion is directly tied to the parent storm and with how large they are, they are usually quite easy to see coming and avoid. However unlikely personal injury might be, all clients will be required to sign a comprehensive liability waiver.
This workshop is based upon a first come, first serve priority and available spots will be updated on this page. By submitting payment you agree to our Terms & Conditions stated above. If you have any hesitation signing up, please read my testimonials from previous clients and my reviews on facebook.
Tour 1: April 27th - May 4th
Tour 2: May 6th - 13th
About Your Instructors
Sean is one of the most passionate artists I’ve ever known, and it is readily apparent in every photograph he takes. Whether it’s spending long, lonely nights in the desert composing gorgeous star trails or peering into the heavens and gradually coaxing out its natural beauty with advanced telescopes and computer technology, he maintains an unrelenting positive outlook and unmatched work ethic. Knowing firsthand the amount of work required to produce such high quality material, I have profound respect for the mental fortitude required for the journey upon which Sean has embarked. The true mark of a great artist is the constant desire to learn new skills and improve upon the last work, and Sean has these qualities in spades. He has built his incredible set of skills through countless hours of frustrating trial and error, and the amazing thing to consider is that his current output of stunning imagery is simply the tip of the iceberg when compared to the assuredly brilliant career ahead of him. I’m extremely proud and honored to have had the chance to work with Sean and learn from him, and I am confident that he will find success in all of his pursuits, for he already has laid his foundation as a humble, driven, and meticulous artist. -John Sears
Chad Cowan is an award-winning photographer, licensed UAV pilot, and filmmaker who has been chasing storms across America's Tornado Alley over the past 10 years and 150,000 miles. His goal is to capture the awe inspiring beauty of nature in the most extreme and violent weather on earth. Cowan's current film project is a collection of timelapses of these supercells shot in 8k resolution. Growing up in Kansas, the epicenter of severe weather on the planet, he quickly became obsessed with thunderstorms. Inspired by a few timely weather-related gifts from his grandfather at a young age, Cowan decided he wanted to chase them once he had his driver's license. Cowan's photos have been published around the globe and his work has appeared in major motion pictures, and on most national news outlets. In 2010, his 'Icemaker' photo of the supercell that dropped the largest hailstone ever recorded on earth came in second place in a National Geographic photo contest. In 2017, his Dodge City tornado photo placed 4th in the All About Photo International contest out of more than 3,000 entrants. He has a BS in Economics from Kansas State University.