Twister!: Tornado Turns the Tables on Stormchaser and Spectacular Photo Is the Result


Tech Talk: Jim Reed chased this storm with his Nikon D700 and an AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens. He got the picture at 1/320 sec, f/22, and ISO 200, in manual mode using Matrix metering.
© Jim Reed

Pro photographer Jim Reed’s specialty is images of severe and unusual weather; in short, he’s a stormchaser.

“There was a low pressure center right along the Kansas-Colorado line,” Reed says of the day he took this photo. “Then the sun came out, and when the ground heats up, there’s instability.”

The ingredients combined early in the afternoon. “I was able to photograph tornado genesis from the start. It was amazing, and pretty rare, to see it go from a few white clouds to a tornado on the ground.”

After notifying the National Weather Service so they could issue an area warning, Reed began following the tornado, stopping three times to photograph. Suddenly, the tornado turned and came right at him. He jumped in the SUV, threw it into reverse and backed up—“rapidly!”—along the dirt track.

And then he stopped.

“I saw something I’d seen before: the ribbons of dirt were rotating downward instead of up. The tornado was weakening; an active or strengthening tornado is pulling things up.”

Stalled, the twister rotated 150 feet away as Reed photographed. “I needed scale,” he says, “so I moved back to get the vehicle in the frame. Then the tornado just collapsed, a big tidal wave of dirt dropping to the ground.” It had caused no damage, no injuries.

“So much of what I’d learned in all the years I’ve been doing this came into play that day,” Reed says.

Right. Like, trust your judgment, but keep the door open and the engine running.

Storms aplenty are featured at Jim Reed’s website, So are images of some of the people, places, and things he’s seen along the way to the weather front.