Kitplus - The TV-Bay Magazine

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The film we made for National Geographic was a hit. Over a month of shooting we witnessed and filmed close to 20 tornadoes, got pummeled by golf ball sized hail stones, caught in violent “bow echo” storms and came close to being struck by lightning more than once. What a rush! But even with an abundance of amazing footage we still used around $15,000 worth of stock footage in the film. I looked at that number and thought “I want a slice of that cake” so the following year I decided to return to Tornado Alley to shoot tornado and storm stock footage. I’ve been doing this every year since, spending up to a month criss-crossing the US in spring. I now have an extensive stock footage library of severe weather and other natural extremes and it’s a very big part of my overall video production business. I’m represented by Getty and clients include feature films, Discovery, Nat Geo etc. This year due to other filming commitments it was shorter trip than normal, even so I drove close to 5,000 miles in 10 days. Filming severe storms in high quality 4K is tough. First you have to find the storms and be in the right place at the right time. A tornado is on average about 150m across and may only last a few minutes. So you have to be able to make your own highly accurate weather forecasts. You also need to understand the way the storms that produce tornadoes work. These “Supercell” storms are incredibly violent and if you drive into the wrong part of the storm you’re going to get the car destroyed by hail that can be up to the size of grapefruit. If it does all come together just right and you end up in the right place at the right time then you will often only have 30 seconds to a minute to grab a few shots. The storm and tornado may be moving at 30 to 60 mph and to actually see a tornado you have to be in the path of the most destructive part of the storm. So it’s a case of stop the car, jump out, grab the camera from its bag with your right hand while switching it on with your left. Then snatch the tripod and run to the best place to shoot from. By the time the tripod has hit the ground the camera is being locked into the quick release plate, the KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 103 JULY 2015 | 65