Here in 2015, everyone and their grandmother has a smartphone with a camera. Subsequently, almost every interesting second of life on Earth is, for the most part, captured digitally on said devices, or so it would seem. Every now and then, it takes more than dumb luck to catch a one-in-a-million snap of something seldom seen close up. In the case of professional stormchaser Hank Schyma, this lightning strike near downtown Houston was a project 20 years in the making.
Let's be clear, people can and often capture bonkers weather phenomena by chance, but it takes a dedication and skillful knowledge of weather systems to know when your chances are at their peak. This is precisely when Hank Schyma sets up the video and photo cameras, usually after a Cannonball Run style trek to tornado alley or other weather hotspots around the U.S. He couples these catastrophic weather shoots with venomous and otherwise dangerous wildlife run-ins. In short, my life is something on the order of 3% as exciting as his, which is why I subscribe to his YouTube channel, and so should you.
On the morning of August 20, 2015, Schyma was up and waiting. He knew what Mother Nature was up to, and foresaw some potential for epic photography in the making. He didn't go into the shot attempt with copious amounts of faith, as he has tried for such a shot for nearly 20 years and never quite had the timing right, but he also could read the weather and knew it was more than worth setting up the gear. Hastily setting up a possible capture, it didn't take long for the Texas climate to answer the call.
At exactly 8:30am, the angry Texas storm decided to slap the snot out of what appears to be someone's backyard, and within a few meters from automobiles (with humans in them) waiting at a traffic light. The bolt was so intense, Schyma says he couldn't see clearly for 5 minutes after witnessing it.
I'm sorry, but let's look at that again a little closer.
No, but really.
The odd part is that Schyma wasn't chasing this morning, not in the conventional sense. He was waiting in ambush mode to see if anything amazing would happen, and sure enough, Thor showed up in Houston, in someone's backyard, near an intersection during rush hour on a dreary and dark summer morning in south Texas.
By capturing images that the rest of us wouldn't be caught dead doing, Schyma has built a successful stormchasing operation with his footage and photos finding themselves regularly on The Discovery Channel, National Geographic and, of course, The Weather Channel. His passion for his work never ceases to amaze me, and photographers like Schyma prove that stormchasing isn't just wanton adrenaline attacks; make no mistake, this is an art form. Just one that can get you killed, is all.
Yeah, uh, no thanks, Hank. You're on your own on these excursions. But, please don't stop doing them.
[All images copyright Hank Schyma / Pecos Hank, and used with permission]