Last Friday was a normal day for all intents and purposes. I was working on updating a Ranch Video for a client in Southern Colorado. It felt good to be working with beautiful landscape images, especially the ones with the pretty summer clouds. This particular ranch sits on the gentle slopes of one of the most scenic mountain valleys you can imagine. The Cuchara River Valley is flanked by the massive Sangre De Cristo range to the West, and to the East, the two Spanish Peaks stand alone and literally tower over the Great Plains. As I worked on the final edits of the video I daydreamed about getting out and shooting landscapes. I had no idea that by the end of the following day my Wife and I would be far out on those great plains shooting landscapes and following clouds. I had no idea that we would soon become STORM CHASERS.
Storm Chasers in these parts are a crazy and diverse type who intentionally want to get close to the action as the clouds of Spring roll off the front range and build in intensity as they float East over the Plains. Out for a Saturday drive, we chose to drive in the opposite direction as the dark clouds and rain that were engulfing the foothills, we chose to drive east. By the time we reached the small town of Elizabeth we became somewhat mesmerized by the beauty of the day. At one point, we stopped to shoot some pictures of a group of horses with Foals taking naps in the cool grass. One particular cloud was passing by that I couldn’t take my eyes off of, it was a very “pretty” cloud. We followed.
As we drove “a little farther East”, a couple of Vans passed us. They had some kind of electronic contraptions mounted on their roofs and one had a cyclone bumper sticker, they were Storm Chasers! Under the spell of the exact same beautiful and growing cloud, we found ourselves driving through Kiowa, Agate and we stopped in Limon to get fuel. At Limon, more storm chasers were driving east quickly and with clear intent. They were following our cloud. We zoomed further east through Genoa, Bovina, Arriba and Flagler then exited I-70 at Seibert and turned north. Wonder of Wonders, I always carry a Colorado Gazetteer and Atlas in the car but rarely use it. That map became our guide through the maze of roads that followed, taking us quickly closer to that amazing cloud as it began to quietly rotate.
We weren’t alone out there, not at all. Chasers were zigging and zagging through those country roads, stopping to film and photograph the descending formation. Some of them were even driving way too fast on those dirt roads ;), probably had their wife in the car telling them to go FASTER! The process of watching that “pretty” cloud morph into a massive, powerful funnel was fascinating and exciting. For us, the end of the road came just across the Kansas State Line as we silently watched our cloud turn north and disintegrate into a simple summer rain storm, a climactic end to a very long day.