As a kid, I had an interest in the atmosphere. I remember days when we would watch Harold Taft, the chief meteorologist at NBC 5 explaining what was on his live radar. At that age, the only type of weather explanation I ever got was via television. I did the usual weather weenie things including taping specials on severe weather or live coverage on TWC, and local things that occurred in the DFW area. I loved science so I wanted to be a volcanologist or meteorologist, giving that I was closer to storms then I was a volcano/earthquake, I chose meteorology.
I got my first camera when I was in the third grade and took a lot of pictures of weather and tape-recorded the sounds they made. I got my first camcorder when I was in the eighth grade and I video taped various weather phenomena that I could find locally.
When I got my car in the tenth grade, I began going after these storms. Most were not very successful because I didnt know what to look for. After I graduated, I went to a junior college and was planning on majoring in meteorology. Thats when I visited the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Ft. Worth. They told me about the huge amounts of weather information on the Internet. So I bought a computer and started to explore the web. I browsed through the government and university sites reading as much as I could about meteorology. I then found text books to be more useful and began to really get interested in forecasting as well as storm observing. These articles and books gave me a feel for how the atmosphere behaved. That certainly wasn't enough for me, thus I moved to Norman, Oklahoma to major in meteorology. Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma is a combination of thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. In order to seriously understand the atmosphere one needs to study these topics in great depth. So I'm doing so and loving every minute of it!
Currently, I'm a graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a B.S. in meteorology. I chose OU because it is the number one institution for meteorology and is geared toward those that want the strong physics background in meteorology, as well as those that are wanting to attend graduate school. I'm a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) which has some excellent journals that I'm able to get online. I also have my ham radio license for communication when observing storms (KD5HPZ).
Another interest of mine is photography. I purchased an SLR camera for my freshman year of high school for a photojournalism course which has recently been sold to a young aspiring storm observer. In winter of 1999 I got another camera with a lot more manual capabilities (Canon A2E with a Tameron II 28-200 & Sigma 19mm 2.1 lens). I shot with 35mm slide film when storm observing, often times shooting with Fuji Provia or Kodak Elite 100, both professional grade. However, I've entered the digital age of photography when I purchased a 2.1mp Sony digital camera. I noticed that slide scanners could never top the resolution of this digital camera and I won't spend over $1000 for a better slide scanner. I also think slides may be too grainy for any reproduction, whether it be a magazine or online presentation. Since I pretty much shoot images to post online, and since I occasionally had my slides returned scratched or lost, I decided to go full time digital. I purchased a Canon D60 with a 17-40mm Canon "L" lens to shoot 6.1 mega-pixel high resolution images. I quickly fell in love with the camera and found myself shooting much more then I normal would since it doesn't cost anything per shot. Also, it's really nice to never worry about running out of film, since each card holds 140 images in raw format. I love taking photo's of nature and especially the atmosphere, and I think digital is probably the best method of doing so.
Storm Observing: I began storm observing in 1994, and did a lousy job of it. It wasn't until 1996 when I had more time and money to go out. I slowly began getting better at finding the right storms and forecasting the right area. In this hobby, experience is the best lesson! Where do I consider my domain of observing storms? Like most, I'll crawl out of boundaries if things look too good to be true. But for the most part, I stick to the yellow filled area on the map. Basically my domain is east of the Rockies, north of I-20 in Central Texas, and west of the heavy tree line from Southeast Oklahoma to Eastern Minnesota. My ideal spot is an area with decent roads and no trees at all, which lies between AMA and LBB on the Texas Caprock. I average about 15,000 to 20,000 miles, sometimes much more on certain years. Some days are over a thousand miles all together, so mileage certainly adds up fast! I love chasing in the northern plains in June when events shift north. Nebraska to North Dakota is much more interesting after spending a month down in Texas - Kansas. Many of my most memorable storm days are the ones that don't involve tornadoes. Instead, slow moving gorgeous supercells, preferably on the high plains where traffic from locals is minimized. My ultimate goal on each individual storm day is to have fun, learn more, see something interesting, and capture it on film. I'm basically a storm structure person more then anything, so I usually shoot stills and video with a wide angle lens. I also call in every significant observation that I'm able to witness to help out the National Weather Service and local law enforcement. I often times remain in the hail core to observe the maximum size, measure it, and report it. I usually report hail over golf ball size, tornadoes, etc, and provide a picture to the NWS office that evening for their verification. That includes severe wind events which I measure and log using an anemometer mounted at 3 meters above the surface. I've always been plagued with the inability to shoot great video *and* shoot great stills at the same time. That's when I decided to go strictly stills and not mess with video at all.