On the Scene: Chasing the Ominous Clouds of a Supercell Thunderstorm - Atlas Obscura
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On the Scene: Chasing the Ominous Clouds of a Supercell Thunderstorm

Meet the photographer who runs into the path of severe weather.

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(Photo: Caryn Hill)

In her eight years as a severe weather photographer, Caryn Hill has photographed 244 tornados. Every spring, in what’s known as “chase season,” Hill follows the weather patterns in her home state of Colorado and surrounding areas. She will encounter—and photograph—not only tornados, but also hail, mammatus clouds, and supercell thunderstorms.

It’s the latter—intense storms with anvil-shaped clouds—that is pictured here, looming over the Nebraska countryside. Hill captured this storm early on a summer’s evening in 2014 during one of the severe weather photography tours she runs. “We plan out photographic trips according to the weather pattern,” she says. “We also intentionally and safely position ourselves for the best possible photographic vantage point with each storm we intercept.”

Hill says she titled this photo “Range Hood” because when she first saw the dramatic clouds, she wondered what people in nearby homes were thinking when they looked out their window: “Can you imagine standing in your kitchen, cooking dinner (this was taken around 6 p.m.) and looking out and seeing this sight above your house?”

In nearby states, there are pilots who try to change the weather. Hill prefers to stand by and photograph nature unfolding. “I am forever in awe of what nature provides on any given storm chase,” she says. “But moments like this are forever etched in my mind as some of the best photographic moments as a severe weather photographer.”