Kevin Erskine’s story is one of triumph over tragedy. Witnessing his Nebraskan childhood city center destroyed by a super storm is what started his deep routed obsession with chasing and capturing these beautiful monsters. Having only 4 shots a roll on a Linhoff 617 camera and keeping the results pure and unaltered by computers makes for a breathtaking documentation of Mother Nature. Kevin Erskines oversized prints will be on display at Milk Gallery from March 15th through April 1st.
Milk Made caught up with Kevin Erskine to talk weather and his process.
Milk Made: Having had one of these “monsterclouds” destroy your childhood town must have been traumatizing. Do you find your storm chasing to be a form of therapy or a reaction to that critical past event?
Kevin Erskine: I’d say its a reaction to try to get some control over the situation (which I can’t obviously). Think the overwhelming power of Mother Nature definitely triggered me to chase storms. During a chase you know direction, windspeeds, where to expect hail etc. so in a way you have some control.
This in contrast of living on a farm and being confronted with the destructive forces. And again capturing its beauty on film is also a strange form of ‘control’.
MM: At what age did you start actually shooting the storms?
KE: Around 19 years old.
MM: What is the process like leading up to getting the shot? How do you prepare physically and mentally for a storm?
KE: There is no specific physical or mental preperation. The morning forecast results in a target area, usually followed by a 400 mile drive.
The only thing I can’t prepare for is the beauty, the power and the feeling of creating art with nature.
Around 5 is called the magic hour when the big storms ignite after enough heat. If the cap breaks, the show is on. Get yourself in a good position and with some luck you’ll get a spectacular Supercell.
MM: What areas of the United States are your storms from?
KE: Depending on the month it stretches from Texas, Oklahoma to Montana and North Dakota.
MM: Have you or do you have any desire to chase storms outside of the U.S.?
KE: No not really, the U.S. road network is great for chasing. Roads going from North to South and East to West give you good escape opportunities.
Another advantages of states like Kansas and Nebraska is an undisturbed view for miles.
MM: What is your favorite type of cloud?
KE: The Mothership. It can come with such a beautiful structure.
MM: Over what period of time does the book capture?
KE: The images are from the last 6 years.
MM: Have you become more or less afraid of these storms?
KE: I am not really afraid, but cautious. Especially when there is a strong lightning thread. Lightning can’t be predicted.
MM: These storms are extremely powerful, have you had any spiritual experiences while in the midst of these storms?
KE: There is no beauty in the midst of the storm. Extreme winds, Hail and the Tornado risk is reason enough to try to stay outside.
For capturing the beauty of it, you need to have at least a short distance.
MM: Is this storm chasing a phase or a life long obsession?
KE: Definitely a life long passion.
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