Martin Lisius, aka “The Storm Whisperer”, is part of STALKRFILM and has been tracking and filming storms since the mid-1980’s. Martin made the world’s first film produced on 16K. His footage has been used in numerous documentaries, commercials and feature films including “Independence Day,” the Academy Award-winning “An Inconvenient Truth” and Marvel’s “The Avengers”.
STALKR spoke to Martin about what a typical day chasing storms looks like for him.
“A shoot day always begins with coffee followed by a look at the morning surface map for the target area of the storm. My target is determined the day before, but the morning data helps me refine it.
I grew up in Tornado Alley, so it was common to be awakened by a house-shaking boom of thunder, or gust of wind early on. I’ve been filming storms since I was a kid. I have no patience for ordinary storms. I insist on spectacular.
During storm season my car and gear are ready to roll at a moment’s notice. My gear is light and quick to load and unload as I move from setup to setup. My car is the most important tool for tracking and photographing storms. Currently, it’s an Acura MDX which provides me with exceptional all-wheel drive traction on dirt and gravel roads. My car must work all of the time, especially when in the path of an oncoming tornado.
I commonly drive about 300 miles on a storm day. I forecast a target, drive there, and wait for storms to develop. A good forecast is one in which the storm forms right in front of me. I’m a very careful and deliberate forecaster, so that happens fairly often.
Once at my target location, I place the camera for the best shot but also in a spot where it won’t blow away, sometimes to the side of a structure or hill. Wind is always a concern since it can sometimes gust to 100 mph.
Folks ask me where the best place to be when a tornado is coming. I tell them, “out of the way” as that is better than shelter. I am constantly moving “out of the way” of tornadoes. I employ so many layers of safety I have never been in a situation when I felt at danger. I wrote the book, “The Ultimate Severe Weather Safety Guide,” so there’s no margin for error if just to avoid embarrassment.
The hardest thing about storm chasing for me is being available and tolerating long days and drives. It can wear a person out. To see good storms often, one must drive to where they occur, no matter if it requires driving from Texas to North Dakota. I love being on the Plains, but not so much the hours.
The thing I love about my job is being around storms, of course. Out there under the big sky, whipped by the wind. Just being out on the Great Plains is amazing to me. It’s peaceful and simple. For me there isn’t an “adrenaline rush.” I’m quiet and focused on the storm, what’s happening around me – situational awareness, and on capturing quality images. It requires calm, a peace with and connection to nature. The storm has always been a kindred spirit and I always feel part of it. A good storm makes me feel alive, aware and at peace.
I’m already prepped by the evening before a storm chase, so I usually spend time with my family, watch a good movie, sports or read. I “unwind” by chasing storms. It’s my walk into nature, my Walden Pond and my Yosemite Valley.”