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Wild weather

Wild weather - Jim Reed's experienced 17 hurricanes and a countless number of other weather phenonomen. Here's his story.

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Category : Professional Interviewed
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Jim Reed is recognised world over for his unique and exceptional approach to weather photography. He's a full-time storm chaser and has captured all types of meteorological phenomena including hurricane Katrina which hit America in 2004 and Hurricane Ike. His career as a severe weather photographer is something which got its roots thanks to his mother unknowingly driving into the outer bands of a Hurricane when he was young. From then on Jim became fascinated with extreme weather and by the age of eleven he was creating his own films which demonstrated the sheer power of mother nature. Now he works all over the United States taking photographs and capturing video of storms which appear on channels such as NBC.
 
For the last twenty years Jim's work has got progressively longer and the storms harder to catch. Gone are the days when winter gave him time to read magazines and catch up with on-line actives. Now the climate's changing, storms have got stronger and there's just more to capture.
 
This is my fully-fledged, full-time job. There's no side job for me, it's all about weather,” Said Jim. “I have been in 17 hurricanes where I've taken a direct hit and two to three others were rather rough. I've damaged myself more times these last few years and I'm starting to think more about what I do now.
 
Even though he's singled out as one of the most unique and interpretive among the weather photographers of today, Jim's first love is for fine art which he graduated from the University of Southern California in. He likes atmospheric portraits and breathtaking weather landscapes, an approach which makes his work stand out from the crowd and perfect for exhibitions, something Jim misses being apart of.
 
It's satisfying answering peoples questions and hearing their comments so venturing into fine art just seems like a natural transition for me. It's the direction my work's going and I'm going
to exhibit again.
 
© Jim Reed Photography. © Jim Reed Photography.
 
Jim's work isn't all about hurricanes, which his new book: Storm Chaser -  a photographer's journey demonstrates well. Right from the beginning he's covered extreme cold, thunder, droughts and flooding. He heads for places not popular with others, which is now proving to be a difficult task with more and more people turning into 'wannabe' storm chasers.
 
Most people respect the weather and are responsible but some civilians just drive out there and block the road so emergency services can't get through. If a lot of people are there it also increases the amount of people who can get injured, it's only a matter of time before someone is hit by lightning.”
 
Something Jim is adamant about is respecting the weather. Storms aren't scary if you understand them and as long as you are informed, prepared and ready you should be OK.
 
© Jim Reed Photography.
Everyone can get information. We have access to NOAA radios which tell you when storms are coming. I hate it when they say we didn't see it coming because 9 out of 10 times it's wrong. With Katrina we were on alert for eight days before. So we can't except that it wasn't going to be that bad.

The tricky part of this job is knowing if it's going to be a big storm. I watch what's happening and the night before I make sure I have my minimal gear cleaned and ready. In the morning I get up and drive and if I've done my job properly then I will be there before the storm hits. I watch the birth of an event and as this develops I interpret what's going to happen, where it's going to go, what time of day the light will be best and of course my mood and how I feel effects the picture too.

I always ask questions before I click the shutter, it's about combining the seeing with the feeling. How fast is the storm moving, how much time do I have, how do I want to frame it are all important questions that need thinking about. The magic moment only lasts for a few minutes then and you have to be ready.”

Jim knows plenty about weather. Colleagues call him the unframed meteorologist as he doesn't have a degree, something which he says is half the fun.  He enjoys doing his own forecasting, going out in the field, watching the storm develop and then going into photography mode. He likes the pressure of knowing he will never be able to go back and shoot the storm again, it's a piece of history in the making and every so often the sky smiles down at him and gives him the opportunity to capture a great photograph.

Jim's new book, Storm Chaser – A Photographers Journey is out now.

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