& # 39; Once you've seen a tornado fall from the sky, or see a powerful storm form, you're humiliated. & # 39;
Photographer Eric Meola tells MailOnline Travel what it feels like to be in the presence of an epic, angry weather system – something he has experienced many times during his rather remarkable career.
Meola has photographed storms on the Great Plains of America for four decades and has produced a sensational work during his travels. And luckily us, some of his best efforts have been made to print.
A super cell with & # 39; sculpted raised sides & # 39; in Circle, Montana. This amazing photo was taken on 9 June 2016
A cumulonimbus cloud at sunset in Oglala, South Dakota, taken on June 17, 2015
A breathtaking photo of a tornado over viola in Kansas, taken on May 19, 2013
A stunning image of lightning strikes over the village of Stamford, Nebraska, taken on June 21, 2017
A powerful tornado captured on camera at sunset in Capitol, Montana, on June 28, 2018
More than 100 atmospheric photos of tornadoes, lightning, dust storms and storm phenomena appear in his new book – Fierce Beauty: Storms of the Great Plains (The group for publishing images).
They were taken between 1977 and 2019 in the interior of America west of the 98th meridian and east of the Rockies – including the infamous Tornado Alley – where atmospheric instability clashes with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and forms spectacular cumulonimbus clouds.
For several years he documented a landscape of elemental forces, where immense storms seep for miles above the ground, turning with energy until tornadoes turn on the horizon.
And he discovered a land of captivating beauty where the whimper of coyotes and the glow of constellations fill the void of the prairie.
The updraft base of a severe storm at sunset in Aurora, Nebraska, taken on June 13, 2017
Mammatus clouds crossing the Rio Grande in Ruidosa, Texas, on May 18, 2016
A hail-filled supercell above a harvested field in Kanorado, Kansas. This photo was taken by Eric on May 31, 2015
Elemental Forces: A Chaotic Sky Over Barnhart in Texas, captured on May 14, 2013
A beautiful image of a rainbow and falling hail, taken in Keota, Colorado, on June 21, 2018
He continues: & # 39; In the presence of nature at its most powerful, it feels like you are present at the creation of the earth. For most people, this is the most incredible connection to nature you will ever have. It's elemental, it's pure, it's powerful and it seems to come from nowhere – it's the most enchanting thing you'll ever experience. & # 39;
Meola became fixated by storms during a 1977 Nevada road trip to photograph artworks for musician Bruce Springsteen.
While driving in the desert, they encountered a violent storm and Meola took several incredible photos, one of which was used as the cover image for Springsteen's album The Promise.
Springsteen said about the pictures that Meola took: & # 39; Eric has made some great pictures, but what he really captured was something in the air and in the lay of the country that the grandeur and character of the country deeply revealed. & # 39;
The storm experience also produced something different – it inspired the lyrics of the singer for the single The Promised Land from 1978.
Meola reveals that he was sure that Springsteen wrote the song in his head while they were traveling.
He says: “My lasting memory of Bruce's trip to Nevada was the intensity of the desert storm and watching his reaction – I think it was the first trip he had made to the southwest. And then, of course, two weeks later I heard the promised land, in which he wrote about the experience of being there during the storm.
& # 39; It became one of his most popular folk songs. He absorbed everything like a sponge – the names, the places, the roads, the light … everything. I later realized that he almost always wrote texts in his head. & # 39;
He adds: & # 39; I always wanted to go back to that day when we were on a hilltop and watched the lightning see the valley. & # 39;
A nocturnal tornado was captured while Meola was on State Road 20 in Buffalo, South Dakota, on June 28, 2018
A supercell at sunset over Haviland, Kansas, captured by Meola on June 17, 2017
A fascinating image of a twister at Woonsocket in South Dakota, taken on June 18, 2014
The & # 39; down-flank downdraft region & # 39; from a supercell in Wheatland in Wyoming. This awesome image was taken on June 21, 2013
Sheared updraft (a storm that is tilted by the wind) at sunset over Sandhills, Nebraska, on May 17, 2013
The album cover image for Springsteen & # 39; s The Promise was taken by Meola during a road trip in Nevada with the singer in 1977
Looking at the photos Meola made of storms, you could imagine that the photographer risked his life to take them – but he insists that his storm hunt has always been safe.
He says: Chasing storms is relatively safe, if you know what you are doing and travel with great meteorologists, which I always do. That said, there is always lightning, hail, strong wind and traffic when you rush on highways near a city.
& # 39; The group I am going with – Tempest Tours from Arlington, Texas – does not take any risks, so I have always felt safe because we keep a reasonable distance from tornadoes and lightning. That is part of what you accept: you can be safe, or you can get too close for comfort, so I always follow the safety protocol. & # 39;
So after all these years, Meola is now a & # 39; weather-nerd & # 39 ;? Yes and no, apparently.
He says: & # 39; I have adopted the basic concepts of how super cells and tornadoes form & # 39; s, which is the simple part; but science is pretty involved, and I know enough to make ends meet and just enjoy the storms and talk about it intelligently. But I have been with the best pursuers and meteorologists, and I realize how complex weather forecasting can be, especially fast-moving storms.
& # 39; So I am a nerd in terms of loving weather, but I would certainly not call myself a nerd in terms of science. & # 39;
Science enthusiast or not, Meola definitely knows the formula for taking extremely powerful photos that have taken the world of photography by storm.
Fierce Beauty: Storms of the Great Plains by Eric Meola (The group for publishing images, $ 85 / CDN $ 115), is now available.
Fierce Beauty: Storms of the Great Plains from Eric Meola (The Images Publishing Group, $ 85 / CDN $ 115), is now available
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