The Jaw-Dropping Photography of Storm Chaser Mike Hollingshead

South Dakota Bow Echo

You might not come out on top if you weigh the pros and cons of storm chasing, but there are definitely pros beyond feeling like a bada** and a deep fulfillment of your twin passions for meteorology and spiking your adrenaline. If you want proof of that, just check out the awe-inspiring photography of storm chaser Mike Hollingshead.

If the name Mike Hollingshead sounds familiar, that’s good, it means you’ve been reading PetaPixel for a little while. He’s actually contributed a few posts for us over the years, and his photo of a storm over Nebraska from 2004 was famously used in a fake photo of Hurricane Sandy approaching New York that went viral and further taught us not to believe everything that comes across our news feed.

But if that’s the only photo from his storm chasing portfolio that you’ve come across, then you’re in for a real treat. Thousands of miles of driving, many hours chasing storms that never developed, and more than one life-threatening situation have yielded the photography you see below:

Badlands Fog Storm

Stormy Nebraska Sunset

Nebraska Tornado Intercept

May 22, 2010 Bowdle South Dakota Violent Tornado

Night Supercell

Whales Mouth

Truck Stop and Twilight Supercell

Nebraska Twilight Supercell

Nebraska Mammatus

Nebraska Twilight Supercell

Nebraska Summer Supercell

Iowa Supercell

Ugly Nebraska Supercell

Nebraska Supercell

Mammatus Clouds

South Dakota Mammatus Clouds

TV Tower Lightning

Hollingshead began storm chasing after his first real chase put him right in the path of a tornado in Iowa. After that he was hooked, began chasing storms on the weekends and, eventually, quit his job to do this full-time.

Speaking to Wired, Hollingshead does admit that it’s not all glory:

I’ve driven eight hours only to get out there and have nothing happen. And then all I have in front of me is eight more hours of driving to get home because I don’t want to waste money on a hotel.

Plus, in recent years, he’s had to deal with a huge spike in the number of storm chasers on the road ever since Discovery’s Storm Chasers popularized the profession. It’s not unusual nowadays to find miles-long caravans of chasers all moving towards the same storm on the same freeways.

Still, we don’t think Hollingshead is going to give up this passion any time soon. To see more of his work, purchase prints or even learn a bit about photography from the man himself, head over to his website by clicking here.

(via Wired)

Image credits: Photographs by Mike Hollingshead and used with permission.

  • JoeNoName

    amazing, they are really nice

  • Cynical Bloke

    Why can’t storm chasers take pictures in better locations. Way too many from the side of the road. He needs to walk to a little bit.

  • RealHoopyFrood

    Storm chasing involved being close to your vehicle at all times. “Walking a little bit” is not an option. Do your research and stop posting ignorant comments.

  • Scott M.

    Love the one with popcorn sky at sunset.

  • aher

    mm you need a sony a7!

  • analogworm

    Despite the photographer having captured beautiful skies, I must admit Cynical Bloke does have a valid point, as do you realhoopyfrood. I just cant get over the fact that many elements which should be straight are as crooked as the tower of pizza..

  • Cynical Bloke

    It is an option if you have balls.

  • ajbatac


  • Jimmy Fartpants

    I’d like to see you go out in the middle of an Oklahoma corn field, a mile away from your truck, and see your own reaction when a tornado is bearing down on your position.

  • 3ric15

    Why don’t you try going out and doing storm photography and we’ll see if you “walk a little bit”. By the way, storms move faster than you think so they don’t have time to run away from their vehicles to get a shot.

  • Biff

    Heavy post.

  • Joey Duncan

    Why can’t you just respect what he has done. Time isn’t on his side, nor is he taking pictures to be professional. He’s chasing storms, and taking pictures while he’s at it. Respect what he’s doing. 99% of the pictures you see probably could be “improved” in the eyes of the viewer, but that isn’t the point, nor is are these photos being “perfect” the point. I bet you talk crap about the space walk photos not being level too..

  • William R Cooper

    Big Dummy!

  • William R Cooper

    It’s not an option. But why don’t you try it, maybe if were lucky you’ll get sucked up in a tornado and we won’t have to read your inane comments.

  • William R Cooper

    Amen Jimmy. Some people are so dumb!

  • William R Cooper

    I know right…some people are so f’ing stupid!

  • Sterling

    Maybe not if you have brains.

  • Guest

    I actually agree. Many of the images are from several years ago…2004. I often kick myself now for not paying more attention to the foreground when possible. Mostly all I had to do was get the ditchweed out of the shot. Just get over to the road edge at the least. I try to be aware now. Notice the church one was a walk out of the car. But generally the lightning threat keeps me in the car. I just need to park the wrong direction on the side of the gravel roads at least. The mammatus over the road scene I drove all around that area trying to find something cool without powerline issues. Wasn’t happening. Usually not a lot of time, except for mammatus type scenes I suppose. Just finding a gravel segment with the powerlines on the right side of the road is a trick. That sand hills one with power lines in the shot. No shoulder and no options off the highway for miles and miles out there. And lighting and hail coming down left and right right there. Wanted to run up that hill to get them out of the shot but didn’t have the balls as lightning scares me out of the vehicle for some odd ass reason.

  • mohawksan

    What a moron! If u had the balls and photography skills, u should go do it and post. The photos are awesome.

  • Spooked

    Can anybody else see the face looking out of the clouds in the 5th picture down

  • Cynical Bloke

    I do have the balls, and the funny thing is I would take my time to set up my large format camera too, not just take a snapshot.

  • Cynical Bloke

    If it got me the shot I would do it, but it wouldn’t be in the middle of a boring corn field. You can walk 20 steps from a car and get better locations than the side of the road.

  • Cynical Bloke

    Because all that effort should not be wasted, his best shot is the second one, but still the composition could be better.
    Why should someone be respected for driving around, jumping out of a car and taking a quick shot with a modern autofocus camera.
    I would have more respect if this was a truck driver or something and just capturing the storms he sees along the way but he does it full time and actually looks for them. The storms are great, no denying that, but the locations should be better.

  • Cynical Bloke

    If it get’s me the shot I will walk, and I will take my time to set up my large format camera too.

  • Cynical Bloke

    The church one is nice, I know time is an issue and locations on these flat areas can be hard to find, I’ve been there and have plenty of great skies with bad foregrounds.
    Keep at it and I am sure you will get some awesome stuff as everything will come together eventually, I would have loved to see a cool tree or something closer in shot, something more foreground. A lake would be cool. The bobble sunset next to the corn field would have been great in the corn field to see individual strands. Looking at the shots above the most common thing around is trees so that may be an easy and safe thing to find and shoot. I don’t think it helps that the ground is always only the bottom 10th of the picture so it feels like the images are off balance and the ground is not wanted in the scene. You’ve nailed finding storm, exposure and processing so at least now you can concentrate on the other aspects.

  • Cynical Bloke

    How is it not an option? Anything is an option, it just depends if you take it or not. I wouldn’t mind getting sucked up by a tornado, great way to go.

  • chuckster

    Those are some of the most epic shots captured by one person. Amazing and thanks for sharing..

  • ckrieg

    Anyone else notice that he’s using an old Canon Rebel or T2i for most of the photos? Who says it’s all about gear?

  • CCL

    Do you even know where most storms like this take place? There aren’t really a ton of options considering where most storms like this happen. And, just went through and counted. There are at least 5 here that aren’t “on the side of the road.”

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    The storm chooses the location, not the photographer.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    “and the funny thing is I would take my time to set up my large format camera too.” And then you’d either miss the shot entirely or end up dead in the process. These are fast moving, ever changing weather phenomena we’re talking about here.

    But i’m very interested in seeing your portfolio of large format adventure photography. Care to share a link?
    Otherwise i’ll just have to dismiss you as yet another Internet Tough Guy.

  • John R

    Today I learned about Mammatus Clouds, never heard of those before. Good guy Mike does the right thing and completes his EXIF properly, a lesson for us all there. And finally some photographs that are meritorious of ‘awesome’.

  • Mantis

    Cynical Bloke is just a troll. Ignore him. If you click his name, and read his comment history all he does is slam everybody else, while offering nothing of value to the conversation.

    He claims to be some “great photographer” but when asked to show his photos, he disappears.

  • Ian Hollinhead

    great job brother! ;) lol.

  • Cynical Bloke

    No it doesn’t.

  • Cynical Bloke

    There is nothing wrong with criticism. How else do people get better? I never claimed to be anything other than a cynical bloke.

  • Cynical Bloke

    Large format adventure photography? Is that what we call shooting storms?

  • Cynical Bloke

    I love how the only two possible outcomes are death or missing the shot, there is a third possibility getting the shot.

  • Cynical Bloke

    If petapixel didn’t have such over the top titles I wouldn’t ever bother comment, they constantly use titles like jaw dropping to describe photography and it never lives up to it.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    Um, yeah it does. The photographer can’t summon a storm at will.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    Still waiting on your portfolio.

  • NancyP

    Get real, assuming you aren’t talking Graflex-type press cameras (which could work fine). LF cameras with bellows capable of movements are a serious PITA in significant wind.

  • NancyP

    Great photos. I particularly like the third from the end – pink mamma cloud formations over a yellow field.

  • Cynical Bloke

    A photographer can choose a location around the storm wherever he likes, the storm does not choose to be photographed with a road in shot.

  • Cynical Bloke

    There are large format cameras without bellows that use helical focusing mounts, you can use them hand held too.

  • Cynical Bloke

    You will be waiting a long time, I shoot film and print from the negs. I don’t have or need an online portfolio.

  • bammer56

    I like that they are taken by the side of the road. I especialy like the ones with the road in the photograph. To me, he’s not just taking a nicely composed photograph; he’s sharing his experience. And storm chasing is often experienced at the side of the road. Much more realistic and conveys more feelings -

  • 2star2

    You do it if you have the balls instead of talking out your arse.

  • Matt

    Haha, the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) is on the same storm. Man, i miss the show “StormChasers”