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                   Friday, August 1, 2008 - 1:37PM

The two golden words of storm chasing

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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There's a single two-word phrase that every new storm chaser should forge into their minds when thinking about their reasons for getting involved in, or getting deeper into, this hobby. It's a golden piece of wisdom that will save you tons of time and money, and if you're a chaser, you should start your day with it in the forefront of your thinking and apply it to every decision you make before, during and after the chase. Remember it before you invest in equipment. Recall it before planning your trips. Think about it before you step on the accelerator and risk a speeding ticket to catch a tornado. Consider it before undertaking a big web site redesign. And especially, remember it constantly if you try to sell any of your photography or video.

So are you ready to hear the two words that will make your storm chasing easier, safer, and overall a more positive experience? Well, without further introduction, here they are:

Nobody Cares.

That's it! Nobody cares. Easy to remember, easy to repeat, easy to live by. Two simple words that embody an enjoyable, frugal and worry-free life of chasing.

Grasping the essence of 'Nobody Cares'

Nobody cares - it means just that. At the end of the day, no one will care what you've done or accomplished as a chaser. (The handful of fellow chasers, friends and family don't count.) And if no one cares, no one comes to your web site. No one buys your video or photos. You don't get fame and fortune. Nobody remembers you a day from now, a week from now, a year from now. The problem is that in not knowing or just forgetting that nobody cares, you may be tempted to make some foolish decisions in your chasing activities based on the false assumption that reaching your goal will reap some type of great future reward. You may be tempted to drive recklessly and take other unnecessary risks, spend too much money and/or end up in debt, and neglect your friends, family and others close to you. In the end, forgetting or ignoring that nobody cares can leave you with a lot of regrets when you finally learn it the hard way.

To illustrate the application of this valuable concept, let's take a look at some thoughts, rationale and ambitions that are common in the mind of a chaser fresh into the hobby (or sometimes even a veteran):

  • One day I might be able to make a living at this, if I'm dedicated, passionate and focused enough.
  • I'm pursuing my dream of being a storm chasing photojournalist/cameraman.
  • I need to do whatever I can to get my name out there, so that I have a chance of being discovered or remembered.
  • I'm going to be able to make some great money selling photos and video to people, and get lots of traffic to my web site.
All of these statements, however genuine, well-intentioned and non-malicious as they may be, are completely irrational because the thinker of them has failed to apply the two golden words of chasing: Nobody Cares.

The Four Points of 'Nobody Cares'

The Nobody Cares principle of storm chasing is founded on the following four facts:

Fact #1: The vast majority of the population has no real interest in severe weather.

Unfortunately, a deep fascination with storms is not a common thread with people in general. It's true. Most do not share your enthusiasm for severe weather, they simply want to know about it when it's going to affect them directly. While some individuals will react favorably and even enthusiastically to a nice photo of a storm or a thrilling video clip, you must not confuse this with any real lasting interest in the subject. Especially not an interest that could result in any benefit to you. Most people will exclaim upon seeing a good storm photo/video, 'Wow, that's really cool'!, then never think about it, or you, again, ever. A business plan, or even a motive to chase, that assumes people will be interested enough in what you're doing to purchase photos or DVDs or visit your web site regularly, is doomed to fail from the start. Remember it or learn it the hard way: Nobody Cares.
Fact #2: Businesses, TV producers, and the general public will not remember your name after you gain media attention.
Did you catch 50 tornadoes last year of every shape and size? Did you get insane video of four F5s ripping up houses and tossing cars? Did you make it on every TV network and talk show in existence? Great! Now how many DVDs did you sell afterward? How many photos? How many hits did you get to your web site? How many people remember your name today? How many phone calls do you get for video sales today? Is any of that paying your mortgage or electric bill now? Do you even have gas money to chase now? How many times do you even think about your catches in the average day? Do you suppose anyone else is?

I've been on the front page of the newspaper no less than four times, been the subject of no less than five feature stories on local television, had interviews on national television and magazine articles. I can remember maybe a handful of photo sales as a result of that publicity, no increase in web traffic and no calls from media for services during future events. Remember it or learn it the hard way: Nobody Cares.

Fact #3: Giving away work does not result in professional respect or future business opportunities.
One of the most irrational thoughts among new photographers and chasers is that the way to get one's 'foot in the door' is to give work away for free to television stations, networks or newspapers. Giving your work away gets your name out, sure - but only as the chaser who gives their work away for free or cheap. The first impression you make with a media client will dictate how you are perceived in the future. If you give your work away, that's what they will expect the next time. And the next time. In a nutshell, if you act professional, you'll be perceived, treated and paid as a professional. If you act like an amateur, you'll be perceived, treated and paid (nothing) like an amateur - always. Remember facts #1 and #2. Over a couple of seasons (even just one), a business plan built on giving away work will only result in a $10,000 credit card debt from fuel and equipment expenses! If you expect something to materialize from all the stuff you gave away for free, you'd better be looking for that second job to pay off your debt. The only value you get from licensing your work is if you are paid from the start - you won't get any benefits from anything else. Publicity is worthless - because: Remember it or learn it the hard way: Nobody Cares.
Fact #4: The cost of accomplishments and successes in chasing far outweigh the financial benefits.
You've had the season of your lifetime. You caught the biggest, baddest, most photogenic tornadoes of every outbreak. You got there by spending $12,000 in gas, $5,000 in hotels and $2,500 in data fees. You captured it all on your new $3,500 high-definition video camera and on your $12,000 25-megapixel DSLR. You lost all of your friends back home, and your job, because you've been on the road for four months straight. Your tornado count is only surpassed by your number of speeding tickets. Your annual auto insurance premium hit $15,000 this June - before they dropped you in July. Your driver's license is suspended, your credit card is maxed out, your wife wants a divorce and your home is being foreclosed on - but you don't care, because you've seen more tornadoes than Gene Moore and have gotten closer to more tubes than Reed Timmer - in this year alone! You're on the news more than the President and your video is constantly on the network feeds (all for free of course, to get your name out there). It's all good though - because come October, everyone in the world will buy your DVD, right? Remember it or learn it the hard way: Nobody Cares.
To summarize: Nobody Cares.

Nobody Cares: A field exercise

Still not convinced? Then try this little exercise. It will be costly, but will actually save you money in the long run if it results in the grasping of the concept:

  1. Take a couple of weeks off of work.
  2. Buy plane tickets to New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Miami, Tokyo, London, and Sydney.
  3. At each destination, have a helicopter pilot take you up above the city during rush hour.
  4. Observe all of the people walking down the streets and driving on the freeways, and at the same time, ask yourself the following questions:
    • Do any of these people care about the huge tornado I caught last year?
    • Would any of these people know my name if they saw me?
    • Will any of these people ever buy my photos or videos?
    • Are any of these people thinking or talking about me or my chasing accomplishments? Do they ever?
  5. When you get back home, stand on your street and while observing the people in your neighborhood, ask yourself the same questions again.

Hopefully you've reached the right conclusion after this little around-the-world exercise. Good, good! Now you can go out and chase, enjoy yourself and not get caught up in impossible pipe dreams. Don't spend thousands of dollars in the hopes that it will 'pay off' when you 'make it'. And if you do get approached for a video sale, you'll know to get paid for it, because nothing else (publicity or fame) will bring you anything - because, yes, say it with me now: Nobody Cares.

Now of course, if you have exceptional talent and skill, you may be able to make a chasing career work - but on a part time basis at best. But let's face it - you're more than likely not going to be the next Reed Timmer, Roger Hill or Tim Samaras - so be realistic about your goals, and go out simply because you enjoy the experience.

Nobody Cares: So chase accordingly!

In a nutshell, go chasing for you. Not for future opportunities, not to impress your peers, not for any expectations - but for you.

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

So true Dan, so true. I love your take on it :)
- Posted by Clarence from Nashville, TN
This is brilliant! I had to apply a very similiar theology to my 10 year old this week when the neighbor kid went inside because the sky looked like rain. Naturally, "I" had my radar up and running on my laptop. My child asked, "Mommy, is that the rain?" I said, "Yes, my son...but it is moving away from us." He cried, "So we came in for no dumb reason?!" I replied, "Do not blame them, most people aren't weather geeks like I am." You're right...Nobody cares. :)
- Posted by Sheila from Murfreesboro, TN
OMG how true is this statement Dan..We both know this to well. I hope new chasers take this statement to heart and apply it because this will save a fast burnout. Great write up Dan I really enjoyed it.
- Posted by William Coyle from Va Beach
I am not a storm chaser but this sounds like the story of my life...the life when i thought people cared. I've given of my time, my dedication, my finances to help others and at this season in my life I learned your lesson that nobody cares. You are so fortunate to learn it early in life. Nobody cares. This is an incredible website and philosophy of truth.
- Posted by Nobody
Great article. Going to put it on the front page of stormreports. I think it takes people a long time, myself included, to realize in life that what matters is you and your family. Nobody else cares. Oh, people "care" about some subjects. Normally something to do with themselves. People do care also about the safety aspect of spotting/reporting to the NWS and helping with the warning process - some people care about these type subjects. The whole of your article though is spot on. Nobody cares if you get 1 tornado or 20 tornadoes. Nobody cares if you get 1 inch of snow or a foot. It is all for fun and the passion for the hobby. If we can get past the "nobody cares", then life suddenly feels SOOOOO much freer (is that a word)! If not...well who cares! :) Beau
- Posted by Beau Dodson from Paducah KY
I care.
- Posted by Needle from Haystack
Excellent piece Dan. Add to the list sitting at an art fair with your best work on display and watching as dozens of people stream by without the slightest concern. Listen to those browsing images that could've potentially cost you your life ask their partner if they think it will match their living room? Weather is a funny thing and a subject that I regrettably wish I had found a balance with before losing someone very special.
- Posted by Paul from 62526

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