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                   Monday, March 5, 2012 - 8:30PM CDT

New chaser tips: How to avoid being annoying to experienced chasers

Storm Chaser/Photographer
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Don't misinterpret this post to insinuate that 'acceptance' in the chaser circles is required to enjoy the hobby - far from it. However, there are a few points of advice that I can offer you if you would like to not ruffle the collective feathers of experienced chasers everywhere, and at least, retain some form of respect as a chaser (if in fact that happens to matter to you at all). I offer these tips in all humility, and again, I'm no authority in chasing (though I have been in the hobby since 1993, if that carries any weight). A couple of these I even learned from experience, so I haven't been infallible. These are my opinions - however, I believe they do reflect the prevailing feelings among most chasers.

DO: First and foremost: Chase storms! Few things are as irritating than a person participating in online discussion groups dedicated to chasers, who never actually chases themselves. Now don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying that those without the means to chase all of the time aren't welcome. But the reality is is that most *anyone* can overcome some life obstacles and find a way to chase at least a few times a year, if indeed one has the true will and 'spirit' to be a chaser. Instead of going to a movie every weekend, buying the latest video game system, clothes, big screen TV, shoes, car accessory, or whatever you spend your extra money on - put those dollars into going on a few chases a year. You don't have to be hardcore, and certainly don't make irresponsible sacrifices - but just go out there and try to learn. If you're not interested in doing at least that, then frankly, you really don't belong in a chaser group, online or offline. A general weather group or forum would probably be better suited for you. Don't take that the wrong way, it's nothing personal, just the truth.

DON'T: Be active in discussions about chasing if you do not actually chase storms. Again, it's not that you aren't welcome on a personal level, it that it's impossible for you to contribute anything meaningful to a discussion if you never actually participate in the activity. Watching a TV show, a video or a movie doesn't provide any valid knowledge about *real* storm chasing, in fact, quite the contrary. If you don't actually chase, your lack of real experience or knowledge *will* be embarrassingly glaring and obvious if you try to 'pose' as such in any online medium. If you sincerely have a desire to chase, by all means, don't be afraid to ask questions - but don't be lazy, do your homework first: most novice questions can be answered by a quick Google search or a search of a forum's archives. I would make some *very rare* exceptions to this rule for people in a relevant field (such as professional meteorologists) who have something meaningful to contribute to chase-themed discussions about severe storms (even more so who have positions operationally related to storms, such as NWS employees).

DO: Learn how to forecast and chase: Every chaser had to start somewhere. There's nothing wrong with being a 'newbie', but there *is* something wrong with *staying* one. Hit the books! Or at the very least, the web. There are tons of resources available to you on the internet for free - enough that you should be able to quickly learn the basics about the atmosphere, the ingredients needed for severe weather and tornadoes, how to read forecast models, how to identify storm structure, how to chase responsibly, and more. Google is your friend here - use it!

DON'T: Ask other chasers to give away their targets or take you along. Chasing successfully takes a lot of hard work, years of experience and many thousands of dollars per year. Unless you're a close friend or family member, don't expect the fruits of that effort to be handed to you in the form of target information or free ride-alongs. Learn the hobby and do some real chasing yourself so that you have something to offer another chaser before attempting to team up.

DO: Share your photos, videos and chase stories/logs. Chasers enjoy very much reading about the experiences and sightings of other chasers, even if you 'busted' on your chase. It also helps you establish some credibility by demonstrating that not only do you put in the effort to chase, but that you've taken the time to learn something that helped you. Taking the time to put together chase accounts also demonstrates a level of dedication. Good ways to do this are via a web site or blog to post your work, where anyone can see it without having to be a member of a service.

DON'T: think you are anything special for being a chaser. Nobody cares! One of the first things a chaser should learn is that few people outside of the world of weather care about chasing, that is, enough for you to benefit much from it. It's just a hobby like any other, chasers are just regular people like anyone. Storm chasing does admittedly attract some media attention now and then, but you'll quickly learn that there is no value in that publicity. Do you think for more than a few seconds about others' RC planes, model trains, basketball scores, mountain climbs, etc? Even if you have an 'epic' chase day and catch some incredible tornadoes, no one, not even other chasers, will care about it a week or two later. Read my essay on this subject.

DO: Use your real name in forums and social networks. Aliases are generally annoying to most chasers, and a sign of either immaturity and/or that one is not taking the activity or forum very seriously. Even if real names are not required on a forum, it's a good idea to use it anyway.

DON'T: use excessive lightbars, flashers and/or strobes on your vehicle. I'm not against supplimental vehicle warning lights, if fact, I have amber flashers myself (in my rear window), though I only find occasion to use them 2 or 3 times a year. If you go overboard with these, however, you're going to be the object of ridicule in chaser circles, not to mention, potentially in violation of the law. Even if you're not the type that cares what others think, I'd think hard about this one. I'm no crowd-pleaser myself, but in my opinion there are reputation-ruiners in which their benefits don't outweigh their damages. See my essay on this subject.

DO: Talk less, learn more and don't stray off-topic too much. New chasers should post judiciously on storm chasing discussion forums, and in particular, avoid off-topic posts. In essence, "Lurk Moar" (google it). Even when off-topic discussions are allowed, it's possible to go overboard when your off-topic posts greatly outnumber your relevant storm chasing posts. One day, after you've learned what chasing is all about from actually doing it, you'll have some meaningful to contribute on a forum.

DON'T: Steal photos or videos for your blog, web site, Facebook page, TV newscast, etc. There is no faster way to have the entire chasing world turn against you than committing copyright infringement against one of us. It's a blight that most offenders never recover from reputation-wise. Most chasers aggressively protect their work and patrol the internet for infringement cases due to the high cost of obtaining the imagery. If you copy/use a chaser's work, it's only a matter of time until you are discovered. Most chasers can easily recognize the work of our fellow colleagues when it is stolen, and pass on the notification to the photographer.

Fellow chasers, do you have anything to add? Feel free to comment below!

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