David Mayhew: Pro Storm Chaser

David Mayhew has an eye on the sky. Weather is the attraction, and photography is reason he chases. Skyscapes are wondrous sights to ponder. You have to be willing to be in harms way to get the great shots, and that’s what David does.

DM Worm Hole

Born in the UK, David moved to the US and in 2003 abandoned his 9-5 job and returned to school at the College of DuPage just outside of Chicago to pursue his love for photography. Various scholarships and awards inspired him to make a career out of storm chasing.

The Interview:

1. Storm chasing has to be an exciting and sometimes risky endeavor. Have you ever had any close calls like being uncomfortably close to a tornado?

DM2 Carousel

There have been many times I have wondered why I storm chase! This includes sleepless nights after close calls, or when I am sliding around on remote wet dirt roads. On June 6th 2007 I had one of those sleepless nights after a gust front spun up a gustnado that blew out the rear windshield of my SUV. That being said, it is still storm photos that sell the most! Last year my car engine died on me in front of a supercell storm that had been producing tornadoes and I had to get a ride out of harms way from fellow chasers!

DM2 Aurora Twister

However in 2009 with a beautiful “elephant trunk” tornado 1/2 mile from me and heading straight at me in Aurora Nebraska I know why I chase! It was absolutely exquisite!

2. Some of the shots you get look too bizarre to be real. Do you have people question if that’s what it really looked like?

DM2 Yellow Brick Road flat

Depends on where I do the shows. In Texas and Oklahoma they look and say “Yup, saw something like that last week”!! The storm formations, shapes and colors are absolutely unique, which is why I love to shoot them. In fact any storm chaser that looks at a photo can tell you which storm it is if they were there since each one is unique and has its own characteristics.

3. Your photography is far more diversified than clouds. Can you talk a little bit about your favorite subjects and why?

DM2 Tempest

I call my work “Skyscapes”. So even if I am shooting mountain scenes or cityscapes I try to include the sky and weather as the subject matter, including stars at night. I think the sky gives a feeling of scale to our small little lives as it relates to the vastness of the universe.

4. I love shooting skies myself, but sometimes experience more grain than I like due to low light. What techniques do you use to insure good focus and good exposure?

DM2 Living Skies #3

This is a tough one! Opening up the lens allows a faster shutter speed, but risks the focus. The best way is to use a tripod, then slightly longer exposures are not such an issue, especially using a wide-angle lens. I will also go to ISO 400. New software advances help with noise reduction.

5. With digital photography and the advancements in cameras, more and more people can get good shots, which makes it increasingly difficult for professionals to stand out. Marketing is a very big part of the equation. What marketing techniques work best for you, and where does the Internet come into play?

DM2 In Flow #3

I need to work more on my marketing, but doing shows gives good exposure. I keep contact info too and have an e-newsletter that people follow plus a Facebook behind the scenes blog. I also approach TV news meteorologists and let them show my work for free if they mention my website.

6. Most photographers love to photograph the unusual and spectacular, thus they travel the world. Where are some of your favorite places to shoot, and what places do you hope to visit in the future?

DM2 Golden Ambience

My favorite places are wherever the storms are going to be! A plain horizon can be transformed by unique cloud formations filtering light into different colors and patterns. I do plan to spend more time in the mountains and am hoping to do lightning photography in Arizona during the monsoon season in areas like the Grand Canyon. Hope to do some Aurora Borealis shots in winter one year too!

7. Do you ever do workshops or fieldtrips?

DM Pulse

I have been asked about this but have been so busy shooting and promoting my own work that I have not set up anything yet. Maybe one day!

8. You were born in the UK. How did you end up in Colorado, and do you intend to stay?

DM Night Stalker

I came to the US as a design engineer with an Italian automotive company. During my time in Chicago I developed a passion for both photography and storm chasing. I decided to move to Colorado so that I am on the edge of the plains for storm chasing and I can now escape into the mountains too.

DM Equilibrium DM Lake Michigan Lightning #2 DM Cotton Candy DM Badlands Bad Boy

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