"After seeing a tornado fall from the sky or watching a powerful storm form, you are humiliated."
Photographer Eric Meola is telling MailOnline Travel what it is like to be in the presence of an epic and angry weather system – something he has experienced many times during his remarkable career.
Meola spent four decades photographing thunderstorms on the Great Plains of the United States, and produced amazing work on her travels. And luckily, some of his best efforts have been committed to printing.
A supercell with & # 39; sides of carved chain & # 39; in Circle, Montana. This amazing image was taken on June 9, 2016
A cumulonimbus cloud at sunset in Oglala, South Dakota, taken on June 17, 2015
A jaw-dropping photo of a tornado over Viola, Kansas, taken May 19, 2013
A striking image of lightning 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.
Over 100 atmospheric photographs of tornadoes, lightning, dust storms and storm phenomena appear in his new book – Fierce Beauty: Great Plains Storms (The image publishing group).
They were captured between 1977 and 2019 in the heart of the United States, west of the 98th Meridian and east of the Rocky Mountains – including the famous Tornado Alley – where atmospheric instability collides with the moisture of the Gulf of Mexico and spectacular cumulonimbus clouds form.
For several years he has documented a landscape of elemental forces where huge storms travel miles above the ground, spinning with energy until tornadoes spin on the horizon.
And he discovered a country of haunting beauty, where the coyote whine and the glow of the constellations fill the prairie void.
The current base of a heavy sunset storm in Aurora, Nebraska, taken on June 13, 2017
Mammatus clouds crossing Rio Grande in Ruidosa, Texas on May 18, 2016
A hail-filled supercell above a harvested field in Kanorado, Kansas. This picture was taken by Eric on May 31, 2015
Elemental Forces: A Chaotic Sky Over Barnhart, Texas, Captured May 14, 2013
A striking image of a rainbow and hail, taken in Keota, Colorado on June 21, 2018
He goes on: Being in the presence of nature in its most powerful form seems to be present in the creation of the earth. For most people, it's the most amazing connection to nature you've ever had. It's elemental, pure, powerful and seemingly out of nowhere – it's the most fascinating thing you've ever experienced. & # 39;
Meola was paralyzed by storms during a 1977 trip to Nevada to photograph artwork by musician Bruce Springsteen.
While driving in the desert, they encountered a violent storm and Meola took several amazing photos, one of which was used as the cover image for Springsteen's The Promise album.
Springsteen said of the photographs Meola took: "Eric captured some great photos, but what he really captured was something in the sky and on the ground that profoundly revealed the grandeur and character of the country."
The storm experience also produced something else – inspired the singer's lyrics for the 1978 single The Promised Land.
Meola reveals that he was sure that Springsteen was writing the song in his head while traveling.
He says, “My lasting memory of the trip with Bruce to Nevada was the intensity of the desert storm, and watching his reaction – I think it was the first trip he 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 outside during the storm.
It has become one of their most popular hymns. He was absorbing everything like a sponge – the names, the places, the roads, the light … everything. I realized later that he was writing letters in his head most of the time.
He adds: "I always wanted to go back to that day when we climbed the top of a hill and watched the rays reveal the bottom of the valley."
A night tornado 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; s backside downdraft region & # 39; from a super cell in Wheatland, Wyoming. This inspiring image was taken on June 21, 2013
Shear update (a storm that is inclined by the wind) at sunset over Sandhills, Nebraska, May 17, 2013
The cover image of Springsteen's The Promise album was taken by Meola during a 1977 Nevada trip with the singer
Looking at Meola's storm shots, one can imagine that the photographer risked his life to take them – but he insists that his pursuit of the storm has always been safe.
He says: “Stalking storms is relatively safe if you know what you're doing and travel with great forecasters, which I always do. That said, there is always lightning, hail, high winds and traffic when you are running on the roads near a city.
& # 39; The group I go with – Tempest Tours from Arlington, Texas – no risk, so I always felt safe because we keep a reasonable distance from tornadoes and lightning. This is part of what you accept: you may be safe or too close for comfort, which is why I always follow protocol in terms of safety.
So after all these years, Meola is now a 'time nerd'? Yes and no, apparently.
He says: “I have absorbed the basics of how supercells and tornadoes form, which is the simple part; but science is quite involved, and I know enough to survive and just enjoy the storms, and talk intelligently about them. But I've been with the best hunters and forecasters and I realize how complicated the weather forecast is, especially fast storms.
"So I'm a nice weather geek, but I certainly wouldn't call me a science geek."
Science nerd or not, Meola definitely knows the formula for taking immensely powerful photos – images that have surprised the world of photography.
Fierce Beauty: Great Plains Storms by Eric Meola (The Image Publishing Group, $ 85 / CDN $ 115), is now available.
Fierce Beauty: Storms of the Great Plains by Eric Meola (The Images Publishing Group, $ 85 / CDN $ 115), Now Available
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