Parrish Ruiz de Velasco’s first chase was a lucky break that landed him in Time magazine. He was just 22 years old at the time, living in Cedar Hill with his wife and 1-year-old son, taking carpentry gigs while he built up his graphic design and photography portfolios. He was driving to a job site one day in 2012 when he saw a tornado descend from a wall cloud. He went after it. The scene he captured in Lancaster ended up on the front page of 17 newspapers and in Time, which named it one of the 10 best photos of the year.
Fast forward five years. Now Ruiz de Velasco lives in Lancaster. He has two more kids and a steady job as a designer for an Addison tech company. And he recently took up storm chasing—this time on purpose and with equipment. If you can call it equipment. You don’t need much to chase storms, as it turns out. His provisions: snacks, water, a Canon 5D Mark IV, GoPro Hero5, solar chargers, battery packs, plus an iPad to check weather updates on social media and access a pro-level weather app called RadarScope.
He says hardcore storm chasers have gear on their vehicles to read real time weather data like wind at their exact location, but his end game is more about snapshots than science. “I noticed that there’s only a handful of storm chasers that have proper photography equipment or know how to use a camera. Most of the storm chasers are using little video cameras and cell phones to capture these things. They’re out there performing a service by storm spotting, giving warnings, and letting people know there’s a tornado on the ground. That’s not my area of expertise.”
Ruiz de Velasco says that with the info available online and knowing that storms generally move northeast, he’s able to stay on the edge to avoid danger. In fact, on his last chase in March, he had to be especially careful: his wife had the SUV, so he was chasing in his Lexus GS 300. “If you look on the video you can kind of see how I’m constantly following the line. It didn’t rain on me much at all. I made sure to wait at a gas station at a certain point to let some of the storm blow over, and when I drove a couple miles toward home, I was driving over 3-inch hail that had already fallen.”Chase day from PARRISH RUIZ DE VELASCO on Vimeo.