Evan Ludes has always had a keen interest in the weather as far back as he can remember. While a little boy growing up in the heartland, Evan clearly remembers once scrambling to his family’s basement during a tornado warning and later emerging to see an incredibly vibrant rainbow. His connection with the camera began soon after he began capturing photos of various subjects around the house with his mother’s cell phone. But when his parents gifted him with a point-and-shoot camera for his birthday, the sky quickly became his favorite subject. Driven to capture the sky’s incredibly diverse palette of colors and textures, it was not long before young Evan began sharing his photos online and drawing an appreciative audience.
Although he was largely self-taught, Evan also drew inspiration from others photographers like Blair, Nebraska-based, Mike Hollingshead, who is undeniably one of the best weather photographers in the world. But it was not until fellow photographer, Chris Allington, invited Evan along (with his parents’ approval) on a storm chasing adventure that his interest in weather photography was escalated to a new level. His first chase was a high risk event in Oklahoma that quickly became a crash course in what to observe when chasing and photographing weather and thunderstorms. As his life’s journey led him from high school to attend college with a major in graphic design, Evan continued to pursue his passion of capturing one exciting weather event after the other.
Evan says his favorite part about weather photography is the challenge of finding the ideal location to take the best photos and videos. He says, “There are few things more satisfying than blasting towards a storm, setting up in front of it, documenting its most beautiful stages, and re-positioning ahead of it before it overtakes you.” Still, he emphasizes, weather photography and videography requires him to maintain situational awareness to avoid the risk of putting himself in harm’s way. He adds, “You always have to have an escape option to avoid the storm if something changes or goes wrong.”
His two most exciting shoots occurred first in July 2010 in South Dakota as he and a storm chasing crew headed west in an SUV with a glass sunroof for what looked like storm with a typical moderate risk for large hail and a marginal risk of tornados. But as Evan already knows, Mother Nature loves surprising humanity. What Evan and the rest ended up witnessing was the storm structure of a supercell that produced the largest hailstone on record near Vivian, South Dakota—nearly the size of a bowling ball. The second shoot occurred in Mapleton, Iowa, during a tornado outbreak in April 2011. Evan states, “The chase was significantly different than most as it occurred mainly after dark. I’ll never forget standing several miles south of a tornadic supercell, hearing nothing but crickets and grass blowing as lightning illuminated the silhouette of several tornados in the distance.”
Evan’s hard work and talents have not gone unrecognized. To date, his work has appeared on most major networks and shows including ABC’s Good Morning America, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s The Today Show, The Weather Channel, Weather Nation, and several local news stations. His first television debut was when he was just sixteen and interviewed by The Weather Channel’s Carl Parker about his photography. His work has also been featured on a handful of book covers, albums, and most recently, on the cover of Robert Oldshue’s November Storm.
In pursuing his passions of storm chasing and weather photography, Evan has gained a great sense of humility. He says, “There’s nothing that makes you feel smaller than watching the stars above a departing thunderstorm, and there’s no better reality-check than a lightning bolt crashing less than a hundred yards away from you.”
He advises anyone wishing to pursue their own passion in life to seek out others who share that same passion and grow together. Evan adds, “Find someone who motivates you to push the envelope.” He says that if it hadn’t been for other photographers like Chris and Mike, he may never have chased storms, traveled, eventually moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, or met his wife through an online photography forum.
Dorothea Lange once said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Every time Evan Ludes chases and ultimately captures an exciting weather event, he inspires all of us to take a moment out of our busy lives, look to the sky, and respect its amazing power and beauty.
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Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.