The gods were still asleep on Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 6:33 AM when a spark ignited an inferno that devoured the gentle towns of Concow and Paradise in Northern California. The totality of the destruction was unprecedented.
Having lived near Paradise for almost 40 years, I’ve seen enough of fire and the charred remains it leaves behind. So today we look at another side of nature. Extraordinary forces to be sure, but of contrasting origin.
As Michael Hardy of Wired explains, Mitch Dobrowner photographs extreme meteorological events — Not the havoc, but the splendor. His work is remarkable, and almost serene. The terror, of course, hides in the anticipation.
I see thunderstorms as living things. Some are gorgeous and beautiful, some are tornadic and violent. And the longer they last the more form they take. Eventually, they mature and die. So I try to take a portrait, almost like with a person.
— Mitch Dobrowner
You’ve Never Seen Thunderstorms Like These Before
For the past decade, photographer Mitch Dobrowner has spent a few weeks every summer pursuing extreme weather across the midwestern United States with veteran storm chaser Roger Hill, who, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, has witnessed more tornadoes (more than 650) than anyone in history. During their first outing, in 2009, Dobrowner and Hill spotted a high-precipitation supercell thunderstorm in the Black Hills of South Dakota at noon and followed it all day in Hill’s eight-seater van until giving up the chase at midnight in Valentine, Nebraska.
Mr. Dobrowner’s work is stunning, but don’t be fooled by the grandeur. Once aroused to its full potential, nature, in all of its forms, has an infinite capacity to undo things. Such is the wrath of physics — Haphazard, morally neutral, and unimaginably violent.