FAQ - Colin Davis

A list of common questions I get -- or that I expect to get now that this website is out there:


Q: Donkeys and Downbursts?  What?
A: That was two questions.  I wanted something creative that was nothing like anything anyone had come up with before.  I knew this site, mainly dedicated to photography and storm chasing (thus the "downbursts" part; look it up if you must), would also contain a blog, and I'd be likely to throw a political rant in there at some point.  And, given my long-standing allegiance to the Democratic Party (though I'm very much of the opinion that healthy, professional debate is necessary for democracy), Donkeys and Downbursts it became.


Q: Why are your galleries named what they are?
A: No, I'm not calling Rozie (the bride in those wedding photos) or any other human that happens to be in the "Tramps Like Us" gallery a tramp.  :)  The names of the galleries are all either names of -- or lyrics in -- Bruce Springsteen songs.  I'm a huge Springsteen fan (been to many concerts), and I often end up blasting E Street Radio on my Sirius while driving anywhere, including chasing.  So, as an homage to Bruce and the E Street Band, I named my galleries as such.  "Tramps Like Us" is the human/wildlife gallery.  "Long Walk Home" is my travel gallery.  "Mansion on the Hill" is my architecture gallery.  "This Hard Land" is the landscape gallery.  "Thunder Road," of course, is for storm chasing/stormscapes, and "Loose Ends" is for the photos that just don't fit anywhere else.


Q: What are your "normal" photography subjects?
A: Basically, anything involving the sky, and then nature/animal photography and, occasionally, architecture.  Good lighting gets my attention just as often as a good subject, and some of the really old churches and abbeys in Ireland, as well as some of the photography of Frank van der Salm, taught me that some really cool photographs are available inside, as well as outside.


Q: Where do you normally photograph?
A: Strangely enough, I seem to have my camera out much more often when I'm traveling than when I'm at home.  So, when I'm chasing storms in the Midwest or Great Plains, or when I'm on vacation.  Rocky Mountain National Park and the surrounding area are favorites of mine, and I traditionally get there for about a week every year.  Too often, though, I think we ignore the beauty that's frequently around us because we've become so immune to it.  We see it every day.  I'm trying to get myself out of that habit, so trips to Emiquon have become more frequent recently.


Q: What kind of gear do you use for photography?
A: I'm all Canon, but it's a hobby for me, so I don't have the crazy equipment that some do.  My main body is a T3i; Digital Rebel XTi is my backup.  In the bag is a 28mm f/1.8, 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, 75-300mm 4.5-5.6, something I'm not thinking of right now, and the kit lens (18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6).  I've actually found that the kit is a great lens for storm chasing.  I've also found that, if you have some basic knowledge of lighting, composition, aperture and shutter speed, and you can put yourself in position to find a worthy subject, much of the photographic work is done for you.  In addition, I use a Manfrotto tripod and cable release, and have a couple neutral density filters and a polarizer in my bag when the situation warrants.  I shoot RAW and usually compose at the camera (very little cropping in most cases), and then recreate the scene as best as I can with minor adjustments in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop.  I also have a Canon HD video camera (Vixia, i think?) that I use for timelapsing, occasionally.


Q: Can I come along storm chasing with you or on photography trips?
A: The short answer is no.  I occasionally will invite some friends to join me, and I have no problem sharing what little knowledge I have, but I've learned that I'm only compatible on long chasing/photography trips with a select few people.  Now, that doesn't absolutely rule anyone out.  I'm more than happy to try and help new folks learn the ropes, but if you're not willing to put in the time to learn as much as possible, you should jump on with a reputable storm chasing tour company.  I highly recommend stormchasingtour.com; Silver Lining Tours, and Cloud 9 Tours.  They'll get you the good time without having to put in the work.  To be clear, there's nothing wrong with the passing interest.  But, chasing and photography both require long hours in the car or getting into position for the right photograph.  I often use that time as "recharging" time -- my time to be away from people and daily hustle -- and I want you to have a good time, too.  Those who I travel with frequently understand that need and typically complement my personality, and we generally have the same goals.  That's a necessity when you have to make as many decisions for safety and artistic value as you do in chasing.


Q: Are you a professional storm chaser or photographer?
A: Not even close on either.  Photography and storm chasing are strictly hobbies for me.  In fact, they both are difficult to make a living in.  Storm chasing has increased significantly in popularity since I started (and usually only lasts about a third of the calendar year, or so), and landscape photography is so prevalent that it's sometimes difficult to find a truly unique image.  I do both because they're my time to be at one with nature and represent my only real artistic outlet.  While I do occasionally sell prints, my main goals are simply to add something to the catalog that brings a little joy to people -- and to keep me sane.  :)


Q: Do you sell prints?  How about licensing?
A: Absolutely.  Every photo on this website can be purchased as a print or as wall art, and, as this is a SmugMug site, you should be able to purchase right through here.  I also keep a page at FineArtAmerica, as their printing capabilities are a bit more customizable (no cropping necessary just to fit a "typical" print size).  If you're looking for something specific or need help determining what might fit a particular space well, reach out to me via the contact page.  As far as licensing (for business use, for-profit use, media use, etc.), reach out to me via the contact page for rates.  I'm happy to work with you to make your project go.


Q: How about for personal or non-profit use?
A: I'll generally grant use for non-profit, educational, or personal uses.  However, I request that you contact me directly before using it.  All images belong to me via copyright laws, and I prefer to know who is using my images, why, and that I'll be credited for them.  Note that for media/licensing inquiries, I do NOT consent to use, and I require that images be properly licensed.


Q: What kind of gear do you use while storm chasing?
A: Less now than when I first started!  When I first started, I had a police scanner, a NOAA Weather Radio, my camera gear, a laptop with GPS and mobile internet (cell phone tether), and a ton more.  Now, chasing has become streamlined quite a bit, and I often chase with just my iPhone, especially if I'm out on my own.  However, generally speaking, a laptop, a GPS puck, and a cell phone (for communication and internet), all powered by a power inverter, are almost necessities.  Oh, and your vehicle.  I also have a HAM radio (call sign KC9ICG) for car-to-car communication, listening into the local spotter network, and for emergency contact.  Turns out that, when you're in some of the remotest areas in our country, cell service can be pretty spotty.  And, with the popularity of storm chasing growing, even if there is a cell tower in the vicinity, it can quickly get overloaded with hundreds of chasers on the same storm.  That happens more frequently than you might think.  However, all the electronics in the world won't matter if you don't invest some effort into learning how to chase safely.


Q: How can I chase storms?
A: The simple, less responsible answer is to just go do it.  You don't need a license or anything to do it, though in order to keep everyone safer, you really should do at least one of two things (if not both): become SKYWARN Spotter certified with your local National Weather Service and go out with someone who is experience.  Beginning chasing should be considered like any other potentially dangerous activity.  You wouldn't go skydiving, rock climbing, hang gliding or deep-sea diving on your own the first time, though many people partake in those hobbies, too.  And most of the time, even when you are experienced, they aren't activities that you should do alone.  Storm chasing is the same way.  Basically, once you get a good knowledge of forecasting, storm structure and safe driving, and you are confident enough in all three that you can safely do them simultaneously, then you're "qualified" to chase storms.


See a question that should be on here but isn't?  Ask away using the CONTACT page.