I've put together this page to answer the basic questions I get emailed to answer all the time.
Douglas Kiesling, AKA Lightningboy, The Weather Paparazzi. I'm a severe weather photojournalist, also known as a "Storm Chaser" by the general public and also known as a "Stringer" in the media.
Please don't call me a storm chaser because anyone can be called a "storm chaser" since anyone can run out and chase a storm. I coined the term “Weather Paparazzi” since I am professional severe weather photojournalist. I chase storms like the Hollywood Paparazzi chase celebrities.
Who Do I Work For? I'm self employed. I own a company I started in 2001 called Breaking News Video Network, Inc. or BNVN. You can review my resume page for more details about my work history since I work with all the TV Networks.
Where Am I Based Out Of? I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and still live in the area today. I often get told being a storm chaser I should live in Oklahoma... NO, NO,NO and NO!!! Oklahoma gets no real weather!!! The weather in Oklahoma sucks 90 percent of the year when there are no tornadoes. Sure they get the few severe thunderstorms each spring and a few tornadoes but in general, the weather in much of Tornado Alley is pretty boring most of the year. Minnesota on the other hand has what I call the 12 seasons of weather, not including "Road Construction"
Brutal Cold Sub Zero Winter
Winter Snow Storms
Spring Warm Up
Spring Thunder Storms
Severe Thunder Storms and Tornadic Storms
Summertime Rain Storms
Extreme Hot and Humid Weather.
Summer Time Record Cold Temps
Fall Cool Down And Fall Colors
And Back To Winter Cold And Snow.
Minneapolis is a meteorological hot spot which has allowed me to persues what was my hobby of storm chasing that has now turned into my full time career.
How Did I Make Storm Chasing My Career? I did not? It just kind of happened. I went to school for commercial aviation. Storm Chasing was a hobby of mine before and during college. On the evening of September 10, 2001, I received my sign off paperwork to take my commercial and instrument pilot tests. Fifteen hours later, the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place and everything that I trained for over the past several years was now all for nothing. My friend Rory and I just started BNVN and now had the ability to feed storm chasing video to The Weather Channel over the internet without the use or need of satellites. The video was broadcast quality and we could feed the video pretty much anywhere we could get on the internet at high speed.
Our goal was to be able to feed video out of severe weather that happened once in a while from around the Minneapolis area. Then as soon as we were able to feed video out over the internet, we were getting called to go out and shoot video of people in the rain and cold. From there, BNVN just started to grow rapidly into the huge company that it is today.
If I Live In Minnesota, How Do I Chase Hurricanes? I just started chasing hurricanes in 2004. My first Hurricane was Charley where I teamed up with 5 other BNVN stringers to document the storm. Hurricane Charley was supposed to be a little storm that was a Cat 2 that was supposed to hit Tampa. At the last minute, Charley turned into a very strong Cat 4 hurricane and we all shifted our positions and targeted Punta Gorda Florida to document Hurricane Charley getting destroyed on video. We never stopped filming and obtained some once in a lifetime footage.
I took all of our Hurricane Charley Video that the six of us shot in Punta Gorda and made a little documentary that we thought would sell a few copies to help pay for the trip. I'm proud to say after almost ten thousand copies later, and being featured in the Miami International Independent Film Festival in February of 2005, the documentary that I edited together in between chasing Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne is a hit. It won the Audience Award For Best Documentary.
I also chased Hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne in Florida in 2004 and in 2005 is chased hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Out of all of the hurricanes, I still say hurricane Charley was the worst hurricane just because of the power of the storm, not the aftermath.
Do I Sell Video For TV Shows And Movies? Yes, I have a very large stock video collection of my own work. With BNVN, our company has a huge selection of stock video footage to license of all types of weather and news events.
How Can I Get A Job Like Yours And What Does It Pay? Simple Answer, You Can't! There is no school for what I do. Sure you can go to school to learn meteorology but it’s not all weather, it’s a mix of weather, photojournalism, computer science and just stuff I learned in the field along the way and stuff I created. As for what I make for a living, like I said, I chase all the weather so I am pretty busy all year long unlike some friends that live in the heart of Tornado Alley who have pretty boring weather for ten months out of the year.
What Advice Can You Give Me If I Want To Start Storm Chasing? Don't Do It Alone!!! Take a skywarn class to get some kind of idea about what you’re going to get into. If you’re just looking to go out and see tornadoes for fun, you’re better off signing up for a storm chasing tour. I personally don't recommend any of the tour companies out there just because there are so many of them these days and there not paying me for advertising. If you want me to recommend a tour, send me a private email and I will tell you then who I think is good and will give you your money's worth.
Being A Seasoned Freelance Weather Channel Photographer, Do I Know The On Air Staff? NO NO and NO!!!!! The people you see on TV do not buy video, producers buy video. Yes I know a few of the on air staff from being a freelancer and working with them in the field but I try to avoid them as much as possible since they have nothing to do with what gets put on the air. Its Television, there are lots of people behind the scenes who take care of that stuff.
What Do You Think Of The Other Storm Chasers Out There? Since I own BNVN, I know a lot of the people storm chasing in the spring. Some are pretty friendly and fun to hang around but honestly, this is a very competitive business and someone who could be your friend one day will stab you in the back the next day to make a sale.