StormStock's Martin Lisius Faces Nature Unleashed
Looking at footage of street signs becoming projectiles in the midst of a tornado or a hurricane, it's amazing to think that whoever kept the cameras rolling through the extreme weather didn't get swept away or flung over the rainbow. But Martin Lisius, president and cinematographer at StormStock, has managed to capture nature's dark side while keeping his wet feet on the ground.
Started in 1993, StormStock is a library of extreme weather footage available for licensing by television and film professionals and is a subsidiary of Lisius' Prairie Pictures. "Our expertise is in capturing very high-end footage of storms and weather," says Lisius. "When producers need the best, they come to us."
Lisius is based in Arlington, Texas, the only state in the U.S. that experiences tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards. "There's plenty of interesting weather right outside my door to photograph," he says, though he will travel as far as Florida for hurricanes and the Dakotas for tornadoes.
Along with his geographic predisposition to an interest in extreme weather, Lisius has a background in video production and meteorology. In the '90s he produced documentaries about severe weather, one of which was the first program dedicated entirely to the subject of storm chasing. It aired on PBS in the fall of 1991. "I got calls from producers who wanted to license the footage," he says. "That's how StormStock was formed."
Precautions are part of his expertise. Lisius has learned from experience how to stay out of the way of danger while documenting the unleashed aspect of nature. "My knowledge of storms—how they evolve and their risks—is what keeps me safe. Sadly, there were times when I was in a perfectly safe position and others nearby that I could not see were overwhelmed or even killed."
Even when defying death and disaster, Lisius considers the most challenging part of the job to be the time investment. "It requires hours of forecasting for one event that then takes hours of driving," he notes. "I may have to leave at 4 a.m. to be in Nebraska by 1 p.m. and update my route as I go using my laptop and weather radar in the car. It's hundreds of miles of driving a day and thousands of miles of driving a year."
Fortunately, Lisius does not have any stories about narrowly escaping his own demise. "I'm very safe, and I carefully plan how I intercept a storm," he says. "I always have redundant safety measures in place, so I don't have any cool stories about close calls. For me, it's just another day at the office. That's how I've been able to do it for decades."
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