Omaha World-Herald photographer Chris Machian was in Oklahoma City to cover the Nebraska softball team at the Women's College World Series on Friday when he decided to go storm searching.
Machian soon found himself south of a massive tornado system ripping through Canadian County.
“I have never seen a tornado before,” he said. “It was exactly where I thought it was, exactly where they said it was. You don't really think; you just shoot at that point. I had to stop several times to look up and above me and around me to make sure there wasn't anything else sneaking up on me.”
Using a 300 mm telephoto lens on his Canon 1Dx that he used to photograph softball, Machian took photos at a distance that he said he felt he could get away safely if the tornado turned.
“I saw the big one come down first, photographed that one, and then some smaller ones came down after that pretty much out of the same storm,” Machian said.
“I couldn't really grasp the scale. I mean you can see some buildings in the background but when you have a telephoto you kind of compress space. I knew it was a safe enough distance from me, but I couldn't tell how big it was.”
With lessons he had learned through severe weather spotting classes at the National Weather Service in Nebraska, Machian felt confident he wasn't in the way of the tornado's wrath.
“One of the parts is how to safely spot a storm without being in the way, and they talk about the dangers and the types of clouds and false tornado reports, where the hail core is and things like that. It's not a real in-depth class,” he said. “It's just a three or four hours once a year and I try to make it every year as sort of a refresher. I have no meteorology background or anything like that.”