All images © Inflow Images
Dust Devil Chase January 4-14, 2000
I have had a lot of interest shown in my Dust Devil (DD) photos, so as I was spending 10 days holidaying in Mildura again, I thought I would try to get some more.
The first day I went out was very gusty, and although I got a few photos and some video, I spent most of the afternoon driving around just trying to get close to one. They are very deceiving in that they always look so close but they were really quite a long way away. They are quite easy to see from over 15 kms away. But by the time I got near them they would dissipate. I must have seen over 100 though. A very frustrating day really although I was pleasantly surprised by how many there were and also how big they could get.
The second day I went out was a bit warmer (30C), and when I drove out of town I saw 3 of them. I couldn't get close to them but things were looking up. I set up the cameras looking into a dusty field and waited for them to develop. I got a few photos and video of some, but it was a long wait between them, and there very bad definition (not much dust). I drove back towards town and I could see quite an active area of DD's so I headed bush. I had to drive quite fast to try and get close to them but once again was thwarted in that they were over by the time I got near them. I then had a stroke of luck and one started developing within 2 kms of me so I jumped in the car and howled off in a trail of dust (well it was a dirt road after all, heehee). As I pulled up next to the paddock it was just starting to really get going and it was the one I was after. Large, high definition...Excellent. My heart was beating fast as I grabbed my tripod and camera from the back seat and legged it up an embankment. I set up the tripod in a panic (you've got to be quick) and was all thumbs. It took me what seemed ages to get it set up and the video camera going. I could see the DD wasn't going to last long so I was in a hurry. Basically to cut a long story short, I stuffed it up. The tripod swivels were done too tight, and every time I tried to point the camera in a direction it didn't stay there, so I ended up fighting with the tripod and the picture ended jerking all over the place. You get dizzy watching it. I really only got 2 seconds of good still footage. You can still see how awesome the dust devil was (was only good for 13 seconds as it went behind trees), but I was really disappointed. I got a few more DD's from a long way away and headed home.
The next day I went out I knew I had to be more organised, so I set up my tripod, loosened all of the pivots, got my camera out ready with new film and the right lens before I left the house. My brother in law suggested I try north of town so I headed North about 40 km's. I saw a few good ones and got some photos and video footage, but most of the fields had ground cover on them so there was not as much dust as I would have liked, so it was back to where I was the previous days. This day I headed to back to my original area and went bush from there. Once again I saw heaps but couldn't get close enough. I still got some footage and photos, but not the ones I was after. On the way home I ended up in the field where I stuffed up the video and caught a large one on video and camera. That day there was also some instability around and I also saw a landspout from developing cumulus. I was just looking at a dust devil off in the distance and there it was. I couldn't see it on the ground and just drove (fast) up to the top of a hill (about 20seconds drive) so I could get a better shot but by then it had dissipated. For all you chasers out there, TAKE THE SHOT, ANY SHOT, then get into a better position if there is time. Anyway I had an awesome day walked into my sisters house with a grin from ear to ear. I was stoked. That night I watched the footage of the DD's and the good one was out of focus for half the time that I filmed it. The trouble is that the sky was so bright that it was hard to make out all the detail in the viewfinder. The only way to fix that is to buy a different video camera with a really large viewfinder. Expensive! The video I got was still pretty good but once again I was left a little disappointed.
By this time I was hooked on DD chasing and I was determined to capture and awesome one on Video and Film.
On the fourth day I went out the forecast was for Northerly winds and a max Temp of 36C. Just what the doctor ordered. Once again I set up everything before I left the house and worked out how to put the video on manual focus quickly and then headed out. Today I though I would try something different and instead of driving around the countryside like a a maniac I would go back to my favourite spot in the bush and just spend a few hours waiting to see DD's form. This was a winning strategy as I got a lot of good footage and photos. I got some really big ones, small ones,. high ones, low ones, and there was lots of them. Twice I counted 10 on the ground at one time. A really good day, but I still hadn't got close to one similar to my first DD picture which was creating all the interest.
On the day before I was set to fly back to Perth I had a couple of hours free in the afternoon so I thought to myself why not. (more like: who cares if I don't have the time, I am going anyway!). Again it was northerly winds and hot. Back to the bush and my field. Immediately it was going off. DD's everywhere. I think I hardly stopped filming for 30 minutes there were so many. I then filmed one coming towards me from a long way away and it kept coming. I kept filming and it was HUGE! I thought it must have been 30 or 40 meters across the bottom! As it got closer there was a lot of dust in it and it just looked awesome. I thought to myself if it comes near me I will go up to it and run through it. It came closed and I zoomed the video out as far as it would go so I get myself running through the DD. I sprinted from behind the camera towards the DD which was now awesomely huge and ran about 150m. I was till 50m away from it and I stopped short. It wasn't 30 or 40m wide, it was at least 70m! I just stood there and looked up at it with a wall of dust rotating around. It was incredibly and I must admit I chickened out. I still don't think it would have been a good idea as there was so much dust and it was soooo wide, I might have ended up choking. When I ran up to it, it sped up and started to dissipate (I scared it off), so I jogged back to the Video (coughing and wheezing...too fat and unfit!) and tried to catch the rest of it, but it was all over. Man that was an unreal experience! A few minutes later I got the one I was after. The DD was tall and it kind of just tightened its rotation and started sucking heaps of dust up. I caught it intensifying and the definition was great. Whilst this one was going on, behind me was another great one similar to the one I was filming. I didn't know which way to look, so I left the video on the first one and took some photos of the other. A good decision in the end as the first one was slightly better and I had time to video the other one for a short time after the first had dissipated. It was really cool as they just looked like small tornados.
That last day I got some awesome footage and photos and I was only out for 2 hours! I had an great time chasing the DD's and can recommend it to anyone who wants to give it a go.
Now if only I could get into that farmers paddock with a Subaru Brumby, kick up some dust in front of a large DD and buy a cheap video that doesn't matter if it gets dirt in it, and drive.........................