Monday, March 3, 2014

Video Review:"Full Circle"

Chaser Adam Lucio returns with his sophomore effort "Full Circle" consisting of his best chases from 2011-2013. Normally I like to write DVD reviews just after having sat down and watched one in its entirety, but I've been so busy that's been pretty much impossible this year. However, the chapters on this disc are so captivating and entertaining, they resonate with you. I watched the first third of the video a few weeks back, then a few days later the middle section. I only finished the DVD yesterday morning, and what a DVD it is.

The video begins with one of the best Fall setups in recent memory (November 7, 2011), and Adam & company take full advantage of the opportunity. What at first seems like a last chance desperation run, as their initial target busts and they race back east to catch up with an ongoing tornado, turns into one of the most enjoyable video segments I've ever watched on any DVD. They catch the first tornado as it begins the rope phase, and capture some great colors and contrast as it almost poses for them, having seemingly waited just long enough to offer them a sweet consolation prize. Before this one can completely die, the next one forms to their east. After waiting perhaps a bit too long while shooting the extended rope out of tornado number one (and when you see the video, you won't blame them), they break east for the ongoing multi-vortex and the chase is on.

What follows is a masterful job of getting back into position on the storm, with a multitude of tornadoes ranging from wispy ropes to massive wedges. What struck me most about this chapter were the colors. There's every type of tornado "mood" on this chapter, with beautiful, calm milky blues, grays, and whites. There are darker, brooding tornadoes that conjure up equal elements of envy and fear. And there are difficult tornadoes that play hide-n-seek within wrapping rain curtains, turbine farms, and even mountains. I found myself reliving some of my own Fall chases, as there's just something about Autumn tornado days that are different. My favorite chapter on the disc.

2012 is a quick-hitting, consolidated piece that showcases the brief highlights from a difficult year for Adam. Despite his troubles, a tornado intercept in Kentucky is an example of the dedication and (albeit it brief) success that dedication has produced, as he has no qualms about strapping in and going wherever the storms go, even for a momentary glimpse.

After the 2012 interlude, 2013 roars off the screen with the May 18 Rozel/Sanford tornadoes. Adam's video of the former reminds me of an old NOVA special, great contrast from a perfectly mid-range distance/angle. In some ways it reminds me of the 1979 Seymour, TX tornado that NSSL crews shot. In any case, it's a superb clip, followed by the encore tornado that ropes out to a brilliant pink as the day fades away. But Lucio's not done yet, as this is just the first of a tornado day hat trick. May 19 features some excellent close range positioning/strategy, as he and his group stay close to the action but never really put themselves in danger, while getting some chaotic but cool close up shots. The debris whirl in the field just southeast of them is excellent. Then comes May 20, and the vicious Moore, OK tornado. His crew find themselves on the wrong side of a river that keeps them from following the tornado, but before it escapes their view Adam gets some great video looking north at the tornado. Great contrast and boiling motions, as this monster roars in front of them, gradually vanishing behind a wall of rain. May 18-20 was a fantastic stretch for Adam, as this portion of the DVD confirms.

But then comes May 28 and the incredible Bennington, KS meandering wedge, a tornado so amazing, it will make you forget about Rozel for a while. The entire sequence is shot from one spot, on tripod, and features some of the most incredible rotation and motion I've ever seen on video or reality. The tornado cyclone itself (before the tornado) will have your jaw on the floor. And then it appears, the signature tornado of this DVD. A near-stationary, up to one-mile-wide, perfect contrast beast. Simultaneously deadly and wondrous, this tornado will have you mesmerized, a smooth-sided mammoth dancing over a lush green prairie foreground. The kind of video that forever transports those who were fortunate enough to witness it back to that incredible moment, and stabs the hearts of those who did not. Though this clip is not my favorite segment on the DVD, I think it's arguable the Bennington tornado is the signature tornado of Adam's career thus far.

Following this dose of sensory overload is May 31, which features a rare blunder/missed opportunity for Adam in 2013, as they position themselves out of play to view the historic El Reno wedge. However, they grab a nice consolation prize later in the day, with a brief but close encounter with a tornado in the town of Tuttle just before twilight. Adam is not lost on the tragic yet historic impact of this day despite not being on the El Reno tornado, as a nice tribute to the members of Twistex is included.

This would've been a wonderful ending to a fantastic DVD. But it's not done yet.

It's cool to score an Autumn tornado day and feature it on a DVD. But to have three of them, all on one disc, and two in the same year, is nothing short of downright impressive. Adam was on fire in May and that carried over into the Fall, beginning with a very close call with a wedge tornado near Wayne, NE. I've seen this clip a dozen times, and every time they drive north, even though I know they start backing up south to escape being hit, I find myself leaning forward, my pulse quickening, and my palms sweating, as I imagine myself in that scenario and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. I want to scream "Go south!!" at the screen every damn time. Adam eventually figures it out, just in the nick of time, and what ensues is a scary-close brush with a violent tornado. And it was a closer call than you might realize. I don't think they had 15 seconds more to make up their minds. For those who love close range, dramatic, escaping the tornado type video, you're gonna eat this up.

After what starts to seem like an endless stream of incredible tornado video, "Full Circle" finally does just that, culminating with the marquee tornado of the November 17 Midwest outbreak. Adam & crew find themselves with a large EF4 southwest of them, and as the twister begins to emerge from the rain, he sets himself up for a fantastic shot from north of the tornado, as it roars by to the south in excellent contrast. A farmstead in the foreground (that was not hit) as the huge tornado moves behind provides both an eerie feel and a great barometer for the sheer size of this animal. They eventually get overtaken by backside wrap around, as the tornado disappears back into the precip to their east. Later on they get a brief look at a distant white stovepipe, and the video fades to black.

After viewing this production, it's clear that Adam Lucio has staked a claim as one of chasing's new heavyweights, possessing a rare blend of desire, dedication, and skills necessary to excel. Note that I didn't include "resources" in the last statement, meaning that Adam doesn't have one major component most of today's most successful chasers do: unlimited resources. What makes Adam one of the best (IMO) these days, is his dedication and sacrifice, to be able to hang with the corporate giants and factory teams of chasing. He works a day job, he pays bills, and sometimes he just gets by. But he still juggles a real, working life with the dedication to chasing tornadoes that few "lifers" have. And that, IMO, is what separates him from most of the newer chasers. Add in the fact he's based out of Chicago, and about 70% of his success has occurred multiple states away from his home base, and you've got a guy who's going to be around for a long, long time. And kicking ass the whole way.

Oh, and the DVD? That's the proof. You can see for yourself here.