Storm Chaser

By Laura Hedien

I was a paramedic/firefighter for twenty-five years in northeastern Illinois. I was also blessed to serve our country as a Hospital Corpsman Master Chief in the US Naval Reserves, deploying outside of the country three times and once to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina relief. What a blessed life I have led. But there is a price to pay. 

In 2018, after coming home from Iraq, I attended photo workshops in and outside the United States. That initial foray lead me to many gorgeous, hard to reach locations in Arizona and Utah. I had no idea such beauty existed in our nation. Posting and sharing the images I make allows me to share the beauty of the world in a language that I do not otherwise have. I tend to get emotional anytime I do speak of the things that reach my soul, so maybe, as I take the time to think back on the intensity of my careers, allowing a camera to speak for me is the best way I can communicate. I find it easier to communicate with imagery sometimes, to share the peace I find through the lens, while chasing unpredictable subjects like wildlife and storms. 

Are the demons coming now that I’m retired? No, but some of the more unpleasant memories are awakening. You tend not to think about all the nasty things people do to one another while you are working. But they come back to visit when you slow down. So I’ve kept moving since I’ve retired, visiting remote areas in Alaska to photograph Kodiak brown bears; riding Kenya’s back lands chasing images of lions, giraffes, leopards, cheetahs and elephants; and chasing photos in the Antarctic, one of the most desolate, raw locations on the planet. It’s all replaced the adrenaline rush that came with the siren. 

One hardly notices the February cold when capturing images of the Aurora Borealis in Yellowknife, Canada. And when a wild creature, one capable of ending you, turns and looks directly into your eyes, there’s a connection that is beyond exhilarating. I’ve been blessed to make those connections with wolves, giraffes, bears, elephants, lionesses, eagles, penguins and bison amongst others. I prize these inter-creature connections more than many human interactions. 

Storm chasing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. I started chasing storms in 2005 and  I’ve pursued them across the Great Plains, in Canada, and in Mexico. For several years now I’ve been chasing in May and June with two meteorology professors. The feeling of standing near something so large and powerful is a rush. The storms, especially supercell storms twitch their rotating mesocyclones that look like a spaceship, feel as if they are alive, as if they are creating their own environment, in which to survive. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing, seeking beauty and excitement and life in a world that sometimes pushes us to stay home, to stay away from the edges, to never climb over the fence. 

But the sharp edges are where I like to dance and I hope my photos show you why. 

About the Author
Laura Hedien is a retired firefighter and paramedic, ranger police officer, and Navy Master Chief Hospital Corpsman. She travels the world chasing storms, nature, and beauty. Her work may be viewed at