The Storm Chaser

Bruno Gonçalves leads a strange double life. By day, he is an environmental engineer for the Lagoa Câmara. By night, he is The Storm Chaser!

Photography Bruno Gonçalves

“Since I was young, I loved to watch storms,” Bruno tells me. So when he got his first job in his twenties, he purchased a specialised camera to attempt to capture a bolt of lightning on film. “All the power of the atmosphere is revealed to the eyes of those who observe them.”

During the storm season in Portugal, while going about his seemingly normal life, Bruno is constantly reviewing weather forecasts. He sometimes drives many miles, searching for the opportunity to encapsulate the power of the universe in all its majesty. “From the pure emotion to the adrenaline rush felt in each lightning bolt that crosses the skies and to the intrinsic fear of the unknown, it is these sensations that compel me to pursue these manifestations of the atmosphere.”

Entirely self-taught, Bruno developed the time-lapse photography technique from tutorials on the internet. Firstly, he must programme the camera to achieve the best exposure possible, using an external intervalometer during storms – the gadget programmes the camera to take a shot every two seconds. Bruno captures between 500 to 1000 images for most storms and then uses software to convert them to videos. He edits each photo to make the best quality footage. “I aim to ‘live’ them and to capture these split-second moments in photography and video.”

He uses radar and a computer to assess where thunderstorms are most likely to form. “You do not want to be directly under the thunderstorm, as you will only see rain,” he explains,” you want to observe the storm from a distance and also be out of the way of lightning strikes!” Bruno sometimes drives for hours to find meteoric events, often travelling into central Portugal, where the most spectacular natural events occur.

His breathtaking images have been displayed in exhibitions and galleries. His video footage can be bought for news footage or films, although he admits there is a small market compared to the USA. This fact led him to travel to ‘Tornado Alley’ in 2015. This extreme weather zone includes Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Nebraska. “It is initially terrifying as tornadoes are a very different beast to thunderstorms.” Travelling with friends, Bruno educated himself, studying weather forecasts and radar. “You need to know where to observe from a position of safety.” 

He has returned to the USA three times and has witnessed the popularity of storm chasing tours in America and so his new venture ExtremAtmosfera was born. Bruno will act as a tour guide to adventurous souls from Portugal who wish to go with him on his adrenaline-fuelled tornado tours. “With all the experience already acquired, we now intend to provide other people passionate about atmospheric phenomena the opportunity to experience with us the power of storms on American soil.”

Despite his work with storms, it is another natural phenomenon that has arguably given Bruno the most notoriety. In 2021, he visited La Palma to photograph the volcanic eruption. The video has already received numerous awards at international film festivals. Cumbre Vieja – The Fire From Within, has won Bruno the “Best Timelapse Film” awards at the Barcelona Planet Film Festival, “Best Short Documentary” at the Todos Con La Palma Solidarity Festival, “Best Timelapse Tourism Video” at the Finisterra Brazil Film Art & Tourism Festival and was also a finalist at the Oniros Film Awards Festival in New York.

Bruno’s breathtaking footage documents the full power of an active volcano in its awesome beauty and fearful destructiveness. It resulted from a small part of the 19 thousand photographs taken in time-lapse sequences. “I loved watching volcanoes on television, but I never thought I would see one for real. But when Cumbre Vieja started to erupt, I became determined to go as I could see how amazing the images would be and it was an unmissable opportunity to try something new. So I bought the plane ticket.” 

Bruno travelled to La Palma with no knowledge of the terrain, which you could translate as either brave or crazy! Bruno’s success lies in his meticulous preparation, as he studied the area first with google maps and was then able to find a good position 3kms from the eruption. 

“It is a strange sight to behold as it is stunningly beautiful, but when you are close, you can see the lives destroyed as it moves forward. But, it is a unique opportunity to photograph– live– a seismic event. The film reveals the birth of a new mountain and the growth of the island’s land-mass, with the solidification of the lava that is being expelled by the volcano.”

For Bruno, the expedition was a personal triumph and led to him being interviewed in the Portuguese media. I ask him how his wife feels about his daring double-life as they have a fourteen-year-old son. “Of course, they worry a little, but my family are now used to this and I do everything possible to be safe.”

As well as being able to capture the eye of the storm, Bruno has a brilliant eye for photography. His artform successfully harnesses the force and beauty of natural phenomena, for which he deserves a shower of praise!

There are still spaces left on Bruno’s tornado tour taking place from the 14th to the 27th of May and the 28th of May to the 5th of June.

This timelapse video ATMÓS was awarded “Best Timelapse” in Oniros Film festival Award back in 2019. It was made with images of tornado alley storms:

“CUMBRE VIEJA – The Fire from Within”

This more complete video, from La Palma volcano, is waiting for results from several festivals:




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