Storm-chasing University of Michigan photographer captures nature’s power, beauty

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ANN ARBOR, MI – Clouds transforming into a funnel. Winds reaching 80 mph. A storm creeping toward the house from two miles away.

This is how Daryl Marshke remembers the first time a storm captured his imagination. Now a photographer for Michigan Creative through the University of Michigan, that tornado hit his Livingston County home during his first year in college.

Fortunately, the Hartland home saw only minor damage, with no more than a few shingles flying from the roof and some unearthed trees on the ground, he said. But much like the lightning he captures in his photography now, that storm sparked his interest in capturing the power and beauty of extreme weather.

“The intensity of that experience intrigued me,” Marshke said. “I had always liked watching the lightning and seeing the clouds rolling in. Then I got a little more into the photography aspect. Just showing the whole picture of nature.”

Marshke has combined his passions for photography and storms to capture striking images of extreme weather, from lightning around UM landmarks, such as Michigan Stadium and Burton Tower, as well as others in his personal trips around the country.

Burton Tower lightning

A photo of lightning near Burton Memorial Tower at University of Michigan. Photo provided by Daryl Marshke of Michigan Photography.Daryl Marshke | Michigan Photography

Growing up,Marshke watched National Geographic on TV, with dreams of being a marine biologist. After the storm at his house, he found inspiration through the shows “Storm Chasers” and “Tornado Chasers.”

One of his first attempts to capture a storm on camera was in May 2011 during the Joplin, Missouri tornado that killed 158 people when he was driving across the country with his wife to Arizona The category 5 twister with 200 mph winds was a challenging first attempt, he said.

“We’ve had some bad storms but these storms were a whole ‘nother level,” he said. “I’ve never experienced rain and wind like we experienced that day. It was kind of like the storms were just popping up and we’re kind of dodging them as best we could.”

The experience shaped his approach to shooting storms, as Marshke said he would make sure he was a safe distance from them moving forward to avoid danger.

One of his favorite photos is a lightning strike at Michigan Stadium, which he took in 2017 after a storm during the Michigan State game. There are two ways to capture lightning bolts: either with a camera with long exposure capabilities or by knowing which cloud will expel lightning and anticipating the strike in real-time, he said.

“There was one part of the system that was always having a lightning bolt in the same spot,” Marshke said. “So I just waited for that cloud to cut across the stadium. I had my hand on the shutter and just waited. When I saw just a little flinch of light, I hit the shutter and the two or three frames I got was able to get that shot.”

His passion for storm photography has another application in helping National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials map storms. Marshke became certified in storm chasing in 2021 and learned how storms build, the various categories of storm intensity, how to escape danger and more.

With his wide-angle lens and other equipment, he provides NOAA with “an extra set of eyes that Doppler can’t get,” he said.

“You’re able to call in (to the NOAA tip line) by storm if it’s a tornado warning,” Marshke said. “You give them your location, and that helps them identify where it’s at and how to prepare people in the surrounding area.”

In Michigan, there are an average of 15 tornadoes each year, according to That means Marshke is prepared to pick up his gear and help out officials more than a dozen times a year.

However, storm chasing always starts with his appreciation for weather’s beauty. His hope is that someday he can capture weather in different landscapes.

“I’m hoping very soon I’ll be able to go out west like Oklahoma with wide open fields and see the tornado drop,” he said. “Be low in the grass with some of the grass in the foreground and then the tornado on the the beautiful Nimbus clouds that are there and maybe a bolt of lightning.

“My passion is just about the natural beauty and power of nature.”

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