When you think of storm chasing photographers, you imagine a team of hungry artists crisscrossing the great plains of the United States in an ambulance and setting up an ironing board, lawn chair, and toilet as soon as they find the perfect location, right? No? Well, neither did I, but that’s exactly what my boyfriend and I did last year.
I’ve always been fascinated by storms. The photographer in me always imagined the visuals. Massive supercells discharging thunderous bolts of lightning in the distance as a mid-west prairie lights up in golden hour yellow in the foreground.
When I suggested the idea to my partner Benjamin Wong, an incredible and even more crazy photographer than I, I thought he would think the idea was marvelous. I mean, he is the kind of guy that loves to hang people from 42 story high buildings, sink them 75ft underwater in shipwrecks and set models on fire, just to get the shot. I could hear the response : “Yes love, what a fantastic, fun idea, you’re so brilliant and clever, let’s do it!”
Instead, I basically received a response along the lines of “No, that’s too complicated. It would be an absolute nightmare and impossible to pull off, especially without funding! We should think of a different project.”
I wasn’t convinced.
I don’t like to take no for an answer, especially when I think I am right. To me, it was exactly the kind of shoot that only he would be crazy enough to do. Well, at least I thought so. Apparently it was so crazy that not even he wanted to do it at first. But I didn’t let that stop me. I sent subtle hints. Whenever I came across an awesome image of a storm, I would send it to him. I kept at it until he finally caved and agreed.
Sure, we were crazy enough to go storm chasing, but we weren’t crazy enough to do it without help.
Before going any further, we needed to find a professional. More than anything else we wanted to know if our crazy idea was even possible. That’s when Kelly Delay, a weather and environmental photographer with over seven years chasing experience, was suggested to us. Ben jumped on a call with him and surprisingly he was more than happy to help us out but he made sure to point out a few things first.
- We would have no more than 10-15 minutes to set up and tear down each shot.
- No idea and no control over where we would go each day.
- No guarantees that the storms would cooperate and we could even get our shots.
We could deal with that.
Then Ben used his magic to find other people willing to help out, bring props and model for his shots in all the seven states in the Great Plains that we “might” end up. It took a lot of organizing, but he did an awesome job and surprisingly, everything was falling into place. Along with all of our models and prop owners, we had our professional chaser, a crazy video guy named Pat Black and even a photographer named Ryan Zimmerman who offered to come along in his ambulance, which was the perfect place to house the props and set up a lighting system out of the weather. We were set!
We spent the next two weeks chasing storms across the Great Plains, meeting up with willing models and equipping them with props as we rushed to get the shots we envisioned.
It was exactly as Kelly had said – no more than 10-15 minutes to set up, shoot and get everything back in the ambulance before the storm caught up to us, no idea or control over where we would end up each day and no guarantee the storms would co-operate… despite that we ended up with some crazy images!
At this point I should maybe mention the toilet…
I guess you’re wondering why? Why use a deck chair, ironing board and of all things, a toilet?
Our goal was to use these images to create awareness about the effects of climate change. To get people to think about the world around them. We wanted to convey the message that climate change was getting closer and closer to affecting our everyday lives. The storm was, what we thought, the perfect metaphor. Quite literally the idea of a storm brewing in the background. Each shot has someone going about their normal every day life, totally unaware of what’s happening behind them. The message that we wound up using on the final images fit the series perfectly. “Climate Change Doesn’t Care About…”
And climate change doesn’t care. But we should care about climate change. Before it’s too late.