If one were to only pay attention to social media they would think that 2016 was the most awful year known to man. As for myself, I was pleased with the way the year went and had a lot of exciting things happen along the way and had some photos to show for it as well. So, without further ado I'd like to take a look back at what was an eventful 2016 for Southern Plains Photography.
I never thought it would happen in a million years, but early 2016 saw me walk away from a good paying full time job to focus my time on weather and landscape photography. The seeds were planted a couple of years ago but through hard work, long hours and dedication to my goal I made the leap and haven't looked back. If there's one achievement other than getting married and having kids that I'll look to the rest of my life with pride it's this one.
It was a great year overall for capturing shots of tornadoes, and I was lucky enough to be there for most of it although I did miss a couple of important events. I'm a little bummed that I missed the beautiful Wray, CO tornado that everyone and their dog seemed to get, and I missed the powerful Wynnewood tornado in May. On the flip side, I got to witness every single tornado that the Dodge City, KS storm produced...such a historic event. It made up for everything I'd ever missed out on before. Here are some photos of tornadoes I captured this season:
2016 also saw some of the most extraordinary storm structure and it made for some unforgettable scenes. Leoti, Kansas on May 21st in particular stood out for its incredible look and I was lucky enough to be there. Chases in Colorado with linear storms as far as the eye could see yielded incredible views, and meanwhile just down the road from my house I'd get to capture one of my best photos of the year. Here are the highlights from my (non-tornadic) weather adventures.
It was such an incredible year to travel different places and get the opportunity to shoot some iconic scenes and not be rushed to move on. I traveled to northern Arizona and saw Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon and set my eyes upon the Grand Canyon for the first time. I made my way to eastern Utah and shot Delicate Arch and spent time in Canyonlands National Park. I spent a full week in the Grand Tetons letting my camera feast upon the most beautiful scenery in the world. I also spent plenty of time in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove slowly over the Million Dollar Highway in southern Colorado, hung out on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and relaxed on the white sands of the Emerald Coast near Destin, Florida. All in all I visited 18 different states in a 12 month period. I have quite a few more on the list for 2017. Here are some shots I caught along the way:
These are just the highlights of what was an incredible year. I could go on endlessly but it's time to look forward to an active 2017 with so many places to see and photograph ahead. Thanks to everyone for their support, including my incredibly supportive wife and kids. It's not easy being gone to spend time in these beautiful places but knowing that I have their support makes it all worthwhile. Here's to a great year that was, and to even bigger things ahead!
A few weeks back I took a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to complete this years adventures. Up til then I had visited Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Southern Colorado and many other states during storm season and this was the grand finale. I stayed in Estes Park for three days, each day wandering into the park at different times to catch the beautiful landscapes at different times of the day. In this photograph, named "Rocky Mountain High" the sun had set and the full moon was visible in the east so the landscape was awash in moonlight, though when I took the photo is was pretty hard to see anything around. It was a gorgeous scene through the eye of the lens though, as the snow capped peaks stood out brightly against soft glow of the sky and the moonlit valley.
This photograph is available to purchase as a print or canvas.
After spending some time in Utah at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, just one week later I found myself in Grand Teton National Park spending time shooting one of nature's most beautiful scenes. In this shot, I set up at Schwabacher's Landing, little spot off a gravel road just inside the main highway that cuts along the outer edge of the park. The sun was pretty well up at this point but the light was just good enough before the harsh noon light moved in to get this reflection shot of Grand Teton. In total I spent six days on my trip but three of them were hampered by clouds and a fire that had blocked the south entrance to Yellowstone, preventing me from entering the park and unleashing a smoky haze over the mountains. But, I did have three good days and I was pretty happy to land this photograph of one of the most amazing places on earth.
They say good things come to those who wait, and I'm one of the most impatient people around. I walked the 2-mile hike up to the iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in eastern Utah and much to my chagrin was greeted mainly by overcast skies and the sun quickly dropping in the sky, although at the time it couldn't be seen. I got a quite a few shots with the gray background but just as I was about to call it a day when the clouds broke up in the west and the sky cleared, letting sunlight through and setting the arch aglow with golden light. I couldn't believe my luck and quickly unpacked to take advantage of a few glorious minutes. The shot above, "Golden Arch" is one of the rewards for waiting just a couple of minutes longer and I'm so happy that I did. This place has been photographed a billion times and from any angle imaginable, but I'm pretty happy with this photograph and think it stands tall in a sea of Delicate Arch images.
Every once in a while when I capture an image it beckons to be in black and white. I can't really explain it, but after working this photo up in color it just wasn't doing a lot for me so I let it be for a while. One night I woke up around 3 a.m. and my first thought was this needs to be in black and white. So the next day I got up and worked on it and it turned out exactly as I had pictured it in my head when I was laying in bed. There was a small rainbow in the left hand side of the photograph that basically disappeared when I worked it up, so I decided to keep it in color and it added a very nice touch of hope to the picture that is kind of wistful overall. This was captured just southeast of Dodge City, Kansas.
Drylands is a photo that takes you into the past, where toughness and grit were required for survival. The whimsical skies serve as wistful memories while the old homestead lays protected from the harsh winds of the plains by surrounding trees, which were surely planted as a windbreak and to keep from being exposed to the harsh elements of the southern plains. Taken in southern Kansas, only the rumbles of thunder kept me company as I captured this beautiful moment.
Oklahoma sunsets are legendary and they are especially beautiful after storms move through when the land is soaked and the air is full of the smell of rain. This particular shot was taken near Turpin, Oklahoma towards the end of the day as the sun was casting a golden glow on the land. The road leads inward towards a lone clump of trees that seems to have been surrounded by a small pond of water from the heavy rains, and a barbed wire fence splits the scene and stretches into the horizon.
Some sunsets are just better than others. Especially when you have a full sky full of mammatus and golden light. In this shot from southwest Oklahoma storms had passed and I was on my way back home but was greeted by an incredible sky. So I found a place to pull over and composed the shot with a fence and the spring Oklahoma landscape. You never know what you are going to see when you go out chasing, but there's a pretty good chance you are going to see nature doing its thing in the most spectacular fashion.
After thunderstorms had moved through near Haskell, Texas a rainbow appeared as it usually does whenever the misty aftermath takes the place of powerful thunderstorms. What was pretty cool about this picture is the golden light that was cast over the harvested wheat and the appearance of a small sunflower kind of poking his head up into the photo. I named the photo "The Promise" as an ode to rainbow's part in the old testament after the great flood and the warm light that promised a peaceful end to a stormy day.
The weather can be so strange and entertaining. In this photograph a storm is barreling to the east at the edge of dusk and appears to have a strange fluorescent glow emitting from its core. It's pretty common to have colors within a thunderstorm but this one is probably a bit more neon than normal. This shot is taken looking north so you have the evening sun behind the storm with softer light than you would find during a clear day, and the rain particles are catching the light and casting a tinge of purple hue which completes the look. This shot was captured near Walters, Oklahoma earlier this spring.
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