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!
Let's be honest. When someone thinks of interior decoration the last thing they think about is storm clouds. I get this question a lot: "How does your photography fit into my theme?" And it's a valid question. Take a look around most places at their decor and you probably see some cityscapes, maybe an abstract painting or if it is a photo most likely it's of some local landmark, mountain or beach scenery. Most likely it could be there to match the colors in a room, or could be there to just cover bare walls without any intrinsic value.
That's where alternative decoration in the form of storm or weather photography and landscapes steps in. See, my art is designed to move people who view it. And "moving" people can have a hundred different meanings. Some photos bring power and excitement, some are calming and relaxing. I've had a few people purchase prints and hang them by the front door so on their way out or in they see the photos and it infuses them with a bit of calm and soothing before dealing with the stress of daily life at work, or helps them feel more relaxed after a long day at the office.
On the flip side, some of my photos are full of energy and unique scenes and are great conversation pieces when guests are over. Who wouldn't walk into a room and notice the incredible colors popping out from the wall? Imagine how you'll feel once you were asked where the photo was taken and asked to speak to it a bit. It's art with a purpose.
Back to that question of "How does your photography fit in to my theme?" The great thing about my subjects and the photographs I produce is that they fit well with just about any theme. Of course, if you're into country style, rustic or any western theme it's a natural fit for any of those. There are photos that I've produced that would fit right in with modern styles or even shabby chic. Mostly though it's about attitude. If you are designing for someone and want to bring a bit of edge or pop to their rooms or office buildings my photography is the perfect choice. If you are looking to go a bit more earthy, what better choice than to go with nature in its purest form. If you are looking to minimalize and need to find something subdued, you got it right here. It works for homes, apartments, dorms, businesses, professional offices....you name it.
So it is alternative interior decoration at its best. The great thing about not being a go to style is that it is unique and rare, something you have or can provide to a client that isn't like anything else around. It's an investment in emotion, style and personal flair.
I'm back at it again. After doing pretty good in The Weather Channel's "It's Amazing Out There" photo contest it's time for my 2016 photo of the year to be submitted and voted upon. Last year I went with "Jewel of the Plains" and it performed well and stayed in the top 20 in votes but never could climb into the upper tier. This year I'm submitting "Invasion", a photo I took just north of Yukon, Oklahoma of a low precipitation supercell backlit by the sun.
So, if you stop by and read my blog or are just browsing through give a click and simply press the vote button once the window opens. I thank you for your votes and we'll see how well we can do getting this one to the top!
I was pretty much like everyone else in the world. Wake up, TV goes on and the news begins blaring immediately. Get home, turn on the TV, watch the evening news and sit in my chair and watch some shows in the evening. Go to bed, turn the tv off. Rinse and repeat.
But, along the way things started bugging me. I began seeing news stories in the media specifically worded to sound the alarms, create some kind of concern and started picking up on the meaningless information being passed along, sometimes lazily being picked up from social media. TV shows in the evening were starting to become predictable and more annoying than ever. I don't think anything changed in how things were being presented. News and tv shows have a formula that has worked for ages. No, I think that somewhere along the way I changed. I started feeling like the relentless media presentation was more noise than anything. I didn't want to hear teasers anymore, I didn't want to be sold to. I wanted some quiet.
I remembered a time when I was much younger, sometime around 19 years old when I didn't have a television, much less cable. And I remember more about life in that time than I ever had at any other time. I needed to get back to this, back to where I wasn't worried about what the world was doing, but more worried about what I was doing. I knew it wouldn't be easy because we now live in a world where media is everywhere. Every minute, every second there is news or advertisements or something being thrown at you due to cable and the internet.
But, I broke away.
About a year ago I turned off the cable and it got quiet in a hurry. I picked up Netflix and Hulu for a total of $15 and watched them sparingly along the way. My evenings all of a sudden started lasting longer, conversations became a little more in depth. The relaxation factor increased tremendously. No longer did I have to worry about something that happened 5000 miles away, no longer did I have the loud voice car guy yelling at me to buy a new car. Was I disconnected from the world? Yes, I was. Did I miss it? Nope. I didn't feel bad about not joining in on the Facebook conversations about the latest uproar, and I didn't feel bad about things I couldn't control that were being delivered directly into my living room. Being a big sports fan I was concerned about missing the big events, but that was easy to address. I just hopped in the car and went to my local restaurant and met some good people and cheered alongside others.
I do live in Oklahoma though and because I chase storms I know the importance of weather, so I ended up picking up an antenna so we could pick up the local stations when the weather got bad so when I'm out the family has a way to keep an eye on the weather. Today when I turned on the antenna the national news was on. Twenty five minutes of roller coaster accidents, floods, fires, presidential politics and a mass stabbing. It reminded me of what I'm not missing, and it also reminded me that silence is golden. I don't miss the noise.
Photography is a double edged sword these days. Never has it been easier to grab a camera, take a picture and let the world see your great work in the blink of an eye. Never has it been harder to monetize your images to produce an income that is sustainable for earning a decent living as a photographer. There are plenty of avenues to generate to be sure. One can go through stock agencies to earn cash each time a photo is purchased, earning a small commission on what they sell. A photographer can sell digital images to a customer without having to do any work at all at the point of sale. A photo can be licensed by various media. Or, a photo can be printed and sold to a customer. This is probably the most widely chosen path in order to generate a sale.
So the question to be dealt with today is, can a photographer still make money by selling prints?
Why wouldn't they be able to? Well, the world has changed in such a way that images are everywhere, and in the palm of people's hands instantly. Smart phones have cameras that produce better images every year, and since most everyone has a smart phone they use those cameras to produce tons of images. Instagram, Snapchat and other applications have made sharing those photos so easy, and the photos are so free flowing that a picture has become somewhat of a commodity over the last few years.
This doesn't mean prints can't be sold though. The picture above is of a print I sold to a customer who had their photo matted and framed and wanted to show the finished piece off to me. This meant the person who bought the print had an emotional investment in it. It goes from being just a photo to a work of art that has value to the person who bought it. This print now hangs in their home, for them and their friends and family to see everyday. It produces a kind of happiness that a photo shared on Facebook can't match. It's this kind of connection that leads me to believe that a person can still do well selling prints provided they can sell them at a price that makes it worth a photographer's time and money.
The trick is finding the customers who connect with the photo and possibly the photographer's vision. This isn't an easy thing by any sense of the imagination. Sure, it may seem easy to upload a digital image to various print on demand sites and wait for the money to roll in, but the reality is the money won't roll in unless you're well known. Ultimately, it will depend on the photographer and their marketing skills as to how easily they find their target customers. Using online resources, local shows, word of mouth, social media, etc are avenues that all have to be explored in order for prints to be an income source.
So, can money be made these days by selling prints? I think so, but it's getting tougher each day. How much money is up to how hard the photographer works outside of taking the photograph.
With temperatures taking a break from the chill of winter and rising into the upper 60's on Saturday, January 17th I figured it would be a good time to go out and see some sights and try to cure a little bit of the cabin fever. So we traveled up Route 66 to the northeast from Oklahoma City and ultimately making our way to Foyil, OK before we called it a day.
Our first stop brought us to Pop's, a popular current day stop along the way where they have several hundred, if not more, flavors and brands of soda in addition to a small diner that serves burgers and shakes. We stopped outside and caught a picture of the over-sized soda pop outside.
Just down the road, we made a stop for a quick pic of the famous Round Barn in Arcadia. It was so beautiful outside and the sunlight was just right so the colors really popped.
Afterwards we traveled to the northeast along Route 66 and I was really surprised at the lack of sites along the way. If it weren't for the businesses in town reminding you that you were indeed along 66, you wouldn't be able to tell it from any other highway. We stopped in Chandler for a quick photo of the sign on the Interpretive Center that I felt turned out pretty well.
Next up was going through the small towns and then getting to Sapulpa where we stopped to eat lunch. Highway 66 turned into I-44 for a short while through the Tulsa area then broke off at Catoosa, where is where we made our next stop at the Blue Whale. It was easy to access and offered the opportunity to climb in, up, and around it. I climbed on top of the tail but since I'm terrible with heights I felt like a good breeze could blow me over into the water so I kept pretty low. We walked around the outer edges of the pond and we got about halfway around when the trails started to tail off into thorny bushes.
About 20 minutes later we stopped at the totem poles just outside of Foyil. The totems aren't really on Route 66, but actually on Highway 28. There were several totem poles and the artwork on the poles were pretty cool. It was worth spending about 15 minutes looking around and soaking up some sun while we were there.
All in all it was a great day to get out and travel into an area of the state that we hadn't spent a lot of time in. There were other attractions like the Motorcycle Museum in Warwick that we didn't choose to stop at although it could have been an interesting place to spend time. There were plenty of diners along the way and although traffic was a little heavier at times than I would prefer the roads were nice, and there are spots along the highway you can see where the old road went through. Well worth spending an afternoon learning about the Mother Road.
If you've followed my blog for any amount of time, you probably know how much I love the mini-series of James Michener's novel Centennial which follows the history of a small town in Colorado from the time of the mountain men through the late 1970's.
If you don't own the DVD set, now would be a great time to catch it without commercial interruption on the Movieplex Channel. December 22nd the first two episodes were shown, with the third and fourth installment tonight (Dec. 23rd) with The Wagon and the Elephant at 8pm est, followed by the episode "For as Long as the Waters Flow" at 9:30pm est. It's very rare that it is shown on regular TV these days, so it's hard for me to let it pass by without catching it. If you haven't seen it, set aside some time to enjoy a great story about the American West.
This morning the town of Harrah, OK was awoken in the middle of the night by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake and a couple of hours later just a little further to the west a 4.0 earthquake shook the region. This would be epic news just 10 years ago, seeing as how Oklahoma had basically no earthquakes in it's 100 year history. But, in the last five years it's been shaken consistently by small to mid-level earthquakes that are increasing in activity and sometimes in intensity.
I've felt some of these quakes myself. I felt one just as recently as last week, it woke me up at 4 a.m. and lasted for a few seconds. I felt one when I lived in western Oklahoma when a quake over 5.0 shook the region. I've even felt one at work that shook enough to make me think a forklift somehow drove into the wall.
I was talking to a buddy the other day who had just moved here about a year ago. He had always assumed Oklahoma had always had the quakes, just like tornadoes and drought. I had to tell him that wasn't the case. Up until 2008, we had basically no seismic activity and if you asked someone back then if they thought Oklahoma would ever experience an earthquake they would probably laugh. No one is laughing now.
A lot of people are beginning to believe it could be caused by hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking". It's really ironic since Oklahoma is one of the top oil and gas producing states, and some of the country's top oil and gas businesses reside here which contributes to the strong economy. So, it will be interesting to see what side of the fence people who are living through these quakes everyday will fall to as it affects people's homes, investments and general safety.
State officials have begun looking into the quakes and have ordered studies to be done to see if a determination can be made as to what is causing them. This is the first step to see if anything can be done to stop them. Until then, we'll all have to deal with the shaking along with the twisting skies. Oklahoma can be called a lot of things, but you can't say it isn't interesting around here.
I'm really not sure how it is for everyone else. Does the rest of the world see or read something when they are young that actually inspires or makes such an impression that it stays with them the rest of their lives? It happened to me. When I was young, around the age or 10 or 11 there was a mini-series that played on TBS that was about mountain men, emigrants on the Oregon Trail, cowboys and swindlers. It was the mini-series "Centennial" based on a book by the same name written by James Michener.
It first ran in 1978-79 on NBC when mini-series were all the rage. Shogun, Roots and other mini-series had run successfully but Centennial was different. It was thirteen episodes that spanned the beginning of the west and covering more than 200 years worth of history to what would be the present day (back then) fictitious town of Centennial, Colorado.
I first watched it in a subsequent run on TBS and was immediately hooked. Stories about the old west was already something I was interested in because I had already spent time in the Rocky Mountain west, and the story tied in neatly with the love I had started for the mountains. I had seen the Platte River that Pasquinel struggled so mightily to get his canoe to navigate. I had seen "Ft. John" in the series in real life, as Bent's Old Fort in southeast Colorado. I had seen the cliffs of western Nebraska and the names of the real life emigrants, and could immediately relate to Levi Zendt and his travels. As a boy this was as real as it could get for me. I soaked it up, and many other westerns that told a similar story, and I read the book as well. To this day it's one of the few novels I have read from start to finish.
It had a deep impact on how I saw the world. It had a strong message that Native Americans were not treated fairly by the U.S. Government. It had a strong message that the land was to be taken care of and not used up carelessly. It had a deep tie to history, even though it was fiction. You could see it in the characters, whether it was Maxwell Mercy breaking himself for the Indians while wearing an Army uniform, or in Alexander McKeag and his respect for the land. Honesty and respect trumped greed, corruption and carelessness. How could that not make an impact on a young kid?
I've watched the series many, many times over my adult life. The story is great and each time I watch it, it's like visiting old friends. I think it's a major reason why I prefer the wide open spaces to the big city, and can see a sea of beauty on the prairie where others might only see a lot of grass. It had a lot to do why I'd rather have an untouched land vs having fences and wind turbines everywhere. It helped develop the respect I have for Native Americans and their story, and has a hand in me seeing the West as it should be seen.
It's about 35 years old now. Many of the actors have passed on, and it would look very dated to someone who is just now watching it. But the story remains the same, and the message also carries on. "The Earth isn't something you take from without ever thinking of giving back. The Earth is something you protect everyday of the year, a river is something you defend every inch of it's course." What a great message.
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