Sunday, July 29, 2012

Foothills Magic | Adventure Lifestyle Photographer

A wall cloud develops near the town of Dogpound Alberta

So I've been storm chasing for a few years now and after last year being such a great year for super cells I decided my goal for this year was to photograph one. I have shot a few small tornadoes and seen a lot of damage from them in the past 5 years of living in Crossfield but the real monsters are the systems that spawn them. Super cells start off like any other thunderstorm except that when there are good upper level winds creating rotational energy (shear), the storm goes on to become a super cell. And if the weather modification guys haven't flown into it soon enough these super cells can move for hours across the province.

A super cell near the town of Dogpound Alberta just minutes before a tornado drops out

The cool thing about where we live is a formation at the eastern slope of the Rockies called the Foothills and as of late we now have a term "Foothills Magic". Now as much as I am learning tons about weather I am not a meteorologist and wouldn't claim to be. I just know when to go out and watch things build to the west and when towers are going up, you make your best guess and go to a safe place to setup in hopes it does turn into something.
Tornado from the Dogpound cell as seen from looking west on Twp. 290

On Saturday it did. I started the morning photographing some crop spraying but shortly after went home for lunch hoping there might be more action near 1pm. On my way out west of town I noticed some towers going up and decided to stage at one of my favourite high points along the 290 west near Madden. As I was setting up a time-lapse I noticed one of the cells had a signature shelf shape and clued in that this one might go off. I quickly drove out to the hill above the town of Dogpound at the 290 and set up my cameras to time-lapse as well as video. Within minutes this cell started to rotate so fast you could easily see it and shortly after lightning started to crash out of the anvil down into the valley. I stayed as long as I could and managed to get the time-lapse of the super cell below.

Tiemlapse footage showing massive rotational energy as the super cell matures

Just before 2pm I setup another 5 km to the east on the 290 and as I started filming I could not believe my eyes... well actually I expected it but to see a good sized tornado drop out of the bottom was so exciting. Especially to witness such a well developed system form up so textbook is absolutely amazing.

I'm so glad I have been working so much with the cameras, I feel like I've been ready so many times this summer. The storm chaser page that Joe Vonesche and I take care of has been awesome as well and a great source of information and personalities. This weekend was definitely one for the record books for me, man I love Alberta weather.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stretching Creativity | Calgary Commercial Photographer

Just a quick frame from a very quick yoga session tonight with a very cool instructor and health specialist Nichole. I pretty-much had to zone out and float out of my body to achieve this shot. I can do some pretty crazy stuff to get a good Point Of View.....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coming Of Age | Adventure Lifestyle Photographer

For the last 7 years I have worked closely with one of the most interesting personalities I have ever known. I met Derek Pauletto 10 years ago when I worked as a fabricator at a shop in Calgary and we always talked about the future and all of the great things we would do when we struck out on our own. Here we are in 2012 slugging it out trying to become really successful in our own businesses now and still trying to dream while fending off the common reality of balancing security and family.

I can't pin-point the exact year but it must have been around 2002 when Derek showed me a 3" model of a concept motorcycle frame that he had come up with and intended to some day build into a ride that was like no other. I never forgot about those conversations and for the next few years kept seeing the small maquette in his tool box. Just another piece of scrap among the tools but even then it seemed to stand out among everything else.

In 2008 a good friend of ours was interested in a dedication to his brother who had passed on and the chance to build the concept bike was taken up and a bold process began.  It's a long story but one of tension between a few passionate people and the reality of the laws of physics and art. I have personally been involved in quite a few parts and some fabrication on the bike and through the evolution of it have seen my share of turmoil and passion.

This week the bike (named the "9") received it's VIN plate and it's PDI (pre delivery inspection) so it was high-time to take some pictures and kick it's ass out the door. Like a teenager who has outstayed their welcome, it is a moment of sorrow and relief. We have spent so much time with the bike that we are ready to move on yet there is something tugging at us as it rolls out the door one last time. Could it be that through all the fussing and discipline, the choices and the desire for perfection that we subconsciously fell in love with our creation?

I know I speak for Derek right now when I say one thing for sure; this bike has a personality and a story. Not only a life of its own, but when I got home and looked at some of the images from tonight I couldn't help but be in awe. The 9 is beautiful. From the flowing organic chrome moly single-sided frame to the deep lustre paint surface reflecting the a-symmetrical design normally found in nature, this bike is a rolling work of art. I have had time to step back and be critical and I feel the 9 has developed some kind of maturity while I was busy focused on something else.

As awesome as the bike is I can't help reflecting back on one thing, the bike had it's creator. Derek is a true visionary and passionate about what he does all the while running a tough business and facing daily the challenges of protecting his independence and security of his family. Not just answering to responsibility but also alive with the ideas and dreams that punctuate our long days at the shop. Derek has followed through on a very serious idea and not only giving it wings but allowing it to be beautiful on it's own. The 9 has evolved at the interest of many but owes it's life and freedom to Derek alone.

I am very proud to have been a part of this project and to share so much of Derek's world. Not many people today can say that they have followed through on such a grand idea and even fewer are willing to live with nearly as much risk. Tomorrow the 9 will be just a bike but right now it is a symbol of completion. The final chapter of a time when ideas were more important than money and dreams were fun. The creation has left home and we can be proud of all the effort we have poured into to it. So raise your glasses now and let's give a toast, to someone among us who has stayed the course and followed through on an idea that should inspire us all. Derek, your work is truly a manifestation of your passion, thank you for that.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ride Stop & Go | Adventure Lifestyle Photographer

The Ride Stop and Go crew get back on the road after a nice break in Longview, Alberta.

Yesterday I had the oppurtunity to chase 34 motorcycles over a 300 plus km loop that took us to Cochrane, Kananaskis, Highwood pass, Longview and Bragg Creek. The riders were from Alberta and Seattle, Washington and came from all walks of life. The common thread with these enthusiasts was a passion for being out on the open road on two wheels. I wish I had been riding myself but in order to photograph them I had to be in a chase vehicle and occasionally shoot from it.

Again, there is nothing like spending the day with people who are all share their passion and take a trip together. So many different people, in age, vocation, and background, all respecting each other so much when sharing the same lifestyle. Each location we stopped at people hung out, chatted about bikes and life, and all like they had known each other for years.

There is something special about riding. I think about the surfing, and skydiving community when I think about riders. Everyone eventually feels the freedom of the road, a spiritual moment when daily life just can't keep up to you as you bomb down the highway and life again becomes simple. There is nothing else, only this moment, the pure thrill of rolling independence and speed while the landscape speeds through your gaze like an unravelling canvas. It's a magic place where those who go for it are rewarded. This is living.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Royalty | Canadian Lifestyle Photographer

 The "magic" happening at the end of the session.
Well I have some awesome work coming up this weekend and to start it off I had the pleasure of photographing the Pete Knight Rodeo Royalty just outside of town. Now when I plan a session I always work out a couple of set-ups that I think will work well. That way I can focus on the shooting and working with the client. I almost always expect there to be something great happen between light and location and as good as the session was going, I wanted a little more.

Sure enough I found this cool roof sticking out of the ground and after a few minutes of shooting I told the girls to take a break. As they relaxed and looked away from the camera I saw an amazing image. So I tuned them back up and put arms and legs and faces all into the right places and just started shooting. Again magic happened. The light is right (of course I brought the light in as usual) and everything in the image works so well together. The girls were a lot of fun and had great attitudes, just the way a session should be.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Never Stop Chasing | Alberta Storm Chaser

Today was unbelievably perfect as far as set-ups go. I left the city at noon expecting something to develop in the Foothills and sure enough it did. I connected with Kara Jones around 3pm NW of Olds where we had to pick from 3 cells to the West. Well we picked the right one and soon enough the Olds cell was building. It was a near textbook build with a rain-free base to the South and big core to the NE.

Reed Timmer gives his signature point while posing with Kara Jones near Trochu, AB. 

Around dinner we headed out East of Olds to head it off where we were met by Steve Hollingsworth. We had enough time to setup some film and time-lapse when a wall cloud started to twist out of the bottom. Right over the East part of Olds we were seeing severe potential for Tornado activity, so classic.

We had to move East a few times and unfortunately the storm did not quite touch down. All in all it was a great day and was the first time a chase went like clockwork. Not to mention we met the Host of the US TV show Storm Chasers; Reed Timmer as he was chasing our same cell. Do we know what we are doing here in Alberta or what?

Below is time-lapse footage from our chase.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Didsbury Event July 3, 2012 | Storm Chaser

  A grain bin rests 50m from its original location a day after severe weather near Bergen Rd.

Today I drove out to Bergen Rd. just North of the town of Didsbury as I had to see for myself the damage that a supposed Tornado had touched down. As I was having a look I decided that I would take pictures and geotags to see if I could build a model in Google Earth when I was done. I ended up spending a couple of hours out there and even interviewed a few of the property owners.
Metal and splintered wood entangle trees almost 100m from where they were part of a barn.

It is sad to see the damage done (at the personal level) but extremely interesting to get a close up and detailed look at just what power a storm of this magnitude is capable of. After gathering all of my images and geotags I was able to build a full model of the Tornado's travel and debris fields. Yes, I am calling this a Tornado for sure. There was little eye-witness but from my findings alone regarding width of touchdowns and swaths, radial debris patterns and small object missile action (plywood going through walls), I'd be willing to state (non-professional opinion) that the area briefly experienced an F1 for at least most of it's path.
A 60sq/m tight stand of poplar trees is flattened like toothpicks just NE of the 766 and 582.

I love storm chasing and getting images of live weather is awesome, but to spend the time and inspect the damage and try to recreate the event like some forensic tv show, I have learned so much and found it fascinating. The great thing is the season is just beginning.