Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This Years Journey In Photography

This year has played a big part in my journey in photography. I've long had a passion for photography and this year that passion was accelerated as I shifted my focus from other interests.

Interestingly enough the year began as I closed out a bad experience centered around my photography. However, once that was put behind me I was free to pursue much more interesting and fun work that allowed me to grow by leaps and bounds.

In February of this year Missouri was blanketed with some 22" of snow. It was great! You would think that a photographer would record this "Epic Storm" with his camera, right? Well, you would be wrong. At least when it comes to this photographer. What was I thinking? Lesson learned, capture the big events. More on that later. . .but, I did take this great photo of 'My Friend Robin' in February.

The Robin started off a small obsession for birds this year.

With that out of the way let's move on with our journey, shall we? In April of this year I made a spur of the moment trip to the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park where I took the photo below.

'Malcolm's View' is a great one as he sits atop the Missouri River Overlook gazing over downtown St. Louis. This photo was later voted in as the profile photo for the VisitMO Facebook page. I thought that was a cool honor.

April was a turbulent month with tornadoes popping up everywhere. St. Louis was included with a direct hit on Lambert Airport and the surrounding homes and businesses. Did I capture any of this? No. But, I was keeping a close eye on the weather. Even on the day the tornado struck St. Louis I photographed the same storm system as it passed near my home.

South of this location the storm system pounded the area with hail. The Discovery Channels Storm Chasers were on the trail of this storm. I noticed several in the area as they chased.

Only a few days after capturing the menacing storm on it's way to St. Louis I captured this 'Rainbow Cloud' standing in the same location. This image came about because of my oldest daughter who pointed out the rainbow from our backyard. I left the house to search out a location in such a rush I didn't take the time to put on my shoes.

I ended April at Shelbyfest in Hermann, MO. Shelbyfest is a great annual event for car enthusiast. My favorite photo from the event was taken after my son spotted his favorite car and the owner of that car invited him to climb in the drivers seat.

I think Kyle may be a lifelong Mustang fan now. As a lifelong fan of the Camaro it pains me to say that, but I'd still go for a cruise in his favorite car.

In May my wife, Amy, and I visited New York. We met with friends, settled some business and enjoyed our stay at the Marriott in Brooklyn. On our last day in Brooklyn I woke up at 5:30am and made my way to the Brooklyn Bridge where I took the following photo.

While I took many photographs in New York my 'Morning Commute' photo emerged as the photo of the trip. The lone pedestrian using this iconic landmark as his daily commute to work struck a cord with family, friends and many others.

Overall May was a calm month in relation to weather. However, it would end with one of the deadliest tornadoes in 60 years. On the day this deadly tornado would strike I was photographing lightning. I was unaware the storm system providing me this great light show had dropped an F5 tornado on Joplin, MO.

I stood patiently with my camera focused on the McDonald's billboard waiting for the the perfect strike of lighting to ad a little punch to the "Sip this." copy. Then. . .there it was, click. . .I nailed it!

Shortly after capturing the photograph above I would return home and hear the reports on The Weather Channel about the tornado that struck Joplin. For whatever reason this really impacted me. I convinced my brother-in-law that we needed to travel to Joplin and photograph the damage the tornado had left behind. We left my house at midnight and arrived in Joplin early in the morning. Below is the scene the sunrise revealed that morning.

This photograph, out of all that I took in Joplin, would become the storyteller. This one photograph has had the largest impact on me. It affected me emotionally as I exchanged messages with friends and family members of those in Joplin over the few weeks that followed. It went viral on the internet and drove over a million views to my Flickr account. It led the ABC World News in the days that followed the tornado. This time I captured the big event.

Popular Science Magazine asked me to return to Joplin in early December to take a photograph from this same location. That image, along with the one above, will appear in the February 2012 issue of the magazine.

Much of my year was dedicated to the beauty of the State I live in. I spent many hours in my car driving to locations in the Show Me State or chasing down a sunset. I found my adventures to be close to home and far from ordinary. I have too many of these to share, so I'll just pull up my personal favorites and share with you with the beauty I found all around me this year.

Missouri River Rays - Herman, MO

Field Of Dreams - Missouri

The One - Missouri

Pachyderm Sunset - Elephant Rocks State Park

Union Station - St. Louis, MO

Pine Lake - Missouri

Missouri Capitol - Jefferson City, MO

Painted Sky - Missouri

The last image I will share is a composite I recently created from my photograph of the moon, my photograph of silhouetted trees and stars created in Photoshop. I enjoy both the process of creating these works and viewing them. While they stretch outside the realm of possibility I believe that is the fun of the image, to create something you would like to see in person. I suspect I will explore composites further in 2012.

Lunar Sunset

I greatly enjoyed my year focused on photography and I hope you enjoyed viewing the photographs that resulted. I look forward to this continued journey into 2012 and beyond and I hope you will join me on the way. You can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can view more of my photography on Flickr.

As always feel free to share with your friends and family.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Joplin, MO Six Months Later

I was in Joplin the morning after the F5 tornado struck. As the sun rose that Monday morning it shed light on unimaginable destruction.

Earlier this month, some six months later, I was asked by Popular Science Magazine to return to Joplin and take a photograph of the same location as the photo above. That photograph will appear, along with the photo above, in the February issue of Popular Science. During my visit I spent some time driving around Joplin and taking other photographs of the area.

These photographs show the long road to recovery which lay ahead for the community. I'm not sure if I had unreasonable expectations of the progress that could be made in six months or if the progress is as slow as it seems. I would guess there is quite a bit of red tape that blocks the path to rebuilding. It is easy to say "I will rebuild" during the emotional aftermath of a tragedy like this. It is another thing to actually rebuild.

I searched for real estate in Joplin while there and found scattered listings for lots where houses once stood. I took these listings as a clue that some had moved on. Rather they moved elsewhere in the community or simply moved away I don't know. I did find it interesting that Walmart had rebuilt and was open for business. Home Depot had rebuilt, but was still operating out of a temporary structure in the parking lot. Businesses like Taco Bell, which were near the heart of the swath of destruction, look much like they did in the moments after the tornado struck.

There were clear signs of both repairing and rebuilding scattered throughout Joplin. Among these efforts stood remnants of houses and businesses. ABC's Extreme Home Makeover have built seven new homes, which they built in seven days, referred to as the "Seven in Seven Days". These houses each have a distinctive style and beautiful landscaping. They sit among a contrast of cleared lots and ruins with a view of the heavily damaged St. Johns Mercy Hospital.

Below is a selection of my photographs from Joplin taken earlier this month.

I cannot imagine the effort it takes to restore your life after an event like this. I wish all the best to those in Joplin while they rebuild their homes and businesses.