Blog: Tornados, Global Warming & Photographers

 

By Layne Kennedy, laynekennedy.blogspon.com
 
Figure 1
A tornado touches down May 19th, 2013 near Elmore, Kansas
 
As a young photographer, something Ansel Adams did as a photographer first, conservationist second, had a profound impact on how I view our medium. It stuck to me like a view camera on a tripod.
 
The joy one obtains from creating photographs can't be lost in the persuasive power photography has to push forth ideas. Adams used his marvelous prints of the Sierra's as a tool to convince lawmakers in Washington that wilderness needed protection.
 
Certainly, it was easier and more cost effective sending prints to persuade members of Congress than to take the long journey to the mountains of California to witness the wilderness on their own. Let's face it. That could've backfired. What if it rained or snowed the whole time? Sending beautiful prints was a brilliant idea.
 
I've been lucky to be able to participate in a similar circumstance here in my own regional neighborhood. Wisconsin resident and wilderness advocate Martin Hansen loved the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. The archipelago of 21 islands is designated as a National Lakeshore and is managed by our National Parks. Hansen loved these islands and wanted to prevent any further development from compromising their wilderness status.
 
Hansen hired writer Jeff Rennicke and myself to do a book on the Apostle Islands. Hansen then took copies of the book to Washington D.C. to use just as Adams had, as a vehicle to persuade lawmakers to protect the islands.
 
It worked. Once again, my belief in the medium as an art form and instrument for change was confirmed.
 
Today many of my peers are working on projects to further their photography but also use their work as a voice for change. James Balog's incredible film CHASING ICE, documenting the receding glaciers of the world, Karen Kuehn is working on protecting our waters, Daniel J. Cox is documenting the rapidly changing arctic. Personally, I'm very interested in global warming and the effects it's having on weather patterns especially here in the Midwest.
 
Over the last decade I've experienced warmer winters here and our summers are producing more violent storms, especially those involving straight-line winds. Those selective and damaging storms have tripled in numbers in recent years. The issue of global warming is indeed controversial. The debate over its causes shifts constantly between science and politics. However, the bottom line is, it's happening. A warmer planet is changing our weather.
 
 
Figure 2
Rain released over Oklahoma/Texas border
 
Since the Midwest is here, it makes financial sense for me to cover this area. So, I've decided to embark on covering storms and weather patterns here as they affect people, crops and landscape. As time allows I will chase storms, photograph crops, drought, floods, wildlife, all I can to shape together an era of changing weather through photographs.
 
 
Figure 3
Green color indicates hail inside super cell storm, Oklahoma
 
This May, 2013, coverage continued by joining Melanie Metz, a veteran storm chaser/educator based in Minneapolis. We followed storms in Tornado Alley in both Kansas and Oklahoma. A few of those images can be seen here. Photography is such a valuable tool in educating people in an instant. A good caption carries the purpose one step further.
 
 
Figure 4
Wall Clouds forming near Elmore City, Oklahoma
 
I'm not saying as a photographer you have the responsibility to promote and document causes. I'm saying, you have the opportunity to if you wish. And it can be accomplished on any scale. A blog, a magazine article, a gallery exhibition with a specific theme. Your art and vision can carry a message. In a world crazy for instant visual gratification, this is an exceptional time to let your visual voice be heard.