In fall and winter, storm chaser Stephen Locke switches from shooting wall clouds to weddings. Because everybody knows severe weather, which Locke mines with his camera to create high-definition time-lapse videos, occurs in spring and summer.
It’s usually an easy transition for the Roeland Park photographer, who was the subject of a profile in the July 27 Kansas City Star Magazine. At the time, one of his storm videos, filmed near Climax, Kan., went viral on Vimeo, garnering a million views.
But weather in Kansas knows no normal, as a Dec. 15 Associated Press headline noted: “Kansas reports tornado, snow in same day.” Locke had predicted tornadic conditions a week earlier on his Facebook page. When the forecast panned out, he was stuck in his studio.
“That kind of day elicits a DNA response in me. It’s a little bit stressful. I want to chase, but I don’t want to ruin people’s Christmas,” he said.
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In addition to holiday photo orders, Locke was busy finishing two painted portraits — another specialty — commissioned as gifts. So he had to make do with looking at amateur video images of the twister that touched down near Harper, Kan. It was impressively wide but fortunately caused no injuries or major damage.
Since The Star’s story ran, Locke has sold time-lapse footage of supercells he shot this year to the Sportsman Channel for use in a show’s opening sequence, and to an Italian filmmaker.
Locke also published a book in September called “Chasing Weather.” The book pairs Locke’s large photographs of storms and landscapes with poems by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, a past poet laureate of Kansas.
Looking forward to 2015, Locke thinks he will continue to divide his seasons between commercial work in fall and winter, and weather photography for his Tempest Gallery in spring and summer. And with a little luck he’ll pick up a couple of portrait-painting jobs, which he says are his favorite thing of all.