The Sorta Tornado

January 03, 2022

I achieved one of my life-long goals on Saturday. Well, sort of. I've always wanted to photograph a tornado but I've never had the opportunity. I've never had a desire to be a storm chaser, or anything like that, but I've always enjoyed shooting bad weather. I've shot thunder storms, lightning storms, wind storms, snow storms, and ice storms. And I've covered the aftermath of a few tornadoes, but never the tornado itself. I've even had nightmares about capturing a tornado on film or chip. The one thing that each nightmare had in common was that I was presented with an opportunity but my camera wouldn't focus and eventually I would have to give up and run for my life. 

Yesterday, shortly after the UK bowl game against Iowa started, the tornado sirens went off and within a few minutes this funnel cloud formed within a mile of my house here in Richmond. Shortly after I shot this video it transformed from a funnel cloud into an EF-1 tornado that hit Union City and other parts of northeastern Madison County. 

One of my greatest photography mentors is Sam Abell, who grew up in Ohio, but had family from LaRue County Kentucky. Sam left Ohio and came to the University of Kentucky in 1967 and produced the greatest two-volume yearbook that the university has ever seen. In 1970, the year I was born, he landed with National Geographic and went on to lay the roots of a phenomenal career in photography. His 2002 book The Photographic Life inspired me to leave my position as EKU's University Photographer and pursue a career on my own. In that book, Abell talks about the influence that his Dad had on him as a young photographer. Our stories are similar in that both of our fathers peaked our interest early in life with make-shift darkrooms in our homes. In the book, Abell also talks about the basic photographic concepts that his father shared with him, one of which, is that bad weather makes good pictures.   


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