Welcome to the Webbpage Blog. Home of Tim Webb Photography. Here is where you can see what really goes on in my life. Enjoy!
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.
Several times during this past fall, I got to work on a special project documenting behind-the-scenes with Covid providers at Baptist Health in Corbin, Lexington, and Richmond. This included the National Guard soldiers who came in to help with non-essential jobs that would then free up medical staff, as well as providers in the intensive care units.
If you keep up with my photo blog then you know that I've been chasing my 75th cover photo with Kentucky Living Magazine the past few years. I got to number 60 in April of 2018. Honestly, I thought it would take longer to get here, just because I never know and have no control over the magazine's production schedule. Number 75 is a great story about a Korean War Veteran named Joe Graber from Somerset. It was perfect a blue-sky day with a veteran in uniform at a national cemetery! I couldn't have scripted it any better.
I have no idea of how many total stories I've shot for Kentucky Living over the years, other than a lot, because most weren't cover stories. Just know, there's something special about a cover photo! And as I count the 75, I'm not including those from the Washington Youth Tour, because I've done several hundred of those covers since 2009, and they're in their own little category. The 75 are true statewide covers, with the first one coming in July 1992.
It came from an article that I wrote for Dr. Liz Hansen's Magazine Writing class at Eastern Kentucky University in the fall of 1991, about a volunteer rescue team in the Red River Gorge in my home of Powell County. Then Kentucky Living editor Gary Luhr spoke to our class one day that fall and Dr. Hansen suggested that I pitch my story him. After class, I stood in the back of the room on shaky knees and gave him my spill as a college student who didn't have a lot of confidence at the time. I wish I knew the date because I'm a historian at heart and it turned out to be such a milestone in my life. Gary liked it and told me he would pay me $200 for the story and photos...if I could provide them. I was thinking, "Well hell-yeah I can provide photos!" I was scared to death a few weeks later as I repelled over a cliff in the Red River Gorge to the get said photos, but I wasn't going to pass up my big opportunity to get published in a real-live magazine.
And the rest is history.
We did the shoot early in the spring of 1992 and the magazine cover ran a few months later in July 1992. I was on Cloud 9 when the magazine came in the mail. Along with my parents, I showed it to anyone who would look at it! Forget the $200. I was actually published in a magazine. My dreams had come true! Later that summer, I put the $200 toward my wife's engagement ring.
I photographed several more stories for Kentucky Living in the early 1990s, but it wasn't until I had given my notice and was resigning my job as University Photographer at EKU in December 2003 that the magazine's current editor called me out of the blue. His name was Paul Wesslund. It truly was a God-moment because I knew in my heart that it was time for me to leave EKU, as great as it had been, but I had no earthly idea how I was going to make a living as a freelance photographer and support my family of a wife and three kids. So when Paul called and asked me to shoot a cover story on the All-A Classic basketball tournament that was held annually at EKU, I did a little happy dance while I was talking to him on the phone, trying to maintain a sense of coolness and calm. Even though my insides were turning to jelly, I still had to maintain a sense of professionalism, HA!
Paul Wesslund has since moved on to the greener pastures of retirement, but I can honestly say that the staff of Kentucky Living, at any point of my tenure with them has always set the bar for journalistic excellence. The irony of that is, technically, they're a PR magazine, but they have always been the epitome of sound community journalism and cutting-edge design. Editor Anita Travis, Managing Editor Shannon Brock, and their three designers, Katy Hurt, Kacey Harmeling, and Jessica Hawkins continue to set the bar so high!
Who knows. Maybe I'm making too much out of all of this. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll make it to 100 cover photos someday. One of my mentors is the great Annie Lebovitz, who spent her career churning out cover photos for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. If I had studied algebra in high school the way I've studied the photographic work of Annie Lebovitz I'd be a freaking rocket scientist! I'm no Annie Lebovitz. But I'll always appreciate the importance of a good cover photo.
It has been a good year for the Curly Horse photo that I took in Lawrenceburg in February of 2020. I won another national award with it, as well as the service dog photos from Maysville, December of 2020. I shot both of these stories for Kentucky Living Magazine, and won the awards of Best Portrait Photo and Best Photo Essay with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. I know that contests can be subjective but it's always nice to be recognized for your work, especially outside of the state of Kentucky.
I’m pretty sure my Dad is somewhere up in Heaven today hanging out with Princess Diana, talking about how they both left this earth on August 31st. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since he passed. I said it last year and I’ll say it again this year, life is temporary and life is fragile, but life does go on…with or without us.
We were truly blessed to have him in our lives for 73 years. I took this photo of his shadow a few months before he died on one of his last visits to my house in Richmond. I knew exactly what I was doing when I took it because I knew the inevitable was somewhere close in front of us. But I had no idea until after he died just how big that shadow really was. I miss you Dad.