These images definitely reflect Russell's special passion for weather. Having studied meteorology, climatology and geomorphology, he still enjoys observing systems as they develop and using photography to capture the dramatic scenes created by nature's power and energy.
There are some things that you learn best in calm, and some in storm. ~ Willa Cather
This once-in-a- lifetime shot is dazzling without any explanation, but its value to us is enriched by the many personal strands of our lives it brings together for us. As an English major, Angela can never pass through Kansas without thinking of Willa Cather, and as a life-long student of science, Russell is irresistibly drawn to storms. Yet the name of this piece actually comes from Russell’s mother, Lark. As the daughter and the mother of artists, she read Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark many times. She understood the book on a deep and personal level; and she especially understood that while it’s true that an artist must commit to patient study in order to master his craft, she also taught her son that - ultimately - an artist will not be measured by what he creates in the calm of practice, but by what he captures when the storm howls. In this wonderful, rare image, that fundamental truth became literal.
“You must not blame me if I do talk to the clouds.”
~ Henry Thoreau
This intensely textural sky captivates people. For weather fanatics, mammatus clouds are special because they form in sinking air - whereas clouds usually form in rising air. Yet, most people are understandably drawn to the roiling drama that hangs over an otherwise serene pastoral setting. While they often feel an impending doom, these clouds actually form after severe weather, and they are called Messenger Clouds because they signal that the worst has past. Standing below these surreal skies, it wouldn’t have surprised us to hear voices speaking or angels singing.
Lightning Over The +4
Sometimes you chase the storm, and sometimes the storm chases you! As much as we enjoy drawing on Russell’s meteorology studies to engage in the occasional storm chase, it still threw us for a loop when we found ourselves stuck by the side of the road somewhere on the Colorado/Utah border with a flat tire. As we waited (and waited and waited) for roadside assistance, a magnificent thunderstorm rolled in and lightning crackled all around us. Yet, while the day had taken what we thought was a horrible turn, it end up being fantastically memorable. There is great beauty in a storm, and we savored every minute of it while we hunkered down by the +/4 Ranch to watch it.
In mythology, before there was anything, there was a primeval emptiness. The elements - earth, air, water and fire - churned in restless turmoil. From this dark void the first gods appeared and the world emeged.
Not long ago, we found ourselves in a place like that. A place that was utterly nowhere. Around us, the wind howled, lightning flashed and rain pounded the ground. The nothingness crackled with power and energy and it would not have surprised us at all if gods appeared and new universes were born before our very eyes.
Other Side Of Fear
This image stands on its own by virtue of the very power of the scene, but there are additional aspects that make it extra special to us. First, this scene has not been digitally created. We do not reject the use of technology (like Photoshop) but we use it sparingly. We honor the spirit of photography’s early days by capturing and celebrating truly amazing moments. Second, while we choose not feature weather that has caused harm in our collection, we include this image because no property was damaged by this storm and no people were injured. Finally, in searching for weather, our goal is to find interesting, richly-textured skies that will enrich our photographs. Extreme systems are not our focus, but if Russell feels that we can safely capture something this powerful, his weather-loving heart cannot resist. However, there is really no such thing as absolute safety in the presence of a tornado or violent storm. Thus far, by working together and listening to each other, we have been able to avoid harm and enjoy the success of creating something incredible when the dust settles and we love what we create when we find ourselves On The Other Side Of Fear.
Grace And Fury
These two universal forces of Love and Truth, heart and mind, magnetic and electric power, are ever needed for our perfect balancing in life. May we be consciously aware of this rich song of culmination in the universe, eternal marriage of heaven and earth that the divine Will may blossom forth with majesty and triumphant power in our lives! ~ Ruth Harwood
Shortly after we captured this image, we spent several weeks in the archives at the University of Utah. Our goal was to research Russell's grandfather, Impressionist painter James Taylor Harwood. However, while there, we learned quite a lot about an aunt that Russell had never met. A fascinating woman, Ruth Harwood was an artist, like her father, but she was also a writer; a poet; a spiritualist an adventurer and a free thinker. She worked with Ruth St. Denis, a pioneer of modern American Dance and Louis B. Mayer of MGM. Many of her writings explore the balance between oppposing - or seemingly opposite - forces. This image, when we finally printed it, reminded us of Ruth's love affair with these energies. The fury of a violent storm moving across the plains also does so with an undeniable grace.
You know, there’s nothing that stirs my
imagination like the sound of a locomotive. That lonesome whistle cuttin’ through the night, throwin’ shadows across the land.
~ Johnny Cash
Russell’s ancestors were among the early settlers of the west, and they vividly recall in old letters and journals what it was like to see the first trains roll through their towns. In our hyper-connected, fast-moving world, it’s hard to fatham what it would feel like for these pioneers to finally behold something as powerful and - at that time - unimaginable as a locomotive. In our travels, we’ve always looked for an image that was equal to our feelings for the subject. Then, while crossing the Mojave, we came across this captivating scene of diverging tracks, an approaching train and a storm rolling across the plains. It captures all the feelings we share with Johnny Cash about the romantic, long-gone age of the American railroad.
After wind, after rain, When the dark is done. As
I wake from a dream in the gold of day, Through the
air there’s a calling from far away, There’s a
voice I can hear that will lead me home.
~ Michael Dennis Browne
Home. Whether it calls up images of where we’re from or where we feel our deepest sense of belonging, it’s a word that is heavy with sentiment and symbolism. It carries our experiences and memories, our hopes and dreams and it can evoke a thunderous storm of conflicting emotions. Yet, no matter how complex - or contradictory - our feelings, it’s nearly impossible to escape the yearning for home. In this image, we can’t help but feel that the road, framed by both dark clouds and golden light, represents the inescapable call to find our way home.
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