The Lure Of Extreme Weather Photography
August 15, 2013
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You might not have noticed it in that “can’t see the forest because of all the trees” sort of way that often happens with pop culture trends. Or you might just be young enough to think that it’s perfectly status quo and normal and has always been this way. We’re talking of course about extreme weather photography and all the coverage of extreme weather events on the news channels and the Internet these days. It seems as if all of America has become quite intrigued with intense weather and its varying manifestations.
Today, photographers and videographers and making names for themselves by chronicling and capturing stunning images and footage of floods, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, etc. They’re making money too, as media sources are willing to pay big bucks for such images. And we’re not just talking about professional photographers either, although by definition if you’re paid for a photographic image or video then you’re technically a professional photographer or videographer. But why all the interest and the demand? Hasn’t weather – even severe weather – always been around and been noticed by everyone. Yes. And no.
We have a few theories as to why extreme weather photography is so popular these days.
Life and Art in the Age of Global Weather Change
Ever since the concept of global warming became a mainstream consideration via Davis Guggenheim’s 2006 documentary featuring Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth, more and more people have been noticing our weather changing. This has caused alarm, skepticism, anxiety, debate, and many other emotions. It certainly is not a subject that folks have been able to ignore. Environmental activists, quick to tap into the power of photography and video to express their viewpoints, have leveraged the artful power of extreme weather photography to stress their belief that the weather patterns of the world ARE changing, using visual documentation to chronicle that proof to believers and naysayers alike. Both visual journalists and art photographers have benefitted from this increased interest.
The rules of television news have also changed, and what was once considered ignoble or pandering is now looked at as just business as usual. Decades ago, it would have been considered foolish and even outlandish for news reporters to stand outside during gale-force winds, hail and rain, on-location, in order to show how serious and intense a weather situation had become. But once one network began to do – perhaps for sensationalist reasons, perhaps not – the other networks needed to do it too just to keep up with the level of intensity of content their competitors were providing to their viewers. In a ratings war, one must keep up with the competition or lose advertisers, period!
The work world has also changed, with more and more people finding themselves working in large cities, behind desks, under fluorescent lights, and away from nature and the outdoors. Deprived of the actual experience of Nature themselves, men and women find themselves more interested in what they are missing on a daily basis. In the same way that pro sporting events are covered on the news in order to inform the masses about the game or match they were unable to attend, weather events are reported upon for all the viewers who are unable to experience that event themselves. The more dramatic the event, the more interest in watching that event or seeing evidence that the event really happened.
Lastly, from Hurricane Katrina to Tornado Alley in Oklahoma, it does seem that more and more extreme weather events ARE indeed occurring. These events are often tragic, and almost always involve destruction of property on a monumental scale. Such events are big news, and viewers want to know about them, hence the need for skilled (and brave) weather photographers and videographers to capture these events on video or as digital information.
Are you interested in extreme weather photography? Check-out these great images of rain photography from Smashing Magazine and amazing footage of storm chasers from the Discovery Channel.