On July 23rd, 2012, I launched my Facebook page "To Hail And Back". The title was meant to bridge the gap between my struggles as a photographer and my favorite subject to photograph, severe weather. Photography has saved my life on at least 2 occasions.
I had started taking my photography seriously about 7 years earlier in 2005 after a trip to Europe. My life became very turbulent after this trip. I was in a dark place for a long time. This is the first time photography saved my life. My camera became my best source of therapy in dealing with everything. My camera is still a major source of comfort for me. You will rarely see me without it and when you do, I feel socially awkward. I've always been able to better express myself either visually or in writing.
Photography also helped me quit smoking. In December of 2006, I was finishing up my next to last semester at WKU. After my last final exam that week, December 15th, I decided to quit smoking. I had been smoking a pack to a pack and a half a day for years at this point and quit cold turkey. My camera gave my hands something to do and got me past that 2 week hurdle. I've now been smoke free for over 8 and a half years. Photography had saved my life yet again.
Flash forward to 2008, still struggling through a dark chapter of my life, I decide to focus on photographing lightning. I knew it was dangerous, but no more dangerous than the depression I had slipped into. My first night out in the middle of nowhere, alone before a violent storm, made me feel more alive than I had felt in years, if ever. Witnessing something up close that was so powerful, beautiful, and potentially deadly was wake up call to me. It was at that point when I realized that photography was no longer just a form of therapy for me, but was now my way of life.
Now, we're finally up to 2012. Having a few years of storm photography experience under my belt, along with the 20+ years experience chasing storms, I decided to launch a Facebook page for my photography to promote a Kickstarter campaign I had created in hopes of funding a storm chasing project. That project failed...3 times. It was disappointing, but I kept pushing forward. My weather photos had begun to gain media attention. Since 2012, I've had over 150 photos on local news and more than 8 each on Good Morning America, The Weather Channel, Weather Nation, and more.
Early 2014. Still shooting weather, I decided I needed to shoot different things. I needed to expand outside my normal comfort zone. A year ealier, I started volunteering as a photographer for my local animal shelter. I also began shooting wildlife and some public events, but it was a message from a local filmmaker, P.J. Starks, that really forced me out of my comfort zone and challenged me. I had known P.J. for about 12 years at this point from when we were both attending the same community college. We had lost touch for several years, mostly due to my depression and withdrawal from all my old social circles.
P.J. was screening independent films at a local library and asked me if I had any experience photographing people. He asked me to photograph the film screenings. Apparently I did ok since it directly led to me shooting behind the scenes on actual indie film sets. I've come to love this form of documentary photography as much as I ever loved shooting storms. Lesson: ALWAYS do things outside your comfort zone. It can open up an entire new world for you.
In closing, I just want to say thanks to everyone who has followed my work over the last 3 years. Thanks for all the words of encouragement and advice. I'm still struggling hard to make it, but I've come this far. There's no turning back now.