Stormchasing Portraits

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Recent weather events here in Australia yet again highlight the urgency of protecting the things we care about. SLF is collaborating with International photographer, Benjamin Wong, who has captured the tension between climate change impacts and everyday life in this striking series of works. Take a look at how these remarkable images were captured and the story behind the shoot.

“Can you imagine how complicated it would be to plan a shoot while chasing a storm? Coordinating models, building sets & designing lighting – all without knowing where the shoot would take place – while storms zip by at who knows how many kilometres per hour? It would be an absolute nightmare and impossible to pull off! We should think of a different project”.

That was Benjamin’s first reply to his partner and collaborator, Anna Tenne, when she first dropped the idea of doing a series of storm chasing portraits.  As it turns out, he wasn’t entirely wrong – it was challenging, but definitely not impossible:

Putting together this photo shoot was unlike anything Benjamin had ever done before.  Not only had he never chased a storm in his life, he had also never planned a project around an uncontrollable force of nature.  Clearly he was going to need to find some help.

Enter Kelly DeLay, a weather and environmental photographer with many years of storm chasing experience.  After describing the project, Kelly laid out the constraints: no more than 10-15 minutes to set up and tear down each shot, no control over the location of each shot, and no guarantee that they would get the shots.

“But do you think it’s possible?” Benjamin asked.  “Absolutely” – Kelly replied.

And that was all the encouragement Benjamin needed to green light the storm chasing adventure.

Friends and fans were contacted about being involved in the project, equipment and props were obtained, and a small team was assembled to film and document the entire adventure.  A local fan and photographer from Colorado graciously offered the use of his ambulance.  Although not the fastest or the most nimble vehicle, it was capable of fitting the spontaneous props that would be transported around for the shoot – including a sofa and a toilet!  Another advantage was that the ambulance could be transformed into a mobile light-box to make sure time wasn’t lost setting up lights while simultaneously protecting the $7,000 film equipment.

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Gathering a drone and a couple of cameras to capture behind the scenes video footage was the final step in the operation.

Before they knew it, it was time to get storm chasing.

Benjamin thought that Kelly had been exaggerating when told they would have 10-15 minutes per shot – he learnt very quickly that Kelly wasn’t!  The storms the team were tracking would move at over 48kph and, too often, they would lose precious time trying to find the perfect road to get into the right position to set up the shots.

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Epilogue

The plethora of different crises affecting our world today can make us feel overwhelmingly depressed and powerless.  It is easy to shy away from the negative news in the hopes that someone smarter and more qualified will come along and fix things.  Many will say, “Besides, what kind of difference can I, as an individual, truly make?”  Regardless of how powerless you may feel, everyone has a way to make a positive difference in the world.  Benjamin used photography to help him greatly increase his understanding of climate change by discovering the dire situation we find ourselves in.  Everyone can make a contribution to help combat this environmental crisis.

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