Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Perfect Storm

"No photographer is as good as the simplest camera."

- Edward Steichen

So I'm on the roof of this old grandstand in Shelby, MT when all hell breaks loose.
I am perched on the edge of the roof with my wooden field camera on my tripod. This camera has been around the world with me and I decided to bring it along during this trip for posterity... just to keep things interesting.
Knowing that I am drawn to inclement weather, the boredom of the bluebird sky in front of my lens didn't phase me at all.... as the horizon at my back was dark and ominous.
I was more than happy with the hand I was holding as past experiences were whispering all of the possibilities that might unfold.

This year's Marias Stampede was scheduled to begin in about an hour, which would be about the same time the weather would be coming out of the gate. Staying optimistic, I decided to hunker down (besides, I'd already shot a couple of polaroids and those babies are hard to come by).
Time passed, the light grew dark... and when the wind kicked in I found myself scrambling into the shanty attached to the top of the grandstand.
It was on old announcers booth, probably twenty years past it's expiration date. It was in there that I found myself surrounded by pigeon shit plus a significant collection of potential shrapnel - should the wind open the place up.

As I finished securing my gear, it seemed as though someone hit a switch titled "lightning" - and then threw another titled "downpour" for good measure. The two large speakers on the rooftop started making static laced sounds and immediately lightning and concurrent thunder was above the arena.
That's when I decided to leave the coop.
With a cloud of feathers in tow, I high stepped it out of the shanty, flew across the rooftop and zipped down the wooden access ladder in record time. As I bolted out the door, I managed to take one picture on the fly with my handheld.

I landed safely on the upper row of benches and into the throws of hardcore rodeo fans plus a Hutterite family working on an early round of beer.

I'm still not sure who was more surprised to see who.

Thinking back now, I see about fifty of us under that old leaky roof. We were clinging to the concept of safety in numbers and wore smiles on our faces too.

That storm continued north and George Strait's "Blue Clear Sky" played overhead. I took that as my cue to head back to the roof where my gear was safely cached.

I went through the motions again... recomposing, focusing, cursing at my dark cloth as it flailed in the wind.
Loving every single moment.

By the time the barrel racing started,
I had scoped out the rider that would be perfect for the image already exposed in my mind. Seeing how the passing storm provided me with a truly epic backdrop, I decided to expose a sheet of film as a passing train entered my composition.
It was a one second exposure and it just so happened to capture a bolt of lightning in the distance.

My heart skipped a beat and visions of Frederic Remington's "Stampede" came to mind as I visualized the merging of two images.

And that's how it all played out at this year's Marias Stampede.