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Using your Camera to Document Even the Tough Times

This past week, a big swath of Texas caught fire. As of this writing, the total acres consumed is more than a million, and the behemoth conflagration is still not under complete control.

I was speaking to a friend of mine today. His town, Canadian, was affected by the fires. While his house did not burn, eight houses in his immediate neighborhood were lost to the flames. In all, 54 homes in his tiny town were burned. It's tragic.

I used to live 80 miles south of Canadian in Childress, Texas. By the time those big fronts would move through in February and March, the moisture was squeezed from the clouds over the West Coast and Rocky Mountains. Therefore, when the center of the low-pressure systems moved over the semi-arid plains, the wind was all that was left in the storm systems.

Here's a short film I produced about the 2011 drought in my part of Texas. I used a Canon 5d Mark II camera and just a couple of lenses to document the drought over a couple of days. This eventual film festival selection documents a time that the local people will never forget.


It didn't happen all the time, but when the wind storm would blow across the South Plains, the speed and duration were nearly incomprehensible to those who'd never experienced it. Usually, about late morning, the air becomes breezy. A few hours later, that same wind is a sustained 30 to 40 miles per hour with gusts over 50 or 60 miles per hour. The sky darkens to a rusty brown and, in the most extreme cases, blots out the sun. At the same time, the relative humidity drops to single digits. Just the act of the wind blowing across electrical lines or even barbed wire fences can create static electricity.

Across the landscapes, short grasses and brush are cured dry by winter freezes. With even the slightest spark, a huge blaze can ensue, pushed at incredible speeds by the incessant winds.

I've made a living by taking pictures of beautiful things and happy people. However, from time to time, I will document nature at its worst. I encourage you to do the same when it's safe to do so.

Documenting nature when she's not at her best can be a way to remember potentially historic events. It's also a way to document all of nature even when it's not as it's best. I like to find the intersection of how weather and nature affect people. In that regard, the video function of your camera works well.

While I hope things like what's going on in the Texas Panhandle never occur, the fact is that they do. To your comfort level, document events like that for posterity's sake. One of these days, someone will be glad you did.


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226 views2 comments


Tough Times is extremely well done Russell, thanks for sharing!

Replying to

Thank you for taking a look, Stan.

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