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The tornado that launched my career as a photographer

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

So, what motivates people to pursue careers as photographers? I'm sure there are a variety of reasons...general curiosity, passion, adventure, financial considerations, etc. Photography has always piqued my curiosity, but I've never put much effort into it. Yes, I bought a camera years ago, but all it did was collect dust, and it sat in the office as an ordainment.


In 2015, near Tuxford, Saskatchewan, I decided to put my new Nikon 3300 camera to the test by driving out to a farmer's field and photographing an old barn. When a thunderstorm moved into the frame, I had my first traumatic and life alternating experience being in the path of a tornado that day. Recently going through an exceedingly challenging time in my life, living through this event gave me the courage and motivation to move on and explore the power of photography. I quickly learned how photography could help me heal as well as others along the way.

Thunderstorm Moose Jaw


It hasn't always been easy for me. Life wasn't looking good most of the time, what with personal upheaval, a failing marriage, and financial issues. It occurred to me that I should start snapping pictures more frequently...why not...no one is stopping me now. Now is the time to explore and try new things while I still have the opportunity...to live life!


It hasn't always been easy for me. Life wasn't looking good most of the time, what with personal upheaval, a failing marriage, and financial issues. It occurred to me that I should start snapping pictures more frequently...why not...no one is stopping me now. Now is the time to explore and try new things while I still have the opportunity...to live life!

So there I was, strolling out to capture some shots of this barn on a gorgeous warm and sunny day. It's a beautiful old edifice and I was delighted I made my way out there. I could see a storm blowing in from the west after about 30 minutes and assumed I'd depart soon to get something to eat. As the storm grew closer, I began to use the tripod to focus the camera on it instead. Then, on my phone, I get a message from a coworker who says "Have you heard that a storm is on its way? You should go out and photograph it ".. So, with the camera in hand, I eagerly responded with a selfie of myself.

Thunderstorm Moose Jaw

As the storm approached, I could see that there were indeed shelf clouds! This was a thrilling first for me! I couldn't help but laugh out loud in delight. I think I'll be able to get some cool images of this...hope let's my camera settings are correct.

Thunderstorm Moose Jaw

As the clouds gently moved in, a gentle breeze could be felt. I snapped as many shots as I could then walked away from my truck, which was a poor idea:). As I could see twisting winds isolated in a region at least a kilometer distant, my excitement was quickly replaced with fear. At first, I didn't realize it was a tornado. However, as it grew closer, it became clear what it was...a small little twister. It gained up speed swiftly, and before I knew it, it was approaching the barn, where all hell broke out.

I had nowhere to shelter as the gusts became increasingly severe. I ended up being too far away from my truck for it to be safe. I began to be concerned about my safety because there was no ditch and nowhere to hide. My joy had turned to terror! I've been in thunderstorms and heavy winds before, but never so close to a tornado!

So I dashed to the truck, which was, of course, straight in the line of the twister. The gusts became so fierce that I had to run into them in order to stay upright. My face was pelted with sand and mud, and the agony was excruciating. But I ran and ran, imagining what would happen if I were flown away. I wasn't prepared to pass away! Despite the fact that I had so much to live for, I ran and did what I could. I fought and pushed my way forward, unable to see anything. I had a feeling the truck was heading in that direction.


I raced with one arm over my face as I dragged the camera and tripod to my side, but it never felt like I was getting anywhere. It was as though I were sprinting on the spot.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I arrived at the truck, but it was only then that the winds suddenly ceased and the twister past me. I hurriedly climbed inside the truck and, relieved, tossed the camera on the passenger seat.

Thunderstorm Moose Jaw

In 2015, I realized I wasn't just taking pictures anymore; I had developed a passion in photography. With a lens that was considerably superior to my own, I was capturing a moment in time. Unlike my own, which was jaded and easily persuaded, the worldview was pristine. Each nuance and emotion were preserved far better than my memory could have imagined. I was capturing the moment and history, no matter how insignificant the event.


This was an exciting time in my life for me, as well as a turning point. Some may argue that it wasn't safe, and that I should have returned long ago. Yes, you are most likely correct! Remember, I was only going to photograph a barn, so this was completely unexpected. But the truth is that I am fine...thankfully.

But, since that moment of exhilaration and terror, I've given serious thought to my life and the route it was taking. That storm now has a new meaning for me. That storm was a metaphor for the anguish and suffering I was experiencing on a personal level. As the clouds dissipated and the skies cleared, I began to consider how this related to my own life.

Since that pivotal moment in my life, I've decided to utilize photography to assist those who may be experiencing personal anguish and suffering. In some ways, to use photography as a sort of rehabilitation. Surprisingly, photography and nursing seem to go hand in hand.



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