2018 was an incredible year of growth for our photography workshops, with most selling out well in advance. Nearly 400 guests attended our workshops this year. It was also an extremely challenging year for my type of photography. Bluebonnet season and tornado season were subpar overall. When we wanted clear skies, we often got clouds, and vice versa. This left some guests with higher expectations feeling disappointed. I can’t count how many times someone told me, “well you don’t control the weather” (which was appreciated). We definitely made the most of it and those that trusted the process got to head home with some keepers.
Basically the months of January and February are comprised of nothing but website maintenance and getting everything scheduled, organized, and booked for the year.
We started out the workshops in March from Terlingua, Texas with two spring astrophotography workshops, because the first one sold out so quickly. The weather was uncooperative for the first night of the first workshop with widespread clouds. The second night was forecast to be clear, and guess what? Clouds everywhere. So we drove the workshop about an hour north to get to some clearer skies over a roadside lined with Chisos Bluebonnets we had found earlier. While the skies were better, a large lenticular cloud persisted over the Milky Way, so we had to wait it out a couple hours until the Milky Way rose over the cloud formation.
The view was narrow, so we worked each guests shot individually. Lighting the bluebonnets with a speedlight for each person. It took some time, but the results were definitely worth it.
The second workshop had crystal clear skies, which was great for guests that never shot the Milky Way before, but my favorite shot from all four nights was definitely the bluebonnet image. I actually prefer a few clouds for my night images.
After the astro workshops we immediately jumped into eight sold out Texas Bluebonnet Photography workshops. This was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The shear workload was high but manageable but out of the gate, we were faced with an uphill battle due to a late start to the season and the fact that it was the worst bluebonnet season in recent memory. Due to drought conditions west of I-35, there were no bluebonnets to speak of whatsoever.
Thankfully Washington County did have a solid year. We basically spent six weeks driving to Brenham from Austin each day. Sometimes you have to go the extra mile to find the images you want.
Once bluebonnets winded down, we immediately switched gears to severe weather, hosting five storm chasing workshops.
The first day of our season was May 1. Honestly, if left up to me the day would have been a huge bust for us. Our target was of Great Bend, Kansas was good and we were on what appeared to be the storm of the day. It never really could quite get its act together. It was high precipitation and not much to look at, but it did have a tornado warning on it. Meanwhile an isolated storm about 50 miles to the south looked like a textbook tornado producer on radar. I made the choice, bail south and we started driving. Savannah and I talked as we core punched a small storm to the south and she was adamant that we were making a mistake. She said, the storm we are leaving is tornado warned! I begrudgingly agreed, and we turned around, back for the original storm. As we moved north, sure enough, large lowering. Finally our storm produced an EF3 wedge tornado near Culver, Kansas while the storm to the south fizzled into nothing. Here is our reaction as we rolled up on the wedge tornado.
Tornado season kind of shut down after that, with a record slow season for the Southern Plains. California saw more May tornadoes than Oklahoma, so yeah, it was that kind of year. All and all we saw 5 tornadoes the entire season. There were still beautiful scenes to be found and we worked hard to forecast to get our guests to them. It was an excellent year for storm structure and lightning. Some other memorable storms from storms during our 2018 Supercell Adventures include….
Once storm chase season winded down, it was back to Terlingua for another round of astrophotography workshops. We hosted over 40 people between two workshops. The weather was cooperative, for a change, which was nice. We had a really great crowd and just about every shoot went smoothly.
We also hosted an impromptu storm chase for a setup that looked really good for some photogenic supercells. We had a lot of fun during this and managed to get the van beat up by baseball sized hail.
July was a busy month with four straight workshops in Arizona over the course of three weeks. We started out in Monument Valley. Although storms each night prevented us from camping on Hunt’s Mesa, the weather was surprisingly cooperative. We were able to get lightning over the valley and each night cleared out allowing us to shoot the Milky Way.
Antelope Canyon was incredible. We went in the morning. The sky was clear, which allowed light beams to fill the canyon.
Horseshoe Bend was spectacular as always. I was surprised to see they installed an observation deck complete with railing. I guess it was long overdue but I did prefer the natural and horrifying edge (which is still an option and where I shot the image below from.
We caught a beautiful clear air storm over Page from the Grand Canyon. It threw out exactly one lightning strike, but it was all we needed. This was probably my favorite image of the entire year.
We spent the last week of July chasing monsoon thunderstorms out of Tucson. This was my best monsoon season for lightning, by far. We had lightning each night at varying distances and were able to get in close range for photography on multiple occasions.
I was able to get an image I had been after for a few years when I got a close bolt striking, and lighting. the side of a mountain range. A few workshop guests even caught the same moment when two channels connected with the mountainside.
Then it was back to Big Bend for the Perseid’s Meteor Shower. This was the most anticipated meteor shower of the year and we had a large crowd for it.
Unfortunately the weather was uncooperative again, with clouds completely obscuring the sky the first night and only giving us a couple hour window for the second night. On the final night we drove north for over two hours to try to get to clear skies, while we did get some clearing, overall it was a bust for meteors.
Thankfully the Milky Way was a nice consolation prize for guests that elected not to switch over to a different workshop. From what I could see from most photographers that did have clear skies, the meteor shower seemed to underperform compared to year’s past. Go figure!
We hosted a small astrophotography workshop after the meteor shower. The sky was much more cooperative for these nights. Although we did battle a few clouds, the problem for this workshop was snakes! We came across several black tailed rattlesnakes while shooting! One blocked a guest and myself inside an abandoned jail! I even stepped right over one crossing the path because I couldn’t make out any contrast walking with a red light lighting my way. Next year, no red lights for the astrophotography workshops!
We caught some nice lightning near home in August. This massive bolt from the blue struck about a half mile from us outside of Florence, Texas.
Savannah managed to find this old barn with a Texas flag roof that I had been searching several years for. On a November night I was fortunate enough to catch a weak thunderstorm over it.
We wrapped up the year with the Geminid’s Meteor Shower in Big Bend this week. I decided to add this workshop on as an alternative for those that could switch out of the Perseid’s due to weather. Several guests were able to take advantage of the opportunity and were treated to the highest frequency of meteors I have ever seen. Rates easily approached 100 per hour and we often saw multiple meteors traversing the sky simultaneously.
I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to my beautiful and talented wife, Savannah for everything she has done this year. The thousands of miles she drove. All she does behind the scenes. This would not work without her. I also want to thank Sarah and Alex Soulé, Matt Phelps, and Andrew Holmes for all of their help with the tours and workshops over the course of the year. I definitely want to show my appreciation for all of our guests who spend their hard earned money to come out and have an adventure with us. Without y’all, none of this would be possible.
Thank you for following my work. Have a safe and happy New Year!