A photographer convinced his fans to stand in front of giant storms to get these amazing shots

Conservation photographer Benjamin Von Wong recently released a set of amazing images to send a strong message about climate change, including this:

Picture: Von Wong

But if your first reaction is that there’s a lot of digital manipulation going on, here’s why you’re wrong:

Picture: Von Wong

Von Wong is already a very talented, awarded photographer. But when his sidekick suggested a series of stormchasing portraits, his first reaction was: “We should think of a different project.”

But he wasn’t entirely unconvinced, and soon enough, the internet led him to Kelly DeLay. DeLay was the photographer responsible for this widely shared snap of a twin tornado touching down in Colorado back in June:

Picture: Kelly DeLay

And together, the pair decided it was worth working together, but only under DeLay’s constraints. According to Von Wong, the deal was:

  • No more than 10-15 minutes to set up and tear down each shot.
  • No control over where we would go and where we would end up by the end of each chase day.
  • No guarantees that we would get the shots.

The project was called “Surreal Stormchasing Portraits: Igniting a conversation on Cowspiracy & and the fight against Climate Change”.

The message was that climate change doesn’t care about your daily life:

Picture: Von Wong

And there were a couple of other challenges apart from the obvious one of chasing a giant storm, and setting up a model, set, lighting for a 15-minute shoot before high-tailing it back out again.

The “models” were actually Von Wong fans. DeLay would forecast the chance of a storm, and the team would have to send out a 24-hour notification that they’d be in a general area so Von Wong’s followers would know vaguely where and when to meet him.

After chasing storms seven of the 10 days in their window, both DeLay and Von Wong got what they were after – minus a tornado. Unfortunately, the one they caught in South Dakota “moved too fast”, according to DeLay.

But what they got was more than powerful enough. Here’s one of DeLay’s favourites after he chased a “wall and tail cloud associated with strong updraft near Boyes, Montana”:

Picture: Kelly DeLay

Von Wong and his team got the set-up completed in time:

Picture: Von Wong

And here’s the end result:

Picture: Von Wong

You have admire the commitment from the models, especially the bikini model and the guy sitting on the toilet:

All the props were sourced from craiglist and skip bins and put on standby to be loaded into a converted ambulance – also offered on loan by a fan – for the sprint out to the site.

Here’s their crazy itinerary for the full month:

Von Wong says he took the project on simply because he felt he had to try to tackle a crisis he felt powerless to do anything about.

It was in part inspired by watching the documentary Cowspiracy, which pushes the message that eating meat is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

“I am proud to say I am now a vegetarian,” he says.

One more shot:

Picture: Von Wong

You can view the rest at Von Wong’s blog, but also check out the stunning images DeLay captured from the trip as well at “High Plains Chasing with Von Wong and Friends”, including this ominous supercell near Pine Haven, Wyoming:

Picture: Kelly DeLay

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