Speed Photography with a Storm Chaser

Speed Photography with a Storm Chaser

Trevor started out as a storm chaser - someone who, when they hear a tornado is approaching, runs towards it rather than away. “I probably really started getting into it when I was 15-16. I started chasing with my mom – she would drive me around. It was so fantastic. I was up in Minnesota. They get a decent amount of storms and the occasional large tornado.”

The first tornado Trevor ever saw was coincidentally the largest in recorded history. It was on May 31 2013 in the town of El Rino, Oklahoma. It was 2.6 miles (4km) wide. “It was the widest tornado in history – it was the first tornado to kill storm chasers. I was a quarter-mile away from it.”

Trevor’s mum didn’t drive him to that one – he was with a group of storm chasing buddies that he’d met a couple of years before through his love of storm chasing. They drove ten hours down to El Rino, Oklahoma, and photographed the storm.

Now this boy from Minnesota is living in Dunedin, studying Media, Film, and Communications, but his passion is photography. One of the reasons he came to Dunedin was because it’s a good place to see Aurora Australis, the southern version of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, which can be seen in Minnesota. “Auroras kind of remind me of home a little bit. There aren’t really that many places in the world that you can see the Southern Lights apart from extreme South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, so that was definitely a huge draw.” 

Trevor is running the OUSA 24 Hour Speed Photo Competition this week. It runs from 4pm Thursday to 4pm Friday, non-stop. There is an info session an hour before the competition starts explaining the rules, including making sure you have a clock set on your camera. There are prizes for Best Landscape, Best Portrait (subject), and Best Open category. Each contestant can enter up to two photos for the competition.

I asked Trevor, who is one of three judges, what he looks for in a photo. Though he is a master of photographic technique, he says he won’t be looking at the technical side of photography so much as rewarding “a photo that tells a very unique story. I’ll be looking to read the image, just to see what it says […] Photo quality will be kind of a small part. If the photograph tells a good story but is a little bit rough, that’s ok, at least in my mind.”

“If I had to give a tip or advice, it’s shoot to your subject matter. You can get away with a blurry, overexposed, or underexposed photograph. You can get away with a grainy, small, large photograph - anything, as long as it’s related to your vision of what the subject matter is.”

“It could end up being just a very beautiful photo of a sunset, it all depends on the range of contestants; if there’s many, or if there’s ten.”

There is a spontaneity to the 24 Hour competition that Trevor is interested in. “Maybe it’ll just be a rainy cloudy day. It’s more of a prompt to see how the contestants want to challenge themselves.” It also gives everyone who enters a more level playing field, as they will be limited by what images they can create in the given environment for that 24 hours.

People can work together in teams, so it’s a great thing to do as a flat or with a group of friends. OUSA Event Co-ordinator Emma Anderson says, “We’re hoping flats will go out together and make a night of it, and then come back the next day and share what they’ve found with everyone else.” The awards night will take place the night they get back, where the photos will be presented and the end of Art Week will be celebrated.

You don’t need to have a big, fancy camera to take part. Trevor says the cliché “the best camera is the one that you’ve got with you” is true. If you have a camera on your phone, you can take part in the competition.


24 Hour Speed Photo Competition Info and Starting Session

Location: Evison Lounge, OUSA Clubs & Societies Centre

Date: Thursday 17 August

Time: 3pm – Info Session. Competition: 4pm Thursday – 4pm Friday | Price: Free

Categories are Best Landscape, Best Portrait (subject) + Best Open category. There will be some great prizes up for grabs and the photos + awards will be presented on Friday night along with the Student Art Exhibition awards. Please register your interest for the event and we will see you at the info session!

Please register online at bit.ly/register24hour , or via the OUSA page artweek.ousa.org.nz


Trevor Cokley 
Instagram @trevor_cokley

This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2017.
Posted 11:31am Sunday 13th August 2017 by Critic.