Each month we connect with an influential professional in the industry. This month our Spotlight is on Stephen Locke from Tempest Gallery.
I’m a painter, photographer and filmmaker. Making visual art immerses me in the world. Through painting and film I explore the fathomless experience of being alive. Deep presence allows me to explore both the dramatic and mundane with equal exuberance.
STEPHEN LOCKE goes where the wind takes him -literally. He is a man who captures storms. His weather photography business is appropriately named, Tempest Gallery and he sells “hi-def time-lapse videos to producers around the world” [KC Star, July, 26, 2014] – his clients include LG Electronics, Kia Motors, BMW, Wrangler, Fuji Television, Scottish snythpop band Chvrches, European culture television ARTE and ZDF German public-service television.
His films are so captivating and mesmerizing I’ve kept his site up on my computer and replayed them for hours. Stephen captures the sheer power of a storm with thousands of still images that make up his own distinctive style of time-lapse video and the outcome is beautiful. The outcome is art.
With Spring storm season approaching we thought it was the perfect time to talk to Stephen Locke for our March Spotlight.
KCFMO: You began capturing storm systems later on in your career. What drew you to this type of photography/videography?
Stephen: Originally I was interested in general landscape photography. As a landscape photographer in Kansas it was inevitable I would discover thunderstorms. They made the horizon more dramatic. I began planning my landscape photo excursions based on forecasts for severe weather. Eventually I learned to make my own forecasts so I could plan trips 3-10 days in advance. Initially my intent was still photography but I discovered I could combine several hundred stills to make a high resolution movie. Thus my career in time lapse film making was born.
KCFMO: From spotting a developing system on the forecast to finalizing the video, how long is the process of creating a time-lapse video?
Stephen: The entire process can take several days or weeks. The post production procedure of grading still pictures and combining them to make a movie can take several days to produce 30 seconds of footage. As technology improves and my methods evolve I’m often remaking movies shot several years ago. I regard all my movies as continual works in progress.
KCFMO: When you begin tracking a storm system, how often do return with the footage you were hoping for?
Stephen: Bust potential is high. Only 1 in 10 shooting days will yield high quality footage. Truly unique storms are rare and any given season will only produce a few scattered across the Great Plains.
KCFMO: Your approach to storm formation time-lapse videos has been described as calm and haunting. What draws you to this style, as opposed to the more traditional manic and dangerous approach of many storm chasers?
Stephen: My personal philosophy is that of a controlled cinematographer rather than first person videography. I want no attention drawn to the camera or photographer. By locking the camera down to a fixed position the only thing moving is the storm. This composed perspective allows the viewer to witness storm dynamics without getting distracted by camera movement and the emotions of it’s operator. Film production companies like my stable footage because it’s easier to use when composting into their projects.
KCFMO: Your footage is purchased by companies around the globe. Can you tell us more about that process?
Stephen: I am my own broker. I publish my stock footage in watermarked, low resolution and abbreviated form on Vimeo and YouTube where it can be screened initially by production companies around the world. If interested they contact me directly and we negotiate a license fee based on their intended use. I may send them a watermarked low res screener for test purposes. When negotiations are complete I send them the high resolution footage.
KCFMO: What would you say is the most difficult aspect of your work?
Stephen: I have three perpetual challenges; 1) Forecasting and storm chase logistics; deploying myself on the best storms of the year. 2) Ever changing technology; evolving to produce the highest quality footage technically possible. 3) Marketing; making production companies worldwide aware of my work. They cannot purchase or use it in their projects if they don’t know I exist.
KCFMO: You are a self-taught photographer and filmmaker, what is one lesson you’ve learned throughout your career that can’t be taught in a classroom?
Stephen: The lesson I’ve learned is the autodidactic philosophy; how to be self taught and acquire skill by doing. Fortunately the internet is a boon to self learners because the answers to most questions are just a Google search away. This requires self motivation and an intuitive sense of knowing which questions to ask to enable the next quantum leap.
Stephen, thank you for sharing your work and insights with us. Your films are stunning. If you’d like to learn more about Stephen’s work visit the websites listed below: