Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 17
After the stormInclement features a series of photos that capture severe Central Coast weather
BY SHELLY CONE
Wild weather, severe storms, and lightning are usually the stuff bad dreams are made of for young children. As a local photographer, Cathy L. Gregg was not one of those children. She was always fascinated by thunder, lightning, and the like—thanks to a father who studied weather and shared that passion with his children.
“It’s in my blood,” she said. “My father was a climatologist by hobby. He taught us a lot about weather.”
That passion for weather stayed with Gregg, and now she actually chases storms, camera in hand. She’s captured storms, snow, lightning, and more throughout her photography career. Her images will be on display during the “Inclement” exhibition at the Shepard Hall Gallery, showing throughout July.
The exhibit will focus on inclement weather, atmospheric phenomena, and, of course, the chase.
“I want to show people we do get some inclement weather on the Central Coast,” she said.
From lightning and large waves to snow at very low elevations and 65 mph winds at Morro Bay, Gregg has captured the Central Coast in a way that’s not often seen—even by residents—since 1998.
But the exhibition will be more than just images; it will be an educational experience as well. Gregg will be sharing her weather knowledge with displays that explain sun dogs and superior mirages and other atmospheric phenomena.
Gregg has been chasing storms for years, but it wasn’t until she captured a freak lightning storm in 2006 that she began to gain attention for her weather shots. The storm happened shortly after she finished shooting the crush at Byron Winery. As she got home, her friend who was still at the winery called her to tell her to get back to the winery quickly.
“She said—I’ll say it nicely, ‘You better get your butt back here; there’s a lightning storm!’” Gregg said.
Unbeknownst to Gregg, the storm was traveling east to west, so she was surprised when she looked out her window and didn’t see anything. Still, she packed up her camera and headed back to the winery.
It was the first time she tried to photograph lightning, but after 15 or 20 shots, she figured it out. Sitting in her car—because it wasn’t safe to go outside—she set up her camera, rolled down the window, and began shooting pictures for three hours.
“It was a monsoonal storm, unlike anything we get in California,” she said. “Later, I found out the National Weather Service considered it a 50-year storm.”
She found out that data showed the storm produced almost 6,000 lightning strikes.
“I was just amazed at how incredible the storm was,” she said.
Her lightning movie on YouTube is now up to nearly 2 million hits, and her photos from that day are on the website of the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles/Oxnard office.
Gregg tried to pinpoint why she’s so fascinated with weather. She surmised it’s just the excitement of watching a storm and sometimes looking back and realizing she survived it.
“I think it’s the excitement of watching storms come in and brew up,” she said. “I get this adrenaline rush at seeing Mother Nature at her best.”
She’s become adept at using weather technology to gather information about upcoming storms and reading the clouds, but sometimes a low-level snowstorm or spontaneous lightning storm takes her by surprise.
“You’re never going to be one up on Mother Nature, but you sure can follow her,” Gregg said.
Arts Editor Shelly Cone’s kids are always trying to one up her. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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