About Town is a gallery of landscape and other photographs taken in my home town of Hastings, Nebraska.
About the Mammatus Clouds
The original Mammatus photos were taken on June 12, 2004 around 7:00 pm in Hastings, Nebraska. The clouds are named Cumulonimbus Mammatus, which form at the bottom of large anvil shaped cumulonimbus thunderheads associated with severe weather and tornadic activity.
Their pouch like appearance is the result of negative buoyancy (sinking air) below the thunderhead. I was advised by Jeff Wallenfang at the National Weather Service that Mammatus Clouds as well formed as these pictures represent is a very rare occurrence.
Serendipity: June 12 was my 55th birthday and we had planned to take the family out to dinner that evening. However at 4:00 pm the weather service issued a tornado watch for the area and we decided to cancel reservations and eat at home. Around 6:45 pm, my wife Mary noticed the clouds out the window and called for everyone to look. After being enthralled for a minute or so I realized that this was a real camera opportunity and raced into the house for the trusty digital camera (Minolta DiMage A1), and proceeded to record the event. The cloud formations slowly moved east and began dissipating about 30 minutes later.
If we had followed our initial dinner plans, I would have been 10 miles from the camera and probably would not have seen the clouds. All of this reinforces my belief that a significant part of success in landscape and nature photography includes being at the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment.
Several of these photos were published on the front and back cover of The Journal of Meteorology, December 2004 issue (circulated in 26 countries and published in Dorset, United Kingdom). They have also been published by magazines and newspapers in over 20 different countries and have appeared on a number of web sites including NOAA, the National Weather Service, and the University of Nebraska.
All of the photos have been through the normal digital processing techniques (noise removal, exposure, color balance, sharpness, and contrast adjustment). Having so many images of the same subject, I decided to take a little artistic license with 2 of them to spice up the collection. The sample images displayed on the site have been resized down from their original size and are of low resolution, which makes them quite less dramatic in comparison to a print on glossy photo paper.
I hope you enjoy viewing these unusual photographs.
Jorn C. Olsen
This gallery was originally titled Milldale Calf Branding, as my primary efforts at the ranch were directed towards capturing the cattle branding process. Since then, I have become photographically involved in all aspects of the ranch operations. In addition some of my best Nebraska landscape photographs have been taken at or near the ranch. In 2008 Laura Marvel Wunderlich, an English professor at Hastings College, and myself were commissioned by the Shoemaker family to do a book about the history of the ranch and document all ranch operations for a year. This not only includes branding activities, but calving, haying, roundups, and general ranch maintenance and livestock management. In a sense we are documenting the lives of modern day Nebraska Cowboys performing the same tasks in much the same way as was done 100 years ago. This is entirely appealing to me, as I fear this lifestyle is being inexorably replaced by more mechanized forms of beef production.
Nebrask landscape photography is my primary passion. The Nebraska landscape offers so many varied opportunities and challenges for composition and light. From the rugged Nebraska sandhills to the flat farm land of the Platte Valley, landscape opportunities abound. It is often challenging, though to create exceptional compositions with significant depth when the terrain is mostly flat, but the results, when one is able to achieve a good landscape composition are much more rewarding than a 'been there done that' scene of a dramatic landscape that are so prevelant in many landscape photographers portfolios. This is not to say that I do not enjoy these scenes or shooting them, it's just that creating an image that works well for the audience, from a scene that most landscape photographers would either ignore or not actively look for appeals to my sense of adventure and creative drive. I find all of nature beautiful and worth experiencing. Another aspect of Nebraska landscape photography that really appeals to me is the fact that skies in Nebraska are almost always interesting. We have very few days when the sky is either a boring "All Blue" or totally drab and gray, and very often we get days where there are great lighting opportunities for creating dramatic and contrasty landscape photographs.
> STILL LIFE:
Having been a hunter and fisherman for much of my life, I find all aspects of wildlife photography to be interesting and challenging. The difficulty in shooting wildlife is that it moves around and is wary of humans. Add to that the fact that it is usually early or late in the day when most wildlife photographic opportunities present themselves and the light is low enough to require slower shutter speeds for adequate exposures, resulting in a large percentage of motion blurred images. In addition getting a sharp well exposed image is not enough, the surroundings or background must also be appealing to the viewer, and the pose or posture of the subject needs to be interesting or unusual. It must somehow transcend the viewers expectation or stereotype of how the creature normally looks or acts. Something of animal's personality needs to be evident in the image.