You may not recognize his name, but you have probably seen his work. A local freelance photographer and storm chaser, Alonzo Adams had the great honor of having his one of his photographs featured on the cover of Time Magazine.
On May 20, 2013, Alonzo and his storm chasing partner Richard Rowe headed to south Oklahoma City in hopes of capturing one of Alonzo’s favorite subjects—a tornado. Alonzo had no idea that he was about to come closer to one than ever before, and that his life would be changed forever. As they took position to get a good view of the storm, he was less than a mile away from the funnel cloud. “My heart was pounding, thinking of all the people in the path of this storm,” said Alonzo.
Instead of fleeing from the incoming devastation, Alonzo took photographs and video of the tornado as it ravaged the area. He’d never seen such damage. All around him, the aftermath of the violence lingered as people emerged to try and locate their loved ones and belongings. Within moments of shooting the storm, Alonzo uploaded his images to the Associated Press online feed. To his shock and surprise, he was immediately contacted by Time Magazine, advising him they would be using one of his photos for their cover. Later that evening, radio stations in Chicago and North Carolina called to interview him, as well as MSNBC.
Having always been fascinated with Oklahoma’s unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather, Alonzo has a great respect for and reverence of the subject. After discovering his love for photography in 1997, he moved to Norman where he studied both meteorology and journalism. His background and experience in the two fields makes him a very unique photographer, and it shows in his work. “I love having the ability of capturing a moment in time, to freeze it and to always have it with me,” said Alonzo.
Taking pictures of the constantly changing weather is not a task taken lightly. Alonzo takes great care in getting ready to shoot extreme weather, which is aided greatly by his background in meteorology. He studies weather patterns and forecast models to determine where the most action will be, and he takes advantage of all forms of weather forecasting available to him, including the National Weather Service, social media and weather forecasts from local news stations. He keeps his equipment packed up in his car, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Even with all this preparation, he says his best shots are still a combination of perfect planning and accidents. Although the May 2013 tornado was one of the worst storms in Oklahoma’s history, it was this combination of preparation and chance that provided him with such a rare opportunity. The sudden media coverage drew attention to Alonzo’s work propelling his standing within the art community. He was now receiving more interest in all of his work.
Although driven by the excitement of shooting tornadoes, Alonzo enjoys photographing all kinds of weather. He is repeatedly drawn to the visual impact created by cloud formations. Rain shafts, for example, provide an interesting composition, especially when backlit by the sun. One of Alonzo’s favorite shots is that of an abandoned farmhouse set against a dark sky with a super cell storm cloud barreling down on it. He loves the contrast of the fragility of the tiny house set against the power of the gigantic approaching storm.
While weather photography will always be Alonzo’s first love, he also photographs a wide variety of subjects. His impressive portfolio includes his handiwork in shooting architecture, editorials, portraits, sports and stock photography. In addition to Time Magazine, Alonzo’s published works have been featured in national publications including Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, Washington Post, New York Times, The Oklahoman and Halftime Magazine.
Since spring is just around the corner, Alonzo is gearing up for storm season. Already buying new equipment, this year he’s going to venture outside of Oklahoma. In addition to Kansas and Missouri, he is especially interested in shooting in North Dakota and South Dakota, where there is less rain accompanying severe storms. The lack of moisture makes it easier to see the cloud formations and funnels which makes for more impressive photography. Although Oklahoma’s weather can be unpredictable, it looks like Alonzo is on a solid plan for continued success.
To see more of Alonzo’s work, visit www.alonzojadams.com.