Friday, 15 September 2017 06:38

Storm chaser captures images of dramatic skies in first book

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Storm chaser and photographer Craig Hilts speaks with people about his new book and photographs at Swift Current's Market Square, Sept. 2. Storm chaser and photographer Craig Hilts speaks with people about his new book and photographs at Swift Current's Market Square, Sept. 2.

The beauty of Saskatchewan's living skies has been captured by Swift Current storm chaser and photographer Craig Hilts in his first book.

The large coffee table size publication is a collection of unique moments that were captured during his many trips around the province over the past decade.
“It's basically over 10 years of going out there and exploring and running around the province and finding amazing things to photograph,” he said.
The book contains one of the first images he took after making a decision in 2006 to become a storm chaser.
“Prior to that I always have been fascinated with storms and I would say I was a storm enthusiast up until then, because a storm would come in and I would go to the edge of town and watch it or I would sit in my back yard, but 2006 is when I actually started chasing,” he said.
“So photography and the chasing started at the same time.”
There are over 150 full colour images in the book. Many photographs show the ominous beauty of the sky during severe storms, but other images depict the sky and landscape during a variety of weather events at different times of the year.
“It's more than just storm chasing,” he said. “It encompasses everything. There's northern lights images, there's images of rainbows, sunsets. I would say probably half of them are storms, but the other half are all just different, like just beautiful sunrises and just dynamic skies and different clouds.”
He considered a few titles for the book, but in the end he decided to simply use the most evident one – Living Skies.
“To me it's so obvious, when you've lived here so long and experienced so many different skies,” he said. “It really does sum up Saskatchewan. ... We really are blessed to be able to see so much of the sky here because we do have such wide open spaces. I think it gives us a different perspective than a lot of people have on it.”
The idea for the book started while he attended various trade shows and events to display and sell prints of his photographs.
“I thought how do I get some of my older stuff to let people experience those images,” he recalled. “I can't possibly have them all at the show and I can't possibly all hang them on a wall.”
He looked at all the images taken since 2006 and he selected about 1,000 of his favourite images. Thereafter he picked the best photographs that show a variety of skies for the book.
The photographs have been separated into thematic chapters with an introductory text at the start of each section. There are also notes at the back of the book with descriptions for 46 individual images.
“Everyone of these pictures is what crazy thing did I do to go out and capture,” he said. “At a lot of my shows, I'm talking to people about my images. We talk about the stories and a lot of people say you should write that down. So that's really what I wanted to do with that, because I don't have a lot of those stories written down. So when I started writing the book, not only did I want to create a chapter and a theme for each of them, but I sat down and I started writing all the stories about the images.”
He could not include information about each photograph due to considerations about the number of pages in the book.
“What we tried to do when I was working with the publisher is we really tried to highlight some of the favourite stories and give some context to the images,” he said. “So basically, the writing is really just the stories of the images and some of the neat ones that I really enjoyed.”
Creative Saskatchewan provided funding that helped him to publish the book, but he also had to use his own funds.
“That has been the scariest part is this is something I wanted to create and I wanted to take the risk on and go out and see,” he said. “So I've kind of invested a little bit of my own money in there.”
He wanted the book to have 100 per cent Canadian content. It is published by Your Nickels Worth Publishing in Regina and it was printed in Manitoba. His goal was to create a quality product and he is satisfied with the end result. It is printed on glossy pages with a leather-like hardcover.
“It feels fabulous,” he said. “I wanted the book to be a little bit of an art piece as well and I wanted to have a certain feel. When I got that first book in my hand, it was absolutely amazing to see. It was almost two years of work. ... There's lots of cheap ways you can do a book, but I wanted something that people could hold and feel and really feel proud of displaying on their coffee table or in their home or giving as a gift to somebody.”
The book is available from Hilts through his website, Prairie Fire Photography ( Purchasing inquiries can also be e-mailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
He will be at the Fall into Christmas fine art and handcraft market at Kinetic Park in Swift Current on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, where the book and prints of his photographs will be available for sale.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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