Ben Jacobi wears different hats, but they all lead back to one thing—photography. Ben is a storm chaser, a blog writer, a teacher, an artist and the floor manager at Metro Photo. He shoots images of storms, writes about his adventures on his blog, teaches classes on how to use cameras, and makes prints that he sells at Metro Photo, the Finishing Touch, on his website, and at various art shows. He is a virtual Renaissance man when it comes to photography.
“I categorize my work into 4 different groups: nature, weather, landscapes, and night photography. My website has got what I think is my best work. I’ve got images of my hiking adventures, images of my storm chasing, and images of old rundown buildings and ruins with the Milky Way shining behind them,” Ben said.
He also makes calendars showcasing his photography, yet he jokes about getting into photography at the age of 14 and feeling that he has only been good at it for 2 years. He is humble and his own worst critic, not unlike many artists. However, his images are ethereal and some of his most coveted images are of lightening and majestic storms.
Ben is self-taught with no formal training, learning from books, magazines and internet articles. “I’ve just been passionate about it ever since I was a teenager, and I never thought it was anything I would pursue. Kids always say that they want to be an astronaut or a cowboy of something like that,” he explained. “I think it is really cool that I get to do this.”
Ben wanted a darkroom with a fancy development station at his house as a teenager, but his parents had 3 other children and pets and “they didn’t want dangerous chemicals around there. So, they bought me this really cheap digital camera which I quickly outgrew. I moved on to a higher quality camera and I outgrew that. Most teenagers when they turn 16 buy a car, I bought a camera,” he said with a laugh. “And I pretty much have been shooting ever since.”
Ben started shooting weather photos long before he became a storm chaser. He had always been fascinated by storms. “I actually started shooting lightening pictures when I was a teenager. Storms would roll through about 4:00 in the morning and I would get up and walk to a restaurant near my house. I would sit under the awning and I would shoot the lightening as it was going off to the north and west of us,” he said nostalgically.
He got his big break into weather chasing while working at Metro Photo. “There was a guy who came in looking for a camera, and, of course, I asked him what he was going to do with it. He said that he would use it while storm chasing. I said, ‘Man I would love to do that,’ and he kind of shrugged it off like ‘yeah whatever.’ I sold him the camera, and he called me up about two weeks later and he said, ‘I can’t figure out how to work this camera, and I’ll make you a deal. If you show me how to work this camera, I’ll take you along on my storm chasing and show you how to do it.’ And I said ‘YES, absolutely! I’m sold!’” Ben shared enthusiastically.
This man became Ben’s mentor and they chased storms for 2 years before his friend died. “He was a super cool guy, and I have been chasing in his honor and continuing his legacy ever since.” Ben said that storm chasing isn’t like what you see in the movie Twister. “It’s a lot of long hours in the car, and long hours outside waiting for the storm to do what it is going to do. I tell people it is 98 percent frustration, aggravation and depression, and it is 2 percent adrenaline and insanity. But it is in that little margin where it makes all of it worth it. You see some of the most incredible displays of nature that are available on our planet,” he shared.
“I don’t do it for the TV stations, I do it for myself. I will help out whenever I see a tornado on the ground that hasn’t been reported, I will call the National Weather Service and relay the information. I mostly storm chase because I am enamored with the severe weather and nature on display.” He drives hundreds of miles usually in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico occasionally.
“It’s a passion, I’d say more of an obsession—a disease I guess,” he chuckled. “I think I have a responsibility to record the world as I see it. I think that is kind of my charge to share these experiences of creation with people in a way that hopefully makes them think something differently about where we are and what’s out there. I don’t think a lot of people realize that there is actually some beauty to the area that we are in, and that’s what I think I am drawn towards. I love getting my stuff out there and sharing my passion.”
He loves to hike and is in the Wichita Mountains every weekend until April and May. “I stop then because of the snakes and the ticks,” Ben said. “I like hiking in the mountains because you can go anywhere in that public area and find very unique things. I have found a giant rock formation that looks like a Native American Chief’s head and a thousand-year-old cedar tree.”
He has a presence on social media such as facebook.com/bdjphoto, on Instagram as @bdjphoto and he has a website which is bdjphoto.com. And he is adding a YouTube page to his repertoire that features films about his adventures and the technical details on how he achieved the desired effect while capturing his images. And you guessed it! The name he will use on YouTube is bdjphoto.
“I want people to know that if you know artists or have friends or family that are artists you should absolutely support their work and be sure to show them your support,” Ben stressed.
– Cindy Kahler Thomas