By Mallorie Rast
Whether it’s chasing a boomer across the western prairies, capturing the spirit of a human subject, or exploring the abandoned landscapes of Saskatchewan, Eatonia Photographer and Storm Chaser, Jenny Hagan, uses her photography skills to invite others to see our great province through the eyes of an enthusiast.
Hagan, who lived her teen years in Kindersley and is now in Eatonia, hosts two Facebook pages and is an active member of another, with each page exemplifying her passion for photography. Hagan’s own pages Lost in Sask, a page that highlights the province’s landscapes, and Back Road Photography and Print, where Hagan features human portraits, capture the spirit and face of Saskatchewan. The third page, Shear WX Severe Weather Chasers, not only tracks and alerts followers to potential storms in the prairie provinces, it also showcases breath-taking visuals of weather phenomena.
Although it is now difficult to distinguish where her love of storms ends and love of photography begins, Hagan says that it all began with a fascination of storms. As a young child, she would watch from her second story window as storms rolled and rumbled across the prairies. At the age of nine, Hagan was caught in a large thunderstorm that blasted over her first hometown of Wadena. After the storm struck her schoolhouse and started a fire, a strong plow wind picked up Hagan, who was tenting, and flung her across her backyard. Instead of being traumatized by the event, young Hagan was instead thrilled by the experience, and used the memory as something to spur her into storm watching. Hagan recalled that as soon as she was old enough to drive, she would grab her car keys night after night in order to follow storms as they tracked across the West Central area.
Soon this interest grew into capturing storms with a simple point and shoot camera before eventually graduating to a DSLR. With her skill increasing with each storm chase, Hagan has been able to capture breathtaking images of clouds and lightning, as well as a combination of landscape and storm shots.
As a member of Shear WX, a storm chasing group based out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, Hagan often finds herself tracking large systems across the Canadian prairies during the spring, summer and fall months. For Hagan, this goes beyond the thrill of the chase and the challenge of capturing features of the storm on camera as she also chases storms as a trained severe weather spotter with Environment Canada. Environment Canada relies on spotters like Hagan to notify them of severe weather developments, as radar can only track input as low as the cloud base.
When Hagan isn’t scouting out photo opportunities among storms, she is spotting them in lonely farmhouses, chapels and barns, left on the wide prairie with nothing but their memories. “As I am traveling, I like to keep my eyes wide open for an opportunity to capture a moment, mood or figure out on the prairie,” says Hagan.
Hagan’s photos of various wildlife and scenery has won photo contests held by Canadian Wildlife Federation, Tourism Sask, Prairies North, Richardson International and others. One photo that holds an especial delight to Hagan also has a slight twist of ironic humour. During her photography career, Hagan chased and waited for a glimpse of the rare white leucistic deer. This albino-looking deer eluded Hagan despite her best efforts, then one day as she was running an errand near the Eatonia rink, Hagan turned around and saw the deer standing across the highway, just studying her. Thankful she always carried her camera with her, Hagan was able to capture her subject and cross that challenge off her list–all from the parking lot of the local rink. “You just never know when a photo opportunity might present itself,” Hagan concluded with a laugh.
Whether it’s a severe storm brooding over the ripening canola fields, a curious mule deer peering around the corner of a ancient barn, a young rural SK teen entering their senior year, or a family announcing a growth in their number, Hagan seeks to capture the mystery and spirit of our great province.
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