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'Blown Away' author will sign books in Oklahoma City
Sometimes it's OK to judge a book by its cover. That's certainly the case with Greg Johnson's 2012 photography collection.
Johnson himself squints at readers from the oversized cover. In the background dark clouds loom overhead, ominous and foreboding. There's some serious wind being kicked up; you can tell by the way Johnson's face is contorted, his lips forced open in a grimace, his cheeks plastered against his skull as if he's an astronaut taking major G's.
Even the title isn't immune to the wind. The final three letters of the main title, “BLOWN AWAY,” seem to be peeling off. The subtitle clings to the bottom of the cover like it's hiding in a ditch: “A year through the lens of The Tornado Hunter.”
That's really all you need to know.
Johnson, 42, is a relative newcomer to storm chasing but a veteran photographer. Whereas others aim to videotape twisters or place scientific instruments in their path, Johnson simply seeks a safe vantage point from which to photograph tornadoes — large, small and in-between.
Although he lives in the Canadian prairie province of Saskatchewan, Johnson has chased storms across Oklahoma and other Tornado Alley states. He is signing copies of his book at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway.
“I came from the corporate world,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “I had a few businesses I was running. I was living that life you hear about in motivational speeches everywhere: I was working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., then coming home in time to kiss my kids before they went to bed and then going to sleep and doing the same thing all over again.”
When he realized how much of his three children's lives he was missing, he decided to sell all of his businesses and seek out a simpler life.
Saskatchewan is sort of the northern end of Tornado Alley, he said. It's rural and sparsely populated; 35 tornadoes rolled through the province in July, he said, but there is no tornado warning system.
As a photographer, twisters fascinated him. Videos seemed to be everywhere, but high quality photos of tornadoes were harder to find. Maybe, he thought, he should be the one to shoot them.
He taught himself basic meteorology on the Internet. (His book includes a glossary of terms familiar to most native Oklahomans, such as “wall cloud” and “supercell.”) He became friends with meteorologists in the U.S. and Canada.
And in 2009, he went on his first storm chase. He and a couple friends headed to Texas and ventured to Lone Grove, where eight people had been killed and more than 300 homes damaged in February of that year.
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