Creative Pagosa: John Farley

Photo courtesy John Farley Pagosa MAKER John Farley has turned a lifelong fascination with weather — extreme weather — into the stuff of art. Farley is a fine-art digital photographer, specializing in weather and nature photography.

Photo courtesy John Farley
Pagosa MAKER John Farley has turned a lifelong fascination with weather — extreme weather — into the stuff of art. Farley is a fine-art digital photographer, specializing in weather and nature photography.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community.

By creating this website, it will make these MAKERS easier to find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is John Farley.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

JF: I lived most of my life in various locations in the Midwest before my wife, Alice, and I moved to Pagosa Springs late in 2011. I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and developed an interest in weather early in life, although it would be some time before that interest evolved into weather photography. I remember that often when a thunderstorm moved in my Dad and I would sit in our west-facing garage and watch the storm approach until the wind blew the rain in so much that we had to close the garage door. Despite my interest in weather, my education and career took me in other directions. I majored in political science as an undergraduate student at Michigan State, then moved 60 miles down the road to the University of Michigan where I received graduate degrees in sociology and urban planning. I worked for 30 years as a sociology professor, mainly at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), just northeast of St. Louis, Mo. My specialty areas included urban sociology, race relations, disaster research, and research methods and statistics. I co-founded a fair-housing organization in the St. Louis area and was elected president of the Midwest Sociological Society and of the SIUE Faculty Senate.

Although my career took me in the direction of the social sciences, I retained my lifelong interest in weather. I was always out with a camera after a big snowstorm, and a picture that I took of an approaching thunderstorm was shown on a St. Louis TV station back in the days when TV stations were just starting to show viewer photos of weather. By the mid-1990s, I was beginning to chase and photograph severe thunderstorms in the St. Louis and southern Illinois areas. I photographed my first tornado two days before Christmas in 1996 during an unusual December outbreak of severe weather. Although I had always taken lots of pictures, I would not describe myself as a serious photographer until around the year 2000. By then, my interest in photographing lightning spurred me to learn more about photography and to invest in better photographic equipment. By the time of my retirement in 2006, I was beginning to exhibit my work in various art fairs, photography shows, and galleries. Since then I have exhibited my photography in juried art and photography shows in Illinois, New Mexico and Colorado. In 2011, my video of the storm that produced a destructive tornado at Lambert St. Louis International Airport appeared on the National Geographic Channel. My photography has also appeared in Weatherwise Magazine and in the photo book, “A Year or So in the Life of New Mexico.” Currently, some of my work featuring both weather and landscape is on display and is available for purchase at the Ragged Edge gift shop here in Pagosa Springs.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

JF: I am a fine-art digital photographer specializing in weather and nature photography. I make matted and framed prints in various sizes.

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

JF: My tools include my cameras, lenses and computers for post-processing, but my favorite materials are the sky and landscapes themselves. I strive to capture what is given to me in the sky and landscapes as truly as I can, because I do not think it is possible to improve upon the spectacular images that nature offers to us. You just have to be there at the right time and have the skills to capture and truly represent the beauty and sometimes the drama that nature and the sky offer.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

JF: Since retiring, I have tried very hard to avoid regular schedules and routines. In part, I do this because weather does not occur according to a regular routine or schedule. I want to be available to take advantage of the opportunity when interesting weather occurs in our area, and in some cases to take multi-day trips to other areas in order to document interesting weather events. The amount of time I spend working on my photography varies considerably from week to week. It is a lot during and after a major photo shoot or weather event, when I have numerous photos to process, and also when I am preparing prints for an exhibit. At other times, it is quite a bit less.

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

JF: When you choose to undertake a project, as much as possible try to work on something that you feel strongly about in your gut.

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa Country?

JF: I love to ski and fish. Skiing is what led me to discover Pagosa Country, and the fishing here is as good as anywhere I have traveled. And one thing I have learned is to have a camera along when skiing and fishing, because being outdoor activities, they sometimes offer spectacular opportunities to photograph dramatic weather and landscape. Some of my best pictures have been taken with very ordinary cameras that I carried along when I was skiing or fishing.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

JF: To get some spectacular weather photographs and continue to improve my skills as a photographer.

Q: What is your dream project?

JF: I think my dream project would be to work as a photographer for a tornado research project on the Great Plains, such as the Vortex or Vortex II research projects. In these large-scale research projects, dozens of researchers deploy Doppler Radar on Wheels, wind and humidity sensors, and probes they try to put in the path of a tornado to measure wind speed and barometric pressure. All of these approaches combine to produce a wide variety of data to better understand the conditions that lead to formation of tornadoes. Photographing and documenting such a project and the storms the researchers observe would be a dream project for me.

To learn more about photography by John Farley, visit his website at, or to specifically view his weather-related photography, visit his Stormy Skies Gallery at He also has large framed displays in his home studio and exhibit area.

This story was posted on May 16, 2013.