Ellery Center native Shawn Sweatman rushes outdoors as storm clouds gather while the rest of us hunker down inside to ride out some of nature’s fiercest weather. Ever since 1983 Shawn has been infatuated with the weather and storm chasing, but recently he has worked on fine-tuning his other passion: sunset photography.
With his new book titled “Chautauqua Sunsets,” released on July 11, 2020 he offers a glimpse for everyone of our majestic corner of the world.
“It all started out because I do storm chasing and when there weren’t storms to chase, I was getting bored, so I started doing sunset pictures,” recalled Mr. Sweatman.
Originally as Mr. Sweatman explained, he would share his sunset pictures on his Facebook page, Chautauqua Weather Today. As his artistic eye for sunset photos was commented on by his many followers, the idea of compiling these photos into a book came to fruition.
“On Chautauqua Weather Today’s Facebook page I have followers in at least 48 states. Ninety percent of them have grown up in this area and have moved to other parts of the country and they like to see what’s going on back home,” stated Mr. Sweatman.
With so many incredible photos it was a daunting task to pick the top 90 pictures to include in this project out of the nearly 1,300 he had in total.
“My niece helped me with the book; she has a better eye at judging pictures than I do,” stated Mr. Sweatman, as he reminisced about the importance and excitement of having his niece assist him in the selection process.
As for the many who have witnessed Mr. Sweatman’s awe-inspiring photography, it is incredible to hear that the only equipment he uses is his iPhone. “The equipment is not the key,” he explained, “but the timing is everything.”
“The biggest thing with sunset pictures is being at the right place at the right time. When I go up to Barcelona, I’m there an hour before sunset because you don’t know as the sun is setting, you might miss some amazing pictures. I try to take pics every few minutes; that way you can see the progression,” said Mr. Sweatman.
In a normal summer many area natives flock to the lake in order to witness its beauty and unwind at night as the sun glazes over the water with spectacular bursts of color. For Mr. Sweatman, he has taken this to the next level and shared these peaceful images with the world.
The Weather Man
When he is not out taking sunset photos Shawn Sweatman proudly runs one of the only mobile weather stations in the area. He was first inspired by watching the tornado that ripped through Chautauqua area back in 1983 as he recalled watching it from his backyard with his father.
Currently Shawn is a National Weather Service spotter and has taken multiple classes through the NWS Skywarn program.
“If I see something wrong, I’ll log off my videos and get in touch with the National Weather Service. I’ll give them an update on what I’m seeing so they know what’s actually going on rather than just what’s on the radar,” said Mr. Sweatman.
Shawn does not get paid for what he does, but one can hear the passion and pride in his voice when discussing his storm chasing.
“I prefer all the seasons no matter what the storm is. If it’s snow or a thunderstorm, people do not want to go out in them. I go out because nobody else wants to,” he exclaimed.
It is wonderful to celebrate the passions of our families, friends and neighbors. The bravery, dedication, and willingness to put himself out there to inform and inspire us is very generous of Shawn. Sharing photos of magnificent sunsets over Chautauqua Lake from various vantage points so the world can revel in its glory is another chapter in the story of Shawn Sweatman.
These gracious gestures and calming images that are the fruits of Mr. Sweatman’s dedication to his hobbies are the reasons that we are so thankful this Ellery Center native is one of our own.