Living Skies

24 November 2017

Living Skies
by Craig Hilts
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Keith Foster
$54.99 ISBN 978-1-988783-05-5

There’s nothing like lightning, baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes to get one’s adrenaline pumping. There’s also nothing like a serene sky after a rain to calm a viewer. Craig Hilts, in his hardcover coffee table book Living Skies, has experienced both.

He invites readers to look skyward and enjoy a visual feast of pigmentation and textures, especially noticeable in the swirling colours of the aurora borealis. Some photos spread across two-pages, providing a panoramic view of prairie horizons. Occasionally Hilts combines two similar photos, merging them so precisely on facing pages that the combined photos appear as one seamless image.

His more than 150 colour photos range from scenic landscapes to the tumult of angry skies. Sometimes the scenery can seem so calm while storm clouds churn above. No wonder Saskatchewan has earned the title, Land of Living Skies.

Hilts notes that a green sky, eerie to behold, is usually a warning of an impending tornado and/or severe hail. He’s experienced the rapid-fire force of baseball-sized hail smashing into his vehicle, but fortunately the protective shielding he developed offered some protection. No stranger to danger, he once found himself directly beneath a funnel cloud as it was forming. He quickly evacuated the area, but only after first grabbing a few more shots.

Residing in Swift Current, Hilts travels Saskatchewan’s back roads with his storm-chasing team, travelling 30,000 kilometres each year. As a boy growing up on the Prairies, Hilts was not a fan of Saskatchewan skies. It was only as an adult that he became fascinated with the tremendous power of storms, especially summer storms. Now he revels in lightning strikes the way some people enjoy fireworks.

Using the camera as his canvas, Hilts creates a visual portrait, uniting landscape and clouds. By combining farm buildings and cloud patterns, he shows the inherent relationship between earth and sky. He captures spectacular skies, with clouds bubbling and boiling, displaying a strength seldom surpassed in nature. As a purist, he doesn’t digitally enhance or change anything in his photos. What you see in this book is exactly the way he took the images.

Hilts brings an energy to his photos, capturing clouds at their most dynamic moment. A perfectionist, he waits for the precise instant when, as he puts it, he sees “something that takes my breath away” before releasing the shutter.

He shares his frustration when, after waiting patiently for hours, he misses a shot. But when he clicks the shutter to capture the right image at the right moment, he says he can sometimes be seen dancing for joy and doesn’t care who may be watching.

By showcasing Saskatchewan’s limitless skies and cloud formations, Hilts displays the unlimited opportunities to enjoy our western wonderland. Living Skies shows Saskatchewan at its stormiest, and its finest.


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