December 25, 2012
This year’s Cold Snap Challenge asked photographers to “focus on energy,” getting the best of the state’s booming energy industry. Rob Koelling, of Powell, was this year’s winner with this submission:
In a way, the photo represents Koelling’s view of the energy industry, in which a comfortable coexistence is achievable. A professor of English and the department chair of Humanities at Northwest College in Powell, he discloses in an email that his son is currently a petroleum engineer in North Dakota.
“I was first attracted to Wyoming by its beautiful vastness, and in my early years, I suppose I saw energy development as a threat to the character of Wyoming,” he says. “I now think that energy development is crucial for Wyoming.”
Koelling has developed friendships with members of the energy industry over the years. Among them, he says, he sees a genuine concern for the environment.
“On the other hand, I’m also well aware that corporations may have a different set of values,” he adds. “My hope is that with thoughtful planning, negotiation, and careful regulation, we can preserve the beauty of Wyoming and still provide its citizens with the benefits that come from good jobs and a high quality public infrastructure that is only possible with the (industry’s) tax revenue.”
Koelling moved to Powell in 1979 for a job, quickly falling in love with the splendid wide-open spaces in every direction. He says photography only became a serious hobby once digital technology allowed for him to bypass the price of film and the drudgery of the dark room. He occasionally updates his photo blog with stills of Wyoming wildlife and scenery, his favorite subjects.
“And I particularly enjoy the challenge of photographing birds,” he adds.
His winning contribution was taken about four years ago on Polecat Bench, “a 700-foot-high, sagebrush covered plateau.” As he primed his Nikon D300 (with a 70mm lens set at 4.5 f-stop and an ISO setting of 200), a storm moved in. The wind picked up. The temperature plunged. Undeterred, he set his sights on the workover rig before him, and a series of structures standing tall over the South Elk Basin oil field.
“I remember at the time thinking how tough it would be to have to service that equipment under those conditions,” Koelling says. “I was trying to capture a feel of the emptiness, harshness and beauty of the scene.”
For his winning contribution, Koelling will receive a Flickr Pro account and a $50 cash prize. WyoFile would like to thank our runners-up for their contributions: Elizabeth Traver, Edward Budd, Michelle Irwin and Connor Novotny. Thanks to everyone who participated.
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