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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tornadoes make appearance in Kansas couple’s wedding photos

By Stan Finger
The Wichita Eagle

CNN has called.

So have ABC News, NBC, CBS, the Weather Channel, E! News – more than a dozen media outlets so far, and counting.

They all want to talk to Cate Eighmey about the newlyweds she photographed next to a wheat field with tornadoes touching down behind them Saturday night in Harper County.

The photos have gone viral on social media, catching eyes around the world.

“It’s just been amazing,” Eighmey said of the response to the photographs. “Never in a million years did I think something like this would happen.”

A cowboy and his bride stand in front of ripened wheat with tornadoes touching down in the background. You don’t get much more Kansas or Tornado Alley than that, Eighmey said.

And none of it was planned.

Caleb and Candra Pence had long planned to be married in an outdoor wedding May 19 on the couple’s property southwest of Harper in Harper County.

“Shortly before the ceremony … we started noticing the sky was getting dark to the north,” Eighmey said. “We were all bracing for a torrential downpour.”

The minister made sure to start the ceremony on time. Eighmey and others in the gathering took turns witnessing the ceremony and studying the skies.

“The tornadoes were actually coming down throughout the ceremony,” she said. “Nobody was panicking. It was the most surreal thing.”

The tornadoes seemed to be several miles away, so the ceremony never skipped a beat.

“As soon as they came back down the aisle, my main concern was trying to quickly get some pictures of the couple and the wedding party before the rain started,” Eighmey said.

As they were moving to the wheat field for the photos, someone said, “Hey, those things are still out there,” she said.

Bride, groom and wedding photographer all had the same idea: Shoot some photos with the tornadoes in the background.

“It was just sort of a quickly ‘Stand here, turn around and smile,’” Eighmey said. “That’s what we ended up with.”

Caleb – C.J. to his friends – is a bull rider and Candra is a barrel racer. Oh, and they like to chase tornadoes when they get a chance. Having tornadoes in their wedding photos seemed rather natural.

“They were completely into it,” Eighmey said of the couple.

At least a half-dozen tornadoes touched down in Harper and Kingman counties on Saturday, though weather officials are still reviewing data and storm tracks for evidence of more short-lived twisters.

Eighmey chuckles when she sees accusations on the Internet that the photos are fakes.

“If I was going to Photoshop it, wouldn’t I make it more dramatic?” she said with a laugh.

The newlyweds are honeymooning in Wyoming.

“They’re as shell-shocked as I am” by the reaction to the photos, Eighmey said.

Saturday’s wedding was just the fifth she’s photographed, and she’s wondering what she could possibly do for an encore.

“It’s all downhill from here,” she said with a laugh.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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