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Shards

(View a little larger, a little better by clicking on image for a lightbox)

I keep finding images from our dog track visit back in December that I haven’t processed, so I took a bit of time this week to blaze through a few.

I love this place. The scene above was so indicative of the current deterioration of the structure. It was also interesting how all these foreground seats were places on the outside of the facility and now it’s almost like the entire place is “outside.”

The first thing we talked about when we got near the windows was that we should all steer clear of them…because those shards aren’t just small bits of glass, but huge pieces that I would assume could take your head off if they dropped directly on you.

I automatically had a desire to stand next to and look through these windows, so I had to make sure I kept reminding myself to keep away.

This scene has a very post-apocalyptic feel to it for me. Chairs falling in disrepair, vegetation growing all over, the fact that everything just feels out in the open now. At one point in my life (and it may still happen), I had planned on writing a book that would take place in a future where people hadn’t really lived on the planet for a couple hundred years.

Things would likely be way worse than this, but it might be a scene I’d use to describe the way things were.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5, iso 100)

Anduril

(click on the image for a nicer view in lightbox)

Sometimes getting the right shot is all about being there.

I’m not going to brag about this photo being some kind of amazing composition…because in reality, it’s pretty simple. At the time I was actually wishing I had something better to get into the frame than just a few saguaros. Like maybe a glacial lake in the Himalayas (whaaat?)  But sometimes all it takes for me is a killer sky. And killer skies aren’t always easy to come by.

I remember seeing photographs and always being jealous that they somehow lucked out to get that beautiful sunrise or sunset.

The fact is…they were there to get it. That’s all it takes really.

I’ve grown to love getting up before dark, packing my gear, grabbing a coffee, some snacks and heading out down some desert road to see where the morning finds me. Sadly, it just isn’t something I can do all the time. On this particular morning, it was around 33 degrees out, I was bundled up, hiked down a short trail and waited for the sun to peak over the Superstitions.

If you ever are wondering how you might decide whether or not there will be cool clouds the morning you decide to do a trip like this (esp when it’s dark out still), usually times during or after a rain storm can be perfect. Yeah, it might be raining, but it will likely break here and there and offer stunning shots. In this one above, you can see rain falling on the left horizon, headed my way. You can also look at infrared radar to see if the skies are cloudy around your area before you head out.

Of course, a lot of this is based on Arizona. I know in places like Oregon or the east coast…just because it stops raining doesn’t mean the skies wont stay gray.

Then again…if you aren’t out there waiting for a spectacular moment…you’ll miss it.

Oh, if you are wondering about the title…it’s from Lord of the Rings. If you figure out what it means, it kind of fits the image perfectly.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/16, iso 100)

Fever Pitch

(image looks a lot yummier in lightbox, click to view)

I’d toss this up there with one of the most unique skies you’d ever see in Arizona. A gorgeous sunset, wispy, high cirrus…and then some dark, menacing storm clouds hanging low over the city, a tiny bit of sprinkling rain hitting our heads.

This is another installment of Movie Title Wednesday, one that had quite a few options to choose from. But believe it or not, Field of Dreams and The Sandlot have already been used since I started this thing back in September! There are a ton of great baseball movies, but the one I choose is a flick I really enjoyed.

Fever Pitch stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Barrymore…I’ve loved her since E.T. I always liked Fallon from his days on SNL, but this movie kind of raised him up a bit more for me. And now he hosts his own late show and it’s friggin’ hilarious.

The film itself was just a fun one. Yeah, it’s kind of your standard romantic comedy, but it has something unique about it that not everyone probably knows.  The plot revolves around the Boston Red Sox of course and Fallon’s character’s infatuation with them. When they started filming the movie, they had no idea the Red Sox would win the World Series that year. In fact, the original end of the movie was written with them losing yet again.

But they won. They broke the curse. So the plot changed too…hurriedly re-written after Boston won Game 7. And it made for an awesome ending. When Fallon and Barrymore are seen celebrating on the field at the end of the movie, they were actually at Game 4 when Boston beat St. Louis and supposedly you could see some of the filming live on the Fox broadcast. When I watch the movie, it almost has a kind of historic feel to it now because it revolved around this real-world event.

I’d definitely put it up there with The Sandlot and Field of Dreams as my favorite baseball movies, although I did love The Rookie too.

About the picture above. I think photographers can honestly say that luck can be a huge factor when composing certain scenes. I mean, here I am running around the rooftop of this parking garage firing away at everything because the sky was simply amazing…and after being there 25 minutes, I stumble across the spot above and have roughly 30 seconds to setup and snap the brackets before the sun disappeared from its absolutely perfect position.

Which is what I dig. When out stormchasing or racing to find a great spot for a sunset, sometimes a little luck comes in handy.

For the out-of-state-ers, this is Chase Field, home of the Diamondbacks looking east along Jefferson Street in downtown Phoenix. This was shot about 10 minutes or so before the other one I’ve posted from this parking garage called Seventh Heaven.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100)

Humming by the creek

Early last Sunday morning I met my buddy Ken Peterson up near Table Mesa Road north of Phoenix. We’d had a crazy bit of cold weather move through and the snow level was supposed to be as low as it’s been in a few years.

I think we probably should have gone east of Phoenix into the Superstitions where the snow was a lot closer, but sometimes when you wake up before dark, you just can’t really be too sure!

Besides, I would have missed hanging out with Ken and this beast of a vehicle. I’d never been in a Hummer before so it was a rare treat to go barreling down dirt roads, splashing muddy water all over the windshield and making mincemeat of whatever terrain the desert could throw at us.

We hit this creek that eventually flows into Lake Pleasant. There were two half-submerged trucks in the water (see Ken’s photo here) which was mainly why we made some pretty awesome maneuvers to get down to this spot.

I’ll end up posting some shots of the trucks at some point, but I had so much fun in the Hummer that I wanted to process this for Ken. I can’t imagine ever going off-road without one of these bad boys (or some of the sick vehicles two of my buddies Jesse and John have).

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100)

The Book of Eli

Bush Highway Arizona Desert

(newish: click on the image to view in a lightbox)

Last week was a drag for some reason, so it’s hard to believe it’s already Wednesday! And that means it’s time for a Movie Title!

The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. Lots of fun stuff about this film, not the least of which was how it was processed. Stark contrast, fast moving clouds…hyper-details…it felt a lot like a super-processed HDR movie or something. The plot itself is kind of hard to talk about without giving away too much…because sadly I was told awhile before I saw the movie exactly what would happen at the end and it kind of ruined it for me.

I think you get a mixed bag of reviews for this movie. I loved it, thought the ending was great and just enjoyed the entire post-apocalyptic yummyness. Also Mila Kunis was in it…and…well, you can’t do much wrong there.

This image was taken on Sunday morning. I got up around 5am (on a Sunday, yeah, I have problems) and drove way out east of town along Bush Highway. When I shoot weather and clouds, I am huge into contrasting lines in the sky with lines on the ground.  So there was no way I was not going to grab a few shots of this road. I actually didn’t stop for it…I had hopped the railing for another image that will arrive another day.

I usually start out with an idea of what I’m going to do with an image in post, but this sort of “post-apocalyptic” look came about totally by accident and suddenly I knew I wanted to create a bit more of a “hyper contrast” kind of style.

Hopefully it reminds you of the Book of Eli as much as it did me.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/20)

Seventh Heaven

Downtown Phoenix Urban Storm Sunset

(new: click to view in a lightbox)

This picture is really dedicated to my wife, whom without I doubt we’d have even been in this spot. We had a nice storm system move through this past weekend and I got up real early on Sunday and spent a few hours driving out in the mountains to get some photos.

Because I’d already been out, I just didn’t think about going out again because I had a lot of stuff to get done. Yet my wife comes home in the late afternoon and says “I can’t believe you aren’t out there with these clouds.

And she was right. I couldn’t believe it either. So around 5pm we packed up Lyla and hit downtown Phoenix.

I’ve been wanting inside this parking garage for a long time now and this was a perfect occasion. The guy at the gate said it would cost me $12 despite no event and not a single soul parked in the garage. I asked what I could do if I just wanted to shoot some photos for an hour. He decided to let me park for free near their office in the garage itself which was awesome.

We took the elevator up to the highest floor…number seven, and as my wife told her mom later that night…I was like a kid in a candy store.

The clouds were just amazing. Stormy, huge, fluffy…floating just above our heads. The entire city was basked in this amazing light when the sun went down. I have to rank it up there with the top three sunsets I’ve witnessed here.

I was a snapping, bracketing fool and we were actually on our way out (because there is only so much you can take seeing your two girls bundled up, looking cold, Lyla with those little eyes saying it’s probably time to go daddy) when I saw this scene. The roof of Chase Field where the Diamondbacks play can be seen on the left, which is kind of amazing because it’s such a huge stadium…the roof still towers above us despite being seven levels up.

The puddle obviously makes the shot, but I also just love this cement landscape that stretches out towards the horizon.

I had a heck of a time processing this one last night, starting over several times and spending at least 2-3 hours on it. I’m kind of a perfectionist now and when I think of something being blown up to 20×30, I realize all the tiny details matter.

Can’t wait to get to a few more sets from this parking garage. I have some nice shots of Chase Field itself so I hope those turn out awesome.

Wow I rambled today! Hope your week is going well!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

Precipice

Stormy Morning Over Phoenix

I feel like I’m running out of titles for blog posts. Part of the problem is I tend to do these things on the fly, without much preparation, so I don’t take a whole lot of time to think about them. I usually just write what’s on my mind when I sit down and finally start typing.

Like today.

On our last few photowalks in downtown Phoenix, I noticed my buddy Rick Young with a headphone stuck in one ear as he wandered around looking for shots. It was interesting and I thought that sounded kind of cool. My car has a CD player in it, but nothing else and I hate listening to my iPod touch over those crappy FM transmitters. So at the end of January on my trip out to the Superstition Mountains, I stuck the iPod in my pocket, plugged in the headphones and went for a drive.

It was amazing what a difference it made. Now when Rick listens to tunes, it’s the Smashing Pumpkins and other bands like that. For me…I like soundtracks. And dark, murky, majestic soundtracks. My playlist consists of a few Battlestar Galactica seasons, The Dark Knight, Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October, all three Lord of the Rings and the Firefly/Serenty combination.

There have been a few moments since where there will be a track that culminates in some massive revelation…while at the same time I’m cresting some hilltop and see the sun breaking through the clouds up ahead. It’s almost like my own soundtrack while out shooting. And I love it.

All this to say that I will likely be poaching song titles from these albums to help name these blog posts. Although ones like “The Council of Elrond” will be hard pressed to be useful for anything…some of them work well.

Like “Precipice” from season three of Battlestar Galactica. This image was taken up at South Mountain on Saturday morning, overlooking the city below. We had some fun storms roll through, lots of rain and some amazing clouds on Sunday afternoon.

A quick note about the processing of this shot. Brutally tough with the windy conditions…even using the -2 bracket I still have some blur in the shrubs and I’m okay with that. But there is a lot of motion overall in the scene…the cloud swooshing across the sky…so perhaps it works.

Almost Famous

The Duce Bus Downtown Phoenix

(Hat tip to the wife for picking the name for this one…she always comes through)

Another edition of Movie Title Wednesday finds us back in the 1970’s, riding along with Stillwater, the band that is the focus of the fantastic film, Almost Famous.

I remember loving this movie, and perhaps even getting choked up at the end. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but it’s one of those films that comes along once in awhile that just hangs with you for years after seeing it. A young man tries to get an article written for Rolling Stones Magazine by joining the band Stillwater on their tour bus as they go around the country. Great cast…Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee.

One of the best moments of the film that still kind of resonates with me was when they all join in to sing Tiny Dancer while heading down the highway. Amazing scene.

If you haven’t seen it…check it out, definitely can’t go wrong if you love music, bands, a little comedy, a little drama and awesome writing.

The bus in the photo belongs to The Duce, an eclectic, unique place in downtown Phoenix. I shot this back in late December whilst on our first photowalk of the city. My buddy Ken and I both got shots of it, still haven’t seen what he did with it.

I processed this photo awhile ago…probably within a week of taking it, but was waiting to dump it on a Wednesday. This was one of the first times I used Focal Point from onOne Software and I absolutely loved how it isolated the front of the bus. I knew right away I’d make it black and white, because I find it really helps get rid of any distraction when it comes to background colors.

Then the morning comes

Superstition Morning Sunrise Cactus Saguaro Arizona Desert

(Website note: My images are now clickable and displayed in a handy-dandy lightbox. Please check it out, let me know what you think!)

When you are advancing in your career or just going down the path of life, people tell you never to look back…just worry about what’s ahead. What’s coming. No need to relish on mistakes or even past victories…it’s all about the future.

I think photography may be the one place where that advice is completely wrong. I wont even get into the benefits (for me) of seeing where I’ve come from and how I’ve changed, but mainly want to stick to the physical implications of “looking back.”

There is a trail in the middle of the photo above. I ran up it quickly to get in place for the sunrise (in 34 degree weather…brrrr for this desert rat) because there was a nice cactus that you can see up aways AND it had a nice height to overlook the entire area. I spent some time there, I loitered, I got some shots…but then it was time to go because I wanted to look for some new scenes.

As I was leaving down the path, I remembered how often it’s paid dividends in the past…so I turned around. Obviously we all have our own ideas of good composition, but to me this was the one image I would end up taking away from stopping at this location.

Never forget the value of turning around or looking back when shooting sunrises, storms or landscapes.

I don’t know how to describe the mornings here in Arizona…especially the open deserts. I hope this image conveys it to you. As a matter of fact…and it may seem funny considering all the time I spend shooting out there…but this shot and this particular morning kind of restored or rebirthed my love for photography. Not that it had really gone anywhere…but it had been awhile since I’d been out in the middle of the cactus and rocks…shooting the still morning without a soul in sight.

Kind of like coming back to that one book or movie you never get tired of watching. It feels like home.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

Junction

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso100)

I’m out in Henderson, Nevada for work this week and of course dragged my gear along with me. I used to hate carrying a lot of crap with me back in the day, but now I take along my personal laptop, camera bag and tripod if I’m gone longer than a day or two. It certainly makes things more difficult, but then again, I’d miss out on stuff like the above image.

I had no idea where I was going yesterday, but I decided to take a drive after getting done at the plant. I headed south on the 515 which turned into the 95 and then took the 93 towards Lake Mead. Not sure what I was looking for…I just knew the sun was going down and I wanted to get a cool picture of something.

I passed by this building off to the left and saw a bunch of broken windows. Bingo. It was close to the road, no fences, so I flipped around and parked at a pullout right by it. Was almost like it was an overlook to view this place (link to it here from Google maps).

Now, there is something about a building being abandoned, windows broken…the oldness, the quiet…that spooks me. I mean, this thing was only a few hundred feet from the road but I still kept looking over my shoulder. I need to get over that.

I slowly explored the area and was amazed to find the door to the above room open. I didn’t have to work hard to slide it all the way which allowed in a bit more light and let me setup the tripod.

The site itself was interesting. It looked like a power generation station but also a small water reservoir storage system. This set of pipes is some kind of junction for the process…I count at least five valves in the picture. I love old, worn, decrepit stuff like this…and I seriously love how the HDR process brings it to life.

I took a few more shots from around the place and will post them at a later time. Below is kind of a quickie image that gives you an idea of what the outside area looked like (posted it on Twitter last night).