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The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

Old Man Sunset

The Watcher - Arizona Monsoon Thunderstorms

(Click to watch the storm as God intended…larger, with a dark border)

Scenes like these are the reason why I love chasing and photographing the monsoons here in Arizona.

This was the day before the big haboob arrived in Phoenix. As you can see, dust storms in this state are a normal occurrence during the summer (just nothing so bad as the July 5th one). I was headed south from Phoenix and saw a big wall of dust headed our way, along with a pretty epic looking stormcell. On radar, it was actually headed perfectly towards town.

So I had found this spot the day before and set up here again. I love this old tree. It looks dead, but has green growth on some of the outlying branches. I’ve grown quite fond of it…dubbing it “the old man.” I started running a timelapse and let it go for quiet awhile. I may actually post it sometime soon, but as I am just young in doing these, I moved the camera around a few times, so I need to work a bit on the final product. It’s actually pretty gorgeous how this storm grows, dies and the colors move across it until night falls.

As it stands, a shot like this isn’t super-easy to get. Being able to capture a dying monsoon anvil, complete with awesome sunset colors, PLUS grab a wall of dust moving in front of it…well, it just doesn’t happen much. The only thing that would have made it more rare would be a lightning strike!

Hoping for a few more monsoon sunsets like this before the season ends! Still have a lot of chasing to do.

Independence Day

(click to view a tad larger with a black border)

Yup, it’s the middle of the week and that means Movie Title Wednesday!

Independence Day. Awesome film. Total summer movie popcorn fun. Will Smith taking down aliens. Jeff Goldblum mumbling and uttering cool phrases like “Forget the fat lady! You are obsessed with fat ladies!” Harry Connick Jr., Randy Quaid with his “Up yours!”…and just all kinds of good stuff. Perhaps the biggest, cheesiest part of the movie is Bill Pullman standing up in front of the men giving his Independence Day speech right before we figure out how to beat the aliens. Gotta love it.

I’m a sucker for a good alien invasion movie and I can’t help but like this one.

So the connection to this lightning image actually has to do with the Fourth of July. This is what I was out shooting  instead of watching fireworks this year. Well, at least, watching those man-made fireworks. This show was much, much better.

When you shoot lightning a lot, you’ll end up experiencing the whole “Wow, didn’t even see that one” moments when you get back home and are importing images. This shot was one of those. I don’t think I ever saw it. I probably was looking down at my phone at the radar and missed it entirely. It wasn’t until I scrolled back later through my camera did I go “Wooooahhh…where did you come from?”

I love those moments.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/4.5, iso 200, 20 sec)