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Twister

Today is Movie Title Wednesday and I’ve never used the same move twice in over a year doing this series. So I probably should have saved this film for next spring when I hit the road out in the Midwest and see my first tornado, but by then none of you will even remember this anyways. So I went with it today!

First off, Twister was pure awesome for weather and storm chasing nuts. Sure, it romanticized, glamorized and added all of those hollywood elements to the science of storm chasing. I know those hard core chasers who had been doing it for years probably didn’t like this movie. And maybe it wasn’t the best, but I certainly enjoyed it and whenever it’s on, I have to watch it. Not only that, but the idea they have at the end to let the probes float up into the tornado…that was way ahead of its time because just last year a vehicle started doing sort of the same thing for the first time. Pretty awesome.

Yesterday we had some dynamic weather in Arizona. There was a lot of crazy winds and instability going on, so there were severe warnings quite a few times throughout the day. My daughter and I left the house late in the afternoon and drove towards South Mountain. We spotted this little cell that had some interesting characteristics to it. You could see a sort of “spiral” shape to it as it rose into the sky.

The first picture above shows that. You can see it twisting skyward. I’d suggest clicking on each to view on black and also so it fits your screen!

This is indicative of a storm that has some rotation on it. And rotation is the first step to a mesocyclone, which CAN lead to a tornado. But that mainly happens in the Midwest, not out here very much. Still…seeing anything like this in Arizona is always a treat.

The last image below is just another shot of the cell a few minutes later. You can kind of see some spinny-ness going on, but it started dying out right when I got to it. Was kind of spooky to be right under this for a bit, but I was about 95% confident nothing would happen.

Gonna be quiet on the blog the rest of the week as I travel to New York City with the wife to get away from the hot temps of Phoenix. Of course, it’s 62 this morning and is going to be in the high 70’s tomorrow, so I guess we left just in time!

Have a great week everyone.

One man’s trash…

Downtown Phoenix Urban Trash Can

…you know the rest.

Taken after I took in a Suns game with my old man…dropped him off at his car, I stopped in quickly to see if anyone was still up at home, no one was, so I grabbed my gear and went out into the rain-soaked downtown Phoenix area.

Not too many wet spots in this scene, although you can see some puddles here and there. This bricked area has a large cover over the entire area, although it’s probably more of a screen than anything else.

Shot with the 50mm once again, I knew I wanted to capture the light and shadows playing off the bricks and leaves, plus isolate the focus on this lone garbage can standing watch over the whole area. There is something magical to me when I see fall leaves strewn about cobblestone, pavement or bricks…it’s hard for me to look away and not want to snap a million photos. Perhaps without them, this image wouldn’t have demanded I capture it…who knows.

Hoping to find a few more scenes like this on our early morning photowalk coming this Saturday.

Moving foward

Today is kind of a huge deal for me. A big deal. The next chapter of my life is unfolding in a few different ways and I’m excited about what it all means.

First off…for those that don’t know, I do have a day job that pays the bills while I see about growing this photography business. Everyone has to start somewhere, and me being almost 36 with a wife and kid…doesn’t allow for taking a whole lot of chances financially. I did that when I was younger, so now I’m trying to build a strong foundation before I even think about it. And who knows…maybe it will always end up being a weekend gig…but I’m okay with seeing where it goes. It’s been a blast so far.

The reason I  bring up the job is today is my last day at the company I’ve been with for over seven years. For lots of reasons it’s time to move on. I’m joining a firm that is international and will essentially be doing the same thing I am now. Having been one place for as long as I have…you get used to the perks that come with seniority like that. So going to someplace else…being the new guy again…is going to be a change.

And yesterday I finally received the new camera…a 5D Mark II. Yes, of course, it’s an awesome toy, a photographer’s dream to have. But honestly…if I was just chasing storms and shooting landscapes, I could have been just fine with the ol’ XSi for awhile. This tool is something I felt I needed in order to move forward with the portrait/event/wedding photography side of things. One simple reason is some upcoming events I have that take place after dark, in low light situations. I need a camera that can deal with that and not need a flash all the time to do it.

The photo above was taken last night with the new camera. 50mm 1.4, f/1.4, 1/40, ISO2000. A tiny, tiny bit of noise reduction, some sharpening on export and it’s just a sample to me of the kind of shots I will be able to get in situations like a dimly lit living room.

Today is a day of change and a day of moving forward. I’m excited about the new job and new opportunities it presents…and at the same time am thrilled to see where the world of photography is taking me and the doors that are opening.

A few of Lyla with the 85mm

I recently got extremely lucky on Craig’s List and found a guy selling a Canon 85mm 1.8 for $225 after he used it one time for only a few shots. Retailing for around $400, I know he could have gotten $300 or so for it, so from the time he posted it to the time I bought it was around three hours. Was praying no one else offered him more money for it!

Anyways, I’ve had a few people ask me how the lens turned out and if I’m loving it or not. Definitely a fun lens. Compared to the 50mm 1.4 that I use almost exclusively for portrait work, this lens is quieter and faster at focusing. On my crop sensor Rebel XSi, it rocks to have a lens where I can be a bit further away from my subjects than the 50mm allows, plus still get that awesome bokeh.

So far I’ve played around with it while out with my daughter Lyla. She’s been dragging me to the park this past week for some “slides…swwings!” as she likes to say. A few of these are from there, a couple are from a recent trip to the Phoenix Zoo.

Hope you enjoy!

If my daughter grows up and loves playing basketball, I will have accomplished at least one of my goals for her *grin*

This one above was taken at the zoo…this is her famous pose where she looks back at you, holds out her hand and says “Mon Daddy! MON!” (come on daddy)

HDR Tennis: Match 7

I participate in a group of awesome photographers that take a set of brackets from one of us and then process it in our own creative way. Then we post the results and get fans on our Facebook page to vote and choose which one they like the best. Fans of the page can also download the brackets and put their spin on it at all. A little friendly competition is good and healthy, and definitely a lot more fun when you WIN!

We call it HDR Tennis and the image above was my entry…which turned out to be the winning one and I’m proud of that. It’s a tough group…a very tough group and thus nailing an image that people love just a bit more than the others is an accomplishment.

The brackets were donated by Peter Talke and are obviously of Big Ben in London. The original 0 bracket is below.

I processed it all using onOne Software after I did the tonemapping in Photomatix. Used a couple of filters to bring out shadows and details, then converted it to B&W and then applied a textured border from PhotoFrame to finish the image. Immediately when I saw the original picture I knew I wanted to make it look like an old postcard if I could.

The hardest part was choosing the right frame from the literally hundreds and hundreds of options that onOne gives you.

You can see the other entries in our Facebook album right here.

Must

Rainy Reflection Downtown Phoenix Road

There are a lot of “musts” in this photo…all traffic must turn right…you must not park here…you must stop ahead…and of course at the time I thought “I must take this photo.

What is it about me and the weather? I mean, first it was lightning, then it was photographing awesome monsoon clouds across the desert and that was followed closely with wanting to chase storms in the midwest. On this night, it was the thought of rainy, reflective roads that got me out shooting around downtown Phoenix until midnight. If it hadn’t rained, I wouldn’t have been out there, that much is certain.

This image is part of my continued love affair with my 50mm 1.4 and the amazing fun I have shooting low to the ground, opening up the aperture, using Live View and manually focusing to find that sweet spot.

(exif: rebel xsi, 50mm 1.4, f/1.6, iso100, 1/4sec)

Outside

My daughter is two and she’s always wanting to explore the world, never satisfied with where she is right now. If we’re inside…of course she wants out.

“Daddy….owwwwtside!”

Once outside, she wants to do more. If she’s in the backyard sitting on the patio steps with me, she wants to climb the stairs to the guest house. If we’re on the side of the house, she runs up to the gate in the picture above and wants me to open it. If I open it and we go out front, she wants to run down the sidewalk. You get the idea.

I used to be able to give my wife a break by bringing Lyla with me on little photo excursions. Put on a DVD of Toy Story and she’d sit there, happy as a clam while I’d pull over, set up and take some storm shots, or whatever.

Now when I get out, she wants out. Makes things a bit harder. Because she wont just stand there watching a sunset with me. She wants to move.

It’s exhausting to say the least. The girl runs so fast, even a brisk speed walk on my part is not fast enough to keep up with her. She’s super-independent, would rather walk everywhere and anywhere instead of behind held or chained to a stroller. And I say “chained” because I’m sure that’s how she feels about it.

Is it frustrating? Yes. Would I change that about her? Absolutely not.

Even running down the street after her, knowing I need to give her a little talking-to for not listening to me yet again…I smile. I love who she is and the crazy desire she has to constantly be learning and moving.

I can’t wait to see what she does with all this energy someday…I bet it will be something amazing.

(Exif: Canon Rebel XSi, 50mm 1.4, f/1.4, ISO200, 1/800)

Missing

A shot from our downtown Phoenix photowalk back in late December. We’re doing another one on February 5th in case you missed it, you can find out more information right here.

Doing a photowalk is such a great way to just observe your surroundings and look for those subtle details that might look good as a picture. I think we oftentimes have huge goals in mind like getting to that crystal clear lake for a sunset shot, or some amazing waterfall, or the Grand Canyon, etc…because we get it stuck in our brain that we need something awesome like that to make a good photograph.

But you can find something to shoot anywhere…at anytime.

There is not much too this photograph. It was an old wall of bricks and I just noticed one was missing out of literally hundreds and hundreds and it moved me enough to want to shoot it. What I did do that day that is now carrying over to other things is I used my 50mm 1.4 a lot more for doing HDR images. And what I found a heck of a lot of fun was to setup a shot on my tripod, frame it, turn on Live View and then play with the manual focus to kind of see where I wanted my main focal point to be located in the scene.

For this image, I found putting that focused spot right on the corner of the far side of the empty space was perfect for what I was trying to do.

The Birds

Sometimes when you look at a photograph quickly, you may not notice the subtle nuances about it. My buddy Mark Garbowski recently posted a shot called The Bowl on the Cobblestone Street…because the shot was so wide, so expansive, you might have missed a curious little bowl sitting in the middle of the road, which for me, kind of made the image unique.

Well, today is Movie Title Wednesday and I dubbed this photo The Birds, just in case you missed them on first glance. I left the image clickable to a larger size so you can see them better.

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius when it came to thrillers and scary movies, and The Birds was no exception. Terrifying, creepy…it’s probably up there with Jaws in how a couple of films caused an entire generation of people to freak out whenever they see a large gathering of ravens or a fin in the ocean (although, a fin in the ocean is good cause to freak out).

I saw that movie as a kid and the scene that always stands out is the end when all the birds are just sitting and watching them leave the house. It’s awesomely eerie.

So this is yet another image from the dog track, taken about 20 minutes or so before the amazing sunset we ended up with once we walked back inside. We had already explored the interiors of the place, then circled around outside. The overhang is what used to be the entrance to the place.

These freaking birds kept flying around randomly, and they looked so awesome against the clouds that I just waited until they appeared again to fire off some shots.

As I continue to go through these dog track shots, I can’t tell you how much fun I had being there that day with Rick and Scott. But what’s cool is that I get to keep processing images weeks after it happened…and so it’s kind of like getting to go back over and over.

Tarantula!

What, where is the tarantula??

Okay, nowhere…but sometimes I have a hard time coming up with titles and this one especially. But to show you how my mind works, when I looked at this image…and saw the kind of miniature looking saguaro cactus, it made me first and foremost think of an old movie backdrop or set in the 1950s, which then reminded me of the movie Tarantula that I saw at some point in my childhood. More than likely because of my dad…I mean, when you’re 9-years old, who else but your dad is going to make you watch a film that came out 20 years before you were born?

So in reality, it has nothing to do with this photo. I actually named it “Saguaro Valley”, but ugh, it’s just boring and my mind isn’t working well today.

I took this image back in late December when we had the ice cold weather and snow in the high desert elevations. Because of the distance to these snowy peaks, I decided to use my tack-sharp 50mm 1.4 to shoot some of the hills instead of my wide angle.

This photo is kind of an experiment in a way. You’ll notice the blurred tilt-shift effect going on, which I never and have never done before on a landscape shot. But while the normal image was fine and okay, I felt like it was just another picture of a desert mountain with snow. So I whipped out Focal Point from onOne Software and played around.

I liked the effect of making these saguaros stand out a bit more. You’d think the mountain with snow on it would be the main interest here, but I kind of dug how the cactus got framed and the clump of them on the left, so making the mountain a secondary feature worked for me. I linked the image to the larger version, because I think it shows off this image a bit better than this scaled down one.