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A thunderstorm near Sunset Point

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

Being gone from Arizona for seven days usually means you miss a heck of a lot of sunshine. But last week was different. Sky Harbor Airport received measurable rainfall FOUR straight days. That hasn’t happened since 2008 per my buddy Royal Norman. The storms were nuts, all over and I certainly missed out on a killer start to the monsoon season.

But vacation was great, it was needed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

That being said, when I landed last night at 10pm, and saw storms going nuts to the north, I decided to watch things a bit to see if I could actually chase. Around 12:30am I headed out and ended up around the Sunset Point rest area. The lightning wasn’t earth-shattering awesome, but one of my favorite things is being able to see an entire storm cloud get lit up at night. Things had been pretty quiet in this direction for about 20 minutes and then suddenly the cloud got intense and strikes started happening.

This is one.

Glad to be back, can’t wait to make up for lost time!

 

A lightning strike near Eloy

A lightning strike near Eloy, Arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 250, 5 sec // buy print)

July 3rd felt like the first real day of storm chasing. We were out late in the afternoon, watched a cell build up and drop a bunch of rain near Casa Grande, even helped some people who flipped their car they hydroplaned on Interstate 8.

Yeah, that accident was a bit surreal to say the least. We missed it by roughly 10 seconds, and by the time I pulled over to help, the couple was crawling out of their vehicle. But their Honda was upside down in the median. Crazy. The girl called her mother first, so I called  911. They were totally fine.

Later on, the sun went down and the sky got dark. I had planned to hit Tucson, but the storms right here in Eloy were perfect. Finally was able to shoot some lightning via long exposure for the first time this year. Always a good feeling.

Got a couple of okay images, nothing earth shattering, but here’s one from the night.

Hoping to get a few more days in before Sunday when we hit our week-long vacation to Missouri.

The hand of God

The Hand of God - Oklahoma Panhandle Thunderstorm

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/400th // buy print)

When we saw this thing explode along the dry line in the Oklahoma panhandle…it was a sight to behold. It’s weird how stormchasing works. You setup in some location, the skies are clear and you wait. Your forecasting buddies have told you that a dry line will be moving eastward, hitting moisture and instability, and somewhere west of Woodward, OK…storms should start firing off in the next hour.

And then boom, clouds go nuts.

I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to predict weather even with all our technology, but at the same time, I marvel at how much we do know.

This storm ended up being the cell that produced that massive anvil in a photo I posted last week. The scene above was about 15-20 minutes before that.

The way the anvil starts spreading at the top right of the cloud reminding me of a giant hand reaching out. And with an angelic light behind it from the sun…who else could it be but God?

A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

Unforgiven

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 l, 17mm, iso 50, f/22, 1/15 // buy print)

If you are new to the blog, I usually reserve Wednesdays for movie themed images…something I like to call Movie Title Wednesdays. Genius right? I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now…in fact, if you click on the tag at the bottom of the page for “movie title series” you can look back at all of them.

This week we’ve got Unforgiven, a Clint Eastwood film that came out my junior year of high school. Crazy long time ago. Probably the fact that I was 17 and a moron, led me to feel like the movie was boring at the time. And then it won an Oscar for Best Picture. I’ve still only seen it that one time. I would love to re-watch it someday and find out why it got that Oscar. Likely due to the fact it was a sick cast of Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman I reckon.

So when I finished this image up and was thinking about a movie title, Unforgiven immediately came to mind. This desolate beach landscape on the western shores of the Salton Sea was almost like something out of a nightmare. Crunchy ground, soft in places, the smells of dead fish and fowl filled your nostrils…and then you see all these dead trees that appear to have had their tops sheared off as it from a bomb blast.

Definitely an unforgiving world…and unforgiving landscape.

Storms over Picacho Peak

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 is l, 105mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/800 sec // buy print)

Picacho Peak is an iconic mountain between Phoenix and Tucson. People love to hike it. I never have, but to me it’s sort of a midway marker…when I see it, I know half my journey is over.

Despite it being such a popular mountain, I’ve only taken 1-2 images of it and never anything worth keeping. But last week I finally came upon it with boiling thunderstorms building up overhead.

What I didn’t realize until processing this image was that you can actually make out a wall of dust approaching Picacho Peak. It’s low on the left side and higher on the right. After taking the photo, I left and turned back north towards Phoenix and within a few minutes I saw it in my rearview mirror. That’s when I started outracing the thing and then timelapsed it.

Was nice to get an early, monsoon-like sky this year. Usually it’s dull around here until July, so stormy clouds, a dust storm…was all a nice treat!

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn - Four Peaks Sun Rays

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm, iso 400, f/8.0, 1/1000 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Movie Title Wednesday and yes, I’m using a Twilight film! You can blame my buddy Chris DeAngelis for pointing me in the direction of this title. We also came up with Dumb and Dumber, but that was for an entirely different reason that I’m sure Chris would want me to keep close to the vest (insert LOLLING here).

Breaking Dawn. Ugh. I usually do this series to recommend movies, but with apologies to my wife…ugh. I watched it because my wife is hooked on the series (even if she admits its not very good) and also because I pretty much love all things related to vampires and werewolves. But these movies are hard to watch. Our favorite scene in this one is where the wolves talk to each other in their heads. It was probably one of the most cringe-inducing moments I’ve ever had watching a movie.

I will say this though…the title is perfect for this photo! Last Thursday I was somehow home early from my trip to Oregon, and thus was able to enjoy a day of stormy weather in and around Phoenix. I grabbed my gear and my daughter, and we just drove around having fun, seeing whatever we saw. This scene right here was kind of amazing. Mostly because it lasted for probably 30 minutes or so. It’s rare to see sun rays like that for an extended amount of time. I saw them and still had 15 minutes to get to the spot I was hoping to shoot them from. Luckily, they were still going strong.

These are the Four Peaks that you’ve seen me photograph a lot I’m sure, but I’ve never taken a photo of them from so far away.

And that’s a bird flying in the middle of the frame, not a dust spot 🙂

The Rock

The Rock - Canon Beach - Haystack Rock

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 0.4sec // buy print)

I am in Corvallis, Oregon for three days this week for my day job and was absolutely blessed with an opportunity to go to Cannon Beach on Monday before heading down south. It allowed me to witness one of the most breathtaking sights in America. At least…one of the most amazing places I’ve seen so far in my life.

Quickly though…it’s Movie Title Wednesday and the choice for this image was obvious. The Rock. Nic Cage. Sean Connery. Alcatraz. Yeah, it’s a crazy, over the top movie, but I loved it. It’s right up there with Con Air in my book. Good, fun, guy flicks.

This is Haystack Rock, as if you didn’t know. It’s one of the more iconic locations in the United States. It’s very shape is usually enough for people to know what they are looking at.

What’s amazing to me…is that no photograph I’ve seen does it justice. Much like the Grand Canyon…you can’t look at a photo of these places and get any real idea of the real scope of them. You have to be there. You have to see it with your own eyes. You walk up to it and it just towers over you. Birds fly around at the top and they feel so far away.

It was a 90 minute or so drive to get there from Portland, and then it was a three hour drive to Corvallis after sunset, and I didn’t get to my hotel until 11:30 last night and I’m paying for it today.

But I wouldn’t have missed seeing that place for the world. I was hoping for some gorgeous sunset color, but then again…you know me…dark, moody…stormy…that’s my kind of weather!

As I said above, but in case you missed it…please click on the image to view on black…it’s also shrinks it to fit your monitor and is the actual size of the exported image, and thus looks more accurate!

Cellular

Cellular - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 125mm, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

Amazingly, I still have lightning shots from last summer that I haven’t posted yet! If you grabbed a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, you’ve likely seen this already.

This was an amazing night with some spectacular lightning strikes hitting all around Casa Grande. I was so stoked when I saw the first strike from the truck and knew I could stop and line it up with this cell phone tower.

Cannot wait for this season…have a major hankering for some lightning chasing.

Tributary

Tributary - The Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 4.0 l, 22mm, f/22, iso 100, 56 sec, b+w 10-stop // buy print)

Our first stop on the Salton Sea was on the northwest shores. Rick Young took us down some random road that gave us the heebie jeebies. We had no clue if it was truly safe or if we might suddenly stumble upon a murder in progress.

Yes, it’s really that creepy over there.

We got out and took a beautiful stroll down a beach with the crunch of rotting fish under our feet and the smell of those carcasses in our noses. It was a bit like stepping into another world. This place was only 40 miles from Palm Springs and just a turn off I-10? Really?

As I tend to be, I don’t like to sit in one place too long. I started walking south and eventually found this tributary. The second I saw it I knew I had likely found the one shot I’d take away from this first detour along the Salton Sea. I loved the curves it made as it approached the water…and the reflection of the clouds. I knew while I was shooting this would be a B&W shot.

Thanks to Rick for letting me borrow his 10-stop for this one. I believe he made photographer #3 to loan me one on this trip. They’ll all be happy know I finally purchased a 10-stop, so needless to say I wont be so annoying on our next outing!