Posts

Hillside

(please click to view on black and fit your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

We had some winter storms blown through the state last night, and there was even lightning strikes south of Phoenix in Casa Grande. Needless to say, it got me impatient for the monsoon season to arrive this summer. So I dug up this shot from last July. For those that have a copy of my stormchasing book, you’ve likely already seen it!

It was one of my first experiences shooting lightning down in Tucson and especially the Catalina Mountains. The strikes are just so intense there.

I love this shot. Depending on your monitor and how it’s calibrated…you’ll either see the lower right cactus really well, or not that well. I loved all the layers I got, starting with the Saguaro, then going to the mountain, the strikes, the lower clouds and the flowing ones at the top.

I said it above, but sometimes that text it’s hard to see. These portrait compositions on my blog are HUGE, so click on the image to have it fit your monitor!

Equilibrium

Equilibrium - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 125, f/5.6, 30 sec // buy print)

Please click to view on black!

One thing I try very, very hard to avoid is posting an image and then saying something like “OMG, this is my bestest, most favoritest photo I’ve ever taken in all the land!” I have many reasons for that, and if you want to know them, you can ask, but it’s just my general rule.

Yeah, gonna break that one today.

Before that though, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t done a Movie Title image in awhile, so here you go. Equilibrium. Christian Bale. It was really, really good. Check it out.

So this is my favorite lightning image of 2011. I didn’t sit down and look through all my photos and debate over which was best. This was always it. I knew when I saw it that it would be. And there are two reasons why.

(btw, those who bought my book have already seen this and thus know the story behind it already!)

First…the scene itself is incredibly unique. Two layers of clouds…a low one that is hugging the tops of mountains beyond the immediate horizon, and the upper one that is a boiling thunderstorm. Then you have a lighting strike running sideways between these two layers.  I didn’t shoot anything like it over the course of the last two summers and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to duplicate it. The only question I ask myself when I look at this is why I don’t have it printed and hanging in the house yet? I’m so bad at that.

The second and final reason has little to do with the actual picture. It was the work that led up to it. The effort. I had been in Tucson earlier that evening and as the storms were dying out, I decided to fly north and catch what was hitting Phoenix. But those storms were moving too fast. They were northeast of Phoenix by the time I hit town. For some reason though, I kept going. I blew through Phoenix and started up the Beeline Highway. I got almost all the way to Rye when I decided to turnaround. The weather were dying out, it was getting late and I felt like I failed after having just driven 180 miles with nothing to show for it.

But on the way back…a random storm popped up east of the highway. There was no reason for it, everything else had quieted down, but I saw it, I stopped and aimed my camera at the place I saw the flash.

This was the next shot that my camera captured.

It proved to me that what I was doing and the way I was doing it was valid. That my instincts were good and I was meant to do this.

And there was a lesson in that night for me. Simply put…when others stop, I should keep going. If I want a shot that no one else can get, then I need to be doing what no one else is doing.

It’s not easy…but you know what? I was all alone on that highway and the only one around to see this. And I’m so glad I was.

The Brooklyn Bridge

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 292 sec)

A couple of days ago I posted an Instagram photo of a new canvas we bought for the house of one of my shots from New York. You can see a picture of it below. I haven’t posted a shot from that trip in awhile, especially the bridge shots. In the days immediately following my visit there, all my photog buddies that I had met up with were unleashing a torrent of bridge images and we all got sick of them fairly quickly *grin*

But maybe enough time has passed by?

This was taken on the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. You can see the Manhattan Bridge off in the distance. I have to give some credit to my buddy Brian Matiash for giving me the idea to jump over the railings here to setup a shot on the beach. I tend to take what is given to me sometimes, instead of going for the shot that no one else is thinking about.

I love the way this turned out. I had a 10-stop filter on my lens for 292 seconds and it was kind of a tough shot with the light falling quickly and my inexperience with that filter. There is some graininess to it which I dig and it actually looks quite fantastic on the canvas.

Alien

Alien - Boiler Bay Oregon

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm 2.8 l, 16mm, iso 50, f/8.0, 602 sec, 10-stop filter // buy print)

If I had to pick my top five favorite science fiction movies of all-time, I think Alien would be in there, and perhaps also the sequel, Aliens. The second one was fantastic…there was just so much awesome action and memorable lines (“Game over man, game over!“) but the first one will always be a classic. A terrifying trip with some space travelers who are being slaughtered by a creature hitching a ride on their vessel.

For those that have seen Alien, you may already have figured out why I chose it for this week’s Movie Title Wednesday image. One of the more haunting scenes in the movie is when they find the alien spaceship and rappel into the belly of the thing. Lining the floor in a strange mist are all these organic pods, which just happen to be eggs ready to own your face.

Kind of reminded me of the rocks floating in the foggy ocean in my image. And it’s hard to see, but one of them is actually not a rock, but a old, rusty canister, which to me almost looked like an abandoned space capsule. Sweet.

This photo was taken on the Oregon coast in an area known as Boiler Bay. I left my hotel well before the sun came up that morning and was using Google Maps to locate ANY good spot about an hour north of Newport. I came across Boiler Bay and waited until there was enough light to hike down a fairly steep trail to the beach below. I was surprised I found the spot at all…it was a tiny little pull-out on the side of the road and I barely saw it in the dark.

Glad I did.

I believe this was one of my last shots of the morning before I had to book it to Portland and catch a noon flight. I was lucky enough to have perfectly overcast skies to keep my images moody just like I wanted. This particular exposure was done with a 10-stop and lasted just over 10 minutes. Thanks again to Rick Young for letting me borrow his filter.

I badly want to return to the coast of Oregon sometime, perhaps for a week or two. There is just so much to see, so many skies and sunsets to capture with the gorgeous, rocky shoreline. Two weeks wouldn’t even be enough.

Some lightning on North Mountain

North Mountain Strike - Arizona Thunderstorms

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4 l, f/11, iso 200, 25 sec // buy print)

Getting any kind of lightning from a winter storm here in Arizona is possible, but a lot harder to come by than the summer monsoons. Tuesday night ended up being a lucky one for me, as some nice looking winter-ish cells blew through town and put on a bit more of a lightning show than we’re used to.

This was taken on top of a 7-8 story parking garage looking north. Ironically, the lightning strike hits a mountain in the North Mountain Preserve, an area surrounded by the city. I didn’t even notice until I zoomed in while in Lightroom that the strike landed right on my side of that hill. Love shots where you see the location of the hit.

Hoping this is a good omen for some more lightning photography this winter, but we’ll see how that goes.

Cape Fear

Cape Fear - Devil's Gulch Oregon Coast

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4 L, f/16, iso 400, 58 sec // buy print)

As this Movie Title Series continues on an on for over a year now…it feels like I’m running thin on movies I’ve seen that have titles which work well enough for images.  Hence you may start seeing films that I’ve actually never viewed before. Or perhaps I may have seen portions of it, but have no clue what it was about, nor remember anything.

Sort of like Cape Fear.

I am certain I saw this movie, or at least the majority of it. But aside from knowing it was on the water, kind of scary and called Cape Fear, that’s all I remember. Now that I look it up on IMDB, I find out the plot was about “A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.” Creepy. I believe people liked it…I remember all this talk about how freaky it was. Robert DeNiro…Nick Nolte…Jessica Lange. May need to watch this one again. Lange is now on American Horror Story and is downright creepy in that as well.

This image is from Devil’s Gulch along the Oregon coast. When I stood there, it was kind of freaking me out a bit. You probably don’t know it, but the road around that mountain on the horizon isn’t down by the water. It’s about  1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the mountain. That’s how far you have to hike to get down to this point. The sun was going down, it was getting dark, kind of foggy, the waves were crashing around me, the low-tide exposed rocks were black as night…and I have to say…I was nervous.

Cape Fear.

But I loved this scene. I hung in there for a few exposures to get it right. The silhouette of that mountain was just too beautiful to pass up. I definitely would love a week driving up the coast of Oregon, and that probably still wouldn’t be enough time.

Cloud to ground

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 24mm, iso 125, f/7.1, 30 sec // buy print)

I recommend clicking on the image…it will put a black box around it and fit it to your screen size…just in case your monitor isn’t giant like mine isn’t.

Haven’t posted a lightning strike in what feels like AGES, which is probably far from the truth. Anyways, this was a towering strike that I cropped to fill the entire frame. The original capture had it a bit more to the left than I liked. When shooting lightning, sometimes you don’t aim in the right spot and almost miss. So cropping is a fantastic way to recompose the image to get your bolt looking awesome.

In the realm of weather, a lightning strike that hits the surface of the earth is technically called “Cloud to Ground” or CG. These are the kind I of course go for. There are very, very rare occasions where “In Cloud” lightning creates an awesome image.

I have one of those rare ones that I’ll post at a later day. One of my favorites.

A road less traveled

A road less traveled - Arizona dirt road clouds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/60 // buy print)

A random dirt road off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The day was supposed to be epic up north, but it turned out to be mostly a bust. Still, my daughter and I drove down this road looking for something interesting to shoot against the puffy clouds and desert-y terrain.

I climbed a low hill to shoot the giant rocks up there, but ended up seeing this instead and liked it a whole lot better. Love me some roads and love seeing them curve and bend as they disappear.

When Harry Met Sally

Music Man - New York Central Park

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/1.8, iso 400, 1/320 // buy print)

I’ve been waiting and waiting for a time when I could use this film for Movie Title Wednesday and it’s finally here. It took a trip to New York to make it happen, but that is perfectly okay with me.

When Harry Met Sally is one of my all-time favorite movies. In fact, I wanted to join my wife in visiting The Met just so we could stand in that one spot and practice saying “Pecaan pieeeeeee…pecan pieeeeeeee.” Probably the best romantic comedy ever, but I think it kind of transcends that “chick flick” status into a classic. You have to see it. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan at their best. A movie spanning years and ending on New Year’s Eve in New York. Funny, heartwarming…unforgettable.

This photo is one of my favorites from the trip. I was dying to use it for the movie series, but I couldn’t think of a title until of course I talked to my wife. I had already thought of WHMS, but didn’t connect the dots too well. Yeah, it’s set in New York, just like my photo. But my wife remembered how the movie is full of awesome, big band music. Harry Connick Jr….It Had to Be You. Good stuff.

Which works perfectly with this old man playing a saxophone in Central Park. Not to mention the fact my wife and I were together, exploring the park…kind of like Harry and Sally wandering around New York.

This actually wasn’t a simple shoot and keep moving. I took my time composing this. Trying to figure just where to place the man at the end of the tunnel. How much of the blurred wall to show. But the bigger aspect was employing some patience I don’t usually possess. The guy wasn’t facing in this direction the entire time. It took maybe 30 seconds to finally snap the photo with him perfectly silhouetted exactly how I wanted.

I think a younger version of me from not even that long ago would have just shot and kept on walking.

All the crazy time we spent shooting bridges and I knew a shot like this would be more meaningful to me than anything else. That’s why I love photography.

Devil’s Gulch

Devil's Gulch - Oregon Coast

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm 2.8l, 33mm, iso 200, f/10, 302 sec, 10-stop // buy print)

Ever since I first saw a long exposure of the Oregon coast, I knew I wanted to shoot something like that…someday. The sunsets there are spectacular, but when you can’t get those, the rocks, the water, the waves…they make for some of the most beautiful coastal shots anywhere.

Last week I got sent to Corvallis, Oregon for my day job, and from the second I knew I was going, I got excited. I borrowed a B+W 10-stop filter from my good friend Rick Young to use not just on my recent New York trip, but also for this coastal visit.

On Wednesday night, I bailed out of the office a bit after 4pm and made for Thor’s Well, which was 90 minutes away according to Google Maps. The road from Corvallis to Waldport via State Route 34 was astoundingly beautiful. I had so little time to make it to the ocean before sunset, I was groaning audibly in my car at the literally thousands of photo ops I missed along the way. Normally I seem to end up with my best shots on the journey instead of the destination, but this was something different.

I had to ignore the rest of it. I wanted those black rocks.

When I finally arrived, it was only 30 minutes to sunset. And the climb down to the rocky terrain was about 60 feet below the road. The tide was out, which was fine, but to get good shots of Thor’s Well, you kind of need the tide to be in a bit more. So I ignored that location and setup right away at the spot above in the photo.

I have to say…it was pretty freaky for this desert boy to stand at the edge of this 20 foot or so drop watching waves come smashing in, splashing upwards at random spots with deep, thundering sounds echoing everywhere. I have zero knowledge of tides, how they work, when it might come back in…so I was doing my best to stay alert.

This exposure was just over 300 seconds. I blended it a bit with another one that had a smidge more detail on the left shore. I definitely am a newbie when it comes to the 10-stop filter, so a calculator would have been a smart thing. You don’t realize how quickly you lose light.

I have a handful of other shots I’ll show at some point…especially from the next morning. But I have to show this one today…it’s my first oceanic long exposure and I was pretty stoked when I saw it in Lightroom.