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The Others

(Click image to see the forest for the trees)

Wow, talk about an old image. I think I even posted this one a long time ago, but I revisted it, converted it to B&W and still love it.

I shot this back in February of 2010 in the little town of Corvallis, Oregon when I was up there for work. In fact, stopping for this shot made me late to the contractor’s office. I honestly had no choice but to stop and walk around this mushy, wet park after a good soaking the night before.

The fog was everywhere and I only wish I could have driven around all morning shooting this stuff.

The title comes from the TV show Lost…because when I see the thick fog and the lights from the houses in the distance…I automatically think “Others.”

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 18-55mm f/3.5, 20mm, iso 800, 0.4sec)

Cold Mountain

Arizona Desert Snow Photography

(please click on me, I look better a bit bigger with a nice, dark frame around me – sincerely, the image above)

Sometimes the movies I pick for Movie Title Wednesdays are ones that I absolutely love and would watch a hundred times over. However, on some occasions, I love them mainly because the title fits perfectly with the photo I want to use.

At the same time…you can always be sure I’ve at least SEEN the movie. That is my one rule.

So this week we have Cold Mountain, a film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman (pre-plastic) and Renee Zellweger.  The main plot revolves around Law’s character as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and his trip back home to Cold Mountain. I don’t remember hardly a thing about the plot, but I almost always remember when I liked a movie and this one was pretty good.

You can forget the movie at this point (although I’d love to hear how many of you have seen it and liked it) because the title is really all that matters. This image is one I shot back in late December when we had some crazy snow storms blow through Arizona. Around noon that day I saw some pretty good storms building up the Beeline Highway so I dragged my wife and daughter out there and basically we roamed that area until sunset.

The light was incredible after every wave of storm went by. Such clear, crisp air allowed these amazing views. This was just a shot in the late afternoon after a big storm cell moved through dumping even more snow. I just love the hilltop coated with the white stuff in contrast with the desert below and the dark, menacing clouds in the background.

This kind of black and white processing is something I’ve worked on since the beginning of the year and cannot wait to use during stormchasing season this summer. There is something beautiful about the relationship between stormy weather and black & white. I just love it.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/20, iso 100)

 

Ripples

(click to see larger and a bit better…Wordpress re-sizing makes this one a tad too dark in places)

The image I posted yesterday evoked some awesome comments from you guys about what might be wrong with the composition of the scene. It came down to the foreground element. And over the course of the comments, it became clear that the foreground in a landscape photo can make it or break it.

I wanted to thank you all for your input. I honestly wasn’t able to put a finger on it until your thoughts helped me realize I was thinking the same thing all along.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably heard me talk about foreground elements while I’m out storm/weather chasing. Often you are in such a hurry to capture a scene before it changes that you run around like a crazy person looking for a special object to include in your photo…like a cactus, or rock, or abandoned building…whatever. I love this part of it, but sometimes you just can’t find something awesome.

The image above was taken in the early morning of February 19th. The sky were amazingly thick from an approaching storm, but what was incredible was some of light from the rising sun was hitting the bottom of these clouds, giving them those orange, purple and red tones. You couldn’t even see where the hole in the clouds was for the light to shine through. It just felt so dark.

Ironically, I’ve converted this to black and white because I like drama in my stormchasing photos and these clouds look more foreboding and mysterious void of color. The foreground in this shot is very subtle, but the reason I chose it was the rippled in the ground leading out towards the horizon. I’m not sure where they were from…perhaps some heavy rains created some running water and the waves were formed.

We’ve entered the driest time of the year for Arizona, so I’ll be looking back at some older weather images I haven’t processed yet and post them in the coming weeks. Otherwise I’ll go  nuts without any storms to shoot!

Although…if things line up in the next few weeks out in the midwest, I’ll be taking a 3-4 day trip out there to stormchase…and I cannot wait for that!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/13)

 

The Man on the Hill

(click to see the man larger in lightbox)

It’s April and the high yesterday in Phoenix was around 55 degrees. The snow level dropped to 4500 feet and the mountains east of town had the white stuff on them after the crazy “spring” storm we had over the weekend. It was really a last gasp of winter for us, which was insane considering we’ve already had a 100 degree day in 2011.

The storms hit on Saturday, so Sunday morning I met my buddy Ken Peterson out in Apache Junction to shoot the sunrise and see what we could see. It was amazing. 15 minutes before sunrise, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Suddenly they just started appearing, even if they weren’t as much as I would have wanted.

We were on the Apache Trail and pulled over when the clouds began that transition to pink and orange. We ran up to the top of a hill and almost died from being out of shape with temps around 40 degrees.

Ken decided to climb the next one and shoot down into Canyon Lake. After seeing his images later, I wished that I had gone with him, but I also would have missed out on this shot.

I just loved the silhouette of Ken with his camera on the tripod, not to mention the clouds that look like they were painted onto the sky.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, iso 100, f/10, 1/200 second)

We Are Here

(Looks even more abandoned by clicking to view in lightbox. It also may help finding the title of the image a bit easier)

Saturday was awesome.  I mean, yes, the agreed upon meeting time was 3:45AM…but it was still all kinds of fun.

Pretty much all on time (except for me who needed some Tums after a harrowing night of America’s Tacos, Killians Red and ice cream), my buddies Ken Peterson, Rick Young and Chris Frailey met me up at Carefree Highway and I-17, ready  and geared up for an all-day, epic adventure in northern Arizona. The plan was to hit the ghost town of Two Guns around sunrise, shoot random stuff all morning, eat lunch and then trek out to Grand Falls for the afternoon.

And that we did and it was fantastic. Had a blast hanging out, shooting, goofing off, making fun of each other and generally being in photography heaven.

This image above looks nothing like a ghost town, although it’s definitely not been lived in for awhile. The structure belongs to an old motor home camp site that was just a few hundred feet away from what remained of Two Guns.

The thing about northern Arizona are the wide open, beautifully blue skies that mix with gorgeous clouds. I rarely shoot a landscape when there aren’t clouds involved and I loved the way these kind of framed the “A-Frame” structure. Like my shot on Monday of Grand Falls…this image was made possible by my handy-dandy circular polarizer.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/13, iso 100, 1/80 sec, circular polarizer)

 

 

The Grand Falls

(click on the image to see it full size or at least fit your screen for we with smaller resolutions)

Saturday a bunch of us, including photographers, wives and my little girl, all ventured up to northern Arizona to see the annual, gorgeous display at Grand Falls. The Falls don’t flow all year for the most part, they are the result of snow melt in the early spring or flash floods during major rainstorms.

I need to get to bed and have an early, early Monday morning trip to Vegas where I’ll be all week, but I wanted to post this shot from our trip. The day was absolutely perfect except for some very windy conditions. The clouds were magnificent and the skies a dark, rich blue. I don’t know what it is about northern Arizona, but with the clarity and richness in those skies, a circular polarizer is your best friend.

Lots more to come from the trip…including a gorgeous sunset and some high-def video of the Falls themselves, so you out-of-state-ers can get a better idea of the size and scale of this place. It’s absolutely a must-see.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso 100, 1/125sec, circular polarizer)

The Mighty Colorado

(click on the image for a lightbox version with a sexy dark frame)

I’d toss this into more of an abstract category that I like to do from time to time. Some of you know I was inspired a bit by the black and white work of Mitch Dobrowner and so from time to time I like to process my landscapes/stormscapes with a very stylized B&W treatment.

After my drive through El Dorado canyon last week outside of Las Vegas, I parked and walked down a wash to the Colorado River. The desert around this area was pretty stark. I mostly liked the mountains across the river and how the fading sunlight was falling on them.

I wanted to get a bit closer to the mountains so I used my 50mm 1.4 and slapped every ND filter I had on it, but they only added up to about 6-stops so I could only get around 10-12 seconds at f/22 before it was over-exposed.

Still, it gave the water an interesting texture anyways…so much so that when I processed it in B&W, it almost started to look less like water and more like some weird landscape.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100, 10 seconds)

 

Serenity

(Click to view larger and sexier in lightbox)

I’m been on a Firefly kick the last few weeks, so it makes complete sense that when I looked at this image tonight, the name of the movie came flying at me.

For those that don’t know, Firefly is an awesome, awesome sci-fi TV show that the Fox Network brutally, and without just cause, canceled before it had a chance to really find legs. They only aired about 10 episodes and all told there were 14 made which you can see on DVD now.

It had such a big following that the ended up making a movie to essentially give the TV series a rightful ending. It was called Serenity, which is the name of the ship in the movie/series. The lead in the show was Nathan Fillion, the captain of Serenity and you may know him from the current show Castle (which I love mostly because of him). It’s hard to describe what is so appealing about the show to people. I mean, it’s basically like a sci-fi western set in space. It doesn’t sound too great.

The writing was amazing though. It was so unique and had its own style and language…it was brilliant. And the entire ensemble cast meshed so well together from day one that you instantly fell in love with them all. Fillion was excellent though…he’s one of my all-time favorite actors now.

All I can say is to go rent the DVDs and then cry when they end and you wish for more. Then watch the movie and cry again that is over. You’ll love it.

NOW, the image above. I’ve been holding onto this thing since the end of January. I have a lot of love for this photo and at times never wanted to post it. The motion in the clouds is so beautiful to me. The single yucca stem rising from the ground gives this feeling of peacefulness and solitude. More to the point of using the title from the film…it’s serene. It’s also a desert setting, which you see a lot of in the movie/series.

This was on a rainy morning of course and to me, there is nothing more relaxing than watching storms drift by and the occasional drops falling on the roof.

What’s fun about photography is the unexpected shot. I climbed this hill because I saw a ton of Ocotillo Cactus peppering the landscape behind me. After all this effort to get up there, I hated any of the compositions I came up with. Instead, I turn to leave and spot the scene above. I go for the forest and end up with the opposite. Ironic.

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

Along Bush Highway

I tend to get out of my car a lot when stormchasing. I suppose that part is obvious. Of course, it can also depend on conditions. I may end up driving an hour just to get somewhere before I find the need to take a photo. Or I can stop every two miles along a beautiful stretch of highway and still have an endless supply of scenery to shoot.

Now, because summer isn’t here yet, I use the word “stormchasing” loosely. Mostly I’m just out shooting pictures before/during/after we get anything that involves rain or clouds. So it’s not really chasing anything…other than that next masterpiece of a photo I expect to take.

On this particular instance, I was out of my car along this stretch of Bush Highway because believe it or not, I had spotted some wild horses meandering through the desert. I know they exist, but it’s definitely rare to see them. Without the 70-200mm that I’d love to have someday, my biggest zoom lens right now is my 85mm 1.8. On a full-frame, it’s not awesome, but I slapped it on hoping to get a bit up close to these horses.

I nabbed a few shots, but the ponies were far off and quickly moved on. When I turned back to the car, I saw the road heading off in the distance and thought it might look kind of nifty with the 85 and a wide open aperture.

I used FocalPoint to help accentuate the blur in the foreground and off in the distance, which helped finish off the vision I had in my head when I took the shot. Simple B&W processing.

The thing about racing to the next storm or the next scenic view is that you end up flying past cool stuff. If I hadn’t been stopped to see the horses, I undoubtedly would have not scene the road in the same way I did standing alongside it.

I definitely treasure those moments when I stop and see something I didn’t expect.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/2.0, iso 100, 1/640 sec)

Sticks and Snow

Desert Storm Arizona Dead Tree Snow Weather

Lately the blog has been returning to more and more of my usual landscape and storm shots. We’ve had quite a few nice winter storms since December and it’s reignited my passion for this stuff. I was out last weekend a few times, and this weekend I went out Sunday morning to chase after some high desert snow, but it was a lot higher than I was hoping.

This image is from back in late December when we had daytime highs of around 36 degrees and some fun snow storms along the Beeline Highway.

One thing that helps your landscape or storm images is to have something interesting in the foreground. I can’t tell you how often that is a struggle for me. Not because the desert is devoid of interesting things, but mostly you worry about boring people to death with yet another shot of a Saguaro cactus with a storm in the background.

So when I’m out there running around, I do my best to mix things up. Find something else that will make a key element to the photo that people don’t normally get to see. That’s been a fun goal for me lately and has made me think twice about a lot of photos I might take.

Do I really need that scene? Is it a whole lot different than one I’ve shot in the past?

I loved this gnarled old tree skeleton. I’m not sure what it was when it was alive, but it was beautiful in death. The sun was lighting it up nicely against the dark, stormy clouds off in the distance. Really dug the contrast.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/20, iso 100)