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The Fountains at The Bellagio

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, F16 (or F22, can’t remember), two exposures blended)

I was in Las Vegas this week for my day job and while I didn’t have a ton of time to explore, I did get out for a few hours each of the two nights and look around.

I just happened to walk out of The Bellagio just 10 minutes before the first water show started for the night and thus I had a nice, flat railing to put my tripod on to capture the event. If you’ve never seen this water show before, it’s definitely a MUST if you ever are in Vegas. It may not last too long (it plays to music, so when that song runs out…), but it’s majestic, inspiring and beautiful to watch.

If you are just there to see it, I recommend being in the front, which would be those roundish portals on the left side of this image. But from where I stood, I liked the lines and perspective on the left, the way the lights reflected off the water creating even more lines, plus the rising City Centre buildings in the distance. And if you look closely, there is a sliver of the moon on the upper right.

This is not an HDR shot, but just a blend of two exposures. Although recently I got into a debate about that, but I am fairly certain exposure blending is not considered HDR.

Brick

Yes, there is a movie called Brick.

Thanks for visiting for another Movie Title Wednesday and an image that I’m extremely excited about and what it might mean for me down the road. First off, the movie itself is a strange one.  It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the dialog is almost written like a Shakespearean play. If you love Independent films, you might want to track this one down and give it a looksee.

This photo was shot in downtown Phoenix back in October and represents a new world that I plan on exploring slowly over the coming months. I knew it would be an awesome challenge to tackle urban exploration (UrbEx) close to my new home and this photo is my first real trek into that arena. I’m a complete weather junkie, but I also love old and decrepit buildings and architecture. There is something beautiful about worn out bricks, discolored pavement, rusty metal, graffiti, broken glass, etc.

I’m friends with a few photographers who love to shoot UrbEx. Some of them are downright awesome at it. Their work has been an inspiration to me personally and being able to learn from the masters has been a blessing. I know some of them love to follow my stormchasing images…so I’m hoping to turn the tables on them today *grin*

There is much to see yet in downtown Phoenix and hopefully I get a few chances in the coming weekend to be out there a bit more. I want to get better at it and hopefully develop more of an eye for architecture and the urban environment in general.

Reach for the Sky

The Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix

“Reach for the skyyyyyyy.”

Ah, a favorite line from one of my daughter’s favorite things to watch…Toy Story. I should note…I also love those movies. I find that I can still laugh at them over and over despite the amazing number of times we’ve watched it in our house!

This is Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix, a monolithic structure that immediately caught my eye on one of my first real exploratory drives down there. We’ve now lived down here for a few weeks now and I’m finding more opportunities to explore here and there and in the process of doing that, discovering all kinds of things I want to photograph. This particular skyscraper I believe is the tallest building in Arizona, or at least it was a few years ago. I haven’t see anything that could surpass it as I’ve driven around.

I have several angles of this building, from about 20 feet away looking straight up, to this shot from across the street in a parking garage (a ‘parkade’ for our Canadian friends). I intend to post the others someday, but what struck me the most with this one is the kind of “flaring” clouds behind it.

Six brackets make up this shot, processed in Photomatix and CS5, with a finishing touch using Topaz Adjust. I don’t use Adjust as much anymore, but I do have to say the Exposure Color Stretch is my favorite filter in that entire tool. The image above was done with that filter, and while it gives is a sort of “halo” about it…this was intentional and not an indication of sloppy HDR work *grin*

Fringe Universe

Embrace your surroundings young man!

Now that I’m spending almost all of my days in the downtown urban areas of Phoenix, I’m trying to evolve my vision a bit to be aware of things I may not normally look at. That process was certainly helped yesterday morning when we had a brief downpour around 5am, which left some amazingly clear puddles of water everywhere. I’m not sure if it just doesn’t rain all that much in the mornings here, or if you do get rain, it’s too cloudy for the pools of water to be that great looking…who knows. All I do know is that it rained, the skies cleared and the reflectivity of all these puddles were fantastic.

This was taken in the parking garage at my place of full-time employment. The focus was set on the building itself, hence the foreground cement is less than crisp up front. Took a few tries to get it lined up just right to have the other building appearing like a singular monolith out of the water.

Now, I apologize up front to people who have no idea what the title means. I love to watch a little show called Fringe, which is the first sci-fi series to come along that feels anything like the old X-Files (which will hold a special place in my heart forever). Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Fringe yet and plan to…this may give away a little bit about the show, but to keep it simple…let’s just say there may be other worlds out there that mirror our own. If you do watch the show, I will assume you get the title *grin*

Wish I could have taken another 30 minutes to roam the puddles…but work beckoned. Was glad to get a few brackets fired off though…may post a few more images from this morning down the road.

Urban Stormchasing

So with my sudden move to the downtown Phoenix area, I vowed to at least ATTEMPT to capture some storms from the cement jungle down here. For a guy like me who never has his 17-35mm lens on anything BUT 17mm…it’s a struggle to find wide open spaces to really give an idea of what a storm is doing.

Time to get creative…and prove to myself that I can be a photographer in any setting.

I shot this last week during the rash of severe weather we had (It’s now up to EIGHT confirmed tornadoes in northern Arizona). The location is a very tall parking garage that is near by office and is a place I’ve been tobefore whilst searching for high ground. It’s got to be at least a 10-level parking structure…so the height is perfection. However, just because you are up high doesn’t mean you go to the edge and shoot. I still feel a strong desire to ensure I have some kind of foreground element, one that’s hopefully interesting.

We’ll be having some more storms next week, so I am going to try and take the opportunity to shoot a few more scenes like this…if I can hold back from taking a drive out to the deserts!

Westward Ho!

(Canon Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, 3 exposures)

As most of my many, many fans know (said tongue-in-cheek), I moved to downtown Phoenix last weekend, which opened up a whole new world of photographic options for me. But one of my passions is capturing the weather in it’s various forms, so being in a location with tall buildings and limited views off into the distance…well, it’s going to be a challenge for me. And that’s what I want this to be. I still want to scoot off into the desert to chase storms, but I’d also like take some risks and shoot stormy weather in the urban environment.

The last few days have been great around here for stormchasing…in fact, the last two specifically have been some for the history books. Tornado warnings galore, baseball-sized hail, damage, flooding, etc. They were storms you only see in the midwest during tornado season.

But on Monday I was driving back from picking up my daughter from the babysitter, so we drove the backroads and ended up driving right through the heart of downtown Phoenix. I’ve always loved this building and figured there was nothing better to use to frame the stormy skies with.

Now, I love this shot, but I plan on doing a lot more with it down the road. I was driving and snapping, so this was just a 3-exposure HDR, propped on my door with the window rolled down. I’m almost always doing six brackets these days, so this was stepping back a bit to get the shot.

My bucket list shot later on will be clouds like this, right at sunset, so I can get the building framed with the orange sky.

Under Construction in Downtown Phoenix

Waaaaay back in December of last year I went on a little photowalk across the city. Started in Tempe at sunset, ended up in downtown Phoenix. It was my first time really shooting the urban environment after dark, and I think I’d have a lot more fun now and know how to even snap the photos better.

I’ll be moving down this way in a matter of days so I expect I’m going to invade and conquer this place known as “urban” Phoenix and give it the HDR stylizing that it quite frankly deserves.

This building is…well, I have no idea. It sits northwest of the US Airways Center where the Phoenix Suns play, but I never bothered to find out what the name of the place was going to be or if it’s even completed yet. What I did love was all the different colors of light on each and every floor. It was like some kind of muted rainbow of colors and it was something I just had to capture.

Now of course, I would have expanded the three original brackets to at least six and shot it at better ISO and a higher F-stop, not to mention using something other than my silly kit lens. But I still love the building and am proud of how this turned out anyways.

The Beguinage Convent in Bruges, Belgium

This is the Beguinage Convent located in the middle of Bruges, Belgium. We saw this place on the little tourist map we grabbed and figured it would be an interesting contrast to the cobblestone streets and alleyways we had seen so far.

The first thing you see before entering is that no commercial photography was allowed and no tripods. Which would mean this photo of mine is not for sale. The convent is actually still functioning, which we kind of discovered when we entered into the old church that was on the grounds here.

The nuns inside were all praying aloud, in a sort of musical unison…it was amazing. It definitely caused me to lower my camera, place it behind my back and just listen to the beautiful melody they were creating.

Upon leaving, I felt so moved by this place…these nuns still serving God, allowing us tourists to visit this place, that I ended up feeling protective about it you might say. There were signs about the photography yes, but also about keeping off the grass. The trees are very old poplars, the grass well maintained…I mean, the whole place has buildings dating back to the 13th century. They wanted to keep it from being trampled to death by people.

So I come out of the church, look up and four tourists, all with gigantic Nikon cameras, are trouncing all over the grass, posing for portraits, shooting up into the trees, etc. Now, I don’t care what language you speak: the sign to stay off the grass was universal. Not to mention, as a photographer, I would rather not have idiots giving us a bad name.

I let out a big “Psssst!” (it was incredibly quiet there), and they looked at me, and I motioned them to get off the grass. They got a guilty look and quickly shuffled out onto the sidewalks. They knew they shouldn’t have been there. Tsk tsk.

My buddies I was with kind of laughed at me, but I felt good about helping these sweet old nuns out. I may return and apply for a job as the Beguinage Convent Bouncer. Pretty sure I saw a sign for that job opening somewhere…

Oh yeah, the photo…some dude on Twitter once said they “abhorred” HDR because it sucks all the life out of shadows. Well…okie dokie.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and I absolutely loved the way the shadows played on the grass and the path in front of me. The old buildings in the background give it some nice depth as well. And I kind of dig that you can’t see the tops of these huge trees…it definitely adds some scope and height to the photo.

(More photos from my Holland trip)

Postcard from Bruges, Belgium

By far…by far the place I loved the most on my trip over to the Netherlands, was the drive we took to see Bruges (or Brugge), Belgium. I had heard about it from the movie “In Bruges”, a fantastic, funny, dark comedy that came out a few years ago…and then had some friends tell me I needed to see it if I went there.

The town is old and has medieval architecture. The canals twist around, little bridges go here and there and old trees, paths and stone can be seen everywhere.

This particular shot was taken around 9pm as we were getting ready to leave. The sunsets in this area of the world tend to drag out a long time, so it was nice to have time to see the city in a lovely dusk color.

I was struck by the reflection of the buildings in the water, the details on the left canal wall, the color of the roofs on the right and the simpleness of the few clouds in the sky. I wasn’t carrying my tripod, so this was propped on the railing of another stone bridge to get. Three bracket HDR.

Definitely one of my favorite shots of the trip…because it will always remind me of Bruges. A quiet, peaceful, ancient and awe-inspiring town.

(More shots from Holland: My Holland Trip)

A few more shots of that building

A reader named Kathy asked for more shots of this abandoned building I found in the Wasatch National Park, so here are three more, non-HDR versions of the shot. I really loved the whole setting of this thing…the cliffs behind it was just fantastic.

This is just a standard black and white of the building. After looking at these shots yesterday, it makes me want to go back and sneak a little closer!

This is a two-shot “panoramic” stitch in Photoshop. I added quotes because to me a panoramic means wide, but this scene was so TALL, I had to use two shots to capture the vertical nature of the building and the cliffs behind it.

This is one of the two shots I used for the above panoramic.