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For Mary

This was a magical evening and I discovered later that perhaps there was a special reason for it. When I returned home after these storms died out...I discovered that a kind lady named Mary Kathleen Johnson quietly passed away around 5pm that day. This photo was taken two hours later. She was a lover of weather, of storms and of living beneath the gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains. She was a huge fan of storm chasers and would watch myself and countless others as we live stream our chases. She was such a blessing to everyone. She would help us when we weren't sure of the road network near her house. But mainly she had sent me countless messages of support, not about only my work, but about me personally and my family. I'd like to think that as she left this place, her gift to me at least was this storm and this lightning strike. And so I dedicate this image to you Mary...man you rest in peace.

Last night was a magical evening and I discovered later that perhaps there was a special reason for it. When I returned home after these storms died out…I discovered that a kind lady named Mary Kathleen Johnson had quietly passed away around 5pm that same day . This photo was taken two hours later. She was a lover of weather, of storms and of living beneath the gorgeous views of the Catalina Mountains. She was a huge fan of storm chasers and would watch myself and countless others as we live-streamed our chases. She was such a blessing to everyone. She would even help us when we weren’t sure of the road network near her house.

But mainly she had sent me countless messages of support, not about only my work, but about me personally as a father and my family. Here’s one of her final messages to me, just a month ago:

“Hey Mike, Just wanted to say, 1st video that I had seen that you posted over on Vimeo back in 2011 or 12, took me by surprise & took my breath away. Had to watch it a couple of times,saved it then sent it off to Jeff Beamish.
My best captures could never compare to (if you ever made one) to your worst.

Can’t express enough to you the appreciation, not just me, but so many others of the stunning gifts you provide re nature via your captures.
Respect yourself, Jina and what you have been gifted with.

Thanks again kid, you’ve got it stay on course, pleased as heck for you.”

I can’t believe she’s gone just like that. I’d like to think that as she left this place, her gift to me at least was a beautiful storm and this lightning strike.

And so I dedicate this image to you Mary…may you rest in peace…with the occasional thunderstorm.

A red sky in Marana

Red Sky in Marana
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 0.6 sec // buy print)

Last Friday my buddy Matt Granz and I met up down near Tucson and stumbled upon one of the more incredible monsoon sunsets I’ve ever seen.

There was just so much going on as the sun went down. You can see lightning obviously, which was gold Jerry, gold! Then around 4-5 separate rain shafts. Then there is this circular looking base to the storm which looked pretty cool. And all while that was happening the sun lit it up in various shades of yellow to orange to red.

Even the ground got a slight orange-reddish tint to it from the reflection of the clouds.

Nothing is more fun than chasing a thunderstorm in Arizona during the summer and never knowing what is in store for you. Keeps me coming back.

 

Wasteland

Wasteland
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/7.1, 1/320 // buy print)

I’m headed out to the central plains next week to get some tornado chasing in before the monsoon season officially kicks off in just about 15 days. Super excited…it’s like waiting for Christmas!

It feels like it’s been awhile since I posted any kind of storm image, so here’s one from near Toltec Road last summer. Baked, cracked earth and a lone shrub…complete with your obligatory haboob rolling in from the left side of the image.

Actually seemed somewhat strange to get a dust storm in this area near Picacho Peak blowing to the southwest instead of towards Phoenix. They almost always roll up our way.

I timelapsed this at the same time, you can watch that here.

 

Snowy Saguaro

Snowy Saguaro
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm , iso 100, f/2.8, 1/1250th // buy print)

Took a nice drive up the Beeline Highway today and ran into snow falling well before I thought we would. The level had dropped crazy low and it was amazing to see some of these Saguaro with snow on their needles all all around the desert floor.

I’ve been wanting a shot like this for awhile and I’m sure you’ve seen these dozens of times, but for me it was awesome to finally get some snow on a cactus like this. A wonderfully fun day driving around and playing in the snow with the family!

Horizon

Flames on the Horizon

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 l, 200mm, f/10, iso 100, 1 sec // buy print)

Back in December, we had quite a few winter storms blow through the state which left snow on the outlying desert peaks. On the evening I took this photo, I had met up with a bunch of photographer buddies, like Bryan Snider, Jon Stolarski, Chris Frailey and the awesome duo from Surefire Photos, Sean and Michelle Freeney.

We all were hoping for a gorgeous Four Peaks sunset. But the clouds were too low and never broke. So slowly everyone bailed to head home. As I was leaving though, the sky to the west kind of went supernova. I grabbed the 70-200 and went running through the desert trying to frame a perfect foreground against this epic sky. Nothing quite so beautiful as low, ground-hugging clouds and an Arizona sunset.

Processed this one using my VSCO Film presets and really loved the color I got from it.

Sunset on the Nevada desert

Sunset south of Boulder City, Nevada

(Click to see this image with a darker border…brings out the colors a bit better)

Back in March I posted a sunset shot from the Nevada desert that had powerlines and I dubbed “Se7en” for Movie Title Wednesday. There were a few other shots I got that night and I just haven’t posted any of them until now.

It had been awhile since I’d seen a painted sky like this. Honestly, this wide open desert landscape was great, but I was scrambling to find something more interesting nearby to include in the frame. I realized, however, that this sunset wouldn’t last forever and sometimes all you need is a great sky.

This was one of the last images from a great afternoon just driving around this area south of Boulder City. In fact, I include the date the photo was taken in my tags, so you can see all the images taken on March 16th. I keep looking back on this day and what I love the most is that I have images to help me always remember how much fun I had just exploring some area that I’d never been before.

I was looking up ghost towns in Nevada, saw a little place called Nelson and headed off with no real plan or idea of what I wanted to shoot. That’s all I need really. Clouds, weather and driving around. It’s when I feel the most free and away from everything. Just me, my camera, the road, my iPod and the unknown.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100)

 

 

The bridge at Two Guns

(click to make the photo bigger (you must have a pretty big monitor!) or so it fits your screen)

I’m exhausted, I must say. Four hours of yardwork on Saturday resulted in a bit of a sun burn. Sunday I joined my buddy Rick Young in shooting a destination beach wedding in Los Angeles. More sunburn. Flew in at 7am, got home around 10:30pm. Last Thursday I was notified that I was needed in Vegas this week for my day job, so today I was up at 4:15am after hitting the sack around midnight.  And here I sit in the little control room wanting to focus on work, but I’m tired, cranky and miss my girls back home.

So of course I figured why not write up this blog post real quick, since I haven’t had anytime to do it before now.

I love this image. It was taken on our trip to the Two Guns ghost town back on April 2nd.  To get in this spot, I hiked down an animal-created path that was made up of a combination of deer prints and perhaps a few bear prints. My buddy Ken Peterson told me I’d probably get bitten by a snake while down here too. Lots of tall, dead things. It may be hard to tell, but all those tall branches at the bottom of this image were over 12 feet tall at least.

But I saw this bride out in the distance and wanted to see what it looked like underneath. The aforementioned Rick Young has a great shot of the bridge from far away right here. I love how he applied a bit of Focal Point foreground blur to make the image pop.

I liked this angle though and am glad I made the hike to get here. A beautiful, old bridge and one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Two Guns in the first place.

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

Se7en

Powerline Sunset in Nevada

(Click to view in lightbox, the choice of a new generation)

If you haven’t seen the movie Se7en, then you probably wont get how it connects with the image above. You probably wont get the horrific moment it represents in the film either. And I don’t want to give anything away for people who still want to watch it, so I’ll do my best to just skip those details.

Needless to say, when I was processing this photo…it was suddenly obvious that it was going to be used for Movie Title Wednesday. I think I even may have had an inkling when I was standing out there taking this.

On a side note, I still am having so much fun with this series. It’s amazing how many images you can take…things that may be similar in a lot of ways (like the bazillion sunsets or sunrises I post) but somehow you find something unique in each of that that can relate to a movie. I love it.

The movie Se7en stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman back in their younger days, and revolves around a serial killer that murders people for breaking The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s gruesome, brutal and I absolutely loved it. One of those great, great thriller/horror/crime films that will always be remembered by movie fans. The scene depicted by the above photo was one of those that will forever be stuck in my brain.

This was taken a few weeks ago during my latest trip to Las Vegas. I had just returned from exploring El Dorado Canyon and the Nelson ghost town area, and was racing to find a great location to capture the sunset. The spot above is situated south of Boulder City and lies in a very wide, bowl-shaped valley. These powerlines in some areas stretched forever, and you could see them for 10’s of miles as they would go up a distant hillside. The symmetry was awesome, and so when the sunset arrived, I knew this is where I wanted to be.

Because of the aspherical aspects of my Tamron 17-35mm, the powerline towers are a bit flatter than reality (even after lens correction), but you can kind of see how the road goes on and on and on forever and the towers go right along with it.

This was taken just a few days before the Super Moon and you can see it in the upper right corner.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, 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)

The Book of Eli

Bush Highway Arizona Desert

(newish: click on the image to view in a lightbox)

Last week was a drag for some reason, so it’s hard to believe it’s already Wednesday! And that means it’s time for a Movie Title!

The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. Lots of fun stuff about this film, not the least of which was how it was processed. Stark contrast, fast moving clouds…hyper-details…it felt a lot like a super-processed HDR movie or something. The plot itself is kind of hard to talk about without giving away too much…because sadly I was told awhile before I saw the movie exactly what would happen at the end and it kind of ruined it for me.

I think you get a mixed bag of reviews for this movie. I loved it, thought the ending was great and just enjoyed the entire post-apocalyptic yummyness. Also Mila Kunis was in it…and…well, you can’t do much wrong there.

This image was taken on Sunday morning. I got up around 5am (on a Sunday, yeah, I have problems) and drove way out east of town along Bush Highway. When I shoot weather and clouds, I am huge into contrasting lines in the sky with lines on the ground.  So there was no way I was not going to grab a few shots of this road. I actually didn’t stop for it…I had hopped the railing for another image that will arrive another day.

I usually start out with an idea of what I’m going to do with an image in post, but this sort of “post-apocalyptic” look came about totally by accident and suddenly I knew I wanted to create a bit more of a “hyper contrast” kind of style.

Hopefully it reminds you of the Book of Eli as much as it did me.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/20)