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Juxtaposition

High and Low
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 100mm, iso 125, f/6.3, 20 sec // buy print)

Feels like it has been awhile since I posted a lightning photo from this past summer and I still have gobs that I haven’t shown yet…so here is another.

Last year I decided to do a “square collection” of lightning photos all processed in black & white. This is the second in that series. I love the mood that monochrome creates for lightning images and I think the square format kind of isolates the subject in a unique way. This was taken out along Interstate 8 east of Gila Bend. I dug the juxtaposition of the one strike hitting the flat desert while the other appears to land on those two small hilltops.

Summer feels like it’s so far away.

 

 

Snowy December Morning

Snowy December Morning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 29mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/50th // buy print)

Haven’t had a ton of time in December to just go for drives on stormy days, so it was awesome to end the year with a nice road trip with the kiddies. I have to say, our little almost-11-month-old Eli joined Lyla and myself for the first time ever and he rocked. Never cried, just had an awesome time and I couldn’t be happier for what that hopefully means in the coming years!

This is a shot of the Superstition Mountains with some snow you can see in the higher elevations. One of my favorite spots in Arizona. A gorgeous, cloudy morning…was well worth getting up at 5:45 and dragging the kids with me.

Top to bottom

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/6.3, iso 250, 20 sec // buy print)

One of my favorite kinds of lightning shots are from a distance when you can see the entire profile of a thunderhead. If you can capture the strike coming out from the cloud and then hitting the ground…well, it’s just a fantastic display of nature. I’ve seen quite a few of those floating around from my storm chasing friends but I never have quite been able to capture it that way that I wanted.

This one is about the closest I’ve come to it. A twenty second exposure, you can see the one strike on the left actually originate near the top of the thunderhead, curve to the left, burst through the ceiling of clouds and then hit the ground. Was an amazing storm to watch as it crossed interstate 8 from the north. The mushrooming clouds were absolutely sick and I kept praying to get a great shot.

Taken on September 4th, this was a week before the season ended. I kind of miss it already, but am loving being neck deep in family and wedding photography right now!

 

 

Cholla at sunset

(please click to view image so it fits your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 0.6 sec // buy print)

Way back in very early February I found a neat little hilltop filled with a mess of cholla cactus. The sun was setting, we had a bit of stormy weather going on and I captured some images of the cactus lit up by the final few rays of light that evening. Here’s a look at the other one I posted a few months ago.

This was my favorite from the day. I really dug the contrast of golden sunlight against the dark blue stormy clouds in the background. It’s also kind of amazing to be looking down and have the hilltop shaded, but the cactus still have light on it. Almost like you are observing the very edge of the sunlight disappearing.

The open heavens

The heavens opened - monsoon sunset arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 35mm, iso 200, f/5.0, 1/100th // buy print)

I love taking pictures of lightning…it’s one of my favorite things when it comes to weather photography. But I also just love the raw power of a thunderstorm. And the beauty they contain.

This rain shaft…was a powerful thing. As I was driving west, I watched the base of the cloud get dark, textured and nasty. Next thing you know a wall of rain is falling to the ground. Most of the time this is enough to be a gorgeous example of nature…but on a lucky occasion you get to witness something like this with fantastic sunset colors mixing into everything.

I’ve seen sights like this before and it’s always incredible how the light and color from the sun bounces around these clouds and rain.

I couldn’t take enough pictures of it.

The season is winding down here…in fact, today may be the last good day left. There might be some spotty, random days before the monsoon is truly gone, but we’re close to the end here.

 

A Superstition thunderbolt

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 320, f/16, 0.8sec // buy print)

The last time I chased a storm was a week ago. I needed the break anyways, I was getting burned out and had suffered a few “epic fail” kind of days. Needed some time off to rejuvenate and to process some of the massive amounts of images I took in the past few months.

This was taken back at the end of July along the Beeline Highway. I am not too positive, but that lightning strike could be coming down somewhere near Saguaro Lake along Bush Highway.  I don’t remember even seeing this strike, I had both cameras going in different directions with the shutter releases locked down in continuous shoot mode. Was stoked when I looked back to see this shot on only a 0.8 second exposure!

Our monsoon season ends here in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll get a few rounds of good storms before it’s over. I have a little more chasing left in me before wedding season starts!

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!

Into the Wild

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, exposure blend // buy print)

I’ve had a couple of friends lately tell me they miss Movie Title Wednesdays on my blog, and it kind of made me realize I do too. I haven’t done one in a few months now, but we’re back and better than ever!

If you haven’t heard about the story of Christopher McCandless, than I suggest you rent the film Into the Wild, starring Emile Hirsch. The movie is based off the book of the same title written by Jon Krakauer. I would highly recommend the book too, maybe even before you see the movie. It’s an amazing tale of a guy who sells everything, gives all his money to charity and hitchhikes his way to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

It’s a true story and one that will grip you until the end. He made such an impact on people along the way, that author Krakauer was able to piece together his journey from interviews with those people, plus friends and family. Check it out!

So my wife picked out the title today because the one I had before was horrible. She brought up a good point though about my struggle to find a good one: I shoot so many road shots, at some point, movie titles aren’t going to work as I don’t like to repeat them and never have before.

But for today…Into the Wild kind of fits here. This is a stretch of the Beeline Highway headed towards Payson. This long, downward straightaway into this valley has always been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. It’s just kind of suddenly THERE when you aren’t expecting it.

I’ve always wanted to do it justice and this day back on March 19th was perfect. We’d just had some winter storms blow through (in fact, there is snow falling on some of the distant mountains), the clouds were astounding and the fading sunlight mesmerizing.

It took some time to get this though…it’s a busy highway and finding a time with no one behind or ahead of me wasn’t easy. Luckily I had about 1/4 – 1/2 mile warning of oncoming vehicles, although when they are going 75-80mph, that’s not a ton of distance!

Hole in the sky

After the Storm - Arizona Monsoons

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/80 // buy print)

I’ll always remember this day as one of my favorites of the 2011 monsoon season. I had gotten away by myself, alone on the road, not a soul with me, no one tagging along…just me going where I thought the storms would be. It felt liberating for some reason.

It also turned out to be the second day in a row where I found myself on a tornado-warned storm. The structures from the midwest weren’t there necessarily, but the exploding tops were gorgeous, the lightning vicious and the clouds magnificent. I kept an eye out for funnel clouds, but never saw anything. Still, the thrill of the chase was why I loved it so much.

This was a stretch of State Route 79, looking south at the Catalina Mountains. I loved the darkness on the left in a juxtaposition to the gorgeous blue sky on the right, plus the bit of sunlight on the mountain range.

Prickly Pear

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/20, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

Back in mid-December we had some great cold fronts move through the state leaving snow on the mountains surrounding Phoenix. I must have been out in the Four Peaks and Superstition Mountains area every other night for a week. Trying to capture a sunset…trying to get the snow on the hills.

This was probably one of the more gorgeous sunsets of 2011 that my camera saw. You can see the snowy Four Peaks off on the right horizon, shrouded by clouds.

The foreground is filled with Prickly Pear cacti…and you can see a few of the “leaves” have captured the last rays of the setting sun. In fact, it was kind of a hard shot to get because my own shadow kept getting in the way.

Within about 45 seconds, the light was completely gone. I took this shot right after this other one I posted awhile ago with the giant Saguaro.  An amazing sky that evening.