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Ocotillo Wall Cloud

This is the second image in what will end up being many, many photos from the recent severe weather in Arizona. These storms were much more Midwest-like than anything we’re used to, especially up in northern Arizona where they now have confirmed six tornadoes touched down in a matter of 12 hours.

The title of this photo calls that low hanging, dark area a wall cloud. I don’t necessarily remember seeing a ton of rotation in the thing, but then again, I had my lightning trigger out and was focused on trying to capture that stuff. I was barely paying attention to anything else but the bolts hitting towards those mountains…until I realized how awesome the cloud looked and how green and brilliant this Ocotillo cactus was. A perfect frame for a desert storm.

For those living here, I photographed this down on Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend.

Monsoons and Barbed Wire

I’ve been holding onto this one since late July for some reason. I just wasn’t sure about it. I actually have a version of it without the barbed wire, but for some reason I kind of like this a little better. You get a sense of what is happening in the background anyways, the cactus, the vegetation and the monsoon storms brewing in the background.

I had taken the original photo, was about to walk away and realized I liked the rusty old barbed wire and wanted to see what I could do with it. This is an HDR from about 5-6 brackets.

Lots of blur going on here, something I don’t really mess around with too much, so I’m curious how it comes across to people. Do you like the style or does it make your eyes water? 🙂

Last Gasp

The title of this photo has a couple of meanings. The first being the fact that a little storm system which moved through Arizona the last two days could end up being the final bit of weather we get from the monsoon season (it officially ends on Sep. 30th). Despite all the stormy clouds during the day, my week has been quite busy and this was the only shot I ended up with. So in another way, this is likely my last monsoon photo until next year.

Of course, there is always that slight chance something could pop up before the end of the month, and yes, I’ll keep praying for it.

Going back to the title, the main and absolutely reason why I called it Last Gasp is obviously that gorgeous ray of orange sunlight making it’s final stretch across the sky before disappearing for the night. It was remarkable how that little puffy cloud on the horizon popped up out of nowhere to become an obstacle for the sun to shine through. It wasn’t there when I arrived, but in about 20 minutes it developed and had me worried about losing the sun entirely. But just enough shone through, and that single ray of light may have ended up being better than a whole sky of orange.

God bless these sunsets in Arizona…they are truly heaven on Earth. I need to remind myself this when I’m out there, because you can become so focused on snapping brackets, that you forget to enjoy the reason you do this.

If this was indeed the final, last gasp of the monsoon season…I can’t think of a more fitting end.

Unless, of course, there had been a lightning strike in the photo above. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Death and Birth

Simple scene. A desert hill, some foreground growth and a monsoon storm growing on the horizon. But that’s the simplicity I love sometimes. I tend to look for super dramatic, wide-angle, busy scenes…but occasionally I find the lack of drama just as awesome.

The main element in the foreground is a dead tree of some sort…it almost looks like a bird sitting on one of the right top branches, but I think it’s just a snapped branch. There are a few cacti and of course, the growing storm behind it all. I dig B&W and love silhouettes…I always find it amazing how a scene can change so much when you just darken it to shadows and nothing more. The shapes take on new life and suddenly form something entirely different.

A strong monsoon downdraft

I love seeing a thunderstorm in action. Normally when you are just minding your own business, you just see the clouds move in, maybe some dust blows ahead of them and then the rain/lightning starts.  But rarely do you get to see the origin of all that stuff.

This is the second opportunity I’ve had this summer to see a dust storm forming. The first I posted last week, The Birth of a Monsoon Dust Storm, which was a fun “time lapse” of sorts.  But today’s photo really shows you the raw power of a thunderstorm’s downdraft and what it can do.  You might also consider this a microburst.

I shot this on Saturday afternoon where storms were producing 65mph winds, hail and all kinds of lightning.  Sometimes you can get a downdraft like this and not see the same results, but the storms were fairly severe on this day and so you get to see something kind of cool. The dust you see forming on the edges above looks like it’s just on either side of the storm, but in reality, it was spreading in all angles and just hadn’t picked up any dust yet.

While this is a great way to see how a dust storm begins, it’s nothing like the giant Haboobs we sometimes get where multiple cells like the above storm are all grouped together and producing many downdrafts that join forces to send massive walls of dust headed towards Phoenix.

I rarely do this, but if you have an account on Flickr, maybe you wouldn’t mind favoriting this photo over there? It’s been doing well and I think just a few more comments/faves might get it Explored!

Arizona monsoon lightning photos from August 28th

My daughter sat in her little car seat, enjoying Toy Story and staying safely away from any lightning or the bazillion numbers of mosquitos I encountered last night out in the Arizona desert. Probably was a little too close to a couple of canals out there, but at times it almost felt like a swarm of bugs attacking me. I definitely have more than five itchy bites on me today.

The above lightning strike was my favorite of the night. A tip to lightning photos out there (not that any of you would do this), if your car is running because you are keeping the AC on for your little girl, go ahead and do NOT put the tripod on your trunk…just use the ground. Subtle vibrations from the engine running caused a few of my shots to be a bit unsharp and I can’t tell you how bummed I was about that.

There is another one below I like that has the strike landing behind a cactus which created a beautiful silhouette.

While I was out, I met a guy who was trying his hand at lightning photography and while I stood there, I realized his own silhouette sitting on top of his SUV was kind of cool against the clouds over the city. Amazingly, I caught a shot of a lightning strike AND him, so I walked over, introduced myself and emailed him the photos today.

The last one is just him sitting there…watching. I just love it.

Hope you enjoy these!

Monsoon chasing on the Apache Trail

This is a little bit of an older shot taken about a month ago in July. I really wanted to post the sunset photo from last night, but I’m having trouble with getting the colors to show up correctly once I upload them to the web, so I’m not sure what’s going on there. Any help or advice would be appreciated.

I took this photo on the Apache Trail road when I was out stormchasing with my buddy Brian. I thought the powerlines would ruin the shot, but for some reason I like them, along with the road of course. Have you not yet realized my love for those double-yellow lines disappearing down black asphalt paths?

I mainly took this because of the monsoon cloud off in the distance…it had a cool look to it, was more dreamy than scary and it had a little bit of rain falling from the bottom.

More storms over the Superstitions

Yesterday was supposed to be a 60% chance of rain in town, but we ended up with only a few afternoon storms to the east of Phoenix and nothing else all night. My little girl and I headed out to the Superstition Mountains after picking her up from the sitter and saw some beautiful clouds to go along with the stunning vistas of those great cliffs and peaks.

This is looking northward from the southern side of Apache Junction. We weaved our way through the housing up there to find a spot devoid of man-made objects to get this shot off. Lyla was busy with Toy Story in the car, which allowed me to setup and get my brackets before moving on to the next location.

Definitely have fallen in love with these mountains…they are just so beautiful and picturesque…it almost feels like a cop-out using them for photos now…it’s almost too easy.

Watchers of the Storm

Everyone has those “bucket list” shots you want to get someday. Yes, for me one of the big ones has to do with the weather. Shocked? Now, the shot above doesn’t completely satisfy my inner desire to get another shot like it, but it’s the kind I’m looking for.

I was inspired first by this photo taken by Sabrina Henry when she was in Africa. The way the cloud seems to appear on the horizon out of nowhere with a tree in front of it…just amazing perspective.

To me, there is something inspiring about a small silhouette of a tree or object, placed against the awesome power of a giant storm cloud. Trying to capture that is another story however. Arizona does offer tons of mountains, but “trees” are harder to come by unless you make it to higher elevations. So what do I have to work with down here?

Cactus.

The shot above combines a lot of stuff I love, obviously storms, clouds, a slightly black and white feel, and those little silhouettes. There is something so captivating for me about a giant monsoon cloud…the stuff going on inside it, the rain falling, the lightning that is sure to be exploding out of it…but it’s also just the sheer beauty of the way it develops so uniquely each time. I love the couple of saguaro cactus caught along the hilltop, seemingly watching the action happening just on the other side of the mountain.

Now, while this photo is dear to me, the bucket list version has me a lot closer to the cactus or tree, much like Sabrina’s photo. I’m still on the hunt for it…and probably like all photographers…when I do finally capture that “perfect” shot…I’ll be on the lookout for an even “more perfect” shot immediately thereafter.

As my buddy Brian mentioned this morning in his blog, sometimes we go back to the same spot over and over to take the same photo, but come away with something unique every time.

It’s kind of the same thing here. Once I get the shot I want, nothing will quench that desire to capture it again. Nothing.

It’s just who we are.

Wandering with the Arizona monsoon: On the Apache Trail

What’s amazing about Phoenix is that stuff like this can be seen on just a short drive east of town. Now, it’s not Grand Falls or anything spectacular in the sense of landmarks or stunning vistas…but if you take the time to stop, get out of the car, walk down a short path and look around…you can see beautiful scenes everywhere.

This was a short distance from a pull-off on Apache Trail, a road that takes you to Canyon Lake and eventually Roosevelt Lake. My buddy Bryan (Whom I made famous yesterday) and I made all kinds of stops along the way to Canyon Lake to snap photos of the desert landscapes mixed with the monsoon clouds of the afternoon.

That was essentially the goal of the summer and my “wanderings with the Arizona monsoon.” This coming week I’m headed further northeast into the pine trees for a little camping and hope to get a different angle on the monsoons with the evergreens and mountain lakes.

Definitely click on the larger version of the photo because I think it actually looks a little sharper than the scaled down image above.