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The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life - Joshua Tree National Park

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 20mm, f/4, iso 5000, 30 sec // buy print)

It’s funny. We were freezing cold at Joshua Tree National Park when the sun went down, but then the stars came out and none of that mattered.

My buddy Heath O’Fee found this tree. Earlier the lot of us had been right under it, shooting upwards at the stars while someone light-painted the rocks. We were all having so much fun taking pictures of things we normally do not. The night sky. It’s fairly new to me and I want to explore it more.

But then we all kind of dispersed to find our own compositions in and around the rocks. And I found this one. I thought the sky would light up nicely on the horizon because of the far off cities and the sun having gone down earlier. The tree growing between the rocks was pure awesome.

The real treat though…was one of my cohorts doing his own light-painting on the far side of that tree. I decided to take advantage and so I waited for him to take another shot and then I took mine.

No idea who it was, but thank you.

The Calm

The Calm on Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f4 l, b+w ND 10-stop, 19mm, f/22, iso 100, 124sec // buy print)

I’m dedicating this photo to my buddy Chris DeAngelis, who let me borrow his 10-stop B+W filter and made all of this possible. He loaned it to me a few times at Bombay Beach, while Rick Young loaned me his over on the west side of the Salton Sea. Thank you guys.

Yes, I’m getting my own. Soon.

Normally if you are by water and pull out a 10-stop, you are hoping to pull off a long enough exposure so that the water becomes a misty looking cloud-like substance hugging rocks, sand, piers, whatever.

But when the body of water you are shooting is already about as calm as glass…the filter enhances that stillness and creates a beautiful, almost mirror-like reflection.

This is an abandoned, calcium-laiden old pier extending out from Bombay Beach. The entire beach area makes for one of the spookiest, weirdest places I’ve ever been. If it hadn’t been for the people I was with, the other tourists and even some photographers shooting models with beauty dishes amongst some trashed buildings, I’d have been pretty frightened about being here solo.

I may have said this on Monday’s blog post, but the Salton Sea is a lesson in contradictions. The water was so still, the horizon so smooth, the clouds blended into the water and you felt like you were in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Until you looked down at the fish carcasses or heard the occasional mysterious bubbling from the deep. Or you’d spot these beautiful, white pelicans glancing across the water’s surface as they flew by, which made you think about the dead bird laying between all the rotting fish you saw a bit ago.

I had a few people, like Heath O’Fee or Rick, tell me what the place was like before arriving, but you really have no idea until you are standing there yourself.

 

The Edge of the World

The Edge of the World - Salton Sea

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

This past Friday and Saturday I was part of a whirlwind trip that took me through Joshua Tree National Park and ended at the shores of the mysterious and disturbing Salton Sea. My good friend Heath O’Free was visiting Palm Springs from Canada, and had invited me to meet up with him on Friday. Also along for the journey was some other buddies…Rick Young and Chris Frailey from Phoenix, and Chris DeAngelis and Doug Wise from California.

Together we braved camping out in Joshua Tree despite lows in the mid-20’s (resulting in little to no sleep) and the strangeness that is the Salton Sea. I have an amazing assortment of images from the trip and can’t wait to share them over the coming weeks, but I had to start off with this one.

The Salton Sea is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The minute you see the retreating shoreline and the dead fish…you know you are someplace unique.  And creepy.

But at sunset on the eastern shore of Bombay Beach, the place had an almost epic beauty. The calm waters, the beautiful colors, the way the sky blended in with the lake out on the horizon. It was majestic and amazing, while at the same time you walk along a beach of fish and fowl carcasses and constantly have an odor of decay lingering in your nose.

This particular spot immediately called out to me when I saw it from the car. The closer I got to this old pier, the more it reminded me of something out of the Lord of the Rings. An ancient dock at Minas Tirith as my buddy DeAngelis said. My wife thinks it looks like the scenes at the end of the movie Titanic.

Either way, I knew I wanted to shoot the sunset from here. We were blessed with gorgeous clouds and such calm, reflective waters.

More to come!

 

A sunset on the Superstitions

The Red Supersitions - Lost Dutchman - Arizona

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(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/4 sec // buy print)

The weather predictions for winter out here in Arizona called for a La Nina pattern…meaning not much rain and not very cold temperatures. So it was kind of a surprise when December rolled in with quite a few cold fronts that dropped snow on the mountains outside of Phoenix and also an inch of rain in town.

Now, of course, we’re well into our predicted La Nina winter, with temps hovering around 75-80 and no rain in sight. Which makes me sad, but at least I have December to look fondly on.

I took this photograph back on the 22nd along one of my favorite stretches of road in all of Arizona, and it’s only about 30 minutes from my house. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’ve probably seen a few past images from this spot. This was probably my third night out in a row trying to capture a sunset over the mountains east of Phoenix, but nothing was panning out. My buddies Chris Frailey and Bryan Snider were out there those days as well and all of us were pondering the whereabouts of Arizona’s epic sunsets.

Finally this evening paid off. I was worried though…the clouds stretching from the mountains ahead were actually on the left side of the road about 15 minutes earlier. I was praying they wouldn’t move too far right before the color of the setting sun hit them.

This was also the first time out with the new (used) Canon 17-40 L. Love the lens, can’t wait to play with it a bit more.

 

The stormy skies of Arizona

Storming in Arizona - Monsoons

(Click to see larger on a black background)

There is no doubt that Arizona has some of the best skies anywhere in the country, especially during the monsoon season. The desert landscapes, mountains, terrain…they all work together with the clouds to create amazing views. Certainly we don’t get the awesome supercells that the midwest sees, but they get stuck with a lot of the same farmlands and wheat fields most of the time. The diversity of Arizona is incredible.

This monsoon season has been completely opposite of last year for me. I have just a sick amount of lightning shots, but not that many storm images. Last season I had all kinds of sunsets, storm clouds, silhouettes and other kinds of images that I just haven’t gotten this year. I think living in downtown Phoenix has caused that a bit…because last year I could leave just before sunset and be in the desert within five minutes, but now it takes over 30 to get anywhere without population.

Today though there is a great chance of storms and I’m planning on a long excursion starting around noon in southern Arizona to hopefully capture some awesome clouds and storm structures…and of course finish the day off with some lightning photography.

This image was shot back on July 9th somewhere between Phoenix and Sedona on a random dirt road. Although I love shooting lightning, these kinds of vistas are what I long for. Although I really love massive thunderheads…I still enjoy capturing dark clouds and rain falling on the deserts.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 1/25 – buy print)

The rainy desert

Storms on Table Mesa - Arizona Monsoon

I love black and white photography. Earlier this year I made a promise to myself that I would endeavor to do a lot more B&W this summer during stormchasing. What’s kind of happened is that I’m really enjoying colors. I’ll try it without any color and will usually end up going back.

This one, however, I really liked with some harsh black and white processing.

Rain falling on the desert, some beautiful textures in the clouds…and a single peak (hard to see) on the left horizon shrouded in light from the sun.

It’s hard to beat capturing the stormy skies of the desert down here in Arizona.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4, iso 100, 17mm, f/18, 1/40sec)

Sideways

Sideways Lightning in Carefree Arizona Monsoon

Last Tuesday I teased about a lightning shot I was going to use for Movie Title Wednesday. Well, after everything that happened that Tuesday  night, I never got a chance to post this. Now that the world is back to it’s normal rotation, I finally have the chance.

Sideways starred Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Two middle aged dudes take a tour through wine country and stuff happens. Saw the movie once, I don’t remember the plot too well, but of course I remember loving it. Giamatti is one of my favorite actors and he had a really huge run there for awhile with awesome movie after awesome movie.

Obviously I  chose this film because the title fits absolutely perfectly with the image today.

This was the first time I’ve ever captured sideways lightning in Arizona and it was awesome. There had been one before this that I missed while setting up and a third one AFTER this one that looked almost identical. Would love to know why they were happening a lot in this one spot, but I’ll likely never will.

I do remember a lot of yelling emanating from my immediate vicinity when I saw this thing flash across the sky. I knew I captured it and I knew it would look awesome.

Have been having a lot more fun shooting lightning this year so far…a lot more success in the early going. Tons more season to go. This coming Sunday or Monday is supposedly looking pretty nice for some wicked weather in the A-Z.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-35 F/4L, 17mm, iso 200, 13 sec)