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A sunset south of Sheffield, Texas

Sunset south of Sheffield
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, f/5.0, iso 200, 1/125th // buy print)

Sometimes the light and the sky after a storm passes is just as good as the storm itself. This was south of Sheffield, Texas, after we photographed and timelapsed a bunch of gorgeous shelf clouds and hail cores. These clouds were moving fast overhead and the light from the setting sun created this moody sky.

I still love being in the middle of nowhere, having a beautiful sky like this and walking out onto a road to snap a photo. It’s something about the silence of no other cars, city sounds or anything else. Just a rumble of thunder and the snap of a camera.

Can’t wait to get back to storm chasing next week! The monsoon is almost back.

The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

Squiggly

Closer than it appears
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 400, f/8.0, 1/160th // buy print)

This was the best storm I saw all of 2013 in Arizona. At the very least it was in the top 2. The low shelf cloud that appeared out of the rain was an amazing surprise, but there was also blowing dust and crazy lightning strikes. You can see the other shots from this cell right here.

I captured this one using a Nero Lightning Trigger…although I wouldn’t recommend one. I was actually surprised I got this because I had a lot of bad luck with it, loose cables and eventually it just stopped working. I recently picked up a Lightning Trigger IV and am looking forward to that this spring and summer.

The fun part of this strike is that it’s VERY close. A lot closer than it looks. 17mm lens on a full frame sensor…and it almost takes up the entire field of view. Not only that, but in the picture below, you can see the orange spot where the lightning strike hits the tree line…and that tree line was about 1/4 mile away from me if that.

A fairly unusual looking bolt as well…almost looks like a squiggly line, not the jagged strikes you usually see.

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Wall of dust

Wall
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1/640th // buy print)

A lost (or unposted) image from back in July of 2012. This was a crazy good dust storm resulting in a couple of nice timelapses for me personally. You can see one here. I was capturing that while I took this photo.

Was an uber dense storm…once it hit, the freeway behind me was completely empty and it felt like I was in some post-apocalyptic world for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for summer.

 

Electricity over Sierra Vista

LIghtning over Sierra Vista
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L, 70mm, iso 160, f/8, 13 sec // buy print)

This was taken on the night before I left for Africa last summer. I was determined to get as as many storm images as possible since I was going to be gone for 10 days, and so that goal compelled me to chase all the way down to Sierra Vista on this night.

I have to say, it was worth it. This southern Arizona town was getting blasted with lightning bolts and I had a nice perch just north of town along highway 82. This particular storm did have some interesting looks to it, even at one time having supercell appearance. Definitely love this shot…mean looking storm and two cloud-piercing bolts.

Cold Drinks

Cold Drinks
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/5.6, 1/320th // buy print)

My buddy Matt Granz posted a picture from this same spot a few days ago on Facebook, which is because we were actually together that day chasing the monsoon! He made me realize I never posted the image I took, so I thought I’d do that today. This was taken just north of Tucson off the freeway along Red Rock Road. I am not even sure it’s still standing…I feel like the last few times I drove past this spot the windmill looked a lot worse or I didn’t even see it.

We were here just before sunset, which you can see from the gorgeous light reflecting off the windmill and little silo/tanks on the left. A beautiful monsoon evening, these storms moved in and dropped lightning a little bit after this was taken.

Awesome hanging with Matt on this night, he’s such an amazing guy, check out his work when you get a chance!

An Arizona hail core

Severe storm near Douglas
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/13th // buy print)

I remember this storm like it was yesterday. I was even live streaming it and couldn’t have been more excited for the people watching to see a storm like this in Arizona. You can even see a timelapse of it right here.

This area had storms all over…to the left, to the right…but something about this one looked different. I was watching an area of intense rain when suddenly you could see the blue a lot clearer and the clouds started making some crazy looking shapes, especially on the right side of the image above. It almost looked like a wall cloud and there was some insane upward motion. Insane for this state that is.

I got so lucky last year to be on two storms like this that looked so unusual for Arizona. Hoping for more of the same in 2014!

Barrage

Barrage
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 25 sec, f/8 // buy print)

I’ve stacked lightning a handful of times. Stacking means when you basically merge multiple photos together to create a new image. In this case, I stacked near 30 images to get this one photo.

I don’t normally go this route for lightning…I like the solo strike, the power of less instead of much, much more…but sometimes when lightning is so far away that a single image just isn’t good enough, I like to see what happens when you stack ’em.

I photographed soooo much lightning on this night, in that same area (as you can see), so I had to give a stack a try. In fact, this is actually “Stack Number Two” from the night…the first one can be seen here. That one only had a few strikes, where this one includes everything that came after that. This image includes about 26 minutes worth of lightning. It’s kind of incredible to see what can happen in that short amount of time. The focus of the storm just raining bolts down in a general area.

Nature is amazing.

Through the shelf

Through the Shelf
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 21mm, iso 400, f/8, 1/160th // buy print)

Last Friday night I had a gallery show at Obliq Art in downtown Phoenix, and it sorta got my juices flowing again for some storm chasing. So I figured I’d start the new year off with another image from last summer.

This was an image from that epic storm in the Marana area north of Tucson. I posted one a few days after the storm that had a sorta “supercell” look to it…and it was one of my favorites from 2013.

But I love this one too, for two reasons. One…the lightning explodes from the main bulk of the storm and then pierces the shelf cloud below it. I love the two exit points. And finally…the semi-truck being there to give some scale to an otherwise large, boring farm field. Plus you also have some great blowing dust showing the powerful winds that were going on (which would eventually knock over my camera).

Ah…memories. Already getting excited for my annual plains trip at the end of May!

The Boise City supercell

The Boise City Supercell
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 2.5 sec // buy print)

I’ve been saving this image for awhile. It was taken during my storm chasing trip in early June of this year…and posting it kind of closes the chapter on that time. And what a time it was for me personally. Capturing that Booker supercell on timelapse and the way it was received turned that trip into one of the most important moments of my life.

And thus…sharing this photograph basically ends what I have to share from those three days. So I’ve been putting it off.

Beyond that though…I love this photo. I almost didn’t want to share it (might be hard to understand). It’s every reason I went out there. To see stuff like this. Yes, the Booker Supercell was incredible. The images of it with the orange backlight are surreal and I’m still astounded that I was there to capture that storm.

But this photo…once I started working on the black and white version of it, I fell in love with it.

Leading up to capturing this image, it felt like the day was going to be a bust. This was the day after Booker. We sat in the eastern Oklahoma Panhandle for most of the day, waiting for something to happen. But we got that target wrong. Storms to our west and northwest, in COLORADO, were going nuts and moving down into the Panhandle.

I take credit for this storm because at one point I said to Andy “F it…we’re going west until we catch those storms or they die out. Let’s go.”

And we blasted west. And we caught up to them.

We did make another mistake though, which was to sit too far to the east of this storm waiting for it to come to us. We definitely should have gotten closer and to the southeast of it right away.

But then I wouldn’t have been able to get this photo I don’t think. As it kept traveling southeast, we went southwest and met up with it right here. Driving down deserted farm roads…I told Andy I had to stop and grab this real quick.

Moments before it hadn’t looked as good as this and then suddenly…bam, this gorgeous supercell with sick structure was hanging over the road.

I couldn’t believe we were seeing one of these again, they very next day after Booker. I’d made three trips before to the plains to chase and had never caught anything remotely close to this and now we struck gold TWO DAYS IN A ROW.

Needless to say…that trip continues to live on in my memory. Not sure any future ones will ever equal it.

But you can always hope.