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Criss Cross

Criss Cross - Downtown Phoenix Reflections Rain

(image looks sharper and clearing by clicking on it to view in lightbox)

I rarely do “series” on my blog, because if I do they just get strung out for weeks at a time since I like to change things up on a daily basis. At that point it’s hard to keep track of them. But yesterday I started an “Over the Fence” series and today this is kind of the beginning of what will start out as a small “Phoenix Reflections” series.

Last week after we had a rare moment of rain, I decided to head downtown around dusk to get some reflection shots. My Dark City image last week was the first shot I took, but then I forced myself to start looking “down” instead of “up” or “out.”

Sometimes if you want to stay on task, you just have to make yourself focus.

So I found a nice, flat parking lot full of large puddles and started exploring their reflections. It was a beautiful time of evening, with the sun having just set, some murky clouds hanging around and awesome contrast in the asphalt with the striping. I made it a goal to keep the reflections based around the buildings around me.

Had a lot of fun and wished this particular moment in time had lasted three hours instead of 20 minutes.

I have a few more shots from that night, but this may become an ongoing series depending on the frequency of rain we get here…so it may be months *grin*

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 27mm, f/10, iso 100)

Over the Fence: Oxidation

(Image looks a bit sharper and cooler if you click to view in lightbox)

This is the first image of what will be an ongoing series that I’m dubbing “Over the Fence.” There is a bit of a backstory on this, so hopefully you don’t mind reading a few extra words today.

We moved  into this 100-year old, downtown Phoenix house back in November and met a few of our neighbors right off the bat. Great people. One of them was a guy named John who has lived on our block for over 20 years and owns five houses just on our street. He rents them, fixes them up and is usually seen running up and down the sidewalks working on something.

From our upstairs guest house we can see down into a small portion of one his backyards. Ever since I saw the rusted old cars he has back there, I’ve longed to explore what else might exist “over the fence.” It took me a bit of time to ask, because I didn’t want to appear like some weirdo, but when I finally did he had no problem. Sure, go over there anytime I want and here is where you open the gate.

I took him up on the offer last Friday afternoon. My daughter and I wandered over to what is actually TWO backyards since he owns the adjoining house and has a portion of the fence taken down. After a brief overall exploration, I was dumbfounded to find over TWELVE CARS in this guy’s backyard. Twelve.

Sadly or fantastically, depending on how you look at it…most of these cars are in vast degrees of deterioration and are hidden in little nooks and crannies of the backyard. I actually found out later than one of his houses which basically cannot be saved and needs to be bulldozed, has two cars INSIDE it. I’m kind of nervous about stepping foot inside a condemned house, but I think I may need to ask that question.

Now, he seems to collect a lot of “micro cars” from long ago. One of the pictures I’ll post later this week is of a 1953 BMW Isetta 300. It’s tiny, like a true and actual Mini Cooper.

This one in the above picture was pretty amazing, especially when you got to the front of the car and the exposed, completely rusted out engine. The view in the photo is the rear-left tail light or what is left of it. I was struck by the rich details of the paint, the rust and the streaks of white coming from these “legions” all over the trunk.

Needless to say, I’m hoping to get back in that yard soon. I believe on my first run I only got about 1/10th of what is possible and I only left because Lyla told me it was time to go. She has a way of getting me to do what she wants…I think it’s because she’s super cute and I’m a big pushover.

Regardless, I hope you are jealous. Having this kind of stuff to shoot about 20 feet away is heck of a lot of fun.

As Kenny Banya once said: “That’s GOLD Jerry…GOLD!”

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 100, f/2.2)

The Mighty Colorado

(click on the image for a lightbox version with a sexy dark frame)

I’d toss this into more of an abstract category that I like to do from time to time. Some of you know I was inspired a bit by the black and white work of Mitch Dobrowner and so from time to time I like to process my landscapes/stormscapes with a very stylized B&W treatment.

After my drive through El Dorado canyon last week outside of Las Vegas, I parked and walked down a wash to the Colorado River. The desert around this area was pretty stark. I mostly liked the mountains across the river and how the fading sunlight was falling on them.

I wanted to get a bit closer to the mountains so I used my 50mm 1.4 and slapped every ND filter I had on it, but they only added up to about 6-stops so I could only get around 10-12 seconds at f/22 before it was over-exposed.

Still, it gave the water an interesting texture anyways…so much so that when I processed it in B&W, it almost started to look less like water and more like some weird landscape.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100, 10 seconds)

 

Dark City

(click on the image above to see it fit to your desktop resolution…and view it in a nicely framed lightbox)

I’m a huge science fiction movie fan. Not really so much the silly stuff that’s out there, but more of the solid, make-you-think kind of films, like Primer, Children of Men or Moon. When I completed this image and decided to use it for Movie Title Wednesday, I actually was thinking Inception at first, but without realizing it, I had been saying the true title to myself over and over while staring at it.

Dark City.

First off, I need to be honest. I saw the movie a long time ago and most of what I remember is that Keifer Sutherland was in it…it was dark and the ending was awesome. Oh, and I liked it. But I forgot everything else. I had to look up the plot again on IMDB just to remind myself. I even failed to remember that Jennifer Connelly was in it…and that’s hard to do.

If you haven’t seen it and love great sci-fi, go rent it asap. Almost everyone I know who has seen it thought it was brilliant. It’s kind of a cult classic in the way that not everyone knows about it but at the same time has a huge following. Like Firefly.

Also, if you haven’t seen Primer, Children of Men or Moon…well, rent them too.

This photo comes from two nights ago after it rained for half the day. I was hoping it would start clearing up before the sun went down and I got lucky. What I love about weather…is that even if I’m in the most urban of environments, I can still include it in my images. The leftover puddles…the clouds. I basically left home with the idea to find reflections in puddles wherever I could and I can’t wait to post the other shots I got from this night.

One last thing about this image. It’s HDR. It’s kind of dark. There are details you can’t see because of the shadows. And I love it. Don’t be afraid to process your high dynamic range images with details lost  in shadows. I know it seems counter-intuitive to capture the entire light range of a scene and then not show it all…but I urge you to give it a shot.

Also, I shot this with my 50mm 1.4. I *heart* that lens.

The Seam


(clicking on the image may not give you a larger view depending on your resolution, but it will frame it in a lightbox nicely)

Traveling is harder for me than it used to be. I still hated being gone for weeks at a time from my wife, but now that we have a little girl…it’s a lot harder. We use FaceTime on the iPhone all the time now when I travel and while it makes things easier…it also kind of makes it more difficult to see those faces and not be close to them.

I used to just sit in my hotel room and veg out on these work trips, but lately I’ve tried to pass the time I’m away by exploring the places I’m staying. These days that is mostly Las Vegas.  I’ll get done working around 4-5pm and hit the pavement with the rental car to find something interesting out there. Last week it was Red Rock Canyon and the town of Nelson…both areas within about 45 minutes or less of Las Vegas.

The image above was taken in Red Rock Canyon, simply a beautiful place to explore. There is a nice road looping through the area with cool stops along the way…plus vistas that are definitely unique to this park. The photo may be a bit deceiving in a way because the red area up top isn’t really part of the foreground formation, but belongs to a  larger hill behind it.

I did something I don’t usually do with this photo…because of the wide angle and the closeness I have with the ground right in front of me…I shot two sets of brackets in live view. The first set I focused on the rocks in the background to get them crisp, and then I focused the next set on the foreground right in front of me. I then tonemapped both sets of exposures and blended them later in Photoshop before stylizing.

In hindsight, I have no idea why I wasn’t maxed at f/22 on this shot for this very reason…but that is likely one of those moments where one cannot recollect what your mind was thinking at the time *grin*

On a side note, my buddy Brian Matiash has been posting some of his own awesome shots of Red Rock and here is his similar entry from last week. I love the different looks he gives you with each of his shots from this area.

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

Cholla Hill

(Clicking on the image gives you a sweeter look in lightbox)

This is another shot from my brief little trip to the Nelson/El Dorado Canyon area southeast of Las Vegas on Wednesday. I have to say…I’ve really been loving these little trips after working on the road. I do a little research the night before (or the day of) and find something that looks interesting. Since I’m working with locals, I ask them if they know anything cool close by and then scout it out on Google Maps.

This hilltop jumped out at me. It was literally peppered with hundreds of Cholla cactus…something we also know as “Jumping Cactus” around these parts. There is a special reason for that, a fact you out-of-towners may need to pay attention to since I’ve heard a few of you would LOVE to visit Arizona someday (we have these there too, they aren’t only in Nevada).

Jumping cactus grow just fine and aren’t much of a threat…but when those lower growths start to die, they fall off and disperse/pile-up on the desert floor. The big issue is…if you walk over these dead needles in a pair of normal sneakers…prepare to have some sharp pains in your foot very quickly. The needles seem to “jump” at your shoe and burrow their way into them and right into your foot. And really it’s not just your shoe, but your entire body. Keep clear if you can.

Here’s a shot of a poor soul who had no idea.

I loved this scene. The sun was setting on the left side of the frame and really lit up the tops of each cactus. You usually see these all over, but it’s a little more rare to find a giant “forest” of them like this.

It’s amazing how much photography has made me appreciate the deserts. I just love exploring them these days.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100)

 

 

Spring

(Looks a bit nicer in a lightbox…just click on it for a larger version)

I took another drive Wednesday afternoon, this time I was on the hunt for an old ghost town called Nelson that was south of Boulder City. I found it, but I wasn’t loving it and the big one that they talk about is kind of a man-made deal…not my cup of tea.

But the desert mountains and surrounding scenery was breathtaking. The road goes on past Nelson and winds through what is known as El Dorado Canyon. The pavement ends at the Colorado River which was something I definitely wanted to check out.

On the hike back from the river, I walked up a wash that flows to the Colorado. This wash has signs EVERYWHERE about how the flash flood potential is extremely high. Made me want to be up about 50 feet along the edges to witness an awesome flash flood someday *grin*

The wash was bordered on each side by cliffs and the sun was basically on the horizon shining straight towards me on my walk back. I spotted this desert bloom in the sunlight and had to snatch a shot of it. I love the shot, I had the camera basically resting on the ground, but I do wish I had been able to just lay there to get the shot perfectly focused…I think it’s slightly soft. Still, I dig the bokeh.

It’s mid-March already and with all the rain the deserts got this winter, I expect the wildflowers are going to be amazing. This little guy is just the sign of things to come.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/1.8, iso 100, 1/800 sec)

Serenity

(Click to view larger and sexier in lightbox)

I’m been on a Firefly kick the last few weeks, so it makes complete sense that when I looked at this image tonight, the name of the movie came flying at me.

For those that don’t know, Firefly is an awesome, awesome sci-fi TV show that the Fox Network brutally, and without just cause, canceled before it had a chance to really find legs. They only aired about 10 episodes and all told there were 14 made which you can see on DVD now.

It had such a big following that the ended up making a movie to essentially give the TV series a rightful ending. It was called Serenity, which is the name of the ship in the movie/series. The lead in the show was Nathan Fillion, the captain of Serenity and you may know him from the current show Castle (which I love mostly because of him). It’s hard to describe what is so appealing about the show to people. I mean, it’s basically like a sci-fi western set in space. It doesn’t sound too great.

The writing was amazing though. It was so unique and had its own style and language…it was brilliant. And the entire ensemble cast meshed so well together from day one that you instantly fell in love with them all. Fillion was excellent though…he’s one of my all-time favorite actors now.

All I can say is to go rent the DVDs and then cry when they end and you wish for more. Then watch the movie and cry again that is over. You’ll love it.

NOW, the image above. I’ve been holding onto this thing since the end of January. I have a lot of love for this photo and at times never wanted to post it. The motion in the clouds is so beautiful to me. The single yucca stem rising from the ground gives this feeling of peacefulness and solitude. More to the point of using the title from the film…it’s serene. It’s also a desert setting, which you see a lot of in the movie/series.

This was on a rainy morning of course and to me, there is nothing more relaxing than watching storms drift by and the occasional drops falling on the roof.

What’s fun about photography is the unexpected shot. I climbed this hill because I saw a ton of Ocotillo Cactus peppering the landscape behind me. After all this effort to get up there, I hated any of the compositions I came up with. Instead, I turn to leave and spot the scene above. I go for the forest and end up with the opposite. Ironic.

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

The road through Red Rock Canyon

(enjoy a better view by clicking on the image and seeing it in a lightbox)

I’ve been to Las Vegas countless times for my day job. Even after picking up photography only about 18 months ago…I still have been here at least 5-6 different times since then. Never during any of those times did I make a trip out to Red Rock Canyon. It’s not always easy…like in the middle of winter when the sunset in Las Vegas is 4:30 in the afternoon. That’s just silly. Those of us working normal hours don’t have a chance.

But finally on this trip the sun wouldn’t set until 6:45 and I had a couple of hours to spend driving out there and looking around.

All the reports are true. It’s a beautiful place. And there were a lot of people being all “touristy” like me, plus exercise nuts riding their 10-speeds around the park’s looped road. The only thing I kept in the back of my brain was to try and find something unique that someone else might not see. I always, always try to do that even if I don’t necessarily accomplish it. If I saw people gathering and taking pictures at obvious spots, I tried to look to the opposite area.

I was hoping for a brilliant sunset because of all the high clouds, but they thickened up as the day wore on and it ended up not allowing for much color in the sky. Still, I liked the way they looked anyways and of course you know I can’t resist a solid road shot.  It’s not too easy to see here, but the road does a little “S” curve as it disappears and cuts through the hill where you see orange-looking crevice.

As I’m sure most people say after visiting this park…I only wish I had more time. If only we could freeze the hour before sunset just to wander around capturing all that beautiful light goodness.

My friend, Iron Man Brian Matiash, posted his own shot from Red Rock when he was here last, you must go check it out.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 200)

Rusted air

Short little entry for Monday. I’m off to Las Vegas for the week as my day-job has lots to do over the next month or two. I am posting another shot from the abandoned water facility I found on my last trip to Vegas, this was on the way to Lake Mead.

I assume this is an air conditioner and I’m fairly certain it’s completely useless now. At least, if it does work, I doubt it’s still blowing cold air.

I loved finding this little spot just randomly driving by, so I hope to do a bit more of that in the late afternoon/evenings this week. Although I’m going to force myself out to the Red Canyon area at least once this week, hopefully to capture a sunset or something cool I haven’t seen before.

Busy week of client meetings/workshops, so I think I’ll be fairly absent from the online world during business hours…but then again, I usually say that and still find a way to tweet at least 20 times a day. As they said in Jurassic Park…”Life….finds a way.

ALSO: Be sure to check out a little interview I did on Essential Photogear by clicking here.

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