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Lightning over the Rincons

Rincon Lightning
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 125, f/8, 8 sec // buy print)

The monsoon moisture is just around the corner, so I’m all kinds of excited and looking back at old images I never posted.

Here’s one from the Rincon Mountains last July 1st. Was early in the season and a spectacular lightning show for an hour or so. Can’t wait for more of this next week!

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.

In the Hills

In the Hills
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 l, 70mm, f/8.0, 8 sec, iso 125 // buy print)

Some of the best lightning I photographed this past summer all happened on July 1st, super early in the monsoon season. This was another image over the Rincon Mountains southeast of Tucson.

I rarely use the 70-200 for lightning images these days. As much as it seems like it would be useful, even a sturdy tripod has a hard time keeping it perfectly still during thunderstorm outflow winds. Hence limiting this exposure to only 8 seconds. Plus it was at  70mm anyways, not the full zoom.

Most of the time if I try to zoom in to 200mm and photograph lightning, it’s not going to be tack sharp like a 50mm. I plan on using a 135mm next year to see how that goes.

Besides, I like to be a lot closer to the lightning and if I’m a 200mm-focal length away, it’s too far 🙂

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This print is part of my Square Collection, which you can see right here

Close

Close
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm, f/6.3, iso 200, 10 sec // buy print)

Rarely do I get to play around when I’m shooting lightning. Usually storms last only so long before you have to run to the next one. That being the case, I tend to try and get my best composition setup and hope for a great strike.

On the 18th though…there was so much lightning and I sat at one spot for so long…I started getting bored and decided to play around. Yeah, bored. Okay, not bored…I mean, it was AMAZING. But in terms of photos…I had enough from a few angles and with the 50mm and the 35mm…so I decided to instead slap on the ol’ zoom and see what happened.

I went to an extreme 200mm focal length and tried to zero in on where I saw some strikes landing. My entire goal here was to just capture the impact area and totally ignore the top 2/3rds of the strike. It’s not always easy to do that because you kinda have to get lucky with a strike in such a small zone.

But it paid off. In fact I have a few of these. I loved this one because you see one of the filaments of the strike off on the left, with no connection to the main bolt. It gives you an idea just how close we are here and also how much higher the bolt actually goes out of frame.

 

Snowy Saguaro

Snowy Saguaro
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm , iso 100, f/2.8, 1/1250th // buy print)

Took a nice drive up the Beeline Highway today and ran into snow falling well before I thought we would. The level had dropped crazy low and it was amazing to see some of these Saguaro with snow on their needles all all around the desert floor.

I’ve been wanting a shot like this for awhile and I’m sure you’ve seen these dozens of times, but for me it was awesome to finally get some snow on a cactus like this. A wonderfully fun day driving around and playing in the snow with the family!

The Bat Signal

Eternal
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 29mm, iso 100, f/5.6, 25 sec // buy print)

I wouldn’t call this my favorite ever lightning strike…but it’s definitely one of the most interesting I’ve photographed. When I saw it initially on the back of the camera last year, I said…that looks like the Bat Signal or something. So I’m sticking with the name.

It’s kinda hard to tell where this thing starts and ends. It looks like a complete circle almost. I think it starts in the upper left, then disappears for a tiny moment in the cloud at the top, then circles all the way around back into the cloud in the upper left again.

Needless to say, it’s rare for me to see something like this. Either they are kind of “spider lightning” where they streak across the sky or they strike the ground somewhere. But this is why I love doing photographing lightning…you never know what you are going to get when it comes to nature.

The Grid

Electrical
(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 130mm, iso 400, f/5.6, 12 sec // buy print)

Powerlines and lightning, what could be better?

I captured this along highway 85 south of Buckeye. I actually had given up further south towards Gila Bend, so I was heading home when some storms popped up to my west. I drove on the shoulder a bit to line up my truck with the powerlines and the storm, and setup in the median.

Sometimes you find that perfect composition (or at least the one you want) when you’re chasing storms and then it’s up to God and nature to deliver the final product. Got lucky on this night.

Obscured | Four Peaks Sunset

Obscured
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is l, 75mm, iso 100, f/20, 1/5 // buy print)

It’s so very rare that I go back to images more than a year ago. Usually I think anything that far back must suck anyways, so what’s the point? But I always loved this day out in the Four Peaks wilderness area and I never did a whole lot with this image. So yesterday I was playing around with it and re-processed it using luminosity masking that’s been my main tool of late.

I captured this on December 14th, 2011. It was such an amazing evening. Stunning light, low clouds, beautiful colors. What I like about this image is that most photos of the Four Peaks…show the actual four peaks. Here…it’s implied that they are there, but you don’t see them.

Haven’t been out to the Four Peaks this year at all…been unfavorable circumstances for stormy, snowy weather like this. Hoping for a few more chances before the winter storms go away.

 

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.

 

 

Double Impact

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 200, f/5.6, 25 sec // buy print)

Last year I was inspired by the photography of Drew Medlin, specifically his black & white work with lightning. He almost always sticks to a square crop which I thought was super cool and made it a goal this year to process a handful of my own lightning images with this crop.

So this is the first in my Square Series. First off I absolutely love what B&W does to a lightning bolt…creates a darker, mysterious scene…and the square crop to me adds an isolation to the entire frame.

I shot this back on July 23rd, early in the season, up along the Beeline Highway. There was an incredible show going on and strikes were hitting the mountains everywhere.

More to come!