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A Superstition thunderbolt

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 320, f/16, 0.8sec // buy print)

The last time I chased a storm was a week ago. I needed the break anyways, I was getting burned out and had suffered a few “epic fail” kind of days. Needed some time off to rejuvenate and to process some of the massive amounts of images I took in the past few months.

This was taken back at the end of July along the Beeline Highway. I am not too positive, but that lightning strike could be coming down somewhere near Saguaro Lake along Bush Highway.  I don’t remember even seeing this strike, I had both cameras going in different directions with the shutter releases locked down in continuous shoot mode. Was stoked when I looked back to see this shot on only a 0.8 second exposure!

Our monsoon season ends here in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll get a few rounds of good storms before it’s over. I have a little more chasing left in me before wedding season starts!

A crashdown of lightning on the Beeline

Crashing Down - Monsoon Lightning Arizona Beeline

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 100, f/6.3, 20 sec // buy print)

During the day on Monday I tweeted out something to the effect that I “smelled lightning” and knew it would be a good night. Honestly, I had no idea what I was talking about, but it had been three straight days of great monsoon action in a row with storms that died out quickly as the sun went down, leaving no electricity to photograph.

It was more of a hunch, but it turned out to be a good one.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a lightning show quite like this one up on the Beeline Highway. I set up along the shoulder of the road south of the Gisela turnoff. There is a huge valley there in front of you and it gives you at least a 270 degree view of all the mountains around you. Perfect for shooting this stuff.

The only downside is that there was soooo many lightning strikes, all OVER the place…you had to pick a few directions and hang tough. I have two cameras now thanks to all the weddings I shoot, so now I’m firing double barrels out there. Which should make it easier, but it’s a lot to manage when you’re rushing to get things aimed, focused, exposed correctly, etc.

I was also quite the amateur on this night and ended up with some slightly out-of-focus shots. Was bumming hard core when I was checking these out in Lightroom. I’m tossing out this one below anyways…which likely would have ended up being one of my all-time favorites, but it’s got a bit of a focus problem and so it may end up on the trash heap. But what a sick scene right? Almost looks like a clip from a movie with a giant electrical alien being walking over a mountain top.

 

A thunderstorm near Sunset Point

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

Being gone from Arizona for seven days usually means you miss a heck of a lot of sunshine. But last week was different. Sky Harbor Airport received measurable rainfall FOUR straight days. That hasn’t happened since 2008 per my buddy Royal Norman. The storms were nuts, all over and I certainly missed out on a killer start to the monsoon season.

But vacation was great, it was needed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

That being said, when I landed last night at 10pm, and saw storms going nuts to the north, I decided to watch things a bit to see if I could actually chase. Around 12:30am I headed out and ended up around the Sunset Point rest area. The lightning wasn’t earth-shattering awesome, but one of my favorite things is being able to see an entire storm cloud get lit up at night. Things had been pretty quiet in this direction for about 20 minutes and then suddenly the cloud got intense and strikes started happening.

This is one.

Glad to be back, can’t wait to make up for lost time!

 

Storms over Picacho Peak

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 is l, 105mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/800 sec // buy print)

Picacho Peak is an iconic mountain between Phoenix and Tucson. People love to hike it. I never have, but to me it’s sort of a midway marker…when I see it, I know half my journey is over.

Despite it being such a popular mountain, I’ve only taken 1-2 images of it and never anything worth keeping. But last week I finally came upon it with boiling thunderstorms building up overhead.

What I didn’t realize until processing this image was that you can actually make out a wall of dust approaching Picacho Peak. It’s low on the left side and higher on the right. After taking the photo, I left and turned back north towards Phoenix and within a few minutes I saw it in my rearview mirror. That’s when I started outracing the thing and then timelapsed it.

Was nice to get an early, monsoon-like sky this year. Usually it’s dull around here until July, so stormy clouds, a dust storm…was all a nice treat!

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn - Four Peaks Sun Rays

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm, iso 400, f/8.0, 1/1000 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Movie Title Wednesday and yes, I’m using a Twilight film! You can blame my buddy Chris DeAngelis for pointing me in the direction of this title. We also came up with Dumb and Dumber, but that was for an entirely different reason that I’m sure Chris would want me to keep close to the vest (insert LOLLING here).

Breaking Dawn. Ugh. I usually do this series to recommend movies, but with apologies to my wife…ugh. I watched it because my wife is hooked on the series (even if she admits its not very good) and also because I pretty much love all things related to vampires and werewolves. But these movies are hard to watch. Our favorite scene in this one is where the wolves talk to each other in their heads. It was probably one of the most cringe-inducing moments I’ve ever had watching a movie.

I will say this though…the title is perfect for this photo! Last Thursday I was somehow home early from my trip to Oregon, and thus was able to enjoy a day of stormy weather in and around Phoenix. I grabbed my gear and my daughter, and we just drove around having fun, seeing whatever we saw. This scene right here was kind of amazing. Mostly because it lasted for probably 30 minutes or so. It’s rare to see sun rays like that for an extended amount of time. I saw them and still had 15 minutes to get to the spot I was hoping to shoot them from. Luckily, they were still going strong.

These are the Four Peaks that you’ve seen me photograph a lot I’m sure, but I’ve never taken a photo of them from so far away.

And that’s a bird flying in the middle of the frame, not a dust spot 🙂

Horizon

Flames on the Horizon

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 l, 200mm, f/10, iso 100, 1 sec // buy print)

Back in December, we had quite a few winter storms blow through the state which left snow on the outlying desert peaks. On the evening I took this photo, I had met up with a bunch of photographer buddies, like Bryan Snider, Jon Stolarski, Chris Frailey and the awesome duo from Surefire Photos, Sean and Michelle Freeney.

We all were hoping for a gorgeous Four Peaks sunset. But the clouds were too low and never broke. So slowly everyone bailed to head home. As I was leaving though, the sky to the west kind of went supernova. I grabbed the 70-200 and went running through the desert trying to frame a perfect foreground against this epic sky. Nothing quite so beautiful as low, ground-hugging clouds and an Arizona sunset.

Processed this one using my VSCO Film presets and really loved the color I got from it.

The Beeline Curve

The Beeline Curve light trails Arizona

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 is l, 185mm, f/11, iso 100, 30 sec)

One of my favorite roads in Arizona is the Beeline Highway. It takes you through some of the most beautiful areas of Arizona. You can see the Superstition mountains, the Four Peaks, Sycamore Creek and all kinds of other things. It allows you to travel from Phoenix to Payson, where the beauty and cool temps of the Mogollon Rim are only 90 minutes from the hot desert.

I’ve always loved this curve in the highway, but never figure out how to shoot it until last night. Our sunset shoot out at the Four Peaks was a bust because of the rain and low clouds, but the west horizon was beautiful and I pulled out the 70-200 to grab some silhouette shots of cactus against the sky.

As I turned to leave, I noticed a lot more cars traveling along the Beeline than you usually see. I figured a bunch must be coming home from Roosevelt Lake or seeing the snow up north. Already having the 70-200 on there made me realize I could get a sweet, compressed shot of this bend in the highway and the light trails of all the vehicles.

I urge you to click to view it full-sized on black, I think WordPress darkened the image up a bit when it re-sized it down to 960.

The orange moon

Click to view on black, I think it’s got a much better feel to it.

I’m not much of an astral photographer…star trails, the Milky Way…the Moon…none of these are my strong suit at all. I just haven’t felt a strong desire to shoot these kinds of subjects.

And honestly, the moon has been shot a bazillion times…what else can do you do with it?

But despite all of that, I got up early on Saturday morning to check out the lunar eclipse that was going to turn the moon orange. I’ve never seen that before and the next eclipse of this type wont come again until 2014 (so I heard), so I figured why not try to take a few pictures.

It was a negative 2 degrees (Fahrenheit for my Canadian friends) and I think that was the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced before. That’s what I get living in Arizona.

All I had was my 70-200mm, and I thought the moon might fill the frame a bit more than it did, but this was the result. No cropping…I kind of liked the descending line of trees so I kept it this way. This shot was the best of the bunch. Right after this moment the sky started going brighter and brighter, and as the moon became fully eclipsed, it was too light out to even see much more than an outline.

An evening out at Four Peaks

The last six weeks have been filled with nothing but photoshoots, which has been absolutely amazing and huge for me. I’m so excited about where things are headed .

But it also left little time for me to get out of the house to shoot other things. And I missed that. So on Monday when there were reports of snow on the outlying deserts, I packed up the car, including my daughter, and made a beeline for…well, the Beeline Highway. And the Four Peaks area.

The sky was magnificent of course, the Peaks had snow, the desert was gorgeous and the air was a chilly 40 degrees. It was awesome to just be out in nature again after the six week hiatus.

So here are some shots from the evening. You will likely notice a different feel to these. Recently for my portrait/wedding work, I’ve switched my processing over to a toolset called VSCO Film. I used a few of their presets and combined them with my own tweaks to come up with something I just love. It’s been fantastic for all the photoshoots, I absolutely dig how my images are looking these days.

But I wanted to try that same kind of film style on these desert images. And I love it. Truly. It’s actually created a debate in my head on how I want to do this kind of thing going forward.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy them. I used three lenses for these shots below…the Tammy 17-35 2.8, Canon 35 1.4 and Canon 70-200 2.8.

(click to view these on black if you want, and roll through the slideshow)

The next two were taken using the 35mm 1.4 wide open…and I friggin’ love the subtle depth of field.

Had to include this shot of my daughter…bundled up, playing A-Breaker on the iPhone!

Four Peaks

Evening at Four Peaks

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 is l, 115mm, f/14, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

It’s been awhile since I posted a landscape or weather photo on the blog, and even longer since I’ve actually been out shooting that stuff.

But an early winter storm woke me up a bit and the reports of snow on the outlying areas of town Monday morning kicked me into gear. I picked up Lyla from the sitter just after 3pm and we made our way towards Horseshoe Lake, where I had seen snow earlier on the news. But it seemed to have mostly melted by the time we made it up to Scottsdale. At the same time, I could see the Four Peaks standing mightily, covered in snow…so we braved rush hour traffic to get all the way to the Beeline Highway.

There were some incredible clouds around before sunset, but sadly they moved off too quickly for me to get into this composition. But we were still left with those gorgeous peaks, a nice dusting of snow and of course, those stoic saguaro cacti.

I’m vowing to drive up to the top of those peaks the next time we get a good winter storm. Never been there, but I’ve heard it’s awesome.