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Cellular

Cellular - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 125mm, iso 200, f/8.0, 20 sec // buy print)

Amazingly, I still have lightning shots from last summer that I haven’t posted yet! If you grabbed a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, you’ve likely seen this already.

This was an amazing night with some spectacular lightning strikes hitting all around Casa Grande. I was so stoked when I saw the first strike from the truck and knew I could stop and line it up with this cell phone tower.

Cannot wait for this season…have a major hankering for some lightning chasing.

The Dance

Symmetry - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 205mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

The one fun thing about stormchasing…whether it’s photographing monstrous thunderheads, dust storms, or lightning strikes…is that it’s always different. Something new, something exciting…something you learn.

For instance…lightning strikes. They are never the same. Which is why I love it so much. And even when two lightning strikes almost appear to be mirror reflections of each other, they are still different. Like in this photo.

But it’s still kind of interesting to look at from a sort of “un-microscopic” eye. These two bolts really appear to be doing some kind of dance together…mirroring each others moves. Almost perfect symmetry.

Crashdown

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210 f/4, 125mm, f/8, iso 200, 20 sec // buy print)

One of my favorite characters from the recent epic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica was a guy named Crashdown played by Alex Quartararo Sam Witwer (totally got his name wrong last week when I posted this). I wont tell you how long he was on the show, or what his fate was, but I always remembered him mostly because I thought the actor was pretty cool. So I was thrilled to see him appear as one of the leads on SyFy’s new Being Human series, about vampires, ghosts, werewolves…stuff like that. I absolutely LOVE that show by the way, can’t go wrong with it.

And if you are a sci-fi junkie and haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica yet…take a chance on it. Anyone I’ve told about it has been happy they watched it.

So that was a whole lot of TV blabber just to say I wanted to use the title Crashdown for this image. This was taken this past Tuesday evening, the same as Purple Rain. I had been driving along 387 north of Casa Grande watching for the lightning to hopefully start up when I see it suddenly strike behind this radio/tv/whatever antenna. I saw the composition in my head immediately, slammed on the brakes, grabbed the 70-210mm and put that thing large as life in the frame.

I was just astounded at the number of strikes I got with this antenna in the composition. I’m also intrigued by the intensity of of the lightning I’ve captured over Casa Grande. Both times I’ve been here it’s been all kinds of powerful and epic. You may remember this other one called Chaos of Light.

Almost makes you wonder what that little city did to warrant God’s vengeance.

Intensity (A beautiful mistake)

Intensity - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to see this even more intensely)

There is almost nothing about this capture that was done correctly.

First off, you are looking at a crop of the upper-left third of the original RAW file. Meaning, I didn’t aim too well. This was my first time using the new (old) 70-210mm and this was shot at a focal length of 205mm…so I ended up being a bit closer than I wanted, plus I totally misjudged what I was seeing in the viewfinder, so I was too far down-right.

Secondly…and I’m not sure where the mistake happened, but this was shot at ISO 400. Either I had been using ISO 400 before on some less intense strikes elsewhere and forgot to change it, OR I figured shooting lightning from so far away might need me to boost the ISO up to capture it better.

Either way, the reason the strike is so completely thick and blown out is because I should have been down around 100-200.

All that being said, I LOVE the way this turned out! All summer one of my goals has been to somehow find elevated ground to capture scenes where you can actually SEE the strike land instead of it just being off on the horizon somewhere. I mean, there is something a lot more scary about seeing the exact spot it hits. Maybe you wish you could just zoom in and see if it was some cactus that got wiped off the face of the planet.

My buddy Scott Wood and I were talking the other night out on Bush Highway about how much lightning we’ve captured this summer. Been epic so far. After a subpar year last season, I hope this doesn’t mean next year will be a downward curve again.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm 4.0, 205mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec)

The Dance of the Light

It's Alive - Light over Cave Creek

Being sick for the past 11 days or so, I hadn’t really taken any pictures, to say nothing of actually doing any stormchasing. Somewhat lucky for me, the weather was fairly quiet during most of the time I was couch-ridden, so I didn’t miss much.

But I’m back to normal now and just in time. Last night Arizona had a walloping of storms explode across southeastern portions of the state and the weather moved into Phoenix by early evening. Most of the bad stuff stuck to the east valley, but we got a nice dust storm/haboob and then a great lightning show later on.

To go along with my 5D Mark II, I have a 17-35mm, 50mm and 85mm. That’s it. My focal range isn’t awesome. So earlier this week, I discovered a nice little Canon 70-210mm f/4 that was built in 1988 and the reviews spoke of the high quality of the glass. Yeah, no IS and the zoom was of the telescoping variety, meaning you point it up or down and you’ll probably watch the lens slide around.

Either way, I wanted more range for lightning and it was $118. No brainer. And it arrived yesterday in the nick of time.

With my daughter in tow, we watched the sun go down and then saw some storms developing just north of Bush Highway. We headed up there and were welcomed with some amazing lightning, some of which ended up crashing all around us as we huddled in the car.

A bit later I ran into my buddy Scott Wood and then Bryan C. Snider, another twitter pal. So we hooked up and just shot together the rest of the night. So great to run into those guys and awesome to finally meet Bryan. He’s a solid photog.

This was one of our final spots. I’ll remember it always because the strikes were awesome, but the massive pile of 1/4 inch ants I upset likely will leave a scar on my leg. Ouch.

I have to say, that lens was perfect. This was taken at 160mm and there was no other way I could have shot it. No roads to get us closer to the storm. It was either zoom or watch from afar.

I’m gonna have a lot of fun with that thing.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm 4.0, 160mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec)