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Intensity

A new image I never edited from September 5th, 2017…one of the most spectacular monsoon scenes I’ve personally experienced…the light was so intense from the setting sun, so magical…the color out of control, that I just stood there in awe. Toss in a rainbow, gorgeous desert cactus and shrubs and a strong downburst over Organ Pipe and it was almost too much haha.

Missing this stuff.

Bathed in Light

I must be learning how to be more patient these days, or at least, maybe finally realizing I can’t be on every storm, so might as well do the best I can with what I got. I was way down south yesterday, near Santa Rosa and Pisinemo with some really nice storms, but I had a bad feeling that they wouldn’t last into the night. At the same time, I see a nice line moving into Phoenix and realized I’m probably hosed.

In the past, I may have turned around and raced back home in a panic, but yesterday I stuck it out, got in front of the storms moving towards Organ Pipe and saw some of that magical monsoon light that shows why it’s special to chase out here.
Only captured two lightning strikes yesterday, this was the first and made the entire trip worth it. The rain was cresting the peaks, the sun was blazing on the desert landscape and it was all stunning. There is a little rainbow behind the left saguaro, plus an even fainter second one near the bolt. That Organ Pipe area has really grown on me this year. Always something awesome happening out that way.

And now it’s bed time. I had a time-lapse/photo gig at PIR shooting DC Solar construction lighting equipment at 1am this morning and got home around 5:30. Haven’t slept at all! Time to crash!

Haboob over Organ Pipe

I always knew southern Arizona near the border gets interesting weather…I think I saw a brief landspout down south of Three Points last year, it seems like supercells occur more that way as well, so with some shear in place yesterday and models hinting at storms popping in that vicinity, I waited for a few hours until things started going. Wow once they got going, they exploded. Big hail cores, supercell structure, severe warnings, pea-sized hail hitting the truck. One of my favorite chases here in AZ, culminating in this epic haboob with a stacked shelf cloud rolling over the stunning landscape of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This is a 9-image panorama just to get the entire structure of thing thing in one frame. I have a couple time-lapses I’ll be working on later which should be pretty awesome…definitely up there with my favorites of all-time out here!
And rad to meet up with my buddy Trey Greenwood down there for this chase, we were pretty stoked to see this yesterday…although I have a feeling this kind of thing may happen down there more than we realize!

Cholla at sunset

(please click to view image so it fits your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 0.6 sec // buy print)

Way back in very early February I found a neat little hilltop filled with a mess of cholla cactus. The sun was setting, we had a bit of stormy weather going on and I captured some images of the cactus lit up by the final few rays of light that evening. Here’s a look at the other one I posted a few months ago.

This was my favorite from the day. I really dug the contrast of golden sunlight against the dark blue stormy clouds in the background. It’s also kind of amazing to be looking down and have the hilltop shaded, but the cactus still have light on it. Almost like you are observing the very edge of the sunlight disappearing.

Sunset out at Four Peaks

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, blended brackets // buy print)

Before heading out last Monday to try for a sunset out on Four Peaks after a big winter storm blew through, I hadn’t shot anything “landscapey” for over a month. Was a long drought and it felt good to be out there again.

So like I said, a huge storm hit Arizona this past Sunday and Monday, leaving the high country blanketed in snow. Everyone in the world knew Four Peaks would be included in that, and I believe everyone in the world was out there on Monday evening. Not only a few photographers I know, but a whole herd of others. Never seen it quite like that before.

I tried to separate myself from all of them by driving further than I ever had before, to get someplace new and different. My main objective was to find a spot where a cactus would still be catching that last bit of sunlight while at the same time capturing some color in the sky.

The sunset we all wanted didn’t exactly show up, but the clouds here were worth the trip for me. And there was still a bit of color in them as well.

A gaggle of Cholla

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 0.6sec // buy print)

No, a bunch of Cholla cactus grouped together isn’t called a gaggle. But I always liked that word and felt like using it today. Sure, it usually refers to a flock of geese that are actually not flying, but according to Dictionary.com, it can also mean an assortment of related things.

Feeling like that was a bunch of useless information and curious why I decided to share that with you?

Me too.

We’ve had an incredibly busy, stressful and amazing week. So much has happened with our pending adoption that we haven’t had much time to think, let alone rest much.

So when I saw the rainy clouds rolling into Phoenix yesterday afternoon, it felt like a perfect opportunity to take  a break, throw Lyla in the truck and go for a drive. The clouds weren’t actually dropping rain, but there was “virga” hanging off the bottoms, and I knew when the sun went down, all that virga would just get lit up like a Christmas tree.

Cholla cactus are notorious for capturing light in their needles. It’s one of the more beautiful things about the desert. And one of the most ironic. When they aren’t looking all gorgeous with light, those needles can bore themselves through your shoes, your jeans, your clothes and embed themselves right in your skin. And also they are quite painful.

But when they look like this…you just think…”awwww, they are so cute.

Anyways. This image is pretty tall on the blog, so clicking on it will make it fit to your screen. Also looks a bit better!

Happy Friday everyone.

The rainy desert

Storms on Table Mesa - Arizona Monsoon

I love black and white photography. Earlier this year I made a promise to myself that I would endeavor to do a lot more B&W this summer during stormchasing. What’s kind of happened is that I’m really enjoying colors. I’ll try it without any color and will usually end up going back.

This one, however, I really liked with some harsh black and white processing.

Rain falling on the desert, some beautiful textures in the clouds…and a single peak (hard to see) on the left horizon shrouded in light from the sun.

It’s hard to beat capturing the stormy skies of the desert down here in Arizona.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4, iso 100, 17mm, f/18, 1/40sec)

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)