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Drift

An incredibly cooll scene out at the Four Peaks on July 1st, 2016. Strong winds push a dumping hail core way out ahead of the updraft and on top of the Four Peaks Mountain Range.

One of the coolest things I’ve seen during the monsoon in Arizona. The tower on the left was an incredible updraft that I got to see explode upwards, and then the hail started falling…but strong winds took the downdraft and pushed it southeastward over the Four Peaks. Not sure I’ve seen anything like that…Tim Marshall called it a “hail drift”, which sounds about right 🙂 I got the entire genesis of it on time-lapse too, so that will mostly undoubtedly make the final edit of Monsoon III, whenever that comes out!

Killer chase yesterday, ending on Interstate 8 with a fantastic lightning show. Today I switch gears to shoot an intimate wedding in the Red Rocks of Sedona!

Imminent

Imminent
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/125th, f/8 // buy print)

Nothing I love more than an ominous, impending haboob rolling towards me across a great landscape. This was taken back on July 3rd, 2014, on that big day that ended up being the kickoff special for the monsoon this summer. I snapped this along a dirt road south of Highway 387, which is about five miles or so north of Casa Grande, just east of Interstate 10. It didn’t look like much about 10 minutes before this, but as it neared, the intensity picked up and it became fairly robust looking.

We chased this from its birth south of Picacho Peak, to here along Highway 387, north to Riggs Road and finally as it hit downtown Phoenix. This is also a still frame from a time-lapse I shot, which will be part of my annual summer monsoon film coming out next week hopefully!

 

Thunderstorm on Luepp Road

Thunderstorm on Luepp
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/9, 1/200sec // buy print)

One of the more beautiful areas of Arizona is this little stretch of highway on Luepp Road northeast of Flagstaff. You take it to get to Grand Falls, which is where I was headed this day.

What I love about this terrain are the smooth mountains that were former volcanoes in another life. You don’t really get to see them too well in this photo, but the left horizon is the start of one of these mountains. But the grasslands are still amazing and the scenery is beautiful. In various places roads head off into the distance as this area is also used as farm land.

Of course all of it is made better by a gorgeous little downpour from a monsoon storm. One of my favorite images from last summer.

A Colorado gust front

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso400, 1/250th // buy print)

Gust fronts are pretty cool to see. What you see in the photo above is akin to a tidal wave that has passed over you, heading for somewhere else. That hard edge is the front and all the creepy clouds behind it are in its wake.

These are also known as outflow boundaries, which is what we see A TON of here in Arizona during the summers. Except ours usually include a giant wall of dust to go with it. Out on the Colorado plains, there was some dust, but mostly you just had crazy strong winds and a wicked sky.

My wife Jina loved this image and picked up on something I didn’t…the juxtaposition of the green wheat and the dead field on the other side of the road.  I was there, so it didn’t stand out to me as much as the clouds did. I find it hilarious what I can miss in my own images…God bless my wife.

Not too long ago I picked up a cheap-o Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens to use for timelapsing while stormchasing this summer. With an extra body now for weddings, I’d like to be able to timelapse and take normal photos with two wide angle lenses at the same time. Shouldn’t have sold the old Tamron 17-35, but I did when I bought the Canon 17-40.

Anyways, since this lens is not only manual focus, but also a manual aperture, I don’t remember what f-stop I was at for this! But regardless, I love the lens…so crazy wide, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

 

A road less traveled

A road less traveled - Arizona dirt road clouds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/60 // buy print)

A random dirt road off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The day was supposed to be epic up north, but it turned out to be mostly a bust. Still, my daughter and I drove down this road looking for something interesting to shoot against the puffy clouds and desert-y terrain.

I climbed a low hill to shoot the giant rocks up there, but ended up seeing this instead and liked it a whole lot better. Love me some roads and love seeing them curve and bend as they disappear.

The stormy skies of Arizona

Storming in Arizona - Monsoons

(Click to see larger on a black background)

There is no doubt that Arizona has some of the best skies anywhere in the country, especially during the monsoon season. The desert landscapes, mountains, terrain…they all work together with the clouds to create amazing views. Certainly we don’t get the awesome supercells that the midwest sees, but they get stuck with a lot of the same farmlands and wheat fields most of the time. The diversity of Arizona is incredible.

This monsoon season has been completely opposite of last year for me. I have just a sick amount of lightning shots, but not that many storm images. Last season I had all kinds of sunsets, storm clouds, silhouettes and other kinds of images that I just haven’t gotten this year. I think living in downtown Phoenix has caused that a bit…because last year I could leave just before sunset and be in the desert within five minutes, but now it takes over 30 to get anywhere without population.

Today though there is a great chance of storms and I’m planning on a long excursion starting around noon in southern Arizona to hopefully capture some awesome clouds and storm structures…and of course finish the day off with some lightning photography.

This image was shot back on July 9th somewhere between Phoenix and Sedona on a random dirt road. Although I love shooting lightning, these kinds of vistas are what I long for. Although I really love massive thunderheads…I still enjoy capturing dark clouds and rain falling on the deserts.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 1/25 – buy print)

Se7en

Powerline Sunset in Nevada

(Click to view in lightbox, the choice of a new generation)

If you haven’t seen the movie Se7en, then you probably wont get how it connects with the image above. You probably wont get the horrific moment it represents in the film either. And I don’t want to give anything away for people who still want to watch it, so I’ll do my best to just skip those details.

Needless to say, when I was processing this photo…it was suddenly obvious that it was going to be used for Movie Title Wednesday. I think I even may have had an inkling when I was standing out there taking this.

On a side note, I still am having so much fun with this series. It’s amazing how many images you can take…things that may be similar in a lot of ways (like the bazillion sunsets or sunrises I post) but somehow you find something unique in each of that that can relate to a movie. I love it.

The movie Se7en stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman back in their younger days, and revolves around a serial killer that murders people for breaking The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s gruesome, brutal and I absolutely loved it. One of those great, great thriller/horror/crime films that will always be remembered by movie fans. The scene depicted by the above photo was one of those that will forever be stuck in my brain.

This was taken a few weeks ago during my latest trip to Las Vegas. I had just returned from exploring El Dorado Canyon and the Nelson ghost town area, and was racing to find a great location to capture the sunset. The spot above is situated south of Boulder City and lies in a very wide, bowl-shaped valley. These powerlines in some areas stretched forever, and you could see them for 10’s of miles as they would go up a distant hillside. The symmetry was awesome, and so when the sunset arrived, I knew this is where I wanted to be.

Because of the aspherical aspects of my Tamron 17-35mm, the powerline towers are a bit flatter than reality (even after lens correction), but you can kind of see how the road goes on and on and on forever and the towers go right along with it.

This was taken just a few days before the Super Moon and you can see it in the upper right corner.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100)

Sunrise over Boob Mountain

I was on my way to Williams, Arizona with my work buddy Jesse, followed up by another guy named Steve in his truck. We had to do a little client support up there so to get to the site by 7:30am, you need to leave Phoenix around 4. These two guys both smoke and so we ended up pulling over on Table Mesa Road for a little morning cigarette break and also to satisfy my need for a sunrise photo. Because man, if I have to get up at 4 o-clock in the morning for work, at least let me get a photograph out of it.

I’m setting up my tripod, Jesse is telling Steve about HDR and why I’m going to end up taking so many exposures, the sky changes to an insane array of colors and tones, and I’m just happy we pulled over when we did.

Now Jesse is a car guy and an off road guy. Rarely does a weekend go by that he’s not out in the desert, squeezing his Toyota pickup through tight spots and narrow canyons. He’s been all over Arizona, seen many things and has been to a lot of places that he tells me I need to photograph.

So as I’m shooting brackets, he leans over to me:

“You know the locals around here call that Boob Mountain.”

I laugh.

“You know Jesse, I’m totally going to post this photo on my blog and call it ‘Sunrise over Boob Mountain’ now right?”

He laughs.

Later in the car.

“Mike, you know I was joking about the name right. I just made that up.”

“I know.”

Fine, I didn’t know, but the name was awesome, we had a good laugh about it and there was no way I wouldn’t end up posting this someday without using Jesse’s made up mountain.

Power

In my head I see the word “power” represented three times in this image. I shot this a few weeks back during the severe storms we were having here in Arizona. My buddy Bryan was with me at this spot and we were just marveling over the thundering clouds, the speed of their movement and the sun exploding with rays everywhere.

I made several attempts to process this photo with HDR, but it never looked right and I ended up coming back to this version a few times.

So can you see the three forms of power in the photo yet?

Obviously, the powerlines right? I mean, that’s obvious. I love them in this shot. You’d figured with this awesome set of sunrays and a massive thunderstorm, you wouldn’t want anything in front of that scene. I dunno, it works here for me. The powerlines kind of disappear to the horizon and it brings a little depth to the photo.

Second form of power is the sun. Duh…probably the most powerful form of energy for many, many light years. I mean, just look at it.

The last one is the storm itself. It was building so fast and moving at a 50mph+ clip…you could just sense the raw power contained inside it. These storms packed high winds and damaging hail. Not something you normally see in these parts.

Definitely ended up being one of the best storm chasing days for me ever in Arizona.

A random dirt road near the San Tans

Dead corn stalks, weeds, brown dirt, powerlines, contrails caused by airplanes overhead, mid-day sun…nothing beautiful here right?

Ah, trick question…of course it’s beautiful! This is my old stomping grounds…Gilbert Road, the San Tan Mountains in the distance…I’d sit here and look for sunsets, lightning, clouds, whatever.

I shot this back in December of last year but never really processed it until a few weeks ago. I went out that day because I had recently discovered how much the HDR process can reveal in a daytime sky filled with airplane contrails. When you stand out there with the glaring sun…it’s hard to make out the clouds. A single snap of the frame gives you the mountains and road…but the sky is obliterated. HDR allows you to pull in those awesome lines and let them interact with your foreground.

Hope you guys enjoy this one…it’s special to me for some reason. I just love the lines…the road disappearing along with the powerlines…the clouds zig-zagging…so glad I went back and found this guy.