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An old house in Colorado

The House - Colorado Thunderstorm Mammatus

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, 1/320 f? // buy print)

Here’s another image from our brief trip to the central plains for a little bit of spring stormchasing.  An amazing display of mammatus was headed our way and I was on the lookout for something special to capture in the foreground. Sure enough, we stumbled upon this old house just beckoning us to include it in our compositions.

I’ve never seen mammatus clouds like that before, so it was kind of a thrill to get them on camera finally.

I used the Rokinon 14mm on  his one, which not only is manual focus, but also has a manual aperture ring, so I have no clue what I shot this at. It was handheld, so probably wider than f/8.

A fun trip, I still have a few more images to share at some point!

The hand of God

The Hand of God - Oklahoma Panhandle Thunderstorm

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/400th // buy print)

When we saw this thing explode along the dry line in the Oklahoma panhandle…it was a sight to behold. It’s weird how stormchasing works. You setup in some location, the skies are clear and you wait. Your forecasting buddies have told you that a dry line will be moving eastward, hitting moisture and instability, and somewhere west of Woodward, OK…storms should start firing off in the next hour.

And then boom, clouds go nuts.

I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to predict weather even with all our technology, but at the same time, I marvel at how much we do know.

This storm ended up being the cell that produced that massive anvil in a photo I posted last week. The scene above was about 15-20 minutes before that.

The way the anvil starts spreading at the top right of the cloud reminding me of a giant hand reaching out. And with an angelic light behind it from the sun…who else could it be but God?

A giant anvil in Oklahoma

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 125, 1/400th, f/8 // buy print)

This was a storm that had a ton of promise when it first exploded out of nothingness…we watched the entire thing happen in front of us. But it just kind of sat in one spot, looked pretty for a bit, but eventually got busted by a weather term known as a “cap”…a lid on the atmosphere that prevents storms from getting any higher and thus more severe.

A tough image to process from a single exposure…lots of harsh light from behind the cloud. I’ve been using nothing but luminosity masks and levels adjustments in Photoshop lately for all my landscape/storm processing, plus RAW adjustments in Lightroom. Still learning…I love the results compared to ways I’ve done it in the past.

The cotton fields

The cotton fields - monsoons arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/125 // buy print)

If you ordered a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, or happened to see my Best of 2011, you may have seen this image already.

But it was one of my top five probably from last year’s monsoon season, so I felt like it was owed it’s own blog post. Right?

Am I the only one that believes his images have feelings and would feel shunned if they didn’t get their own blog time? I mean, yes, this one made it into the book, but they all know the blog is the shiznit. The place you want to be. Where the magic happens.

So ANYWAYS, this is from north of Tucson overlooking a huge cotton field. Awesome storm on the horizon dropping rain. Nothing I like more than a wide vista or landscape with a distant rain storm.

There was also a timelapse to go with this.

I humbly apologize to this image for taking so long to give it the honor it so richly deserved. You weren’t forgotten. Just lost in the shuffle. I wont let it happen again.

A tree in the wind

(click to see a bigger tree with a nice black border)

Time for a nice little break from all the storm photos! So sometimes you get shots on purpose and most of the time it seems they come from unplanned moments or complete accidents.

While I was in Kansas awaiting a line of storms to move into my vicinity, I sat at a pull-out and took a nap. I hadn’t slept but two hours in the last 30, so I was beat. I woke up about 30 minutes later and of course had to use the restroom. There was a lot of traffic on the road, so I wandered away from my car around some haystacks to find a little privacy. Yeah, I took my camera. I dunno why, I think I wanted to make people driving by think I was actually out taking pictures, not trying to relieve myself.  Maybe because there was a gas station across the street, but I was just too lazy to drive over there. Who knows. I had just woken up!

Either way, I wandered around a bit and saw this tree moving with the wind. It was just a tree along this recently cut wheat field, but I think it was the way it looked swooshing around in this strong breeze that caught my attention. I also had my 50mm on the camera and opened it up to f/1.8 and focused on the nearest leaf to me, leaving the rest of the tree falling off into bokeh-ville. I saw it on my screen after shooting it and fell in love with it.

There is something beautiful to me about the sound of a tree blowing in the wind. I think I sometimes link it to the approach of a coming storm…where it’s been quiet, but the wind picks up, the leaves start rustling around and you know something is on the horizon. I watched the tree for a few minutes before moving on.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/1.8, iso 100, 1/1250th)

Forrest Gump

(Click to see the spooky house larger in all its spookiness. Looks better with a nice, dark border)

For any new readers, it’s Movie Title Wednesday on my blog, where I try to link a photograph I take to a movie I’ve seen…and enjoyed.

Definitely up there in my Top 10 All-Time Movie list is Forrest Gump. Heck, it’s impact on our culture was big enough to warrant an actual sign on the highway that Forrest Gump “ran” on during the movie (see Kristi’s photo). It was a movie where I felt like I kind of sat there with my mouth open at times, completely sucked into the story that was unfolding before me. I think the first time I saw it was at the same time that a new theatrical sound system had been released and I just remember the auditorium rocking with all the big moments.

If you haven’t seen the film, I would be shocked. But if you really haven’t, go check it out…Tom Hanks is amazing, the writing, the acting, the story…it’s brilliant.

I was a bit curious when writing this up on how many people would know the way this relates to Forrest Gump without me connecting the dots. Take a guess and then read on.

If you recall, Jenny was abused as a child by her drunk father and years later returned to her old home…an old house on a farm completely falling apart. She starts throwing rocks at it and afterwards Forrest has it bulldozed to the ground.

It was always an important scene in the film and it’s one of the first things I thought of when I passed this abandoned farm house out in Kansas last week. I knew right away that I’d process it in a creepy way to really bring home that scene in the film and how it might have looked to Jenny standing there so many years later.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 27mm, iso 100, f/16)

A Kansas sunset

A sunset in a wheat field in kansas

(Click on the image for a larger-than-normal view…also makes the wheat field a bit more visible)

There was something special about this sunset. I don’t know what it was, but when I was crouching down in front of this wheat field, I was in awe. Here I was, in western Kansas, in a place I’d never been before, in the middle of nowhere, not a sound but chirping birds, not a car to be seen…witnessing something beautiful.

The irony is that this was our last gasp for a storm on Wednesday before it was time for me to go. My buddy Shane and I had seen these things popup out of nowhere, so we turned the car around, drove up this highway and waited. After the sun went down, these clouds got closer and closer…and even though we knew deep down inside that there was a 1% chance we’d get a storm from these…we watched until the bitter end.

Despite the symbol of failure this final chance gave us…it was also incredibly moving. The little journey I went on somehow led me to this place to see this thing.

I’m glad I have some images like these to look back on. Most of you know how disappointed I was afterwards when I didn’t go out there to get what I wanted.

But perhaps I got what I was supposed to get?

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 100, 1/20th)

A crisp morning in Canada

I’m posting this image for my good buddy Heath, a great photog (check out his work!) and a Canadian, which is where the scene above resides: Ontario. He’s enjoyed some of my photos from my time there, so I figured I’d go ahead and post one more.

I ran out into this field to grab this image of a tree at dawn. The photo above looks a little more flat color-wise than the one that would be printed, but if you click on the larger version, you can really see the light and shadows on the tree trunk, which gives you an idea of the sunlight just hitting the field. It was also bitter cold, I think around 25 degrees and for a Phoenix boy, that’s DANG CHILLY.

Sticking to the theme of this previous image, Field of Dreams, this one is also overlayed with a texture I shot in Bruges earlier this year. I may do a little more editing on this photo before it’s finalized.

As dead as these scenes look…brown, no leaves, sticks, dirt…I simply love them. I could have been out there for hours finding places like this with amazing looking trees.

Field of Dreams

You know those kinds movies right? You are lazying around on a Saturday or Sunday, you flip the channels, you see THAT movie, the movie that you’ll now start watching, no matter how long it’s been on, and you get sucked in each and every time.

Field of Dreams is one of those for me. There are so many cool moments in the film that build off each other, it’s easy to get pulled right into the plot. Plus, unless you are a brick-wall-of-emotions, it kinds of gets you choked up right?

“Hey dad…you wanna have  a catch?”

Oh man, gets to me every time 🙂

So it’s another Movie Title Wednesday on the MO blog and this is a picture snapped back in Ontario, Canada last December. I think I processed this once, back then, and didn’t like it, so I forgot about it. But my skills with doing HDR have drastically improved since then and this second go-round was much more fun. It’s hard to dislike the gorgeous light coming from the just rising sun that is behind me. The field is made up of dead, harvested corn stalks, which is what made me think of this movie in the first place. The water in the field, if I remember correctly, was partially ice.

The sky was okay in the shot, but a smidge boring for this weather nut who likes high drama, so I mixed in a texture I shot in Bruges, Belgium a few months back. Good tip for you travelers: If you love textures, try to pull your eyes away from the wide angle shots of the city or town you are in, and look closer at the cobblestone, or doors or windows…and find yourself a “memento” that you can take back and use with other photographs. While it’s all done digitally, there was something very cool to me with combining a photograph of a barn in Ontario with a wood texture from Bruges.

Wishing you were a wall cloud

Most of you know I went on a stormchasing trip to Nebraska earlier this year. The reason I went was to see stuff like in the picture above. Of course, when you see stuff like that in Oklahoma, Kansas, etc., you run and hide because that’s looking like a fairly monster-sized funnel dropping to the ground.

Ah, but in Phoenix…it’s rarely that. This storm had no rotation, it was just a severe thunderstorm that had the look of something much more evil. I loved it…and was kind of glad it wasn’t a funnel, because it was coming right at me and I didn’t want to move. A glorious storm, right after this it kicked up dust under the funnel area of the cloud and suddenly a wall of dust came flying at me within a few minutes.

I ran to the car before the big dust got there, went home…watched the sky over us get darker…watched my daughter play in her first rain storm, and then we all watched from the doorway as a massive microburst engulfed our neighborhood in wind, rain and spotty hail stones. We received 1.3 inches of rain at my house in about 60 minutes. That’s an insane amount of water.

A fun storm, probably will end up being the pinnacle of the monsoon season at my house and one of the best in a few years.