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The Great Haboob Chase on Interstate 8

On July 9th, 2018, I woke up in Blythe, California, and checked the forecast one more time and it confirmed what I already knew the day before: the potential for an awesome storm rolling west down Interstate 8 was looking pretty good. And with that came the likelihood of a dust storm, or haboob. I already had the entire day’s route planned out…I’d hit south near the border towns of Sells and Santa Rosa, then head back north to I-8 to catch the storm outflows from Phoenix and central Arizona.

Rarely does a forecast come to fruition so perfectly…but this one did. I chased some good severe storms in the far southern portions of the state, and then headed north…hitting the town of Chuichu south of I-8 just as things got rolling. A big microburst kicked up a wall of dust that would move west and eventually merge with other, strong storms that rolled through Phoenix.

We jumped on I-8 and got west out of the dust and pulled over first at Vekol Road, my favorite spot along that freeway. The wall of dust was incredibly impressive…shelf cloud over it, the dust connecting right into the cloud base…it was amazing.

It was around 5:00pm at that point…and the chase would continue, for hours, all the way to Yuma. One of my final shots came around 8:30pm in the area of Ligurta. All told, around 140 miles and three and a half hours of chasing. Never have I chased a wall of dust for that long. Or been chased!

Besides July 5th, 2011…this was hands down, the best haboob I’ve ever seen. So many shapes and sizes. Incredibly density and definition. And the colors at sunset. Magnificent.

The film has all the clips from start to finish…somewhat in order, but not always. The microburst at the start was in Chuichu and the final scene was Ligurta.

It was fun to not only share this with some other chasers all having the time of their lives, but also with two of my kiddos. What an experience to have together!

Hope you enjoy this, and the music by Ryan Taubert.

I shot around 5,000 frames on two Canon 5DSR’s for this. Lenses were the Canon 11-24mm and 50mm 1.2.

Edited with Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Microburst out by Gila Bend.

Microburst
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, f/8.0, iso 200, 1/1000, lightning trigger)

Yesterday as I was time-lapsing a few cells rolling by, I look over to the southernmost one and I see a giant ball falling from the rain. There had been talk from the NWS and the SPC of wet microbursts…and I’ve seen them before, but never like this.

This was just west of Gila Bend over farm lands. The storms were moving to the north, and this back cell was building as I was standing there shooting. And then boom, I see this clump of rain falling. It was incredible to see. It had speed too. Even on video you could really see it going. The shot below gives you a better idea of the “ball” look as it was halfway to the ground…but I like the above one because, well, there is a lightning bolt there 🙂

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Out of the cloud

Out of the Cloud
(please click to view this image on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 160, f/8.0, 15 sec // buy print)

Last season I captured a brief timelapse of a thunderhead building up with lightning illuminating it from the inside. What made it awesome was the moonlight. The moon was almost full and thus the cloud was already visible with the naked eye even though it was well past dark. It made it extra awesome because you could already see the cloud building almost as if it were daytime, and then the lightning as also visibly illuminating the cloud as well.

Since that night I so badly wanted to capture some storms with the moon nearing fullness. And on October 17th, it finally happened.

I was out on Interstate 8 near Gila Bend shooting north when I look behind me and see this line of storms building. What’s so awesome is that normally, without the moonlight, I likely wouldn’t have seen it very well…and maybe missed it entirely. But with that extra light, I could see the cloud plain as day. One section started growing larger, so I aimed that way and waited.

Even more interesting was the fact that this cloud didn’t even seem that big. But boom! Bolts started raining down. Standing there it almost felt like the strikes themselves were just as tall as the cloud. I’ve never captured lightning from a such a small storm before…I couldn’t even believe it produced anything.

Definitely one of my favorite shots from 2013.

The creation of a dust storm | Timelapse

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A powerful microburst fell onto the desert floor south of Gila Bend on August 13th, 2012. I was moments too late to capture the birth of it, but I timelapsed what I could.

This should really give you an idea of how these things form out of nothing…a strong draft of air falls from the thunderhead and explodes in all directions. When this happens out in the desert, the dust picks up and you can see how the air ripples outwards like in a pool of water.

This was a painstaking timelapse to finish because I sadly shot it at f/18 so I could have 1/5th sec shutter speeds to hopefully give myself a chance to capture lightning (ND filters next year). And I did get a few lightning strikes actually! But it resulted in horrible dust spots and bad flicker. This is made up of 838 exposures and I manually de-flickered them because third party apps weren’t working for me. That was a very, very long and tedious process. I never want to do that again.

But I felt this one was worth it and happy to be done with it now!

The image at the top is a quick capture of the initial outflow picking up dust as I was setting up for the timelapse. Below is the video itself.

Lay down your burdens

The Sofa -

(please click to view this nasty ol’ couch on black)

(title from the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack)

When I’m stormchasing, I can get very tunnel-visioned. I have a goal of where I want to get to and sometimes I’m unable to relax and just enjoy the stuff I see along the way. Of course, that usually depends on the situation, because other times I can be completely mellow and just go where the wind takes me.

This shot was from Labor Day and I believe my buddy Ken is the one who pulled the vehicle over. I was too busy being wishy-washy about whether we should run to Yuma or just hang out here.

Anyways…Ken took this big photography class from Mark Wallace not too long ago and one of his assignments was to do one big project on “something.” He decided to use me as his subject and basically created a little documentary/episode of the day in the life of a stormchaser.

So this couch. It actually doesn’t look that bad. But that doesn’t mean anything. It could be full of scorpions or God knows what. And yes…Ken wanted me to sit on it to get a posed shot for his project. I did it…but it was on the arm rest and I wasn’t very comfortable.

As for my photo…I love stuff like this. A desert landscape with something completely random throw into the mix to provide an awesome scene. Usually when I find some kind of “lost” element in my images, I really play with the tones and style of the image. I like to get crazy and give something like this a stark, post-apocalyptic look and feel.

What makes an image like this fun for me…it throws together two things I love: Weather and lost things. If you know anything about me, I rarely go out to shoot landscapes unless there are clouds, and mostly, stormy clouds. If it’s a blue sky, I wont even pack the camera. The other thing I love is urbex…farmex (gonna call this desertex for the fun of it)…stuff that has been abandoned or left for dead. So combining those into one image…well…that’s frakking awesome.

Have a great weekend!

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100 – buy print)

The Arizona Twister

The Arizona Twister or Dust Devil

(please click to enjoy a view on black!)

If dust devils were tornadoes, Arizona would be the capital of the world. During these hot summer days, you can drive down the long interstates through the desert and see these towering twisters of dust almost anywhere.

They can be tiny things, barely 10 feet tall and they sputter out after minutes. Or they can be long-lasting, tornado-like vortices that sometimes make you do a double-take to just make sure it’s not an actual twister.

While out stormchasing on Labor Day, my buddy Ken and I spotted this elephant trunk-like dust devil that lasted for quite awhile. It had to be hundreds of feet up in the air. Usually when you see a good one, it’s only going to last minutes so it’s not always easy to capture them. And even harder to get a backdrop like we got here. I’ve actually never photographed a dust devil quite like this before.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4 l, f/16, iso 100, 1/250th – buy print)