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Ackerly

A gorgeous supercell slowly moves over the farmlands of Texas near the town of Ackerly.

Another image from May 31st when we were chasing marginal storms in west Texas hoping for something good and then a boundary collided with a storm near Lamesa and it exploded into a gorgeous supercell for about an hour.
This is near the town of Ackerly as it began to slowly die out, but not before it gave us some stunning lightning, structure and beautiful colors.

Monsoon III (4K)

Blu-Ray discs available by clicking here
Song by Kerry Muzzey: “Revenge”/ “Revenge: Epilogue” (on iTunes and Amazon)
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If you asked the average person, many would characterize this summer’s monsoon as a down season. Not a lot of storms overall and it seemed generally more quiet. And in many ways it actually was a slower season. All told I chased about 36 days for this film, which was less than the 48 in 2015. We had an early start in late June, and then it was dead for almost three weeks. When I looked back and realized I chased 12 less days…yeah, it definitely had less action than normal.

But to a storm chaser, none of this really means anything. Sure there were days when nothing was remotely possible to chase, but most of the time the monsoon can be found in the far corners of the state even when Phoenix and Tucson are dry as a bone.

For me personally, I loved this season. Maybe because as a filmmaker, having put out a few of these films now, I’m beginning to focus and hone in more on what I really love to time-lapse. My early scenes years ago had a lot of average clouds and distant rain that didn’t have a lot of excitement or energy. But as the years go on, and I learn more and more about chasing storms here in Arizona…I’ve found myself in better spots to capture the stuff I really enjoy. Strong downbursts of rain, building clouds, lightning…and yes, dust storms.

The one thing I was hoping for in 2016 that the previous years have lacked: Haboobs. Dust storms. Rolling walls of dirt and sand engulfing the deserts and even Phoenix itself. And my wish came true in that regard. Even a very late season, September 27th haboob that I captured right at sunset with glorious colors.

Coming off the heels of filming Vorticity in the spring, with monster supercells and tornadoes, the monsoon is a totally different beast and you’d think it would be less exciting. I don’t know. I find them both amazing and inspiring. Weather to me is weather. No matter how mind-blowing it was to witness the Wynnewood tornado this past spring, standing in front of a rolling wall of dust, or a distant lightning storm under the stars…it’s all a blast to me and I never get tired of it.

So Monsoon III…the credits will say it, but it was around 36 days of filming, I shot over 85,000 frames and am not sure how much made it into the final cut. The song I used was “Revenge” and “Revenge: Epilogue” by Kerry Muzzey, and I took both of them and sliced and diced them until I actually had a six-minute version to fit in with all the footage I captured.

As always…THANK YOU to Kerry Muzzey for supporting my work by letting me use his music once again. I don’t even have enough words for this man for doing this for me. It means more than anything!

I started editing this film mid-summer once I figured out the song I was using. And as days went by and more clips were rendered, I kept adding them and re-arranging them all the time, trying to get every clip to match the tone and feeling of the music. And then I’d think I was done and more storms would come and I’d have to move things around again, and even drop stuff. I have a lot of fun stuff that’s not in this film because I only wanted the very best!

Special thanks to Bryan Snider and Dustin Farrell for some tips this summer on editing out dust spots and birds better than I had been doing. Appreciate it fellas!

My wife takes the brunt of what I do, especially when I’m gone for days at a time. Filming in Arizona is easier because I’m usually home at some point in the evening and at least around in the mornings. But it’s a lot of work and a lot of time being away. She supports me like no other and I can’t believe how lucky I am to have someone with that much faith in what I do.

And a lot of these clips will forever hold memories for me because my two oldest kiddos were there for a lot of them, and at times even all three were nearby. My littlest guy who just turned three, sits on my lap while I edit a lot, listens to the music and loves watching the final product. And he wants to keep watching it…over, and over and over.

Makes a daddy proud.

I hope you enjoy this latest installment. Please let me know if you have any questions about anything! Most of these clips were shot in 8K with some 4K stuff thrown in there as well.

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Captured with a Canon 5DSR, two 5D3’s, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.
Processed using Lightroom, LR Timelapse, After Effects and Premiere Pro

Erupt

An isolated supercell south of Paducah, Texas, explodes upwards in an eruption of cumulus.
Other than the Wynnewood tornado day, this isolated gem from June 14th south of Paducah, Texas was probably my favorite storm of the spring.

This is a frame from the time-lapse I shared in my film Vorticity. I had gotten on it earlier on the north side but I knew it was all wrong. The storm started moving more east/southeast, not northeast, so I bailed through some dirt roads and drove south until I got into a position where I though the storm was moving right towards me.

And boy did it. I sat here for around 50 minutes, which is a long time for me when I’m time-lapsing a storm. This beast was exploding upwards with such ferocity, it was incredible. During that entire 50 minutes, the storm never moved off course, it came directly at me and eventually right over my head.

There is nothing quite like an isolated storm. And the crepuscular rays were insane. Definitely a highlight of the spring!

Shelf near San Manuel

A monster shelf cloud moves towards the small community of San Manuel in southeastern Arizona

A monster shelf cloud moves towards the small community of San Manuel in southeastern Arizona

What a fantastic chase on Monday. I hung around the Marana area for a lot of the afternoon, but when a new cluster of storms blew up southwest of Casa Grande, I raced up there hoping they would do something great.

And wow they did. I’ll post more pictures later, but when I arrived south of Picacho, I time-lapsed a gorgeous storm as it slowly grew in strength and became weakly supercellular. The dusty outflow was intense and I cannot wait to get those time-lapses edited!
I raced back ahead of it and by this time the storm was picking up speed and it was tough to stay in front. As I neared Oracle Junction, a new cell blew up and essentially merged with the old one and now a shelf cloud was rapidly forming.

A slow truck kept me from racing as far ahead as I wanted, but by the time I got to the San Manuel Airport, the shelf cloud had turned into easily one of the top 3 I’ve seen here in Arizona. It was stunning, moving fast and behind it, golf ball sized hail was falling in places.

Such a blast of a day…so rare here to chase a long-track storm. This guy essentially blew up near Chuichu and died east of San Manuel. Almost 80 miles. Wow.

Near Ackerly, Texas

A gorgeous supercell hovers over the farmlands near Ackerly, Texas

May 31st was one of those days where you would have been happy to see just about anything. Marginal, not much hope…and we had woken up early in Garden City, KS and drove all the way to Lubbock, Texas just for a shot.

We got on one storm early, but as it died out, a southern storm near Lamesa was growing and an outflow boundary was headed right for it. Once they merged, the storm went full-blown supercell and it lasted for around an hour…such a treat on a day when we were worried we wouldn’t see much!

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!

Waves

A shelf cloud passed over minutes before, leaving in its wake low hanging clouds that looked as if you were staring up at a crashing wave in the ocean.

A shelf cloud passed over this house minutes before, leaving in its wake low hanging clouds that looked like an ocean wave rolling over you from underwater. It was a stunning scene and the time-lapse of this shelf rolling over my position is pretty insane. Can’t wait to share it when my next film comes out later in June!

May 16th, 2016 near Spearman, TX

The Katie, Oklahoma tornado

A powerful, EF3 tornado spins through the small rural community of Katie, Oklahoma on May 9th, 2016.

I’m still in utter disbelief that I saw what I did two days ago in Oklahoma. What turned out to be a destructive and deadly tornado was at the same time one of the most beautiful and amazing things I’ve ever seen in my life. When I turned down this road and it was right down the center…I almost lost my mind. And it seemed to hang out there as it was obviously moving right towards me. I eventually moved south to time-lapse it from a different spot, but Ruppe Road and Katie, Oklahoma will always be a place I remember. And Chester Barnes, an old man who lost his life somewhere near here.

I have more tornado photos to share as well, of this one, of it roping out, of the wedge later near Sulphur and a third one near Connorville. What a day.

(Technical notes. Wish I had taken the time for a tripod and not f/4, but when a tornado is coming your way…you forget things. You can also compare this to the first shot I posted…taken from the exact same location, that one was a 135mm and this was 16mm)

Drillbit

As we stood there watching a radpidly rotating wall cloud spin west of Canadian, Texas...a little drillbit of a funnel started to drop and while it never touched the ground that we saw, it was stunning to see in person.

Ahhh…I can’t wait for spring to get here! This was May 27th, 2015…as we stood there watching a rapidly rotating wall cloud spin west of Canadian, Texas…a little drillbit of a funnel started to drop and while it never touched the ground that we saw, it was stunning to see in person.
I think that was the first time I’d ever really seen a funnel form like that right in front of my eyes. So badly wanted it to touch the ground.

The Growler

Probably my favorite photo from spending 14 days on the plains in the spring of 2015. This intense, nasty looking supercell was approaching Lamar, Colorado with a tornado warning and huge hail. This was an image I didn't even edit or remember I had taken until well into the summer. What a surprise to stumble upon it.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, iso 100, 16mm, f/5, 1/50th // buy print)

Sometimes an image is so important to you, so special, that you almost never want to share it. Fear maybe? That you will be the only one who loves it? Or once you share it, the rest of your current work waiting for the light of day just pales in comparison?

For me, it’s both. And maybe some other, more personal reasons. I never want to tell people how to feel about my photos. I want them to discover it on their own. So I rarely try to build up an image as one of my best or favorites.

But this one. This one. I didn’t even know I had it for awhile. It didn’t jump out at me at first because it was a quick snap from the road as we stopped for a second to evaluate things. I knew I took it for a reason, but on my computer, the RAW file was flat. One day late this summer, I saw it again and stared at it and was like…how did I miss this??

These are the images I want to capture. A storm’s raw emotion. It’s anger. It’s beauty. The textures, the motion, the crazy colors…and the simple landscape.

This is why I love what I do. I hope you enjoy this one. It’s the best thing I’ve done this year.

(South of Lamar, Colorado, May 24th, 2015)

PS. I will be doing a screencast soon on how I edited this one, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you will get notified when it’s available. Do that right here.