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Willcox Shelf

One of the best nights of last summer…September 1st, sitting here just NE of Willcox with my buddy Chris Frailey shooting lightning for over an hour. We were in such a good spot to watch it get close, but never really overtake us, so we score far away bolts, then super close strikes…and this beautiful shelf cloud rolling towards us with tons of lightning underneath it.

Obliterate

Something like hellfire rains down on these mountains west of Phoenix, with a massive bolt landing right atop Courthouse Rock.

Last night didn’t appear to have much promise, but me and the kiddos followed the storms from near Whittman all the way west of Tonopah and set up near Salome Highway and Interstate 10 to time-lapse a stormy sunset. But the storms didn’t disappear, they hung around, built up and as a new cell started dropping rain closer to us, the bolts began to crash down. Couldn’t believe it.

This was the best shot of the night…the left peak is one I always notice when I head west out of Phoenix. Just learned it’s called Courthouse Rock and on the right are the hills near Triple Eye. I wanted to turn around and go home a million times yesterday, especially with only 3 hours sleep and with ALL three kids with me, but you never know what’s going to happen.

Inferno

On Fire
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 400, f/4, 1/100th // buy print)

An amazing sunsets east of Sonoita, Arizona. The sky was on fire from a monsoon thunderstorm and the setting sun of course, but an actual wildfire was off camera left of this image, which created a sky full of smoke and only enhanced the colors this night. I was amazed when I turned from the fire to look at this mountain…that the field of grass was actually reflecting the reds and oranges. It was stunning.  A rainbow can faintly be seen over the mountain peak.

You can see more of the wildfire pics here and here.

I typically use luminosity masking and level adjustments these days, and this image is no different. No vibrance or saturation adjustments to up the color. All the color was already there waiting for me to bring it out. It’s the reason I stopped to take the photo in the first place…I felt like everything surrounding me had an orange and red glow.

My only regret with this image is that I shot it at f/4. It was raining, there was a fire burning across the street so I didn’t take the time for a tripod. It’s actually quite sharp all the way through, but I still wish I had shot it at f/16.

 

A sunset south of Sheffield, Texas

Sunset south of Sheffield
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 16mm, f/5.0, iso 200, 1/125th // buy print)

Sometimes the light and the sky after a storm passes is just as good as the storm itself. This was south of Sheffield, Texas, after we photographed and timelapsed a bunch of gorgeous shelf clouds and hail cores. These clouds were moving fast overhead and the light from the setting sun created this moody sky.

I still love being in the middle of nowhere, having a beautiful sky like this and walking out onto a road to snap a photo. It’s something about the silence of no other cars, city sounds or anything else. Just a rumble of thunder and the snap of a camera.

Can’t wait to get back to storm chasing next week! The monsoon is almost back.

Near Sheffield, Texas

Near Sheffield
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, f/8, iso 100, 1/30th // buy print)

This past Wednesday through Sunday I chased storms across the southern plains with two amazing guys…Andy Hoeland and Matt Granz. This was by far my longest trip out there, so the amount of images and timelapses I shot were kind of astounding. I ended up at home with over 450gb worth of images. I’m barely done organizing them, but had to edit a few photos to post this week.

I’ll be coming out with a timelapse film from my two plains trips this spring…and I cannot lie, I got a lot of good stuff. Including this shot. This was actually a frame from a timelapse captured southwest of Sheffield, Texas this past Saturday.

Normally fences and stuff don’t excite me in a photo, but this one was kinda picturesque I have to say and I think it added to the composition.

Lots, lots and lots more to come in the coming weeks and months.

Energize

Energize
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 100, f/10, 15 sec // buy print)

I definitely have a nerdy side and when I got done editing this image, I could only think of one thing:

“Beam me up, Scotty.”

Such a skinny rain shaft and then to get a lightning strike travel right down the middle was pretty awesome. This was one of my favorite storms from this past summer, mainly because of the timing of capturing it just as the sun went down. Not totally dark yet, but enough light to add some great color and illuminate the landscape.

The purple color here was pretty cool. I’m assuming it was just the lightning, but the sun was also setting and it’s possible it was hitting the top of the cloud and somehow aided in the color. Love how purple the lightning bolts are themselves.

Lightning near Camp Verde

Lightning near Camp Verde
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, iso 100, 23mm, f/18, 6 secs // buy print)

I arrived back home from Africa Sunday morning and I waited until Tuesday to get back out chasing storms again. I ran up to Grand Falls to meet my buddy Dee in hopes of catching a flash flood, but it was already running like crazy, so we headed back south to catch up with a line of outflow heading southwest off the Mogollon Rim.

I kept telling Lyla that we needed these storms to hang around until right around 7:45 when the sun would be down so we could shoot some lightning, something she LOVES…and sure enough, as we got south of Camp Verde, a beautiful cell was still firing up and we pulled off at one of my favorite spots along Interstate 17. We captured this around 7:57pm.

These were slow moving storms, so the rain shaft just sat there forever and slowly moved to the south…and while it wasn’t going nuts with lightning, the ones that did fire were beautiful.

Felt good to get right back into the mix last night. Going to be a busy week.

A blessed little tree

I’m not sure how to describe or talk about this photo. I was driving to Grand Falls and the sunlight was really streaming down through the clouds like some archangel was descending in a rage of glory. I saw only two trees on the 10 mile dirt road and this was one of them (if you can call that thing a tree…but it was the closest thing to one anywhere around). I was eying it from about a quarter mile away because it clearly visible sitting atop this little hill.

As I got closer, it was just magic that somehow these rays of sunlight seemed to be casting all their power on this little tree. At least, that’s how I saw it in my mind.

I think as far as my photography goes with landscapes and HDR and all that jazz, this is more abstract and a little bit religious for me? I am not sure why…but that’s what I feel when I look at it.

The big skies of northern Arizona

The way to Grand Falls goes through some of the more interesting and beautiful places I’ve seen in Arizona. This mountain is part of a large group of dormant volcanoes that reside in northern Arizona. The land is full of low bushes and trees are a rarity. It made for some astounding looking mountains and hills…treeless, smooth and golden…toss in an amazing looking sky with awesome clouds and I couldn’t resist pulling the car over to take this shot.

Foggy day in Corvallis, Oregon

Yesterday I picked up a roll of film I had lying around from a long time ago. Now it wasn’t a “photography” roll of film, I really have only been doing this hobby seriously for less than a year now, it was just some pictures my wife and I must have taken over 5 years ago. But I had no idea how long.

Well, when I got them back, I found out it was almost 10 years old. A very long time ago, we looked like kids, lived in our apartment and most of them were just silly photos. But it made me think about old shots that I hadn’t ever posted or forgot about in the hustle of processing photos.

These two photos are three bracketed, hand-held HDR shots from my business trip to Corvallis, Oregon. This was a very tough shot for me, because the city was essentially all around this place, even though you may not be able to tell by looking. I had to squat low enough so the hill blocked some houses, and just to the left is a very busy highway.

But I couldn’t pass up the cloudy skies and the low-flowing fog floating across the valley between the hills.

I can’t decide which I like better, the color or the black/white, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Oh, and I’m trying out a new watermark on my photos…something subdued, maybe more professional looking. Curious what people think of that as well.