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Reaching Out

Other than Tescott, my favorite day chasing last spring was May 23rd in western Nebraska. Started off frustrated when we found out we had missed a tornado near Roswell, NM after being there just the day before…but then as the day got late, our supercell finally intensified and put on a gorgeous display of lightning and sunset colors amongst the sandhills. This was west of Tryon…with a little special appearance from Brandon Ivey and his tour group 🙂

Lovely to see the faces on Sandra Herber and Ajit Menon during this chase…finally got on something amazing on our last chase day!

The Sandhills

Probably my favorite day chasing this spring was May 23rd, especially once the storms really got going west of Ogallala, Nebraska. We chased it through Arthur and east, this was one of the final shots of the night, near Tryon after the sun had gone down. The structure was insane. The Sandhills are a tough area but we had good luck this day, and I ran up to a hilltop overlooking the western horizon and got a time-lapse of this gorgeous supercell racing towards us in the dark. Such a wonderful landscape with the grass and sand intermixed, it really made this a fun photo. The colors were a bit tough to nail down, but this is pretty much what it looked like out of camera, but with added contrast, etc.

It would have some more crazy structure after this as well, and it was also beautiful beforehand, especially at sunset with lightning everywhere, but this was a favorite image from my chasing this spring.

Looking up

Lights Against the Sky

One aspect of photography that I love are people who see lines, symmetry and shapes in anything and everything. They can see a simple staircase and frame it perfectly so it looks like art.

I don’t know if I have that talent. I have no idea if I’ll ever develop it. I don’t necessarily “see” that way too well. Now, if you want to ask me how best to frame a storm cloud, I can help you out.

This is kind of a different image for me. Well, not kind of, it just is. No major post processing, no multiple brackets. I was outside practicing some fill-flash with my little girl when I looked up and saw these cool clouds that suddenly made an appearance. We have string lights up ever since Lyla’s 2nd birthday back in November and I just liked how they criss-crossed against the sky.

I get so consumed by waiting for the big storms, the big weather, the cool abandoned dog track…that I forget a picture taken just a few feet from my back porch can make me just as happy.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/3.2, iso 100, 1/5000)

Must

Rainy Reflection Downtown Phoenix Road

There are a lot of “musts” in this photo…all traffic must turn right…you must not park here…you must stop ahead…and of course at the time I thought “I must take this photo.

What is it about me and the weather? I mean, first it was lightning, then it was photographing awesome monsoon clouds across the desert and that was followed closely with wanting to chase storms in the midwest. On this night, it was the thought of rainy, reflective roads that got me out shooting around downtown Phoenix until midnight. If it hadn’t rained, I wouldn’t have been out there, that much is certain.

This image is part of my continued love affair with my 50mm 1.4 and the amazing fun I have shooting low to the ground, opening up the aperture, using Live View and manually focusing to find that sweet spot.

(exif: rebel xsi, 50mm 1.4, f/1.6, iso100, 1/4sec)

I like taking pictures

When I thought of the title of this blog post, I immediately remembered the guy from Idiocracy (a less well-known/liked movie from Mike Judge who brought us Office Space) who would say stuff like this in a really dumb voice:

“I like money.”

Also

“I can’t believe you like money too. We should hang out.”

What does that have to do with this blog post? Nothing really…other than the simplicity of the quotes. If you know about the movie at all, the plot revolves around a future society where people have so much done for them, that they’ve been dumbed down to the level of children.

In a way though, that kind of parallels my point, which you’ll see below. Kids keep it simple.

Since taking up photography, I’ve explored so many different aspects of the art. I remember the first 6-8 months doing nothing but perusing through thousands of photos on JPG Mag, or Flickr, learning what people like, learning what I like, seeing different techniques, styles and processing. I tried to do a 365 self-portrait project and got to about 60 days before realizing that wasn’t important to me anymore. It probably took until the end of last summer for me to narrow down who I was and what I liked to shoot.

That is still evolving, but I feel much more focused now. I know myself better. More importantly I think, I’m confident in what I shoot and how I shoot it.

As I explored, I grew to love HDR. It’s a tool I use probably 90% of the time on my landscape, storm and urbex images. I enjoy it, I have had a lot of success in it, but it’s not who I am.  I have no desire to be known as an “HDR Photographer.” I certainly wouldn’t mind people saying they love my technique, style and processing when it comes to HDR, but I’d like it to stop there.

Since HDR is kind of new (as in more mainstream now), fun and catchy, a lot of photogs are using it as a way to identify who they are. Flickr accounts, blogs, usernames, etc…they include the words “HDR” in everything so people know that’s what they do. And I believe some of that has contributed to the love/hate debate when it comes to HDR.

I guess my point is…you don’t see a lot of people declaring themselves “Color Photographers” or “B&W Photographers”…etc. They are just photographers.  Those of us who love HDR have to constantly fight against people who hate it. We struggle to get the point across that “HDR is just a tool in my bag“, nothing more. I hear that defense all the time. And it’s a good one because it’s true.

But then we go out and call ourselves HDR photographers. If it’s just a tool, why not call yourself a “10-Stop ND Filter Photog?

I’m certainly someone who would fall into this a lot. For awhile I put information under my pictures about how many brackets I took, if it was HDR or not, etc. Even having a Flickr collection saying “HDR” is something I’m re-thinking. Or using the little #HDR hashtag on Twitter. I dunno how I feel about that yet.

I just know we struggle to get HDR accepted as a normal part of photography, but then we go out of our way identify our photos and ourselves as HDR.

If we brought less attention to the fact that a photo is HDR and more to the composition of the photo itself…I believe it would benefit everyone. To me, composition is key and trumps everything else. If you have a photo that is composed well, then it doesn’t really matter how you process it, it’s going to be a great looking picture.

I think people just love a beautiful photograph or image. When I’ve shown my work at a gallery or the farmer’s market, 98% of people just comment on how much they love a photo, without any knowledge of it being HDR or something else. A few will of course ask why it’s so detailed and then I explain the processing techniques.

As photogs who use HDR, I think it’s kind of up to us to change the way it’s viewed by using it solely as a tool and then posting our pictures as they are.

Yes, there will of course be times where posting a photo kind of demands you explain how you processed it. I get that, and will undoubtedly do the same thing here and there. I realize it’s kind of fun to explain WHY you made a photo black and white, or chose to use HDR in this instance. I know on our blogs it’s even harder because we tend to have a lot more photographers looking for technical explanations for the things they see, but that’s totally fine if people have questions. Go ahead, answer them. But wouldn’t it be awesome to just display a photo and have it judged solely on how it looks without any pre-conceived notions? Talk more about WHY you took the photo and less about the processing aspects behind it?

This is just something that has been on my mind for the last month or two. My good friend Brian and I talked about some of this stuff before Christmas and he even eluded to the same thing in his post not too long ago. Be careful about being pigeonholed as a specific type of photographer…instead, keep it simple…just BE a photographer. The more and more you put yourself in a box, the harder it will be to climb out of it.

I shoot all kinds of stuff and process photos in many different ways. Weddings, kids, families, babies, parties, storms, landscapes, urban decay, B&W, color, HDR…my photography isn’t about just one thing…it’s about a wide range of subjects that boil down to one idea: I’m a photographer.

And truly…I just like taking pictures.

On Top of the World

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, F8, five exposure HDR)

I’ve been to Las Vegas a lot over the last four years, mainly for my day job. We have a couple of clients there and on occasion they involve extended stays. While I don’t always pay attention to all the newest buildings and attractions, it had been so long since my last visit that there was a ton of cool stuff to see.

This parking garage is an 8-story behemoth that apparently serves an amazing set of structures called The World Market. The reason I even ventured up here was the view it had of the interchange between the 15 and the 515. As always happens though, the shot I wasn’t planning on became my favorite from the excursion.

The journey up here was a bit freaky. The garage was empty save a few cars at the bottom. The hallway to the elevators was barely lit on the first floor. I took them up to the 8th and ended up in a hallway with zero lights. But the sun was still shining a bit, so it wasn’t bad. But when I was done shooting and returned to the elevators…well, it was PITCH black. I had to pull out the ol’ cell phone in order to light up the room enough to push the elevator button.

It was a bit too quiet and a little creepy. It was like an old, abandoned building except for the fact that it was brand new.

I loved the parking garage though. It was newer, so everything had this clean, crisp feel to it. Really dug how the World Market building itself complimented the “parkade” and  stood out like a monolith against the evening sky.

Ah, but if it wasn’t for that arrow, I probably wouldn’t have liked it half as much.

On a side note, you might guess how sad I was that there were no clouds around to include in this image 🙂

The Multi-Color Light Pillars of downtown Phoenix

If you can imagine…I was walking past this and completely missed it. In fact, if it wasn’t for another photographer with a tripod setup, I might have just strode on by without ever knowing what could have been. In the picture above, against the sky on the right side of the shot, you can see a very large net-like structure against the sky.

That was my target. I had come down to Phoenix looking to get a shot of that lit up. But as it usually works out for me, the thing I intended to photograph becomes nothing compared to what I find along the way. It happens to me all the time. I’ve almost started to count on it.

So I was grateful for this other photog I saw getting his own shots from another angle. He made me pause, look and realize the beauty of these lights. It’s hard to see in a still photography, but they pulsated with light in different patterns, lighting up the floor and ceiling of this little covered area.

The above shot is an HDR from 5-6 brackets. I was there for awhile, then went over to the big “net” to try and get shots of that, but then soon found myself back at this first spot, this time with an entirely different color being “played” on the pillars.

The below is my return trip, another HDR from 5-6 brackets. The orange-red color looks different than the blue above because the light was pulsating in a completely different pattern.