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Fields of Gold

FIelds of Gold
(please click to view on black // canon rebel xsi, canon 18-55mm f/3.5, 18mm, f/10, 1/160th, iso 200 // buy print)

I was going through some old images from 2010 this weekend and while my processing methods back then horrify me, I found some RAW files that were actually pretty good shots and just needed to be re-edited with the way I do things now.

The above photograph was taken with my first DSLR…a Canon Rebel XSi, plus the kit lens that came with it. I merged two photos to get the panorama. It was such a stunning sight that afternoon. I don’t remember ever seeing it like that before or since. It must have rained a lot that winter, because the gold wildflowers were just everywhere. I had Lyla with me (around 1 and 1/2 at the time) and she was in awe of the flowers. It was also awesome to get some beautiful clouds to complete the scene.

 

 

The Superstitions just before dawn

(click to see an extra larger than normal version to really fill your screen)

Back in April we had some good rain on the 9th, so the morning of the 10th I planned to get up waaaaay early and head out to the Superstition Mountains to shoot a beautiful sunrise with gorgeous clouds, cactus and all kinds of juicy stuff.  I was also meeting by buddy Ken Peterson out here and we’d hit the Apache Trail together.

You can imagine the slight disappointment you get when you are praying for awesome clouds in the morning and this is what you see above.

As is always the case, however…nature turns your sour lemons into lemonade by giving you something unexpected and just as beautiful. I sat at my favorite spot along Lost Dutchman Road waiting to meet Ken. And so I sat there watching the sky behind this mountain turn beautiful shades of morning colors. Normally I hate skies without clouds, but I loved all the solid colors here…dark silhouette with these gradient shades of purple and orange.

Plus you have Venus up there (at least I’m pretty sure it was Venus) adding just a hint of something extra.

For those that live in Phoenix, even a silhouette of these mountains is probably easily recognized by most people. I love that about some places…you can just see an outline or a shadow of something and know it instantly because you live there. It’s makes it something special.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/10, iso 100, 5 sec)

The Flat Iron Cliffs after the storm

The credit for this photo goes entirely to my buddy Bryan Cox. If it wasn’t for his insistence that I turn the car around, I’d never have captured it. Yes, as we were driving by, I saw the light, I commented to Bryan how amazing it looked, but we were trying to catch some storms and I just didn’t think we had the time to stop, even for a few minutes.

Finally Bryan says something like, “I’m gonna have to put my foot down here…turn the car around.

This was last Wednesday…Bryan decided to tag along with me as a bunch of storms were rolling into town and the goal was to just be out all afternoon chasing, taking photos and then finishing the day with some nighttime lightning photography. I’m so glad Bryan joined me…we had a blast and saw some fun stuff.

It takes a good friend to be able to tell you to turn the car around like that, and I totally appreciated it.

So this shot contains one of my favorite places in Arizona…the Flat Iron Cliffs of the Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Mountains, seen beyond a small field of Joshua Trees. I almost feel I take too many shots of it because those cliffs are such a gorgeous backdrop to any kind of weather or desert cactus shot, that you can spend an eternity photographing around there.

A big storm had just blown through, so the skies were a smooth, grayish-blue color, but the sun still shined from the west and the light playing off the cliffs was absolutely amazing.

This is an HDR from 6-bracketed tripod shots, tonemapped in Photomatix, polished off in CS5.

The Flatiron cliffs in black and white

Nothing but Flatiron all week, although I hope you enjoyed the interlude with the alleyway yesterday. There is a slight chance there will be nothing but Flatiron and the Lost Dutchman area next week as I may go hike it again on Saturday *grin*

I loved all the color at Flatiron last week, as you can see from all the photos I’ve posted about it. The flowers were incredible, the yellow tones and hues were rich and everywhere. But I also went out there because the sky had some cool clouds going on from a cold front moving through and everyone knows how much I love photos with awesome fluffy things in the sky.

So during the hike, I see this view. It appeared almost like a scene from Close Encounters to me. A mountain with a cloud centered directly above it. Looked spooky, other-worldly.

Something about it cried out black and white to me, so I changed things up. This is a three-bracket HDR to bring out the details, but converted to a black and white to remove focus from the wildflowers/color and instead point it to the cloud hovering over Flatiron.

Plus when you are out photographing the desert, sometimes black and white just gives you that old western look that feels natural. I adore black and white so much, yet most of what I photograph cries out for colors and tones, so this was a fun little break in the action. Hope you guys like it!

More from the Flatiron Cliffs

Hopefully no one is getting bored with photos from the Flatiron Cliffs in the Lost Dutchman State Park. I for one can’t get enough of looking at the mountains and the color of the flowers flooding the desert floor. It’s up there with some of the most favorite things I’ve photographed in my young little career.

Yesterday I posted a shot that was sort of a square, which made up the shot above and a pan to the left. But from the start I’ve always loved this single shot, with the stairs on the right, the little valley leading up to the cliffs and the clouds…man the clouds are cool.

This is an HDR photo from a single-RAW, something I usually don’t do. I’ve not found it to produce great results all the time, but in this case, I thought it worked.

More wildflowers from Flatiron at Lost Dutchman

On Friday I posted an HDR version of what I saw out at Flatiron on Thursday late afternoon. The HDR is cool, brings out a lot of textures and gives it a really deep feel, but I also love standard photography as well. The colors were so amazing, you really didn’t need to try hard to get a good shot.

If you live in the Phoenix area or close to the Lost Dutchman State Park, I highly suggest you head out there sometime soon before the flowers are gone. They are stunning…simply stunning.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived here in Arizona for my entire 35.2 years of existence and have never made it a point to see the desert wildflowers bloom. I’m so thankful for photography right now for opening my eyes up to the beauty that has always been around me.

Hope you enjoy these.

a few more shots

The Flatiron cliffs of Lost Dutchman

I almost wanted to title this, “Hey Dutchman, I found the gold!”

A somewhat stormy day here in Arizona, awesome clouds everywhere, so I grabbed up my daughter from the babysitter and headed out to the Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman state park to take some photos. I’ve been around there a few times, but never have gotten a shot that I really liked.

And then I saw Flatiron and the fields of gold wildflowers surrounding the base of the cliffs. They were everywhere. It was amazing to see. Contrast it with sunlight breaking through stormy cumulus clouds and it made for a dramatic scene.

I’ d like to go back in about a week to really hike the trails that lead to the top. Having my amazing 17-month old daughter along for the ride made going too far difficult, but we did walk quite aways into the flowers. I have more photos I will post at a later time.

Technical crap…two, 3-bracket HDR photos merged into this panoramic. I was going to do more than three brackets, but without the magic promote tool I want someday, the clouds were just moving too fast for anything other than 3 quick shots.

Ah, I can’t help it…here is my daughter picking little flowers amidst a sea of gold.