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Bathed in Light

I must be learning how to be more patient these days, or at least, maybe finally realizing I can’t be on every storm, so might as well do the best I can with what I got. I was way down south yesterday, near Santa Rosa and Pisinemo with some really nice storms, but I had a bad feeling that they wouldn’t last into the night. At the same time, I see a nice line moving into Phoenix and realized I’m probably hosed.

In the past, I may have turned around and raced back home in a panic, but yesterday I stuck it out, got in front of the storms moving towards Organ Pipe and saw some of that magical monsoon light that shows why it’s special to chase out here.
Only captured two lightning strikes yesterday, this was the first and made the entire trip worth it. The rain was cresting the peaks, the sun was blazing on the desert landscape and it was all stunning. There is a little rainbow behind the left saguaro, plus an even fainter second one near the bolt. That Organ Pipe area has really grown on me this year. Always something awesome happening out that way.

And now it’s bed time. I had a time-lapse/photo gig at PIR shooting DC Solar construction lighting equipment at 1am this morning and got home around 5:30. Haven’t slept at all! Time to crash!

A good omen

Hoping this is a good omen for the Cards upcoming season 🙂

Wednesday’s chase was a long one and ended early Thursday morning around 1am with a final storm in the Tolleson area. I had seen a recent shot of the Cardinals stadium so it was in my head and I remembered where a good view was from when I did some work for ESPN back when we had the Super Bowl.

The storm was dying, but I got lucky that it still tossed out a few bolts, this one in particular being pretty nice! I swear I’m never in town for storms these days, usually far away in the desert or southern Arizona, so it was fun to play around with different compositions for once.

A great way to end the night…especially as things are once again dry for a few days. Hoping for more weather early next week.

Chuar Butte

The Grand Canyon has been an elusive prey. I’ve made countless trips up there the past few years trying to get lightning on a good storm and been skunked every time. Last year I finally got a downburst right in front of me…but no bolts. A few years before I got some strikes out on the Little Colorado plateau, but nothing in the Canyon itself. Always a long trip to come home with little success.

Well that all finally ended Friday, and it was with this shot that I didn’t even know I had captured until I was going through images in Lightroom. A perfect thunderstorm with a beautiful little strike hitting smack in the middle of an island plateau on the eastern side of the Canyon. I squealed a little bit when I saw this 🙂

The time-lapse of this storm exploding and dumping rain will be cool too, super stoked to have come away not only with some great stuff, but to have spent the entire day with my kiddos as well was well worth the time and sunburns!

Haboob over Organ Pipe

I always knew southern Arizona near the border gets interesting weather…I think I saw a brief landspout down south of Three Points last year, it seems like supercells occur more that way as well, so with some shear in place yesterday and models hinting at storms popping in that vicinity, I waited for a few hours until things started going. Wow once they got going, they exploded. Big hail cores, supercell structure, severe warnings, pea-sized hail hitting the truck. One of my favorite chases here in AZ, culminating in this epic haboob with a stacked shelf cloud rolling over the stunning landscape of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

This is a 9-image panorama just to get the entire structure of thing thing in one frame. I have a couple time-lapses I’ll be working on later which should be pretty awesome…definitely up there with my favorites of all-time out here!
And rad to meet up with my buddy Trey Greenwood down there for this chase, we were pretty stoked to see this yesterday…although I have a feeling this kind of thing may happen down there more than we realize!

Crimson Bolts

Combing through the archives of photos I never edited, here’s one from monsoon 2015 west of Tonopah, AZ. I had the kids with me, I was running a fever, but this isolated storm started going up and we went after it. At the time I had no time-lapse clip I felt was good enough for the ending of Monsoon II, and I was pushing myself hard. But on this night, I knew I got it.

Incredible storm, at sunset, with crazy bolts and gorgeous colors. What a fantastic night.

The Hand

A creepy, electric hand stretches out across the sky, seemingly originating from the Sand Tank Mountains.

I miss lightning. This was July 1st last year during a monsoon that started early and epic (this cell was a tornado warned storm an hour earlier), and I was standing here with a few buddies watching some amazing lightning in the distance.

Just about three months before my usual chase season begins out on the plains. Can’t wait to get back.

Pulse

Song by Tony Anderson: “The Way Home” (Licensed through The Music Bed)
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For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films. I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.

But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.

And then you hear a song. I had asked my buddy Jay Worsley if he had heard anything lately that might rock for a black and white storm film, and he linked me to Tony Anderson’s “The Way Home.” The moment I heard it, I knew that was the song. My recent films have a frantic pace to them and people occasionally tell me they’d love to see the footage in a much slower speed. I already knew that going with the monochrome style sorta demanded something more solemn and poetic…and the song was perfect for that.

I also went with a much wider aspect ratio than I’ve ever done before. I feel like it actually feels like it brings you in closer to the action, almost like you were standing right there with me.

I held myself back for a long time in doing this project because I wasn’t very knowledgable about using tools like Premiere Pro to color grade footage, and all I thought was that I’d have to re-render all my clips as black and white before doing the film. And that’s a lot of work. But the past few years have brought me tons of experience in Premiere Pro, plus help from my buddy Jay Worsley, and I figured out how to do it all there and without a ton of effort.

The film is made up of some of my favorite clips from the past few years. A mix of the monsoon and supercell plains chasing. I’m so inspired by the songs I choose for these videos. Kerry Muzzey, Tony Anderson. Their songs are so powerful and moving and the stories they tell themselves are amazing. I went with clips that felt right with each beat of the song and while I usually try to tell a story with these films, I mostly decided to let the music be that here.

Thanks to Tony Anderson for such an incredible piece of music, and to Jay for pointing it out to me. And also to my friend and fellow time-lapser, Brian Miner (see him on Vimeo), who did some B&W work this past fall and reminded me of what I’ve wanted to do for so long now.

I hope you enjoy this! The creative juices were flowing and I also have some serious withdrawals from chasing storms. I HAD to work on something to hold me over until spring gets here. Only around four months to go before I hit the road to chase supercells and tornadoes in April, May and June!

I have a couple of tornado chasing tours going this spring, if you are interested in checking those out, visit here!

 

Swisshelm

A smattering of lightning bolts slam into the Swisshelm Mountains in southeastern Arizona

This will go down as one of my favorite chasing storms in Arizona this past summer. I didn’t end up with my best photos of all-time or anything, but it was just the night itself. I sat here watching gorgeous mammatus light up at sunset and as it got dark, the lightning started blasting on three sides of me, and I watched it slowly march over the Swisshelm Mountains to my east.

This was with the 135mm so I was super tight on the mountains hoping to get some close bolt action. I love how they are just destroying the mountainsides here while a powerful downburst is creating an exploding wall of dust that end up hitting us soon after.

The bolts were just so intense, it’s one of those nights shooting lightning that you live for.

Mars

A late season haboob rolls towards Phoenix with the setting sun turning the dust and clouds all shades of purple and orange.

Just when I get Monsoon III all done and exported at 4K ready to release, yesterday had to go and give me two more dust storm clips that absolutely have to go into the film!

This is a frame from the second one…I mean, capturing dust storms is always a blast, but when it happens at sunset with nothing but gnarly desert in front of you…it’s a dream. And someone commented on Facebook that it looks like something on the planet Mars!

Yesterday made the film just a tad better, so I’m getting super excited to release it. Was actually thinking today, but now it will likely be next Tuesday!

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.