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The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

Wall of dust

Wall
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1/640th // buy print)

A lost (or unposted) image from back in July of 2012. This was a crazy good dust storm resulting in a couple of nice timelapses for me personally. You can see one here. I was capturing that while I took this photo.

Was an uber dense storm…once it hit, the freeway behind me was completely empty and it felt like I was in some post-apocalyptic world for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for summer.

 

Reflections of the Monsoon

Monsoon Sunset Reflected
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/8, 1/15th // buy print)

If you follow my work, you may remember this epic looking, isolated thunderstorm from last year and also the timelapse that went with it. The storm was seen all over by tons of people…cell phone shots of the “UFO” cloud were sent in to all the news stations.

This is kind of the aftermath when it was fading away to nothing…but right as the sun was going down, when that gorgeous anvil cloud captured perfectly the colors of the sunset. We had a bit of a rain storm the day before so there was this massive puddle on the side of the road. Had to use it of course. You don’t get many chances for reflection shots like this in the middle of the desert.

It’s still one of those storms I wont soon forget and I’m dying to photograph some real weather again. The good news is that the monsoon season start date is just over a month away. Hurry on up already!

Fork

Fork
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm f/1.4, iso 100, f/5.6, 30 sec // buy print)

I’ve been trying to do some housekeeping this month since it’s been a bit slow and the crazy amount of weddings I have through spring haven’t started yet. I’m a lot better about deleting photos I know I’ll never work on. As time goes by, your feelings change and what you like now might mean you don’t like shots you took then. I’ve gotten last year pretty much cleaned and so I went back to 2011.

And found this little guy sitting there with 4 stars meaning I intended to edit it someday and never did. At the time the reason was that I already had two other shots from this angle that were downright rad. But when I saw this one…I was like, this guy is rad too, why did he get left out?

Processed it over the weekend and am dropping it now. This is on Gilbert Road south of Hunt Highway taken on September 10th, 2011. The lightning was super intense on this storm that battered Chandler. Was an awesome night.

Double Impact

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 200, f/5.6, 25 sec // buy print)

Last year I was inspired by the photography of Drew Medlin, specifically his black & white work with lightning. He almost always sticks to a square crop which I thought was super cool and made it a goal this year to process a handful of my own lightning images with this crop.

So this is the first in my Square Series. First off I absolutely love what B&W does to a lightning bolt…creates a darker, mysterious scene…and the square crop to me adds an isolation to the entire frame.

I shot this back on July 23rd, early in the season, up along the Beeline Highway. There was an incredible show going on and strikes were hitting the mountains everywhere.

More to come!

Page Ranch Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 200, 1/15th, f/? // buy print)

You know I’m a sucker for road shots. Honestly…when you are out chasing storms, sometimes that’s the best composition. And you gotta take advantage of it.

This was an image from the first few days of this year’s monsoon season. I was about to go on vacation for a week, so I was determined to capture as much as I could before leaving Arizona. On this late afternoon, I found myself in the southeastern part of the state…on Page Ranch Road near Highway 191 and Interstate 10. I was timelapsing a few things and waiting…knowing the storms would either get to me from New Mexico or they’d die out.

They didn’t really make it…but I was left with a beautiful monsoon sky as the sun went down…incredible pinks and purples and oranges.

A Tucson strike at sunset

(please click image to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 50, f/16(ish), 2 sec // buy print)

After I took this shot, I gave a high-five to a Frenchman who was standing beside me who captured it as well. I met Dimitri up on Tucson’s A-Mountain last night (check out his website) and we had a blast hanging out for almost 2 hours. He was actually on vacation from France in Arizona for the sole purpose of shooting lightning. I mean…how awesome is that?

He had a serious setup…two full frame cameras each with a lightning trigger, plus a major HD video camera.

Anyways…we’d been shooting for a long time when suddenly this rain falling over metro Tucson started turning orange. A beautiful sunset was in store for us. And then the lightning started And while you may have a hard time seeing it because of the intense orange color of the sky, there is a rainbow in there running vertical alongside the right edge of that bolt.

I looked over at Dimitri and asked if this was his best shot since he got here a week or two ago…and he said yes. He was a lot like me…hooting and yelling everytime he got a great strike. Was so very cool to see the same passion I have in a guy visiting from France.

Good luck my friend, hope the rest of your trip rocks!

Also…on the full-sized image…you can make out where every strike lands…pretty amazing.

A crashdown of lightning on the Beeline

Crashing Down - Monsoon Lightning Arizona Beeline

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 100, f/6.3, 20 sec // buy print)

During the day on Monday I tweeted out something to the effect that I “smelled lightning” and knew it would be a good night. Honestly, I had no idea what I was talking about, but it had been three straight days of great monsoon action in a row with storms that died out quickly as the sun went down, leaving no electricity to photograph.

It was more of a hunch, but it turned out to be a good one.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a lightning show quite like this one up on the Beeline Highway. I set up along the shoulder of the road south of the Gisela turnoff. There is a huge valley there in front of you and it gives you at least a 270 degree view of all the mountains around you. Perfect for shooting this stuff.

The only downside is that there was soooo many lightning strikes, all OVER the place…you had to pick a few directions and hang tough. I have two cameras now thanks to all the weddings I shoot, so now I’m firing double barrels out there. Which should make it easier, but it’s a lot to manage when you’re rushing to get things aimed, focused, exposed correctly, etc.

I was also quite the amateur on this night and ended up with some slightly out-of-focus shots. Was bumming hard core when I was checking these out in Lightroom. I’m tossing out this one below anyways…which likely would have ended up being one of my all-time favorites, but it’s got a bit of a focus problem and so it may end up on the trash heap. But what a sick scene right? Almost looks like a clip from a movie with a giant electrical alien being walking over a mountain top.

 

A dust storm timelapse over downtown Phoenix

I know. So tired of these. But I like ’em. Don’t see the dust come from the west very often.

A few more shots of the July 21st haboob in Phoenix

Here are just a few more images I captured yesterday during a fairly awesome haboob that rolled through town. And yes, even the people that hate the use of the word “haboob” might admit that Saturday’s storm certainly had some of the same characteristics as last year’s giant one on July 5th.

In case you missed it, here is a timelapse from yesterday’s dust storm and below are a couple more pictures. These were captured south of town as the storm rolled in. I had been timelapsing the entire thing when it was south of Casa Grande, and stopped when it hit me at I-10 and the 587. This first shot below was from that intersection.

This second shot was on the shoulder of I-10 just a tad north of Queen Creek, which is the overpass in the distance. These vehicles were going at a very slow pace and it was packed.

Police closed the freeway further south of this, which was evident once the wall of dust hit because the road suddenly became like something out of the Book of Eli. There wasn’t a soul anywhere close except for me.