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The cotton fields

The cotton fields - monsoons arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/125 // buy print)

If you ordered a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, or happened to see my Best of 2011, you may have seen this image already.

But it was one of my top five probably from last year’s monsoon season, so I felt like it was owed it’s own blog post. Right?

Am I the only one that believes his images have feelings and would feel shunned if they didn’t get their own blog time? I mean, yes, this one made it into the book, but they all know the blog is the shiznit. The place you want to be. Where the magic happens.

So ANYWAYS, this is from north of Tucson overlooking a huge cotton field. Awesome storm on the horizon dropping rain. Nothing I like more than a wide vista or landscape with a distant rain storm.

There was also a timelapse to go with this.

I humbly apologize to this image for taking so long to give it the honor it so richly deserved. You weren’t forgotten. Just lost in the shuffle. I wont let it happen again.

The Three Watchmen

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4 l, f/22, iso 200, 1/4 sec // buy print)

There is something majestic about the Saguaro cactus. When they stand by themselves, or even in a group of three…they make me think of something ancient…guardians of the world. Almost like Ents from Lord of the Rings.

Ooops, there’s my nerdy side.

I was driving down this road chasing a gorgeous storm coming in over the Bradshaw Mountains when I spotted these guys. I just loved, loved, loved the composition with the storm in the background, so I set up and prayed that I’d capture a strike.

This was one of those “I hope I get lucky shots” where I had to employ rapid fire with the camera because it was still so light out.

Well, I did get lucky and couldn’t have asked for a better placed lightning bolt.

One of my favs from 2011.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 125, f/5.6, 30 sec // buy print)

Please click to view on black!

One thing I try very, very hard to avoid is posting an image and then saying something like “OMG, this is my bestest, most favoritest photo I’ve ever taken in all the land!” I have many reasons for that, and if you want to know them, you can ask, but it’s just my general rule.

Yeah, gonna break that one today.

Before that though, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t done a Movie Title image in awhile, so here you go. Equilibrium. Christian Bale. It was really, really good. Check it out.

So this is my favorite lightning image of 2011. I didn’t sit down and look through all my photos and debate over which was best. This was always it. I knew when I saw it that it would be. And there are two reasons why.

(btw, those who bought my book have already seen this and thus know the story behind it already!)

First…the scene itself is incredibly unique. Two layers of clouds…a low one that is hugging the tops of mountains beyond the immediate horizon, and the upper one that is a boiling thunderstorm. Then you have a lighting strike running sideways between these two layers.  I didn’t shoot anything like it over the course of the last two summers and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to duplicate it. The only question I ask myself when I look at this is why I don’t have it printed and hanging in the house yet? I’m so bad at that.

The second and final reason has little to do with the actual picture. It was the work that led up to it. The effort. I had been in Tucson earlier that evening and as the storms were dying out, I decided to fly north and catch what was hitting Phoenix. But those storms were moving too fast. They were northeast of Phoenix by the time I hit town. For some reason though, I kept going. I blew through Phoenix and started up the Beeline Highway. I got almost all the way to Rye when I decided to turnaround. The weather were dying out, it was getting late and I felt like I failed after having just driven 180 miles with nothing to show for it.

But on the way back…a random storm popped up east of the highway. There was no reason for it, everything else had quieted down, but I saw it, I stopped and aimed my camera at the place I saw the flash.

This was the next shot that my camera captured.

It proved to me that what I was doing and the way I was doing it was valid. That my instincts were good and I was meant to do this.

And there was a lesson in that night for me. Simply put…when others stop, I should keep going. If I want a shot that no one else can get, then I need to be doing what no one else is doing.

It’s not easy…but you know what? I was all alone on that highway and the only one around to see this. And I’m so glad I was.

Stormchasing Arizona 2011 is ready for Pre-Order!

Stormchasing Arizona

I’ve been a writer of sorts for a long time now. Started with a three-year or so stint doing sports writing, then some entertainment jabbering, a lot of personal bits and of course, stories to go along with the work I’m doing in photography. But during all that time, if I ever thought about publishing a book, it was always with the idea of writing some kind of science fiction novel or something like that. In fact, I actually wrote a few chapters.

Yet here I am on volume two of Stormchasing Arizona and that sci-fi story sits waiting for me to re-visit it someday.

The book was finished last Friday, November 4th and now is available for Pre-Order! I’m so totally stoked about this year’s edition, which is filled with over 100 images and 25 more pages than last year’s.

You can see a preview of the book, more details on what’s inside and the way to pre-order by clicking right here or the My Book link at the top of this page!

Thanks so much to everyone involved with making this a possibility!

Pillar in the Rain

Pillar in the Rain - Arizona Monsoons

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/16, iso 100, 1/13th // buy print)

My wife was proofreading my upcoming Stormchasing Arizona photojournal (should be ready for preorder next week!) and she commented on how much she loved this particular photo. So to thank her for the 4-5 hours she sat in front of my book, editing and ensuring it was better than I could do myself, I thought I’d post this guy today.

These are the Bradshaw Mountains north of Phoenix. I had never really been to this area before, nor down this particular road, so it was awesome to be able to check it out with a great storm blowing over the hills. I pulled out the 85mm for this shot, not wanting a vast angle of the storm, but instead the falling rain shrouding the mountains with the sun lighting it all up from the left horizon.

I may have taken this shot anyways, but I was a lot more interested in the scene because of that little pillar of rock. Curious what it looks like up close, may have to check it out someday.

A sliver of color

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 f/2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 0.6 sec // buy print)

This was one of the last shots I took during the 2011 summer monsoons. I was about as far away from Phoenix as I’d been all year…near a town called Joseph City that I don’t recall having known existed before.

The sky at sunset was pretty epic, but I found myself in somewhat of a bad spot…houses, industrial stuff around, so I kind of missed out on some clouds to my south. But I drove north along a very muddy dirt road to capture this unique looking scene.

The down draft of rain is being lit up by the setting sun…only the sun wasn’t shining on it from below as you’d expect. The only thing I can think of was that it was hitting the tops of the clouds in such a way that it was reflecting downwards. The color felt like it was coming from inside the cloud, not from without.

Cloud to ground

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 24mm, iso 125, f/7.1, 30 sec // buy print)

I recommend clicking on the image…it will put a black box around it and fit it to your screen size…just in case your monitor isn’t giant like mine isn’t.

Haven’t posted a lightning strike in what feels like AGES, which is probably far from the truth. Anyways, this was a towering strike that I cropped to fill the entire frame. The original capture had it a bit more to the left than I liked. When shooting lightning, sometimes you don’t aim in the right spot and almost miss. So cropping is a fantastic way to recompose the image to get your bolt looking awesome.

In the realm of weather, a lightning strike that hits the surface of the earth is technically called “Cloud to Ground” or CG. These are the kind I of course go for. There are very, very rare occasions where “In Cloud” lightning creates an awesome image.

I have one of those rare ones that I’ll post at a later day. One of my favorites.

A road less traveled

A road less traveled - Arizona dirt road clouds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/60 // buy print)

A random dirt road off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The day was supposed to be epic up north, but it turned out to be mostly a bust. Still, my daughter and I drove down this road looking for something interesting to shoot against the puffy clouds and desert-y terrain.

I climbed a low hill to shoot the giant rocks up there, but ended up seeing this instead and liked it a whole lot better. Love me some roads and love seeing them curve and bend as they disappear.

Leaning

Leaning - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 400, 5 sec // buy print)

The thing about wide angle lenses is that they give you the perception that things are far away. Like these lightning strikes. They probably were a decent distance aways, but I was hanging in there and hanging in there hoping to get a photo with strikes as big as possible. I was ducking down, hunched over as the storm crawled towards me and the lightning going nuts all over.

This was not just a normal thunderstorm…this was a severe warned cell down in Tucson and therefore intense. The clouds that I had just shot off to the left were some of the spookiest I’ve ever seen in Arizona and I’ll post those sometime soon.

The Saguaro on the left…that isn’t the fault of the lens, it was just a leaning cactus.

Probably one of my favorite images from the season. A mean, beautiful looking storm with unusual colors, gorgeous textures, lightning strikes and a well-lit desert foreground to display the awesomeness of Arizona.

Weather on the Bradshaws

Storms on the Bradshaws - Arizona Monsoons

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100, 1/5 sec // buy print)

So all spring long (and all year long really), I like to keep up with the stormchasers from the midwest. They post photos from chases and usually you see some wicked storms that make me insanely jealous. And some of the photos are really, really great. For example, Stephen Locke and Extreme Instability.

But most of the time chasers just snap images from inside their car, on a road with cars flying by, powerlines, etc. They are just there to see and shoot, nothing very artistic. Mostly for memories. And for me…I always wish I could be out there seeing what THEY are seeing so I could frame it in a beautiful way. A windmill, an old barn, whatever.

The reason I rambled on about that is because of my shot today. There really isn’t much of an interesting foreground. I don’t have tall saguaro cacti. No giant rocks, or trees. Or abandoned structures.

Just the Bradshaw Mountains and a beautiful storm.

Storm clouds change so fast, sometimes when you see something amazing, you literally have minutes to shoot it before it’s gone. This cloud was one of those moments. What I see is a little horse-shoe-shaped base wrapping around falling rain. The entire structure headed towards me like a flying saucer. Absolutely gorgeous in my eyes.

And I wanted to capture it, whether I had a cool foreground or not. Sometimes when you are out stormchasing, that’s all you can do.