Posts

The Hills are Alive

Lightning over the Catalinas

Man. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that sick. Strange abdominal pain. 103 temp. Trip to the ER. Almost 10 days being completely away from the online world. And the whole time with the iPad on my lap re-watching Battlestar Galactica. God bless Netflix.

Happy to report I got through all 76 episodes. And yes, it was awesome as always.

Anyways, despite being sick, it was a nice break from everything. Cleared my head a bit, stopped thinking about what I’m usually obsessed about(photography) and just laid around, soaking up up some time off. Felt good.

Also feels good to be back posting again. This particular image was shot on July 30th down in Tucson over the Catalina Mountains. My buddy Ken Peterson and I left around 1-2pm and spent the day timelapsing and waiting for the sun to go down so we could shoot some lightning.

Witnessing lightning over these mountains is something to behold. I assume the people living down there are used to it, but the sheer power and frequency was amazing.

Normally to get these many strikes in one shot takes a long exposure, maybe one around 30+ seconds. This was only 10 seconds. That’s it. Five strikes. And this is actually cropped a bit, losing another strike that was off camera left.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 100, 10 sec)

Red Dawn

The Guardian - Sedona Arizona Sunset

(click to view larger on a black border…just looks better)

A break from all the lightning and storms…time for Movie Title Wednesday!

One of those movies that I just have to watch if I see it on the TV on a Saturday afternoon is Red Dawn. Granted, I haven’t seen it on the TV much recently and probably have watched it through only a handful of times (the last time being a very long time ago), but it’s still such a fun movie. World War II, Russians attack, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson…hiding out in the woods, a resistance, fighting back…awesome stuff.

It should be pretty obvious how this film’s title relates to today’s image…but I have to say, it’s really a total lie.

I shot this at sunset. But come on, that movie is perfect for this picture! I’m not going to apologize for it!

Back in early July, our little family spent some time in Sedona, enjoying time away from the heat. Great stormy weather, beautiful skies and of course, the gorgeous mountains surrounding Sedona. If you’ve never been here, you gotta go.

This was down an old dirt road right as the sun was about to drop away. I was struck by the colors and the shadows on the cliff faces, but also with this towering pine tree, seemingly rising above the rest of the forest.

While my HDR processing with landscapes is becoming rarer and rarer, this is indeed a six-bracket tonemapped image. The beauty of this night was the absolute calm weather, which left this tree unmoving for me while I fired off the brackets.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100)

Independence Day

(click to view a tad larger with a black border)

Yup, it’s the middle of the week and that means Movie Title Wednesday!

Independence Day. Awesome film. Total summer movie popcorn fun. Will Smith taking down aliens. Jeff Goldblum mumbling and uttering cool phrases like “Forget the fat lady! You are obsessed with fat ladies!” Harry Connick Jr., Randy Quaid with his “Up yours!”…and just all kinds of good stuff. Perhaps the biggest, cheesiest part of the movie is Bill Pullman standing up in front of the men giving his Independence Day speech right before we figure out how to beat the aliens. Gotta love it.

I’m a sucker for a good alien invasion movie and I can’t help but like this one.

So the connection to this lightning image actually has to do with the Fourth of July. This is what I was out shooting  instead of watching fireworks this year. Well, at least, watching those man-made fireworks. This show was much, much better.

When you shoot lightning a lot, you’ll end up experiencing the whole “Wow, didn’t even see that one” moments when you get back home and are importing images. This shot was one of those. I don’t think I ever saw it. I probably was looking down at my phone at the radar and missed it entirely. It wasn’t until I scrolled back later through my camera did I go “Wooooahhh…where did you come from?”

I love those moments.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/4.5, iso 200, 20 sec)

Sideways

Sideways Lightning in Carefree Arizona Monsoon

Last Tuesday I teased about a lightning shot I was going to use for Movie Title Wednesday. Well, after everything that happened that Tuesday  night, I never got a chance to post this. Now that the world is back to it’s normal rotation, I finally have the chance.

Sideways starred Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Two middle aged dudes take a tour through wine country and stuff happens. Saw the movie once, I don’t remember the plot too well, but of course I remember loving it. Giamatti is one of my favorite actors and he had a really huge run there for awhile with awesome movie after awesome movie.

Obviously I  chose this film because the title fits absolutely perfectly with the image today.

This was the first time I’ve ever captured sideways lightning in Arizona and it was awesome. There had been one before this that I missed while setting up and a third one AFTER this one that looked almost identical. Would love to know why they were happening a lot in this one spot, but I’ll likely never will.

I do remember a lot of yelling emanating from my immediate vicinity when I saw this thing flash across the sky. I knew I captured it and I knew it would look awesome.

Have been having a lot more fun shooting lightning this year so far…a lot more success in the early going. Tons more season to go. This coming Sunday or Monday is supposedly looking pretty nice for some wicked weather in the A-Z.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-35 F/4L, 17mm, iso 200, 13 sec)

The Return of the King

Sunset on the Kansas Prairie

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to have to find some image to use for the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in celebration of the release of the Extended Editions on Blu-Ray. Well, that release happened yesterday, I received my copy and it’s sitting there looking pretty, waiting to be watched.

The first two movies have been used already, so it was The Return of the King that needed an image. And this is what I came up with.

It may not look like anything from the movie. In fact, I don’t know how to even lie and make you believe it came from it. This is the Kansas prairie. Doesn’t remind me of Mordor, or Gondor, or Rohan…or even the Fangorn Forest (nerd alert!).

But if you are just going off the title, I kind of dig it. For me there is this majestic, powerful feel to the sun bursting through the clouds. It makes the surrounding landscape feel small and trivial compared to this explosion of light. As if something awesome were making an appearance after a long sleep.

If I failed to mention it before, these movies are near and dear to me. The books made a huge impact with me as a young kid. I can’t explain it, but they did. And years later they decide to make real movies about them, and somehow they create a world on-screen that almost completely matched what I had imagined as a I read the stories. It was amazing.

I loved the originals, but once the extended versions came out, there was no reason to watch the shorter one. They just weren’t the “real” story anymore. So to finally have these guys in beautiful Blu-Ray, 1080p high-definition is awesome. Cannot wait to find time to watch these guys from start to finish.

ONE LAST THING…

I’m wordy today, sorry. This image is a bit inspired by my buddy Jesse Pafundi whom I admire big time. His work has changed this year and it’s been awesome to see. At the same time we both had been moving away from HDR being so involved in our workflow…him more than me. I think he’s done away with it entirely. I still use it a lot but with a different approach. But we’ve had long chats about this subject and how we’re changing.

The photo above…I tried it as a tonemapped image and it failed. I couldn’t get it right. And then I realized I didn’t need to. Why was I forcing it? I liked the composition, the clouds, the sun…it just needed a little weathering to look how I wanted it to. Took 20 seconds.

Anyways…don’t be afraid to leave something behind that used to be so dear to you. It was just part of the journey to get you where you are today.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100, 1/50)

Point Break

After the wedding we shot a week and a half ago in Malibu, my buddy Rick and I took the Pacific Coast Highway back to Los Angeles. We were both exhausted from an early morning flight, a lot of shooting outdoors and just a long day in general. We had just enough energy to make one stop off the highway and walk down some worn-down stairs to the beach far below.

It’s another edition of Movie Title Wednesday and this week the film is Point Break for obvious reasons I think. I’ve seen the movie and I remember liking it, but I honestly don’t remember much more than Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, a bank robbery and masks.  I know a lot of people who dig this film, curious how many of you out there liked it? I’ve always been a Reeves fan even though most people don’t think he can act. I think he’s a fine actor, the problem is, he has one style that works and that’s about it. Speed is one of my all-time favorite action films and of course you have The Matrix.

I rarely get to the ocean despite living fairly close to California, so I was excited to at least shoot a few images during our day-trip. The ocean is awe-inspiring and frightening for me at the same time. I hope someday to do more of this and have a nice, fat 10-stop ND filter on me so I can really make the images I want to, but in the meantime, I liked how this turned out. I don’t always put a lot of time into processing my images these days, but I spent plenty on this . Phototools was especially useful to help create a nice color contrast between the water and the rocks.

I hope Rick posts his sometime soon because he had a 10-stop and I loved the way his looked right out of the camera.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 20mm, f/25, iso 100

The Two Towers

Two Towers Downtown Phoenix Chase Freeport McMoran

Without realizing what I’ve been doing, this has become the second Lord of the Rings movie to be featured on Movie Title Wednesday in the last few weeks. I guess I’m sub-consciously excited for the June 28th release of the entire extended edition version of the trilogy on Blu-Ray for the first time. It’s been pre-ordered for months and soon I’ll be camped out on the sofa for about 12 straight hours.

I’m going to have a heck of time finding an image to represent Return of the King. I dunno if I can do it.

This week we’re going with The Two Towers for obvious reasons. The movie is of course awesome. There are two parts in the film that I could watch over and over and over and…well…over. The charge of the Ents onto Isengard. Wow.

“The Ents are going to war. It is likely that we go to our doom. The last march of the Ents.” – Treebeard

I get chills just thinking about that scene. The other is the appearance of Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan towards the end. So much love for this film. But I could babble all day.

So the image above. On the left is the Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix that I’ve shot a lot since moving down here, and the other is the Freeport McMoran. I ventured downtown on May 18th after a good rainstorm came through, which granted me another chance at some stormy reflection shots and dark skies for architecture shooting. I got stuck in a few spots when it suddenly started raining and I had to hide myself and my camera under a parking garage or two.

But wow do I love being down there shooting during dark weather as the sun is going down. It’s inspiring.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 100)

 

Superman

Clouds in the sky from an airplane

(click to see this a bit larger with a darker border)

Perhaps it may surprise you, or maybe it makes total sense, but when I was a kid and thought about what it would be like to have the powers of Superman…I didn’t care about x-ray or heat vision, or super strength, or super-breath or even super-speed.

No, it was the flying. And the picture above is kind of what I dreamed about seeing if I was ever given the gift of flight. Soaring through the clouds, getting to look at them up-close…it was awesome to think about.

So of course I had to link this image to Superman for Movie Title Wednesday. I actually don’t have the love for the movie like you might think considering I was three years old when it came out. When I did get around to liking superheroes and saw the film…it probably already seemed a little bit old to me. Regardless, the first big screen version of Superman was awesome and Christopher Reeve will always be remembered for it. The rest of the films haven’t been that amazing and the latest entry, Superman Returns, was ugh. I absolutely LOVE superhero films, so I’m praying the next release puts Superman back up there with the Iron Man, Spider-man and  Batman franchises.

This of course is another image from my flight to Little Rock a few weeks back. You may remember the previous one I posted, it’s similar to this one, but I think I like this one better. You’ll laugh at me for knowing ahead of time that we’d be hitting Oklahoma around late afternoon, severe weather was in the forecast, so I sat where I sat to get a nice view north. It was all still luck, but when I was looking out the window and saw the dark clouds looming ahead…I felt like I had set this up perfectly!

I’ve never had a flight like this and I dunno if I will again. But if I ever win the lottery or something, I’ll probably hire my own airplane to become my stormchasing vehicle and start shooting this stuff from the sky. Landscapes from the sky are just so epic and breathtaking…it would be fun to do more often.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/7.1, iso 100, 1/250th)

 

The Fellowship of the Ring

It’s a stretchy-stretch Movie Title Wednesday…meaning the exact correlation between the image and the film may not be completely obvious. And perhaps, it’s totally misnamed. I debated this one, but I honestly couldn’t find too many films that dealt with trees or have trees featured prominently in them.

Either way, we’re stuck with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. And in reality, I could think of a bazillion worse movies to be stuck with. In fact, this trilogy (or one giant movie as I like to think of them) is my favorite of all-time. As a kid I read the books for the first time and was blown away. I don’t think I understood a lot of it until I read it a second time years later. Then I got it. And since then I’ve read the books maybe 10 times. Not coincidentally, also my favorite books ever.

So when the movies were being made, I was so stoked and could only hope they’d be decent. And of course, they were awesome. Amazing films, they captured the essence of the books so well, I felt like what I had imagined in my head so many times was suddenly out there on the big screen.

Now that’s all interesting, but what does it have to do with a big tree on a hillside? Well, if you’ve seen the film or read the books, you know there is a giant…massive “Party Tree” where Bilbo celebrated his birthday and made his infamous farewell speech. For the movies, director Peter Jackson found the absolute perfect tree and setting to represent The Shire, Bilbo’s hobbit hole and the Party Tree. Photographer Trey Ratcliff traveled to New Zealand not too long ago and got a shot of this epic scene, which you can see right here.

I took this picture while on my “stormchasing” trip in Kansas, and as you can see, there are no storms in sight. I did crawl under and over two sets of barbed wire to get this shot though, so there was some “excitement” and “danger” involved…haha.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 19mm, f/22, iso 100, 1/20th)

Up in the Air

Clouds storm updraft airplanes

(Click to see the image full-sized or so it fits your monitor)

It’s another Movie Title Wednesday and this one comes from the sky and a Southwest Airlines window seat. I can’t tell you how lucky I was to sit on this site of the plane…the other side I believe didn’t get to see the action in the clouds that I did.

First off…Up in the Air. A fantastic film starring George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. It’s such a brilliant film and really tells the story of what it’s like for some of these guys who are constantly and always traveling. It kind of resonates just a teeny bit with my frequency of work trips to Vegas lately. They never are home enough to even have a home, so their apartments sit empty aside from a few items and their main concern in life is how many miles they’ve collected. The job Clooney has is a brutal one and I can’t image ever doing that. I loved the film. Kendrick was brilliant as well, never really noticed her before until this movie. Check it out if you haven’t.

There is a memory I have from sometime in the past, maybe when I was younger, of being in a plane and suddenly passing by a towering thunderhead off the wing of the plane. There is something about your aircraft being 37,000 feet (or so) in the air and then passing by something that makes you feel so small. I’ve always remembered seeing that cloud and everytime I get on a plane, I’m wishing for that to happen again.

So of course, last week was awesome. The plane weaving through these treacherous skies, giant clouds exploding all around us. This one above was absolutely beautiful and could have been a supercell. Hard to tell from the ground, but the height was impressive.  I love this photo with just a bit of the wing making an appearance in the bottom right to get you an idea of scale.

Something that kind of befuddles me though. The shot is at ISO 100, but there is a lot of noise in the clouds. Might have been because of shooting through a window, but it’s still a bit strange.

I actually like the noise. And I’ve learned to accept a bit of grain in my images. I’ve noticed a few times when I’ve printed an photo with noise, it really doesn’t show up as much as it does on my computer screen. Also…using any noise reducer would have destroyed the gorgeous textures these clouds have going on.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/320th)