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Se7en

Powerline Sunset in Nevada

(Click to view in lightbox, the choice of a new generation)

If you haven’t seen the movie Se7en, then you probably wont get how it connects with the image above. You probably wont get the horrific moment it represents in the film either. And I don’t want to give anything away for people who still want to watch it, so I’ll do my best to just skip those details.

Needless to say, when I was processing this photo…it was suddenly obvious that it was going to be used for Movie Title Wednesday. I think I even may have had an inkling when I was standing out there taking this.

On a side note, I still am having so much fun with this series. It’s amazing how many images you can take…things that may be similar in a lot of ways (like the bazillion sunsets or sunrises I post) but somehow you find something unique in each of that that can relate to a movie. I love it.

The movie Se7en stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman back in their younger days, and revolves around a serial killer that murders people for breaking The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s gruesome, brutal and I absolutely loved it. One of those great, great thriller/horror/crime films that will always be remembered by movie fans. The scene depicted by the above photo was one of those that will forever be stuck in my brain.

This was taken a few weeks ago during my latest trip to Las Vegas. I had just returned from exploring El Dorado Canyon and the Nelson ghost town area, and was racing to find a great location to capture the sunset. The spot above is situated south of Boulder City and lies in a very wide, bowl-shaped valley. These powerlines in some areas stretched forever, and you could see them for 10’s of miles as they would go up a distant hillside. The symmetry was awesome, and so when the sunset arrived, I knew this is where I wanted to be.

Because of the aspherical aspects of my Tamron 17-35mm, the powerline towers are a bit flatter than reality (even after lens correction), but you can kind of see how the road goes on and on and on forever and the towers go right along with it.

This was taken just a few days before the Super Moon and you can see it in the upper right corner.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100)

A pair of rails at sunset

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, ISO100, F16, six exposures)

As I’ve talked about in a few recent posts, I’ve been exploring downtown Phoenix more in the past week. On two separate occasions I’ve been able to drive around just before the sun went down and just see what I see. And you know me…I don’t tend to go out shooting unless there is hope for something good in the sky…cool clouds, a sunset, whatever. Blue skies depress me.

This was a fun night with a fairly decent sunset, although it was pretty far off on the horizon. Still, a couple of contrails thrown in gave a nice parallel with the train tracks below.  I’m a sucker for lines heading to the horizon, so these tracks were perfect. Once again, I just found myself here at sunset and tried to compose the best scene I could. I find it a lot of fun to know a sunset is coming within the hour, head out downtown somewhere and just look for a place to frame the sky on the fly. I don’t plan a shot weeks ahead…I just let it happen organically. Sure, I sometimes see a spot that I think will be good at a later date…but those don’t always seem to work out as well as the random spots you find when you are crunched for time.

Glowing Rails

(Canon Rebel XSI, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, 8-exposures, F8)

Back three weeks ago when I realized it was going to be a nice sunset, I’d drive 5 minutes and be in the middle of the desert. Now I’m scrambling for places in downtown Phoenix that will compliment the gorgeous skies we get down here in the evenings and mornings.

My little family and I had been driving around downtown two weekends ago just exploring and seeing what kind of restaurants are there, shops, etc. Of course I was unconsciously more focused on things I could photograph, but when isn’t that true? We passed these tracks and I just knew I had to come back sometime.

By the way, the cardinal rule about never leaving a sunset until it’s well past the sun actually going down is so very important. As the sun disappeared on this night, the high clouds that were hanging around all afternoon suddenly appeared to vanish. I was like “UGH! They were amazing, why did they just go POOF like that? Argh, better drive around and see what else I can find to shoot while I’m here.” Sure enough, I found something that I’m extremely excited to post at a later time, but as I was snapping the shutter I saw the sky. Wow…all the clouds were back and they were on fire.

Obviously they had never left, but the sun going down made them blend in with the sky for a few minutes before they got nailed with that amazing light. Don’t. Give.Up.On.Your.Sunset.

I love the train tracks in this photo more than anything…the way they were shiny enough to reflect the sky was remarkable. Next time though I think I’d like to be further down the tracks, closer to that bridge you see in the distance.

Power

In my head I see the word “power” represented three times in this image. I shot this a few weeks back during the severe storms we were having here in Arizona. My buddy Bryan was with me at this spot and we were just marveling over the thundering clouds, the speed of their movement and the sun exploding with rays everywhere.

I made several attempts to process this photo with HDR, but it never looked right and I ended up coming back to this version a few times.

So can you see the three forms of power in the photo yet?

Obviously, the powerlines right? I mean, that’s obvious. I love them in this shot. You’d figured with this awesome set of sunrays and a massive thunderstorm, you wouldn’t want anything in front of that scene. I dunno, it works here for me. The powerlines kind of disappear to the horizon and it brings a little depth to the photo.

Second form of power is the sun. Duh…probably the most powerful form of energy for many, many light years. I mean, just look at it.

The last one is the storm itself. It was building so fast and moving at a 50mph+ clip…you could just sense the raw power contained inside it. These storms packed high winds and damaging hail. Not something you normally see in these parts.

Definitely ended up being one of the best storm chasing days for me ever in Arizona.

Farewell you blessed train tracks

These train tracks are something special to me. We’re moving on Saturday to downtown Phoenix, which is around 27 miles from this spot in the photo above. I doubt I will be seeing them anytime soon unless next year’s monsoon chasing somehow leads me this way. Or maybe I’ll be on this side of town and swing by, but regardless, it’s no longer going to be a 5-minute drive from my house.

I took the above photo two nights ago as a way of saying farewell to them. I actually hadn’t been by this way in awhile and it felt only right that my last set of bracketing done on this side of town was on these tracks. Man was it a beautiful sunset…sadly the clouds on the horizon blocked a lot of the light and didn’t allow for a nice fiery red sky…but the clouds were unique and appeared to be coming directly from the same horizon as the train tracks. God blessed me that night with a little farewell of his own.

There are two huge reasons why this place is so important to me. Both of them have to do with the photo below.

I had done an HDR photo or two by this point last November, but I don’t think I had a real understanding of what it could do for me or what would look good.  I took a lunch break to drive around and just photograph stuff around my area as a way to learn to open my eyes a little more. I walked out onto these tracks, and for some reason decided to do an HDR of this scene. I believe the thought was that at least train tracks might look cool all HDR-ed up.

But this was shot in the middle of the day. The clouds were barely visible to me with the naked eye. Little did I realize how much the HDR process would showcase the amazing contrails from overhead airplanes that day. I consider this my very first real HDR photo. The few others prior were just practice.

I posted this on Wunderground.com later that day (a weather website where I post all my weather photos, here is my profile there), and the response was overwhelming (you can see all the comments here). It received an Approver’s Choice right away and I was kind of blown away by the love it got. I just hadn’t been expecting it.

I kind of see that moment as an awakening for me. I had photographed something that moved people to say amazing things. It opened my eyes to what was possible within myself to do.  Since then…the sky has been the limit.

The second reason this photo and this spot are so important…it was the first print I ever sold. A woman knew her grandfather would love it hanging in the same room with all his model railroad stuff.

I, of course, agreed *grin*

The cool thing is that no matter how much time goes by between now and when I walk this spot again…they will still be there and the memories always will be.

Another sunset on the Gila River Indian Reservation

Now that we’re moving to downtown Phoenix, I’m really going to miss being close to places like this that are just a quick jaunt from where I currently reside. The Gila River Indian Reservation has been kind of my stomping ground this past summer for a lot of my storm chasing adventures. Once I move, getting to a spot like this will take about 30 minutes longer.

Still, I can’t wait to see what is in store for me downtown and the surrounding areas. I know for certain that South Mountain has some hidden treasures to offer and I’ll be checking it out a lot more.

So this picture was shot back in early August during a little trek I took to southern Arizona for some monsoonal action. I hadn’t even been here before and was taking a chance down a barely paved road to see where it led. Yes, it has a road in it, which is slowly becoming an obvious love for me…but I just love how they add depth and dimension to a frame.

Hoping for some more action this week as a storm system will move through the state Tuesday-Wednesday with some potentially good t-storms and rain. It’s been dead here for weeks now and I’m going through withdrawals. Bring on the rain! Woo!

Storms over the San Tan Mountains

This is sort of a “sequel” image to one I posted a few weeks ago. This storm cloud had been dropping a lot of rain on the mountains and was more contained as an isolated cell, but eventually the rain stopped and the anvil started to spread towards my direction a bit.

I loved this spot though, with the road and powerlines all headed towards the storm and so I just sat there waiting to see what happened and even without the rain, the scene was beautiful.

The monsoons have probably come to an end around these parts and I haven’t photographed a storm in over 10 days. I’ve had such an amazing summer and amazing time capturing what I could of the Arizona thunderstorm season. I have a lot of stuff to post over the rest of this year, but it’s going to be hard not to rush out and chase lightning and mushrooming cumulus for awhile.

Hopefully we’ll get some nice winter storms. I did capture some lightning back in February of this year, so here’s hoping for some good stuff this fall. And of course, once March-April roll around, it will be the big trip to the midwest for some SERIOUS stormchasing.

Vanishing into Rain

When I’m out chasing storms in the late evening, one of the big goals is to get lightning shots. Sometimes I’m so focused on it, I miss the obvious sunset going on in front of me. This photo was the result of me driving down a road north of Casa Grande as far as I could until it dead ended at this spot. The rain falling in the middle of the picture had a lightning strike not long before this. So I set up, aimed for it and start ripping off 5-10 second exposures.

Well, no more lightning came…but when I stopped for a second and looked at the scene, I was blown away by the beauty of this stormy sunset. I panned back a bit, pulled in more powerlines and took this photo.

I get caught up a lot in HDR processing because of the drama it can create from simple scenes, or even the enhancing it can do with already existing drama. Yet sometimes a scene tells you that once you snapped the shutter, you were done. Sure, maybe a little noise reduction because of the higher ISO, a slight twinge of color adjustments…but the scene speaks for itself. It didn’t need me to add more to the story.

I love this photo. Powerlines are usually ugly, but as a silhouette of vertical lines disappearing into a monsoon downpour at sunset…it’s just beautiful to me. This is why I love being out there, capturing storms…you get moments like these that you don’t plan for and may never be able to find again.

Arizona monsoon lightning photos from August 28th

My daughter sat in her little car seat, enjoying Toy Story and staying safely away from any lightning or the bazillion numbers of mosquitos I encountered last night out in the Arizona desert. Probably was a little too close to a couple of canals out there, but at times it almost felt like a swarm of bugs attacking me. I definitely have more than five itchy bites on me today.

The above lightning strike was my favorite of the night. A tip to lightning photos out there (not that any of you would do this), if your car is running because you are keeping the AC on for your little girl, go ahead and do NOT put the tripod on your trunk…just use the ground. Subtle vibrations from the engine running caused a few of my shots to be a bit unsharp and I can’t tell you how bummed I was about that.

There is another one below I like that has the strike landing behind a cactus which created a beautiful silhouette.

While I was out, I met a guy who was trying his hand at lightning photography and while I stood there, I realized his own silhouette sitting on top of his SUV was kind of cool against the clouds over the city. Amazingly, I caught a shot of a lightning strike AND him, so I walked over, introduced myself and emailed him the photos today.

The last one is just him sitting there…watching. I just love it.

Hope you enjoy these!

Stormy weather ahead

A couple of days ago we had some fairly severe weather develop across Arizona. Storms dumping a lot of rain and producing 60+mph winds. The cell on the left of this grouping was actually severe warned a bit after this. Damaging winds, tons of rain…good stuff.

I shot this in the middle of Gilbert Road just south of Hunt Highway looking north. They are actually way across town on the very far side of Phoenix, but it’s amazing how clear the skies were that you could actually see the rain falling.

Again…my love affair of roads continues.

This is a hybrid exposure blend, plus a little Topaz Adjust on the road and Nik Silver Efex for the black and white processing.