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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!

The city in the water

Motion, Tracks and Buildings - Downtown Phoenix Reflections

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 100 // buy print)

There are two very different storm seasons in Phoenix. In the summer, it’s all monsoons and thunderstorms. The rest of the year, it’s just random winter-ish storms that roll through. The summers bring lightning, the winters bring rain.

So in the summers, I go outside of the Phoenix area to chase the weather. In the winters, I head downtown.

One thing I really ended up finding amazingly fun and rewarding was pointing my camera downwards at these giant puddles of water after a winter storm. And I like my images to be of the darker, stormier variety, so I try to do this when it’s dusk and the sun is going down.

It’s not easy…the chance of rain anytime here is usually slim, and then to hope the puddles last until sunset…well, it all makes it a rare occurrence. But I’ve been able to find the opportunity twice now and each time I’ve fallen in love with this kind of composition.

The above photo is the surface of a random parking garage. Tire tracks fly across the image. Two large buildings rise against the dark, angry evening clouds. In fact, it was in the midst of raining off and on at this point, I just happened to catch a break in the action.

This is an HDR image, so you may notice the bit of motion on the surface of the water. That was just some bubbles from a passing car, which I decided to leave alone and not fix.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future - Tire tracks in a puddle in downtown Phoenix

(please click the image so it fills your screen in the event you might have smaller monitor like I do. Also a dark border looks nice with it)

Twice this year I’ve been able to do some stormy sunset reflection shots downtown and I have to say, I absolutely LOVE this kind of photography. But first off, this is Movie Title Wednesday and we’re going with Back to the Future this week!

I remember seeing Back to the Future for the first time as a kid at my aunt’s house. God bless her for renting it that night. My brother and I loved it. And we’ve been huge fans ever since. I’m fairly certain the old, long-gone, Cine Capri in Phoenix did a marathon one day of all three films that we attended.  Anyways, this was such a good movie. A bit of science fiction time travel, but in a way that didn’t seem like sci-fi at all. Great music, awesome writing and of course, Michael J. Fox whom I’ve loved forever.

I went with this movie today because of the tire tracks in the puddle leading off to a firey sunset. Kind of makes you think of the Delorean’s fire trails after  jumping back in time right?

There is something a heck of a lot of fun about finding these scenes in giant pools of water after a storm. It was actually still raining a bit when I was down there, so a few times I had to duck under some shelter to wait for it to end.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/8, iso 100)

A final visit to the seventh floor

The Puddle - Downtown Phoenix Storm Reflection

(click to see the big puddle in a lightbox)

This evening of February 20th, 2011 was pretty awesome. Those that have followed me for awhile may remember some of the other shots (here and here) from the top of this downtown Phoenix parking garage right next to Chase Field. Seven stories. An absolutely amazing sunset with the most gorgeous clouds you ever saw. And a previous rain left puddles everywhere.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love clouds and sunsets like this. They are incredibly rare.

This will likely be the last image I post from that night. Time to move on, and leave it behind.

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

The Town

Downtown Phoenix Reflections

(A much better view can be had by clicking to see with a black border and slightly larger!)

This is probably the first time that a Movie Title Wednesday film has been something so recent. That could mainly be due to the fact I don’t SEE as many movies as I used to what with a kid and all. Before Lyla, my wife and I would tend to see around 1-2 movies a month, always on Saturday mornings with the elderly folks at the earliest possible showing. It’s less crowded, more quiet and then we could always come back home after and taken a nice little nap.

Ah…the good ol’ days when we were just kids.

The Town stars Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner, along with the awesome mad man himself, John Hamm. Fantastic movie, I love that it was set in Boston and it’s one of the best movies Affleck has done in awhile. I really liked how it revolved around what it claimed to be a true story about robbery families being a part of the history of Charleston. There are some really tense scenes, and it reminded me a lot of the film Heat, one of my all-time favs.

Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

This image is the final one from my downtown Phoenix reflection series. That series could get a sequel down the road if we ever again see a drop of rain, but for now, this is the last entry. And I couldn’t be more proud of it and the entire series. In fact, this week I will be showing six pieces of art down at First Fridays from 6-10pm at the New City Gallery (more info here) and three of the images are a part of this series. The entire theme will be downtown Phoenix and I’m so excited about doing something way different than the last time I showed.

I will be there from around 6:30pm onwards, so if you happen to live close by, I would love to see you again, or meet you for the first time, whatever. There are going to be some other great artists, live music and food/wine. It’s a great night to be downtown and is also going to be the last of the New City Gallery’s First Fridays until the fall.

My wife saw the above image and asked if I did a texture overlay on it or something, because the reflection kind of makes it hard to tell. But no, this is just a puddle of water over a concrete slab with some awesome stains on it. I especially love the glowing “rift” near the top that was likely some leaked oil at some point now a part of the surface.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/10)

The Remains of the Day

(Please click on the photo to see it larger…my lightbox plugin gets lonely sometimes)

Today’s Movie Title Wednesday film may be obscure for some of you out there. In fact, it’s kind of obscure for me too considering I only saw it once and it came out in 1993. My wife (then girlfriend) and I worked together at a movie theater back in those days and so we’d pretty much see everything that came out as long as the reviews were decent.

The Remains of the Day was a classic, well-done film. At least, I remember thinking it was one of the good ones. Check out the rating it has on IMDB…8.0…that’s high. I don’t remember much about it other than Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson were in it and it was one of those period-piece movies that not as many people go to see as they should.

My wife and I used to crave seeing stuff like that and it kind of makes me miss those good ol’ days. If you want to broaden your horizons a little bit, check it out…the performances are superb.

This photo is part of my little “Reflection” series that I started last week with a shot called “Criss Cross.” The movie’s plot doesn’t necessarily correlate too well with the image above, but the name of it certainly has quite a few layers of meaning.  The shot was taken after a rainstorm in downtown Phoenix after the sun had just disappeared. So you can kind of see the rain being a “remnant” of the day’s storm. It also should be fairly easy to connect the number “24” to a certain amount of hours in a day. There might be a few other links to the title, but I’ll let you make your own conclusions.

If anyone wonders how close I was to changing this series to TV Title Wednesdays so I could use a certain show starring Jack Bauer…it was definitely on my mind. *grin*

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso 100)

Criss Cross

Criss Cross - Downtown Phoenix Reflections Rain

(image looks sharper and clearing by clicking on it to view in lightbox)

I rarely do “series” on my blog, because if I do they just get strung out for weeks at a time since I like to change things up on a daily basis. At that point it’s hard to keep track of them. But yesterday I started an “Over the Fence” series and today this is kind of the beginning of what will start out as a small “Phoenix Reflections” series.

Last week after we had a rare moment of rain, I decided to head downtown around dusk to get some reflection shots. My Dark City image last week was the first shot I took, but then I forced myself to start looking “down” instead of “up” or “out.”

Sometimes if you want to stay on task, you just have to make yourself focus.

So I found a nice, flat parking lot full of large puddles and started exploring their reflections. It was a beautiful time of evening, with the sun having just set, some murky clouds hanging around and awesome contrast in the asphalt with the striping. I made it a goal to keep the reflections based around the buildings around me.

Had a lot of fun and wished this particular moment in time had lasted three hours instead of 20 minutes.

I have a few more shots from that night, but this may become an ongoing series depending on the frequency of rain we get here…so it may be months *grin*

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 27mm, f/10, iso 100)

Dark City

(click on the image above to see it fit to your desktop resolution…and view it in a nicely framed lightbox)

I’m a huge science fiction movie fan. Not really so much the silly stuff that’s out there, but more of the solid, make-you-think kind of films, like Primer, Children of Men or Moon. When I completed this image and decided to use it for Movie Title Wednesday, I actually was thinking Inception at first, but without realizing it, I had been saying the true title to myself over and over while staring at it.

Dark City.

First off, I need to be honest. I saw the movie a long time ago and most of what I remember is that Keifer Sutherland was in it…it was dark and the ending was awesome. Oh, and I liked it. But I forgot everything else. I had to look up the plot again on IMDB just to remind myself. I even failed to remember that Jennifer Connelly was in it…and that’s hard to do.

If you haven’t seen it and love great sci-fi, go rent it asap. Almost everyone I know who has seen it thought it was brilliant. It’s kind of a cult classic in the way that not everyone knows about it but at the same time has a huge following. Like Firefly.

Also, if you haven’t seen Primer, Children of Men or Moon…well, rent them too.

This photo comes from two nights ago after it rained for half the day. I was hoping it would start clearing up before the sun went down and I got lucky. What I love about weather…is that even if I’m in the most urban of environments, I can still include it in my images. The leftover puddles…the clouds. I basically left home with the idea to find reflections in puddles wherever I could and I can’t wait to post the other shots I got from this night.

One last thing about this image. It’s HDR. It’s kind of dark. There are details you can’t see because of the shadows. And I love it. Don’t be afraid to process your high dynamic range images with details lost  in shadows. I know it seems counter-intuitive to capture the entire light range of a scene and then not show it all…but I urge you to give it a shot.

Also, I shot this with my 50mm 1.4. I *heart* that lens.

Seventh Heaven

Downtown Phoenix Urban Storm Sunset

(new: click to view in a lightbox)

This picture is really dedicated to my wife, whom without I doubt we’d have even been in this spot. We had a nice storm system move through this past weekend and I got up real early on Sunday and spent a few hours driving out in the mountains to get some photos.

Because I’d already been out, I just didn’t think about going out again because I had a lot of stuff to get done. Yet my wife comes home in the late afternoon and says “I can’t believe you aren’t out there with these clouds.

And she was right. I couldn’t believe it either. So around 5pm we packed up Lyla and hit downtown Phoenix.

I’ve been wanting inside this parking garage for a long time now and this was a perfect occasion. The guy at the gate said it would cost me $12 despite no event and not a single soul parked in the garage. I asked what I could do if I just wanted to shoot some photos for an hour. He decided to let me park for free near their office in the garage itself which was awesome.

We took the elevator up to the highest floor…number seven, and as my wife told her mom later that night…I was like a kid in a candy store.

The clouds were just amazing. Stormy, huge, fluffy…floating just above our heads. The entire city was basked in this amazing light when the sun went down. I have to rank it up there with the top three sunsets I’ve witnessed here.

I was a snapping, bracketing fool and we were actually on our way out (because there is only so much you can take seeing your two girls bundled up, looking cold, Lyla with those little eyes saying it’s probably time to go daddy) when I saw this scene. The roof of Chase Field where the Diamondbacks play can be seen on the left, which is kind of amazing because it’s such a huge stadium…the roof still towers above us despite being seven levels up.

The puddle obviously makes the shot, but I also just love this cement landscape that stretches out towards the horizon.

I had a heck of a time processing this one last night, starting over several times and spending at least 2-3 hours on it. I’m kind of a perfectionist now and when I think of something being blown up to 20×30, I realize all the tiny details matter.

Can’t wait to get to a few more sets from this parking garage. I have some nice shots of Chase Field itself so I hope those turn out awesome.

Wow I rambled today! Hope your week is going well!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

The Caterpillar

I rarely take photos of construction vehicles unless there is something interesting going on in the sky. I’ve seen so many awesome HDR photos of these kinds of subjects, including my buddy Brian’s awesome shot using a fisheye lens, but I just haven’t done too many myself.

I found this Caterpillar Motor Grader was on site at the wastewater plant up in Williams, Arizona when I was there last week on a service call. With the stormy skies behind it, the puddles of rain and the awesome rusty features on the vehicle itself, I had to snap some brackets.

The style on this one is a little bit different than my normal HDR processing. I think when I do natural landscapes, stormchasing, etc., I tend to go for the most natural look possible. But when it comes to an alleyway in Amsterdam or a giant Caterpillar…I like to mess things up a little.

This was processed normally in Photomatix and CS5, but I threw in some desaturation and some Topaz Adjust on the colors. I love the muted look, the over-exposed sky and the overall feel of the shot.

Just something a little different for your Friday.