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A chair at the dog track

A chair at the black canyon dog track

(Click to see the photo larger, almost like you’re sitting in that chair)

I don’t know when the last time was that I posted an image from the dog track visit we did in the final week of December, but believe it or not, I still have a few shots left to show eventually! If you’ve missed any of the series or would like to look back, click here for the “dog track” tag.

This chair of course was just sitting there waiting to be photographed. I’m sure at some point it was moved out to this spot to either be sat on or to be a prop for someone else’s photography. I think it’s way interesting at a place like this to wonder a bit about why things are where they are. One of my buddies with me on this trip kept pointing out objects that were different from the time he was there before. In fact, a giant ticket booth was sitting in the middle of the main building, definitely a new thing. Who dragged that booth into here? The owner looking to dump stuff? A photographer wanting something interesting for a backdrop?

Anyways, I”ll always remember back fondly on the three hours or so we were here. A great experience.

Tonight a bunch of us are descending upon Tempe for a little photowalking action, so I’m looking forward to that! Haven’t been down there for awhile and while the forecast calls for the opposite, I’m praying for clouds over the lake to help us with some great sunset photos. If you are interested in going, let me know!

Have a nice weekend!

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5)

 

Shards

(View a little larger, a little better by clicking on image for a lightbox)

I keep finding images from our dog track visit back in December that I haven’t processed, so I took a bit of time this week to blaze through a few.

I love this place. The scene above was so indicative of the current deterioration of the structure. It was also interesting how all these foreground seats were places on the outside of the facility and now it’s almost like the entire place is “outside.”

The first thing we talked about when we got near the windows was that we should all steer clear of them…because those shards aren’t just small bits of glass, but huge pieces that I would assume could take your head off if they dropped directly on you.

I automatically had a desire to stand next to and look through these windows, so I had to make sure I kept reminding myself to keep away.

This scene has a very post-apocalyptic feel to it for me. Chairs falling in disrepair, vegetation growing all over, the fact that everything just feels out in the open now. At one point in my life (and it may still happen), I had planned on writing a book that would take place in a future where people hadn’t really lived on the planet for a couple hundred years.

Things would likely be way worse than this, but it might be a scene I’d use to describe the way things were.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5, iso 100)

The lamp post on Monroe

Another shot from the rainy evening we had back in late December. I was just hanging around this area using my 50mm to create some depth down long streets, sidewalks and walkways.

I loved how this little bricked path kind of “tunneled” itself though the trees and emerged at a lamp post/street light down the way. Some gorgeous “fall” leaves lay on the ground and the reflections from the storm added another element I dug.

I find myself fascinated with low shots like this, especially when using a 50mm or 85mm. You can get such distance when you are close to the ground, cool perspective, awesome lines and beautiful bokeh, especially when shooting wide open.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/1.6, iso 100, 1/6 sec)

Swingers

There were two ways I could have gone with this image. One was the “or die” you see on the wall…but the other seemed to click the moment I saw this scene and thus it’s this week’s Movie Title Wednesday.

Swingers is my number one…yes, numero uno, all-time favorite movie. It’s hard to explain why, but to me this is one of the best guy movies ever made. First off you have Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn and Ron Livingston, all young before anyone knew who they were. Second you have Las Vegas, you have cool cars, awesome big band music, gangster references to Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Wayne Gretsky bleeding, guns, bears with claws and “This place is dead anyways.”

I can’t even mention all the lines I love in the movie.

“Mikey’s the big winner, Mikey wins!”

“Vegas baby…Vegas.”

“You’re so money.”

“Is he cute Mikey? Is he brown?”

“Hey! What’re you kicking me for? You want me to ask? All right, I’ll ask! Ma’am, where do the high school girls hang out in this town?”

And the one that inspired me to use the flick for this image in the first place:

“You always doubledown on eleven.”

This photo is another one from the dog track north of Phoenix. You can clearly see two number “11” seats in the picture. So not only do you always doubledown on eleven, but this photo has TWO elevens! And to top it off, all the chairs kind of “swing” up and down right?

It’s total kismet. I mean…yeah, I could have saved the movie title for an awesome picture of Las Vegas that I will undoubtedly get this spring when I find myself up there a lot, but I had to use it now. I dug how the row of chairs had dead weeds around it and broken seats laying everywhere.

Oh and I still have quite a few shots left from the dog track that I haven’t even processed yet. Ugh!

Swingers is wonderfully written, completely hilarious and ultimately a cult classic. It’s about your buddies, girlfriend problems and Martin Scorsese. It played at the Valley Art Theater in Tempe for about a year straight because every week, people still came out to see it. I beg you, if you haven’t experienced it, go rent it this weekend, sit back with a beer and try not to cringe at the voice mail scene.

Sticks and Snow

Desert Storm Arizona Dead Tree Snow Weather

Lately the blog has been returning to more and more of my usual landscape and storm shots. We’ve had quite a few nice winter storms since December and it’s reignited my passion for this stuff. I was out last weekend a few times, and this weekend I went out Sunday morning to chase after some high desert snow, but it was a lot higher than I was hoping.

This image is from back in late December when we had daytime highs of around 36 degrees and some fun snow storms along the Beeline Highway.

One thing that helps your landscape or storm images is to have something interesting in the foreground. I can’t tell you how often that is a struggle for me. Not because the desert is devoid of interesting things, but mostly you worry about boring people to death with yet another shot of a Saguaro cactus with a storm in the background.

So when I’m out there running around, I do my best to mix things up. Find something else that will make a key element to the photo that people don’t normally get to see. That’s been a fun goal for me lately and has made me think twice about a lot of photos I might take.

Do I really need that scene? Is it a whole lot different than one I’ve shot in the past?

I loved this gnarled old tree skeleton. I’m not sure what it was when it was alive, but it was beautiful in death. The sun was lighting it up nicely against the dark, stormy clouds off in the distance. Really dug the contrast.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/20, iso 100)

Almost Famous

The Duce Bus Downtown Phoenix

(Hat tip to the wife for picking the name for this one…she always comes through)

Another edition of Movie Title Wednesday finds us back in the 1970’s, riding along with Stillwater, the band that is the focus of the fantastic film, Almost Famous.

I remember loving this movie, and perhaps even getting choked up at the end. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, but it’s one of those films that comes along once in awhile that just hangs with you for years after seeing it. A young man tries to get an article written for Rolling Stones Magazine by joining the band Stillwater on their tour bus as they go around the country. Great cast…Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee.

One of the best moments of the film that still kind of resonates with me was when they all join in to sing Tiny Dancer while heading down the highway. Amazing scene.

If you haven’t seen it…check it out, definitely can’t go wrong if you love music, bands, a little comedy, a little drama and awesome writing.

The bus in the photo belongs to The Duce, an eclectic, unique place in downtown Phoenix. I shot this back in late December whilst on our first photowalk of the city. My buddy Ken and I both got shots of it, still haven’t seen what he did with it.

I processed this photo awhile ago…probably within a week of taking it, but was waiting to dump it on a Wednesday. This was one of the first times I used Focal Point from onOne Software and I absolutely loved how it isolated the front of the bus. I knew right away I’d make it black and white, because I find it really helps get rid of any distraction when it comes to background colors.

Sitting pretty

Dog Track Black Canyon City Arizona

We go back to the dog track from our December trip up to Black Canyon City (you can see all photos in the series here).

Again…one of my favorite things about the time we spent at this amazing, decayed and lost building…was the afternoon light. They aren’t solid, or in your face, but you can kind of see the shadows streaking from right to th left across the old, broken floor. In the foreground you can make out some square tiles that still remain intact, but most of them have fallen apart. In fact, you could hear cracking as you walked across the room where tiles broke solely from our footsteps.

I shot the image from a good 40-50 feet away I believe, using the 50mm to focus right on the chair off in the distance. I don’t think it takes much explanation to figure out why I loved this scene. Isolation is a key element in my compositions, be it urbex or storm chasing. Not always of course, but there is something beautiful about a singular object that is either different or somehow stands out from its surroundings.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.2, iso100)

Two spikey peas in a pod

Desert Snow Storm Arizona Cactus Yucca

I’ve been having a ton of fun this fall/winter playing around with urban exploration, processing grungy images and discovering my love for shooting in downtown Phoenix.

But I absolutely miss the summer storms. Big time. I feel like I’ve learned something about the  kind of photography I want to produce when it comes to weather images and now I’m anxious to see that vision come alive in the upcoming monsoon season.

I love this picture. It was shot during the cold weather that brought some snow storms to the deserts in late December. One of my favorite moments in weather is after a storm leaves. Lots of times you get awesome light, clear, crisp air and an amazing contrast between the storm leaving and what you see in front of you. This image is no exception. As the storm exits to the right of the image, you can see the darkness still alive in it. But here where we stand…beautiful sunlight casting long shadows…and a crisp, vibrant air that gives us an amazing clarity all the way to the snowy peaks on the horizon.

There is one negative to this image: It only increases my craving to get back out there. And summer is still a long ways off.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/20, iso100)

Air Produce

Downtown Phoenix Urban Building Airplane

The day before our chilly, 6am Urban Phoenix Photowalk takes place, figured I’d drop one more image from one of my excursions down there before Christmas. We’ll probably be walking by this building once again and I’m hoping to find something new and different about it that I missed before.

Before I go on…I figured I’d talk a bit about clouds. Not a surprise right?

My buddy Bob Lussier (whom I apparently am in love with since I’ve now linked to him twice this week) is just finishing up a series he calls “Off-Season.” It’s a fantastic look at what the wintery season looks like up in Massachusetts and the New England area when things close down. Check out one of his latest shots.

The reason I bring it up is because without the moody, cloudy skies, I don’t think he’d get the same “abandoned, off-season, winter” feelings that he conveys through those shots.

Clouds are important to the photography I enjoy. I hate blue skies. If I find a building or structure that I’m dying to shoot…I’m going to wait until I get the skies to go with it. The entire reason I was out the morning I took the above shot was the clouds. There is something magical and beautiful about the morning sun creating textures and depth in clouds like this. It draws me and moves me.

While I was setting up to take this shot, I noticed how close the airplanes were on their decent into Sky Harbor, so I waited to snap my brackets until another one was flying over. I like the image with or without the airplane, but I think it just adds something extra.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/8.0, iso100)

Good luck

I’ve been posting a lot of black and white lately, so I didn’t want you guys to think I was totally devoid of seeing in color.

This is another image from our Phoenix photowalk we did back in late December. We have another one coming up this Saturday and the group size is around 15 people…although I expect the chilly temps and 6am start time will end up trimming our numbers down when it’s all said and done!

Another photo from my 50mm 1.4 renaissance that week…I loved using this lens to find the subtle, cool little details instead of the wide angle approach to everything. It’s seems hard to train your eye to see both at the same time. While it’s obviously not horrible to shoot wide angle…if you are so focused on one that you can’t see the other…then you miss out. I myself still have a hard time with it. That’s why that morning I intended to go out using nothing but the 50. If I left the 17-35 on, I’d probably get in the wrong mindset.

This weekend I hope to go out and see it all at the same time. Of course, now you have to throw in the new full frame to really add a challenge, but I can’t wait.

Oh…so you  may be wondering what the heck the title of this blog post means. It’s simple:

You want to get some water from that spicket?

Good luck!

(exif: rebel xsi, 50mm 1.4, f/2.0, iso100)