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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!

Stormy sunset at Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, blend // buy print)

I’d been to the Oregon coast about three times before our vacation to Cannon Beach and then four nights during our recent stay. In all that time this is the best sky I’ve had. It’s always been overcast and murky, which I love most other times, but I’ve been dying for color and stormy looking skies at sunset.

Even this one didn’t end up with the color you might hope for when the sun hit the horizon, but I dug it anyways because…well I love storms as you may know. The cloud on the left above the two little pillars of rock kept moving towards me and as the sun went down and I left the beach, I got hit with some pellet-size hail. It was cold and windy…even the surf blew up a few times into my lens and I had to clean it off. A beautiful, beautiful evening.

You may even be able to spot the first floating around the top of Haystack Rock.

I processed this image by manually blending with luminosity masks, which is a tough, tough system to understand and perfect. I’ve been using LM’s for awhile now, but mainly on single images. This was a four exposure blend to get the detail in Haystack, but also the clouds and sunset off in the distance. The blending is tough. But if you get it right, I think it looks amazing.

I love LM’s for this kind of thing because I feel it’s a way more natural result than HDR processing that I used way back in the day. Still learning and perfecting, but digging the results.

 

Titanic

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/15th // buy print)

Movie Title Wednesdays are now few and far between these days, but I stumbled upon this image last night and realized I never posted it and felt like it was about time. I dubbed it Titanic because my wife has looked at this scene twice now and that’s the first movie that pops into her head.

And yeah, I love the movie. Can’t help it! Man card turned in!

But the way this old pier and that lamp post are covered in calcium deposits…it truly does look like the pictures we’ve seen of the Titanic. This image was taken at Bombay Beach along the Salton Sea in California back in January of this year. I made the trip with some friends from Phoenix and we met up with my buddies Heath O’Fee from Canada and Chris DeAngelis/Doug Wise from California. We had a spectacular time and on our first and only visit to Bombay Beach…couldn’t have asked for a better sunset.

This image actually fits even more for Movie Title Wednesday because it’s kind of a prequel. A week after our visit, I posted a photo from this same spot taken at 6:00pm. You can click right here to view that one.

The photograph above was taken at 5:52pm, just eight minutes earlier. Kind of amazing how much the sky changed in that short span of time. This image was always my favorite of the two because of the way the last rays of sunlight hit the lamp post and a few areas of the pier.

Definitely loved going back to that day and finding a few more images to post. We all had such an awesome time, that will of course be one of my favorite photography trips ever…and mostly because of the guys I was with.

The Rock

The Rock - Canon Beach - Haystack Rock

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 0.4sec // buy print)

I am in Corvallis, Oregon for three days this week for my day job and was absolutely blessed with an opportunity to go to Cannon Beach on Monday before heading down south. It allowed me to witness one of the most breathtaking sights in America. At least…one of the most amazing places I’ve seen so far in my life.

Quickly though…it’s Movie Title Wednesday and the choice for this image was obvious. The Rock. Nic Cage. Sean Connery. Alcatraz. Yeah, it’s a crazy, over the top movie, but I loved it. It’s right up there with Con Air in my book. Good, fun, guy flicks.

This is Haystack Rock, as if you didn’t know. It’s one of the more iconic locations in the United States. It’s very shape is usually enough for people to know what they are looking at.

What’s amazing to me…is that no photograph I’ve seen does it justice. Much like the Grand Canyon…you can’t look at a photo of these places and get any real idea of the real scope of them. You have to be there. You have to see it with your own eyes. You walk up to it and it just towers over you. Birds fly around at the top and they feel so far away.

It was a 90 minute or so drive to get there from Portland, and then it was a three hour drive to Corvallis after sunset, and I didn’t get to my hotel until 11:30 last night and I’m paying for it today.

But I wouldn’t have missed seeing that place for the world. I was hoping for some gorgeous sunset color, but then again…you know me…dark, moody…stormy…that’s my kind of weather!

As I said above, but in case you missed it…please click on the image to view on black…it’s also shrinks it to fit your monitor and is the actual size of the exported image, and thus looks more accurate!

The Forgotten

The Forgotten - Bombay Beach - Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 117sec // buy print)

The Forgotten is a not-so-great film with a pretty great title, so I’m using it this week for Movie Title Wednesday! When I look at this image, the word “forgotten” is the first thing that comes to mind.

The movie itself stars Julianne Moore and is a sort of creepy, sci-fi, horror-ish kind of tale. I honestly don’t remember much other than Moore and seeing a dude get sucked through the roof of a cabin. I’m a sucker for sci-fi films in general and I do feel like I enjoyed this one. But judging by the 5.7 on IMDB, it wasn’t the best-ever reviewed movie. Check it out though if you are in the mood for something different on a Friday night.

This image comes once again from the Salton Sea. The movie title encompasses not only this particular photograph, but in reality, the entire Salton Sea area. It’s so strange that this place exists in the middle of California. At one point the plan was to turn it into a resort and amazing getaway location. Instead you now get to see a land that time forgot. People still live out there, amazingly…but it’s a weird kind of existence.

Bombay Beach was where this image was taken. I urge you to click on it to see it bigger and sharper. I once again have to thank my buddy Chris DeAngelis for letting me use his 10-stop filter (I now have my own, yay!) to get this long exposure. I processed this using tonality control and luminosity masking, which I discovered through an amazing photographer named Zack Schnepf. Now, usually when doing that, I’m going for a natural look, but this scene demanded more and so I added some apocalyptic tones to give it an extra punch.

Next week I head to Oregon for 3 1/2 days and expect to be able to do a bit of 10-stop photography along the coast. I’ve been there once before and it was amazing fun. Can’t wait to get back.

Sunset on the Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/4 sec // buy print)

The sunset the night before in Joshua Tree was without a single cloud anywhere. It was like that video Sh*t Photographers say. All we did was whine about no clouds.

Perhaps I whined the loudest, I don’t remember. I’m sure my five compadres would verify it for you.

But it was like the lack of clouds that night was completely justified because of what we saw the very next evening. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. Almost completely still waters on the Salton Sea…a beautiful sky and an amazing reflection of the setting sun.

It was one of those moments when you just kind of stand and look at it in awe. It was so quiet. So peaceful. So beautiful. Which was a strange juxtaposition because this is the Salton Sea. There are dead fish floating in the water. How can something so disturbing be so amazing?

It was though.

 

The Calm

The Calm on Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f4 l, b+w ND 10-stop, 19mm, f/22, iso 100, 124sec // buy print)

I’m dedicating this photo to my buddy Chris DeAngelis, who let me borrow his 10-stop B+W filter and made all of this possible. He loaned it to me a few times at Bombay Beach, while Rick Young loaned me his over on the west side of the Salton Sea. Thank you guys.

Yes, I’m getting my own. Soon.

Normally if you are by water and pull out a 10-stop, you are hoping to pull off a long enough exposure so that the water becomes a misty looking cloud-like substance hugging rocks, sand, piers, whatever.

But when the body of water you are shooting is already about as calm as glass…the filter enhances that stillness and creates a beautiful, almost mirror-like reflection.

This is an abandoned, calcium-laiden old pier extending out from Bombay Beach. The entire beach area makes for one of the spookiest, weirdest places I’ve ever been. If it hadn’t been for the people I was with, the other tourists and even some photographers shooting models with beauty dishes amongst some trashed buildings, I’d have been pretty frightened about being here solo.

I may have said this on Monday’s blog post, but the Salton Sea is a lesson in contradictions. The water was so still, the horizon so smooth, the clouds blended into the water and you felt like you were in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Until you looked down at the fish carcasses or heard the occasional mysterious bubbling from the deep. Or you’d spot these beautiful, white pelicans glancing across the water’s surface as they flew by, which made you think about the dead bird laying between all the rotting fish you saw a bit ago.

I had a few people, like Heath O’Fee or Rick, tell me what the place was like before arriving, but you really have no idea until you are standing there yourself.

 

The Edge of the World

The Edge of the World - Salton Sea

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 0.6 sec // buy print)

This past Friday and Saturday I was part of a whirlwind trip that took me through Joshua Tree National Park and ended at the shores of the mysterious and disturbing Salton Sea. My good friend Heath O’Free was visiting Palm Springs from Canada, and had invited me to meet up with him on Friday. Also along for the journey was some other buddies…Rick Young and Chris Frailey from Phoenix, and Chris DeAngelis and Doug Wise from California.

Together we braved camping out in Joshua Tree despite lows in the mid-20’s (resulting in little to no sleep) and the strangeness that is the Salton Sea. I have an amazing assortment of images from the trip and can’t wait to share them over the coming weeks, but I had to start off with this one.

The Salton Sea is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The minute you see the retreating shoreline and the dead fish…you know you are someplace unique.  And creepy.

But at sunset on the eastern shore of Bombay Beach, the place had an almost epic beauty. The calm waters, the beautiful colors, the way the sky blended in with the lake out on the horizon. It was majestic and amazing, while at the same time you walk along a beach of fish and fowl carcasses and constantly have an odor of decay lingering in your nose.

This particular spot immediately called out to me when I saw it from the car. The closer I got to this old pier, the more it reminded me of something out of the Lord of the Rings. An ancient dock at Minas Tirith as my buddy DeAngelis said. My wife thinks it looks like the scenes at the end of the movie Titanic.

Either way, I knew I wanted to shoot the sunset from here. We were blessed with gorgeous clouds and such calm, reflective waters.

More to come!

 

Airplane

Airplane - Downtown Urban Phoenix Reflection

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 30mm, iso 100, f/4 // buy print)

You may know about my love for reflection photos like this one. What you may not know is that I’m kind of specific about when I shoot them.

Like, if someone empties their swimming pool and it floods the street…I don’t rush outside with camera gear in hand. That just doesn’t get me going at all.

But what does motivate me are storms. Of course right? And when it comes to reflections…I like the puddles of water leftover after a good rain. And even more specifically…I like to shoot them at sunset or in the early, cloudy morning. And finally…I need to be in the downtown, urban environment. I could have taken some shots in my driveway this week, but I wasn’t as inspired until I found myself in an abandoned parking lot. Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way it is.

It’s kind of a weird thing to shoot too. You wonder if people are looking at you funny. You are just walking around, tripod in hand…staring at the ground. From 100 feet away, I’ll bet it looks goofy as heck. I love it!

Now I love this shot I posted today, but honestly I think the plane makes it and I never even intended for it to be there. I just liked the pattern in the cement and the glimpse of some powerlines. But as I was bracketing the shot, this plane flew overhead and turned an okay image into some a bit more special for me.

And the reason I like shooting after it rains is the stormy clouds that you usually have and that awesome texture you get in the reflection. Swirls of light and dark…adds an element you can’t really control.

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.