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A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

Into the Wild

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, exposure blend // buy print)

I’ve had a couple of friends lately tell me they miss Movie Title Wednesdays on my blog, and it kind of made me realize I do too. I haven’t done one in a few months now, but we’re back and better than ever!

If you haven’t heard about the story of Christopher McCandless, than I suggest you rent the film Into the Wild, starring Emile Hirsch. The movie is based off the book of the same title written by Jon Krakauer. I would highly recommend the book too, maybe even before you see the movie. It’s an amazing tale of a guy who sells everything, gives all his money to charity and hitchhikes his way to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

It’s a true story and one that will grip you until the end. He made such an impact on people along the way, that author Krakauer was able to piece together his journey from interviews with those people, plus friends and family. Check it out!

So my wife picked out the title today because the one I had before was horrible. She brought up a good point though about my struggle to find a good one: I shoot so many road shots, at some point, movie titles aren’t going to work as I don’t like to repeat them and never have before.

But for today…Into the Wild kind of fits here. This is a stretch of the Beeline Highway headed towards Payson. This long, downward straightaway into this valley has always been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. It’s just kind of suddenly THERE when you aren’t expecting it.

I’ve always wanted to do it justice and this day back on March 19th was perfect. We’d just had some winter storms blow through (in fact, there is snow falling on some of the distant mountains), the clouds were astounding and the fading sunlight mesmerizing.

It took some time to get this though…it’s a busy highway and finding a time with no one behind or ahead of me wasn’t easy. Luckily I had about 1/4 – 1/2 mile warning of oncoming vehicles, although when they are going 75-80mph, that’s not a ton of distance!

Streets of New York

Streets of New York

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(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35 mm 1.4 l, f/2 iso 100 1/160 // buy print)

When we were in New York back in October, my wife and I took a day to wander the city. We started off in the West Village by grabbing a quiet little breakfast and then wandering down random streets, taking pictures of anything we thought was interesting.

There is something quite beautiful about an empty road. I loved the slight sprinkling of leaves, the bike, the shadows and the trees.

I focused on the manhole cover at f/2 to drop off focus in the background quickly.

A sunset on the Superstitions

The Red Supersitions - Lost Dutchman - Arizona

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

The weather predictions for winter out here in Arizona called for a La Nina pattern…meaning not much rain and not very cold temperatures. So it was kind of a surprise when December rolled in with quite a few cold fronts that dropped snow on the mountains outside of Phoenix and also an inch of rain in town.

Now, of course, we’re well into our predicted La Nina winter, with temps hovering around 75-80 and no rain in sight. Which makes me sad, but at least I have December to look fondly on.

I took this photograph back on the 22nd along one of my favorite stretches of road in all of Arizona, and it’s only about 30 minutes from my house. If you’ve followed me for awhile, you’ve probably seen a few past images from this spot. This was probably my third night out in a row trying to capture a sunset over the mountains east of Phoenix, but nothing was panning out. My buddies Chris Frailey and Bryan Snider were out there those days as well and all of us were pondering the whereabouts of Arizona’s epic sunsets.

Finally this evening paid off. I was worried though…the clouds stretching from the mountains ahead were actually on the left side of the road about 15 minutes earlier. I was praying they wouldn’t move too far right before the color of the setting sun hit them.

This was also the first time out with the new (used) Canon 17-40 L. Love the lens, can’t wait to play with it a bit more.

 

Moon

Moonrise - Highway 87

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(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 4000, 20 sec // buy print)

It’s Movie Title Wednesday, a series that has been going on so long that I’m surprised I haven’t run out of films to use yet.

Moon is one of those hidden gems that you may not have heard of before. It came out several years ago and stars Sam Rockwell as a guy who is on a 3-year stint managing a mining operation on the Moon that helps replenish Earth’s resources. If you love pure, classic science fiction…this is a film you gotta see. The movie received an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.0 rating on IMDB. Solid numbers.

On the last day of stormchasing the monsoons last year, I ended up driving over 450 miles. I was up near Winslow, the day was over and it was time to head home. I chose highway 87 which would take me through Payson, a route I’d only been on once before. A bit after 8pm I realized I was in this wide open area with retreating clouds and some of the Milky Way appearing above me. I pulled over and aimed south to capture some stars, but the clouds were quickly returning and the shot didn’t turn out so well.

But then, as usually happens, I turned around and saw the moon rising. I’ve shown this picture to a few people, plus it appears at the end of my latest book, and most of the time the first thought is that it’s a sunrise. Until you see the stars in the sky and realize that would be impossible.

The moon rose with a orange glow about it and the clouds were perfect, even getting lit up underneath a bit as if it were a sunrise. The taillights from the car illuminated the highway.

It was so peaceful out there too…quiet, nothing for miles and miles and miles. Not a car in sight. Was a wonderful way to end the stormchasing season.

 

Just a road…with a storm

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 1/50 // buy print)

There is nothing I love more than a nice road photograph. I really can never tire of them. The problem with stormchasing is that all you are doing is driving down roads most of the time, so you are tempted to do nothing but stand in the middle of every awesome highway you see. Hence I try to find random things down dirt roads, like rocks, cactus, whatever…to try and frame a shot.

But I still shoot roads and this is one from up in Sedona, on the northwest side, from back on July 11th. A large monsoon thunderstorm was moving slowly from left to right over these mountains, dropping heavy rain as it passed by.

Feeling a bit tired and worn out today. Stormchasing is such a passion. It drives me. It’s very hard for me to just take a night off from it when I know good stuff is happening. Part of that is wanting to build a reputation for always being out there, being reliable, being a source for information and the latest photos of our weather. But the other part is just desire to shoot it, to be out in it and to enjoy it.

And there is also the idea that this lasts only about four months during the summer and then it’s over until next year. But I still have to learn how to take a night off when I need one. And to be able to do it and NOT think about what I’m missing the entire time.

Last night was a nice break…hung out with two buddies from high school whom I’ve been friends with and stayed in contact with ever since.  I still looked at the radar on my phone though *grin*

The other thing on my mind today is a kind of hangover from the past five days. Stormchasing Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday’s dust storm, a quick Monday night jaunt up the 17, then more Tuesday night. When things die down as they always do (as in right now)…I’m always kind of left with this emptiness…like, what now?

It will pass quickly though, because I’m looking forward to a little relaxation and fall TV premieres! Vampire Diaries tonight!

Thanks for letting me ramble a bit this morning.

Fire ahead

Sunset Arizona Lake Pleasant

Man I had a tough time last night. I had never been up to Lake Pleasant northwest of Phoenix, but that kind of where this storm was headed, so I thought it would be pretty awesome to capture the sunset glowing over a lake.

But I didn’t know the area very well, so by the time the sunset was arriving, I was still trying to find out how to get down to the water. Plus the gas light started coming on intermittently, and with a 1994 4Runner, you aren’t going to have a ton of miles left to find a station. Not to mention my daughter was in tow!

So that basically led to me finding this quick stretch of road and snapping pictures right there. It actually feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve taken a photograph from the middle of a highway, something I absolutely LOVE doing, so it kind of ended up alright.

The “storms” we had last night amounted to just some low-topped cumulus that dropped light rain here and there. This particular storm cell was dropping it thicker than the rest, so I kept following it, hoping if I get it between myself and the setting sun, I might get a cool show.

Shore ’nuff, the sun started glowing through the falling rain and made the horizon look like it was on fire. Gorgeous. Colors were just sick.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso100, 1/4 sec)

The Road Ahead (Welcome to the new look)

(click to see the image above in a beautiful lightbox with a nice, dark border)

Well, you’ve no doubt noticed things look a lot different here today. Of course, if this is your first visit, that may not mean much, but I welcome you here just the same!

To those that follow this blog and my photography on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, this is the first theme change I’ve done to this website in a very long time. I’m never the type of person to stay happy with a theme for very long, but the previous one was awesome, I loved it and I actually still love it.

But it’s time to move on to something else. I didn’t do it lightly, nor without a lot of help, advice and feedback.

Why the change? Well, for awhile now I’ve been struggling with the idea that people may not get a clear idea of everything I do. Portraits, weddings, events…and prints of course. The old theme was okay, but I needed something that would hopefully tell you who I am the second you hit the website.

The slideshow on the frontpage is pretty awesome. The guy who designed this theme did an amazing job overall, but that style of a slideshow is all kinds of bad ass. And it solved my problem. When you arrive here, you get to see a smorgasbord of my images…from people to places. I love it.

There are a lot of other, fairly important reasons for doing this and I’m not going to go into them all. If you are interested in knowing, you can email me, ask in the comments, or whatever. I’ll gladly answer any questions you have. If you have feedback, I’m open to that as well. If you notice anything broken or acting funny, I urge you to let me know.

Thanks to those of you who saw the new theme ahead of time and gave me feedback, especially my little focus group that actually took the time to explore it and send me detailed notes. So very appreciative! I feel like this change (among other things) is going to lead to bigger things for me down the road and I’m beyond excited about it!

OH YEAH…the image at the top of this post. I shot it back in March whilst in Las Vegas. This was the road to El Dorado Canyon and of course I had to stop and get out. Clouds…awesome. Road…perfect. Done deal.

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

 

A Nebraska supercell after dark

Nebraska supercell after dark

(Click to enjoy the storm a little bigger, almost like you were there. Okay, not really)

Whew. It’s around 9am right now and I just landed in Phoenix a bit after 7am after flying out from Oklahoma City this morning. A long trip, I added around 2200 miles to the lovely Hyundai Santa Fe I rented and slept in the car two of the three nights for a total of five hours. I did actually rent a hotel on Tuesday night and it was some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.

The bottom line from the trip was that I didn’t really see what I wanted to see. I was hoping for beautiful, isolated supercells with gorgeous cloud structure. Ehhh…not this time. That’s okay though…I had a blast, got to spend a day with an awesome stormchasing photographer named Shane Kirk that I’d never met in person before and I saw so many beautiful places I’d never seen before.

I have a ton of stories, and a video I’ll be putting together of my few adventures…but right now I’ll talk quickly about the photo above.

The photo above was taken in the NW corner of Nebraska on Monday night. The beautiful storm clouds you see in this shot had just passed over this road from the left side. This was a fairly intense supercell that was tornado warned and had a vortex signature on it. The fun part was I had come down this road doing about 95mph so I could not be slaughtered by the thing. Basically it was akin to walking really slow across some railroad tracks as a massive locomotive comes barreling down at you. The train barely misses you, but you get slammed with all the wind anyways.

As I was coming down the road at one point, I thought I saw stuff blowing across the road up ahead and figured it was a funnel and I was screwed. But it was just some nasty RFD (rear flank downdraft) that rocked my car all over the place.

When I finally got to a safe spot, I turned around and aimed my camera at this cell. It was just gorgeous. The photo can’t do it justice. The thing was flashing non-stop and it was something to behold.

I have a few more lightning shots I may post down the road, but this was one of my favs. The first good shot on a crazy stormchasing trip.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.6, iso 200, 8 sec)

The winding road

(clickity click on the image for a biggity big version)

I know, a road shot right?

This is yet another shot from my trip to Nelson/El Dorado Canyon southeast of Las Vegas back in mid-March. The clouds, the light, the winding road…were almost too much fro me to handle. I saw too many shots I loved and had to reel myself in thinking “Do you really need 25 more road shots Mike??

My real, unabashed answer to that from deep inside me is YES…but in reality, certain road shots are special, most aren’t and you gotta know when it’s worth it.

This photo was actually unplanned…I had parked on the other side of the road and was shooting some Cholla cactus on a hillside that were amazing looking with the sunlight (you may remember this shot). But as I turned to walk back to the car, I just stopped and saw the road.

A quick pause here. I love being a photographer. I love looking at something and seeing beauty in it that perhaps another person would never notice. It’s something to embrace.

The image above, for me, was full of unique elements that made it worth shooting. First off the light shining further up the road. The second was the way the elevation slopes upwards instead of down. The way it winds right to left and then back right. The way it rises on the bends. The clouds. The hills.

Sometimes scenes like this one speak only to us, not others. Not everyone else is going to appreciate it, or love it the way I do. But that’s okay. Be proud of what you see and what you compose. Own it, grow it, get better at it.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/2.8, iso 100)