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Storms on Interstate 8

Ah…the first week in October will go down in my very own history books as the most awesome weather event of 2010. Storm after storm, organized systems, training…cloud structures I don’t get to see much out here…just fantastic fun.

This is one of the first images I captured from that week. Around mid-day I noticed a storm building up down on the Arizona-Mexico border that was moving north. About an hour later it hadn’t died out at all, it just kept moving towards Interstate 8. You don’t see that much out here…usually storms build, die and the outflows created by rain and wind form new storms. This was an organized cell moving steadily in one direction. The kind of thing you see in the midwest. I closed up shop and raced south.

I shot this about 20 or some odd miles west of the I-8/SR 84 interchange. And yes, after a few minutes of shooting from here, I headed inside that thing. A lot of those photos can be seen in my blog post last week with all the random storm images.

To the left of this shot more storms would end up building from the south creating one heck of a day of weather. I plan on posting another collage of storm photos perhaps later today or sometime this week.

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.

October Monsoon Storm Photos: Part 1

Two weeks ago Arizona was lambasted with severe weather over the course of 2-3 days. Heavy rains, hail, dented cars, tornadoes, damage to homes and property. None of that happened to me, but I certainly enjoyed chasing it all!

The first two photos are from the 4th of October where we just had some heavy rains, nothing too horrible. But after that the fun really began.

I mentioned this before on another post, but I love weather photos in general and sometimes I just like to remember a scene regardless of where I was standing or what kind of crappy composition I had going on. I process them afterwards to highlight the clouds and storminess, but for the most part, I don’t share these with intentions of selling them. Sure, if you want to buy one PLEASE do, but otherwise, these are all for fun (even if 1-2 might make it on my coming soon photobook).

The next few below were taken on October 5th along Interstate 8 between Gila Bend and Casa Grande. Some massive storms, some of them supercell in nature, were raining heck down on the freeway and I raced there to capture some of the madness.

The next few below look like wall clouds from a supercell and they MAY or MAY NOT have been that…I was so consumed at the time with my lightning trigger I totally forgot to look for rotation. That’s how much of an Arizona boy I am…pathetic if you ask me.

I LOVE these shots…menacing, dark, spooky…and the third one actually has a lightning strike in it captured with the trigger!

This next one was heading back towards Maricopa…a spectacular hail/rain storm.

This one below is just east of Queen Creek and I-10.

The last two are along highway 587 and I shot them with my buddy Bryan, the only person I know who will actually join me stormchasing and be as excited as I am.

The structure on this last one was awesome. A slight tint of blue inside that storm indicating hail.

A random dirt road near the San Tans

Dead corn stalks, weeds, brown dirt, powerlines, contrails caused by airplanes overhead, mid-day sun…nothing beautiful here right?

Ah, trick question…of course it’s beautiful! This is my old stomping grounds…Gilbert Road, the San Tan Mountains in the distance…I’d sit here and look for sunsets, lightning, clouds, whatever.

I shot this back in December of last year but never really processed it until a few weeks ago. I went out that day because I had recently discovered how much the HDR process can reveal in a daytime sky filled with airplane contrails. When you stand out there with the glaring sun…it’s hard to make out the clouds. A single snap of the frame gives you the mountains and road…but the sky is obliterated. HDR allows you to pull in those awesome lines and let them interact with your foreground.

Hope you guys enjoy this one…it’s special to me for some reason. I just love the lines…the road disappearing along with the powerlines…the clouds zig-zagging…so glad I went back and found this guy.

The Road

There is really no other appropriate title for this week’s Movie Title Wednesday image. I knew it the second I stood at this spot, soaking in the wind, the storms and the weeds bursting through this long lost road near I-17.

The Road, while recently a movie, mainly hits home for me in the book form which was written by Cormac McCarthy. It came out a few years ago and even won Cormac a Pulitzer Prize. The story is bleak and harrowing, hopeless and unforgettable. The movie was almost exactly like the book, and in that way, it was hugely successful. The only reason it wasn’t a smash hit is probably because it leans big time on the side of depressing.

I am always amazed at how different people interpret things and just a few days ago a photographer I follow named Justin Kern posted some remarkable images that made him think this of this very same film.

Despite the mood of the film, scenes like this are beautiful to me. I shot this last Wednesday during the tornado-fest in Northern Arizona. I raced up I-17 early that morning hoping to capture a twister for the first time ever. I ended up at this spot and eventually turned around and headed back to work. Standing here though was amazing and I only wish I had more time to explore further down the road and capture a few more angles of it.

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!

Road to Perdition

I’ve decided that once a week (maybe on Wednesdays, who knows), I’m going to post an image that has a corresponding movie title. Why? Well, it came to me on a whim last night and that’s the way most things I do get started. First off, I love movies. Second, I think this will stretch my imagination a little bit. Heck, this may even lead to me taking a photograph specifically BECAUSE it reminds me of a movie. We’ll see.

Completely coincidentally, my buddy Brian posted an image today that was sort of inspired by the Lord of the Rings. I took it as an omen, or confirmation, when I woke up this morning that this was a good idea. I’m looking forward to this series.

Road to Perdition, a movie with Tom Hanks, really has nothing to do with this photo other than being the perfect title. Um, you got a road, and something fairly evil or damning looking lies ahead. I photographed this last year whilst in Toronto for work. I took a day trip exploring the areas west and north of Toronto and this was a little old, abandoned SOMETHING just off a road I was traveling down. Wasn’t sure if it was a barn or a house or what. I honestly didn’t want to get much closer to it, hence the reason I like this title so much. It was foreboding…scary, especially as this was in the quiet, wee hours of the morning with the sun having just risen. I’d be a horrible solo urban explorer…I get spooked too easily *grin*

I’ve been going back through old RAW brackets deleting stuff I wont ever use, but while doing that, I am finding photos I love that I never really processed. This is one of them. I knew right away it was going to be black and white, but I wont lie and say I wasn’t a little bit inspired by Bob Lussier’s photo posted  a few days ago. This is just a three-bracket HDR image, using Photomatix, CS5 and Nik software.

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.

Down that dark road

I’m lucky to have a few great friends at work and one of them is Jesse. He’s a car guy, loves to go “wheeling” every Friday night and would go out of his way to help you install a new car stereo, not to mention a bazillion other things. A week or so ago we had to drive up to Williams for work, which is something we love doing despite the 3-3.5 hour drive time. Especially in the summer when it’s 110 in Phoenix, but a cool 75-80 in the gorgeous pine country of northern Arizona. He’s such a good guy and let me pull over a bunch to satisfy my insatiable hunger to photograph cool stuff.

As a photographer, you sometimes get tunnel vision. It happens to me all the time. You get an idea in your head about a shot and you focus all efforts on making it happen. That’s usually when a shot you weren’t even planning on taking becomes the actual reason you went there.

Once we were up close to Williams, we passed a giant lake bed full of flowers. I posted that shot not too long ago. The thing was, I was so infatuated with the flowers and storm clouds, I wasn’t looking anywhere else. As I came back to the car, Jesse calmly points out this dirt road heading into the trees. Me, being the AWESOME photographer that I am, who knows ALL…said “Yeah…okay Jesse…looks cool.” So I walked over there to snap some brackets, almost feeling like I was doing this as a courtesy because at least Jess was trying to help me out a little. Figured I would just get the brackets real quick and we’d be on our way.

Back in the car when I looked at the results in my camera…I realized it was going to be one of my favorite shots from the day and maybe in awhile. I knew right away I’d do it in black and white.  It would end up looking much more mysterious devoid of color.  I was giddy thinking about what the final product was going to look like. This is a 6-bracket HDR using Photomatix, CS5 and Nik Silver Efex for the B&W.

I guess the moral of the story is to always listen to your buddy Jessie.  He may be obsessed with Family Guy and wear his sunglasses at night (inside joke), but when he points out an idea for a photo…you’d damn well better do what he says.

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.