Posts

Lightstorm

Lightstorm - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(Please click to view on black)

Sometimes the weather forecasters predict a big storm to hit in the coming days, only to either be wrong or off a bit on the timing. But for the last 2-3 days, the National Weather Service kept saying a low pressure system would move into SW Arizona on Labor Day creating some intense storms and lots of rain.

Which is exactly what happened.

I had been planning on an all-day, noon-to-midnight stormchasing event for Labor Day and was pumped when Monday morning nothing in the forecast had changed. My buddy Ken met me at my house around 12:30 and we flew west of Phoenix and then south to Gila Bend.

If we had driven to Yuma, we might have seem some really nasty stuff, but that’s a long haul. So we hung out around the northern parts of Gila Bend, shooting storms in the farmlands and irrigation areas. Caught a few night photographs that will be shared at a later time.

But this lightning shot came almost 30 miles south of Gila Bend on Highway 85. I literally ran across a low area and up a hill to setup for this shot, which ended up being the highest spot around. The lightning wasn’t close, but it’s definitely not the wisest thing in the world to do.

I didn’t have much of a choice. I could see a gorgeous sunset going on and some stormy clouds with strong downdrafts of rain. It took awhile, many shots, but I finally got a decent strike before the beautiful color of the sunset disappeared on me.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 250, f/10, 6sec – buy print)

Last Gleaming

The Rainy Rock - Sunset Sedona Arizona

The last time I was in Sedona, Arizona, was a drive-by I did on my way back from Williams on a work trip. It was the middle of the day, harsh light and not a cloud in the sky.

Yuck.

Since Saturday afternoon we’ve been enjoying the beautiful red rock country and it’s been refreshing. The temperatures have been downright chilly at times, especially after a good rain. And there has been lots of storms up here.

But this place is just beautiful. My struggle is to capture something that no one else does. I make that my main goal anytime I go anywhere. I didn’t have a ton of time on this trip to take long hikes and explore places that not many people see, so I just tried to look at all the usual stuff in a different light.

I love silhouettes in general and the setting sun provided some gorgeous light against rainy clouds and these peaks surrounding the town. Plus I’m really digging my 85mm 1.8 for these kinds of shots. It makes me really want a 70-200mm where I can really zoom into something and get unique compositions. The cliffs and peaks around Sedona provide some amazingly cool shapes.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/16, iso 100, 1/25)

Saguaro Alley

Saguaro Alley Phoenix Arizona Desert

(click to view scaled down to your resolution with a nice black border, or if you have a huge monitor, see it a little bit bigger!)

Last week Wednesday  marked the first day out stormchasing the 2011 Arizona monsoon. In reality, nothing much happened other than few isolated, brief downpours over Phoenix. I met up with my buddy Chris Frailey who has joined the cause of tossing his gas money down into the gully where I dump mine…and we drove around Bush Highway a bit over by Saguaro Lake and got a few shots, but nothing “stormy” to speak of.

As usually happens, this picture was by accident. I was looking behind this scene as I was driving at some clouds and was trying to find some cactus to get in the shot since there was little else to use in the area. As I got out of the truck, I looked up and saw this lone cloud all lit up by the setting sun and it turned out to be a much better shot than I what I was going for.

I’m pretty beat. This holiday weekend actually seemed to last a looong time, mostly because I didn’t sleep a whole lot. Watched the entire Lord of The Rings: Extended Edition on Blu-Ray, and chased Saturday, Sunday and last night. I have a few lightning captures to post, one of them something I haven’t shot before and it will land on the blog tomorrow for Movie Title Wednesday.

Time for a break though. Tonight, I’m going to sit back and wait to see if any storms roll through downtown Phoenix, and if so, then I shoot, if not, I will be lazy on the couch.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/13)

Point Break

After the wedding we shot a week and a half ago in Malibu, my buddy Rick and I took the Pacific Coast Highway back to Los Angeles. We were both exhausted from an early morning flight, a lot of shooting outdoors and just a long day in general. We had just enough energy to make one stop off the highway and walk down some worn-down stairs to the beach far below.

It’s another edition of Movie Title Wednesday and this week the film is Point Break for obvious reasons I think. I’ve seen the movie and I remember liking it, but I honestly don’t remember much more than Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, a bank robbery and masks.  I know a lot of people who dig this film, curious how many of you out there liked it? I’ve always been a Reeves fan even though most people don’t think he can act. I think he’s a fine actor, the problem is, he has one style that works and that’s about it. Speed is one of my all-time favorite action films and of course you have The Matrix.

I rarely get to the ocean despite living fairly close to California, so I was excited to at least shoot a few images during our day-trip. The ocean is awe-inspiring and frightening for me at the same time. I hope someday to do more of this and have a nice, fat 10-stop ND filter on me so I can really make the images I want to, but in the meantime, I liked how this turned out. I don’t always put a lot of time into processing my images these days, but I spent plenty on this . Phototools was especially useful to help create a nice color contrast between the water and the rocks.

I hope Rick posts his sometime soon because he had a 10-stop and I loved the way his looked right out of the camera.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 20mm, f/25, iso 100

Dead Rock Canyon

(Click to see full size or to fit your screen resolution)

Red Rock Canyon. Dead cactus. Dead Rock Canyon.

See what I did there?

So clever Mike…so clever.

Back in March I explored this area west of Las Vegas and was struck by these dead things. I think they are some kind of cactus, but I have no idea. I tried to Google them, but I couldn’t find anything. Either way, they kind of speckled this wide valley expanse between the red cliffs and the western mountains off in the distance.

What’s interesting about going to shoot place that are big attractions for “something”, like amazing burnt red rocks…is when you turn away from them because you are more drawn to something else.

I had left my project site and raced out here to shoot in the canyon…and was just happy I got a few shots off before the sun sank behind those cliffs. Definitely a beautiful place to visit.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/22, iso 100)

Morning on the Bradshaws

(click to view a little bigger and better in lightbox)

Do you ever have an image where you struggle and struggle with liking it, then hating it, then liking it, then hating it…and…well you get the idea.

I’m sure you do. For those of us blogging on a daily basis, we can’t necessarily post masterpieces every single day. We sometimes have those borderline photographs that we like, but we may not like it enough to actually hit the “publish” button on the blog.

This image is one of those for me. I figured I may as well post it to see what people honestly think. I love it because the scene from this spot up by the Sunset Point rest area was breathtaking in person. It was cold, wet…but the view of the Bradshaw Mountains with the low clouds and fresh snow was mesmerizing. I’ve been wanting to post this one because it felt like the only decent image I came away with that early morning run up north.

But I feel like something is missing…and am not sure what. It could just be the sort of bluish mono-tone the morning had…so the colors aren’t vibrant or striking. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but even if it did, the clouds were too thick to let any real light through.

I don’t usually ask for critiques, but if you got ’em, let me hear ’em.

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

The Seam


(clicking on the image may not give you a larger view depending on your resolution, but it will frame it in a lightbox nicely)

Traveling is harder for me than it used to be. I still hated being gone for weeks at a time from my wife, but now that we have a little girl…it’s a lot harder. We use FaceTime on the iPhone all the time now when I travel and while it makes things easier…it also kind of makes it more difficult to see those faces and not be close to them.

I used to just sit in my hotel room and veg out on these work trips, but lately I’ve tried to pass the time I’m away by exploring the places I’m staying. These days that is mostly Las Vegas.  I’ll get done working around 4-5pm and hit the pavement with the rental car to find something interesting out there. Last week it was Red Rock Canyon and the town of Nelson…both areas within about 45 minutes or less of Las Vegas.

The image above was taken in Red Rock Canyon, simply a beautiful place to explore. There is a nice road looping through the area with cool stops along the way…plus vistas that are definitely unique to this park. The photo may be a bit deceiving in a way because the red area up top isn’t really part of the foreground formation, but belongs to a  larger hill behind it.

I did something I don’t usually do with this photo…because of the wide angle and the closeness I have with the ground right in front of me…I shot two sets of brackets in live view. The first set I focused on the rocks in the background to get them crisp, and then I focused the next set on the foreground right in front of me. I then tonemapped both sets of exposures and blended them later in Photoshop before stylizing.

In hindsight, I have no idea why I wasn’t maxed at f/22 on this shot for this very reason…but that is likely one of those moments where one cannot recollect what your mind was thinking at the time *grin*

On a side note, my buddy Brian Matiash has been posting some of his own awesome shots of Red Rock and here is his similar entry from last week. I love the different looks he gives you with each of his shots from this area.

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

The road through Red Rock Canyon

(enjoy a better view by clicking on the image and seeing it in a lightbox)

I’ve been to Las Vegas countless times for my day job. Even after picking up photography only about 18 months ago…I still have been here at least 5-6 different times since then. Never during any of those times did I make a trip out to Red Rock Canyon. It’s not always easy…like in the middle of winter when the sunset in Las Vegas is 4:30 in the afternoon. That’s just silly. Those of us working normal hours don’t have a chance.

But finally on this trip the sun wouldn’t set until 6:45 and I had a couple of hours to spend driving out there and looking around.

All the reports are true. It’s a beautiful place. And there were a lot of people being all “touristy” like me, plus exercise nuts riding their 10-speeds around the park’s looped road. The only thing I kept in the back of my brain was to try and find something unique that someone else might not see. I always, always try to do that even if I don’t necessarily accomplish it. If I saw people gathering and taking pictures at obvious spots, I tried to look to the opposite area.

I was hoping for a brilliant sunset because of all the high clouds, but they thickened up as the day wore on and it ended up not allowing for much color in the sky. Still, I liked the way they looked anyways and of course you know I can’t resist a solid road shot.  It’s not too easy to see here, but the road does a little “S” curve as it disappears and cuts through the hill where you see orange-looking crevice.

As I’m sure most people say after visiting this park…I only wish I had more time. If only we could freeze the hour before sunset just to wander around capturing all that beautiful light goodness.

My friend, Iron Man Brian Matiash, posted his own shot from Red Rock when he was here last, you must go check it out.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 200)

Precipice

Stormy Morning Over Phoenix

I feel like I’m running out of titles for blog posts. Part of the problem is I tend to do these things on the fly, without much preparation, so I don’t take a whole lot of time to think about them. I usually just write what’s on my mind when I sit down and finally start typing.

Like today.

On our last few photowalks in downtown Phoenix, I noticed my buddy Rick Young with a headphone stuck in one ear as he wandered around looking for shots. It was interesting and I thought that sounded kind of cool. My car has a CD player in it, but nothing else and I hate listening to my iPod touch over those crappy FM transmitters. So at the end of January on my trip out to the Superstition Mountains, I stuck the iPod in my pocket, plugged in the headphones and went for a drive.

It was amazing what a difference it made. Now when Rick listens to tunes, it’s the Smashing Pumpkins and other bands like that. For me…I like soundtracks. And dark, murky, majestic soundtracks. My playlist consists of a few Battlestar Galactica seasons, The Dark Knight, Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October, all three Lord of the Rings and the Firefly/Serenty combination.

There have been a few moments since where there will be a track that culminates in some massive revelation…while at the same time I’m cresting some hilltop and see the sun breaking through the clouds up ahead. It’s almost like my own soundtrack while out shooting. And I love it.

All this to say that I will likely be poaching song titles from these albums to help name these blog posts. Although ones like “The Council of Elrond” will be hard pressed to be useful for anything…some of them work well.

Like “Precipice” from season three of Battlestar Galactica. This image was taken up at South Mountain on Saturday morning, overlooking the city below. We had some fun storms roll through, lots of rain and some amazing clouds on Sunday afternoon.

A quick note about the processing of this shot. Brutally tough with the windy conditions…even using the -2 bracket I still have some blur in the shrubs and I’m okay with that. But there is a lot of motion overall in the scene…the cloud swooshing across the sky…so perhaps it works.

The lake that wasn’t there

Canon Rebel XSI, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, F9, Six exposures, HDR

An amazing weather system moved through Arizona earlier this week. In fact, a total of FIVE confirmed tornadoes hit northern Arizona on Wednesday. That is unheard of.

What is also seen on very, very rare occasions is standing water in the middle of a flat desert. This “lake” didn’t exist earlier in the day and within about six hours of heavy rains and hail, it formed out of nowhere.  My buddy Bryan and drove down this little road to capture some awesome storm clouds about 90 minutes before sunset…and then decided to just sit and wait to see what things looked like when the sun went down.

We got lucky with the clouds, because they were all but gone about 30 minutes before this, but suddenly started forming again right over the mountains. And I was so focused on the water and sky, I didn’t even notice the colorful rocks that lay right beside me.

I have so many different shots from different angles and with different lenses around this area, I may post a few over time…I love them all, especially for the uniqueness in the fact that it’s unlikely anyone could ever capture this again.