Posts

The Milky Way over Sedona | YoloZona

Milky Way over Sedona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 5000, f/2.8, 30 sec // buy print)

An epic trip happened this past weekend…a meeting of four photographers who are great friends of mine, all coming here to Arizona, to help me take pictures of a wedding and then shoot the crap out of this state. We created a hashtag for the weekend…#YoloZona.

On Monday morning, after maybe 5 hours of sleep, we all woke up at 3am to shoot some stars out at Courthouse Butte in Sedona. Thanks to some great advice from our buddy in Kansas, Scotty Ackerman, we knew when the Milky Way would rise and roughly where it would be.

I don’t photograph stars very much and when I have, I’ve never seen anything this good. You’d think only 5 minutes south of a town like Sedona that the sky would be saturated from city lights, but thankfully Sedona is super dark at night because of lighting ordinances. Looking up with the naked eye you could clearly see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

I edited this in Lightroom first for color and shadows, and then used a bit of luminosity masking techniques to make the sky pop a bit more. I’m super stoked with how this image turned out, my only slight regret is that it’s a 30 second exposure which is a tad too long. The stars are streaking just a bit on the edges of the frame. I was at ISO 5000 on the 5D3, which really didn’t give me much noise, so I might have gone higher and done a shorter, 20 second exposure.

Regardless…I love it anyways, and I’m thinking about getting this printed on metal. The stars are amazing and having lived in Phoenix my whole life…I rarely, if ever, see something like this. What an amazing night.

 

 

The colors of summer in Arizona

The colors of the desert
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 200, 1/60th // buy print)

Here’s an early shot from last year…July 7th. I was desperate to get some storm chasing in before our vacation to Missouri, so when the storms weren’t close to home, I ended up near New Mexico. This was along Interstate 10 and Highway 191.

This is a simple photo really, but it also contains so much of what I love about the summer monsoon season. No, there is no giant haboob or rain storm…but this scene literally has all the colors of the rainbow in it. Greens, yellows, blues, purples, oranges. Plus it has the gorgeousness of Arizona…a desert with vibrant green brush from recent rains, beautiful mountains with the last bit of the sun giving them deep shadows…and of course, some dark, menacing clouds.

A December sunset over Phoenix

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, f/16, iso 50, 1/6 sec // buy print)

Since the monsoon season ended, I feel as if I’ve done nothing but take pictures of brides, grooms, kids, babies, families, parents, couples…and not much else. In fact, it’s more than a feeling, it’s true. In my Lightroom catalog, I have my fine art work (storms, landscapes, etc) organized by date. The previous entry was October 12th before I went out last night.

We’ve basically been having sick sunsets and sunrises all week and I finally had a few nights off. But being tired and all that, I only drove a few blocks to my fav parking garage and waited for the colors to arrive. It’s a place I’ve shot at a bunch of times, but it really does offer one of the better views of downtown. And yup, we got yet another beautiful evening sky across Arizona.

Looking forward to hopefully some winter storms later this month or into January.

Con Air

(click image to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, f/8, 1/80th // buy print)

Back in late July on a random storm chase down in Tucson, I ended up close to the Boneyard, so I thought I’d try to frame some of these amazing old airplanes against a monsoon sky. It wasn’t super easy, as every yard has barbed-wire-laced chain link fences surrounding them. I pulled my truck up to about 2 feet away from a fence, got up on top of the roof and shot down into the yard. Was actually kind of interesting because it was like the truck was a moving tripod and I repositioned a few times to get the composition I wanted.

I believe when I was taking the shot, 50% of the motivation was so I could use it for Movie Title Wednesday, haha. Con Air has been a long-time favorite of mine…Malkovich, Buscemi, Cusack…Cage…”Put the bunny…back…in the box.” There is nothing about that movie that isn’t awesome. Great lines, great actors…glorified, over-done action scenes. So good.

These boneyards would be such an amazing place to photograph for a day or two. Endless fun.

 

Page Ranch Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 200, 1/15th, f/? // buy print)

You know I’m a sucker for road shots. Honestly…when you are out chasing storms, sometimes that’s the best composition. And you gotta take advantage of it.

This was an image from the first few days of this year’s monsoon season. I was about to go on vacation for a week, so I was determined to capture as much as I could before leaving Arizona. On this late afternoon, I found myself in the southeastern part of the state…on Page Ranch Road near Highway 191 and Interstate 10. I was timelapsing a few things and waiting…knowing the storms would either get to me from New Mexico or they’d die out.

They didn’t really make it…but I was left with a beautiful monsoon sky as the sun went down…incredible pinks and purples and oranges.

The Chocolate Falls

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, f/18, iso 50, 5 seconds // buy print)

Word of a flash flood hitting the Little Colorado river in northern Arizona Saturday evening changed everything I had planned for Sunday. My buddy Dee Nichols and I had been waiting for something like this for awhile, and it meant being in Grand Falls Sunday night and likely camping out.

The falls were dry when we arrived, aside from some pools of water still lingering from previous floods. Dee predicted when the water would arrive and it came 25 minutes early. Sadly, it was pitch black out, no moon and it was practically impossible to see the flood come in from up on the high cliffs.

The sound though…was amazing. Like someone had opened up a valve upstream.

Here is a shot from this morning. Lyla and I camped out in the back of the 4Runner, woke up before sunrise to get some shots of the falls before heading home. No luck with color or cool clouds, but all that might do is take away from the beauty of the water. Dirty, muddy water that is churned up sediment from the rush of a flash flood. Misty spray from the falls coating our tripods, cameras and vehicles in what one might think was a light coat of brown spray paint.

Also notice the debris pool spinning in a big circle . Awesomeness.

I have some before and after videos, plus more images, to come at a later date.

A Tucson strike at sunset

(please click image to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 50, f/16(ish), 2 sec // buy print)

After I took this shot, I gave a high-five to a Frenchman who was standing beside me who captured it as well. I met Dimitri up on Tucson’s A-Mountain last night (check out his website) and we had a blast hanging out for almost 2 hours. He was actually on vacation from France in Arizona for the sole purpose of shooting lightning. I mean…how awesome is that?

He had a serious setup…two full frame cameras each with a lightning trigger, plus a major HD video camera.

Anyways…we’d been shooting for a long time when suddenly this rain falling over metro Tucson started turning orange. A beautiful sunset was in store for us. And then the lightning started And while you may have a hard time seeing it because of the intense orange color of the sky, there is a rainbow in there running vertical alongside the right edge of that bolt.

I looked over at Dimitri and asked if this was his best shot since he got here a week or two ago…and he said yes. He was a lot like me…hooting and yelling everytime he got a great strike. Was so very cool to see the same passion I have in a guy visiting from France.

Good luck my friend, hope the rest of your trip rocks!

Also…on the full-sized image…you can make out where every strike lands…pretty amazing.

An old house in Colorado

The House - Colorado Thunderstorm Mammatus

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, 1/320 f? // buy print)

Here’s another image from our brief trip to the central plains for a little bit of spring stormchasing.  An amazing display of mammatus was headed our way and I was on the lookout for something special to capture in the foreground. Sure enough, we stumbled upon this old house just beckoning us to include it in our compositions.

I’ve never seen mammatus clouds like that before, so it was kind of a thrill to get them on camera finally.

I used the Rokinon 14mm on  his one, which not only is manual focus, but also has a manual aperture ring, so I have no clue what I shot this at. It was handheld, so probably wider than f/8.

A fun trip, I still have a few more images to share at some point!

A giant anvil in Oklahoma

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 125, 1/400th, f/8 // buy print)

This was a storm that had a ton of promise when it first exploded out of nothingness…we watched the entire thing happen in front of us. But it just kind of sat in one spot, looked pretty for a bit, but eventually got busted by a weather term known as a “cap”…a lid on the atmosphere that prevents storms from getting any higher and thus more severe.

A tough image to process from a single exposure…lots of harsh light from behind the cloud. I’ve been using nothing but luminosity masks and levels adjustments in Photoshop lately for all my landscape/storm processing, plus RAW adjustments in Lightroom. Still learning…I love the results compared to ways I’ve done it in the past.

A Colorado gust front

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso400, 1/250th // buy print)

Gust fronts are pretty cool to see. What you see in the photo above is akin to a tidal wave that has passed over you, heading for somewhere else. That hard edge is the front and all the creepy clouds behind it are in its wake.

These are also known as outflow boundaries, which is what we see A TON of here in Arizona during the summers. Except ours usually include a giant wall of dust to go with it. Out on the Colorado plains, there was some dust, but mostly you just had crazy strong winds and a wicked sky.

My wife Jina loved this image and picked up on something I didn’t…the juxtaposition of the green wheat and the dead field on the other side of the road.  I was there, so it didn’t stand out to me as much as the clouds did. I find it hilarious what I can miss in my own images…God bless my wife.

Not too long ago I picked up a cheap-o Rokinon 14mm manual focus lens to use for timelapsing while stormchasing this summer. With an extra body now for weddings, I’d like to be able to timelapse and take normal photos with two wide angle lenses at the same time. Shouldn’t have sold the old Tamron 17-35, but I did when I bought the Canon 17-40.

Anyways, since this lens is not only manual focus, but also a manual aperture, I don’t remember what f-stop I was at for this! But regardless, I love the lens…so crazy wide, it’s going to be a lot of fun.