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Highway 74

Highway 74
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 200, f/11, 10 sec // buy print)

Last night I went up I-17 just a little ways to see if the outflow headed south would do anything. I quickly figured it wasn’t going to happen, but as the outflow starting shifting towards Wickenburg, I thought something might happen there. There were some cells along I-10 popping up and I just figured there might be a collision of outflows near Wickenburg. That place is a hot bed at times, so I dropped to Highway 74 and blasted west.

As I drive along, a strong cell popped up north of Wickenburg. And then suddenly a little one goes up right to my south. I thought I saw a flash, so I stop and look up and boom a huge bolt lands just a few miles away. I scramble out of the car and setup…and this is one of the shots I got. I’m looking south from 74 at the town of Whittmann, AZ. This was a 16mm lens, so you can get an idea of how close I was to this thing. I love it when I can be right up on a storm like this, especially where there is still a bit of daylight left.

And as I’m sitting there watching this one, a massive storm forms right over Wickenburg to the northwest. It ends up being an epic night of lightning capturing. I have more bolts than I know what to do with and the problem with that when you do this enough is they all tend to look the same after awhile, so despite getting over 100 shots of lightning, maybe 5 or 6 are worth posting.

We’ll see though. There are some good ones in there! More to come!

Fields of Gold

FIelds of Gold
(please click to view on black // canon rebel xsi, canon 18-55mm f/3.5, 18mm, f/10, 1/160th, iso 200 // buy print)

I was going through some old images from 2010 this weekend and while my processing methods back then horrify me, I found some RAW files that were actually pretty good shots and just needed to be re-edited with the way I do things now.

The above photograph was taken with my first DSLR…a Canon Rebel XSi, plus the kit lens that came with it. I merged two photos to get the panorama. It was such a stunning sight that afternoon. I don’t remember ever seeing it like that before or since. It must have rained a lot that winter, because the gold wildflowers were just everywhere. I had Lyla with me (around 1 and 1/2 at the time) and she was in awe of the flowers. It was also awesome to get some beautiful clouds to complete the scene.

 

 

Snowy Saguaro

Snowy Saguaro
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm , iso 100, f/2.8, 1/1250th // buy print)

Took a nice drive up the Beeline Highway today and ran into snow falling well before I thought we would. The level had dropped crazy low and it was amazing to see some of these Saguaro with snow on their needles all all around the desert floor.

I’ve been wanting a shot like this for awhile and I’m sure you’ve seen these dozens of times, but for me it was awesome to finally get some snow on a cactus like this. A wonderfully fun day driving around and playing in the snow with the family!

Morning on the Apache Trail

Saguaro Morning
(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/5.0, iso 200, 1/800th // buy print)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe I live in a state with scenery like this. You take it for granted. I know I have at times.

This image was shot along the Apache Trail in the Superstition Mountains on the way to Roosevelt Lake in late December. I cannot recall a time I ever drove down this road. And it’s not a true road after awhile…the pavement ends and it’s dirt for the next 20+ miles. It was stunningly beautiful, especially on this morning. It was after an overnight winter storm and these clouds were being created “orographically” and ended up dropping snow in the higher elevations during our drive. We even got pelted with a bit of tiny hail further into the hills.

The light was fairly amazing as it poked out from all the clouds and there is nothing more beautiful than Saguaro cactus in the early morning hours.

Obscured | Four Peaks Sunset

Obscured
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is l, 75mm, iso 100, f/20, 1/5 // buy print)

It’s so very rare that I go back to images more than a year ago. Usually I think anything that far back must suck anyways, so what’s the point? But I always loved this day out in the Four Peaks wilderness area and I never did a whole lot with this image. So yesterday I was playing around with it and re-processed it using luminosity masking that’s been my main tool of late.

I captured this on December 14th, 2011. It was such an amazing evening. Stunning light, low clouds, beautiful colors. What I like about this image is that most photos of the Four Peaks…show the actual four peaks. Here…it’s implied that they are there, but you don’t see them.

Haven’t been out to the Four Peaks this year at all…been unfavorable circumstances for stormy, snowy weather like this. Hoping for a few more chances before the winter storms go away.

 

Trips

Trips
(please click to view large on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 320, f/16, 1.0 sec, three image stack // buy print)

I feel like I’ve been converted this past summer. I used to be all purist-y and think most stacked lightning photos were unnecessary and took away from the beauty of a single strike. But they I saw a few ones that were well done. And then I found myself in situations where the single strike was incredibly boring but showing a bunch at one time was a heck of a lot more interesting.

Here is another one from this past summer. This was taken July 29th. The storm was moving left to right, so the bolts are actually in order of the movement of the storm over the span of 1:16. With the light I had going on, I was firing off 1 second exposures and got lucky enough to capture these three strikes over the course of 76 shutter clicks.

I liked the middle one by itself, but the other two on the edges were just a bit too far to the edge of the frame for my liking. So I tried a stack and loved it.

Definitely a fun way to enhance lightning photography.

 

 

Juxtaposition

High and Low
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 100mm, iso 125, f/6.3, 20 sec // buy print)

Feels like it has been awhile since I posted a lightning photo from this past summer and I still have gobs that I haven’t shown yet…so here is another.

Last year I decided to do a “square collection” of lightning photos all processed in black & white. This is the second in that series. I love the mood that monochrome creates for lightning images and I think the square format kind of isolates the subject in a unique way. This was taken out along Interstate 8 east of Gila Bend. I dug the juxtaposition of the one strike hitting the flat desert while the other appears to land on those two small hilltops.

Summer feels like it’s so far away.

 

 

Top to bottom

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/6.3, iso 250, 20 sec // buy print)

One of my favorite kinds of lightning shots are from a distance when you can see the entire profile of a thunderhead. If you can capture the strike coming out from the cloud and then hitting the ground…well, it’s just a fantastic display of nature. I’ve seen quite a few of those floating around from my storm chasing friends but I never have quite been able to capture it that way that I wanted.

This one is about the closest I’ve come to it. A twenty second exposure, you can see the one strike on the left actually originate near the top of the thunderhead, curve to the left, burst through the ceiling of clouds and then hit the ground. Was an amazing storm to watch as it crossed interstate 8 from the north. The mushrooming clouds were absolutely sick and I kept praying to get a great shot.

Taken on September 4th, this was a week before the season ended. I kind of miss it already, but am loving being neck deep in family and wedding photography right now!

 

 

The open heavens

The heavens opened - monsoon sunset arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 35mm, iso 200, f/5.0, 1/100th // buy print)

I love taking pictures of lightning…it’s one of my favorite things when it comes to weather photography. But I also just love the raw power of a thunderstorm. And the beauty they contain.

This rain shaft…was a powerful thing. As I was driving west, I watched the base of the cloud get dark, textured and nasty. Next thing you know a wall of rain is falling to the ground. Most of the time this is enough to be a gorgeous example of nature…but on a lucky occasion you get to witness something like this with fantastic sunset colors mixing into everything.

I’ve seen sights like this before and it’s always incredible how the light and color from the sun bounces around these clouds and rain.

I couldn’t take enough pictures of it.

The season is winding down here…in fact, today may be the last good day left. There might be some spotty, random days before the monsoon is truly gone, but we’re close to the end here.

 

A Superstition thunderbolt

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 320, f/16, 0.8sec // buy print)

The last time I chased a storm was a week ago. I needed the break anyways, I was getting burned out and had suffered a few “epic fail” kind of days. Needed some time off to rejuvenate and to process some of the massive amounts of images I took in the past few months.

This was taken back at the end of July along the Beeline Highway. I am not too positive, but that lightning strike could be coming down somewhere near Saguaro Lake along Bush Highway.  I don’t remember even seeing this strike, I had both cameras going in different directions with the shutter releases locked down in continuous shoot mode. Was stoked when I looked back to see this shot on only a 0.8 second exposure!

Our monsoon season ends here in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll get a few rounds of good storms before it’s over. I have a little more chasing left in me before wedding season starts!