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Last Gasp

The title of this photo has a couple of meanings. The first being the fact that a little storm system which moved through Arizona the last two days could end up being the final bit of weather we get from the monsoon season (it officially ends on Sep. 30th). Despite all the stormy clouds during the day, my week has been quite busy and this was the only shot I ended up with. So in another way, this is likely my last monsoon photo until next year.

Of course, there is always that slight chance something could pop up before the end of the month, and yes, I’ll keep praying for it.

Going back to the title, the main and absolutely reason why I called it Last Gasp is obviously that gorgeous ray of orange sunlight making it’s final stretch across the sky before disappearing for the night. It was remarkable how that little puffy cloud on the horizon popped up out of nowhere to become an obstacle for the sun to shine through. It wasn’t there when I arrived, but in about 20 minutes it developed and had me worried about losing the sun entirely. But just enough shone through, and that single ray of light may have ended up being better than a whole sky of orange.

God bless these sunsets in Arizona…they are truly heaven on Earth. I need to remind myself this when I’m out there, because you can become so focused on snapping brackets, that you forget to enjoy the reason you do this.

If this was indeed the final, last gasp of the monsoon season…I can’t think of a more fitting end.

Unless, of course, there had been a lightning strike in the photo above. Sigh. Maybe next year.

Arizona monsoon lightning photos from August 28th

My daughter sat in her little car seat, enjoying Toy Story and staying safely away from any lightning or the bazillion numbers of mosquitos I encountered last night out in the Arizona desert. Probably was a little too close to a couple of canals out there, but at times it almost felt like a swarm of bugs attacking me. I definitely have more than five itchy bites on me today.

The above lightning strike was my favorite of the night. A tip to lightning photos out there (not that any of you would do this), if your car is running because you are keeping the AC on for your little girl, go ahead and do NOT put the tripod on your trunk…just use the ground. Subtle vibrations from the engine running caused a few of my shots to be a bit unsharp and I can’t tell you how bummed I was about that.

There is another one below I like that has the strike landing behind a cactus which created a beautiful silhouette.

While I was out, I met a guy who was trying his hand at lightning photography and while I stood there, I realized his own silhouette sitting on top of his SUV was kind of cool against the clouds over the city. Amazingly, I caught a shot of a lightning strike AND him, so I walked over, introduced myself and emailed him the photos today.

The last one is just him sitting there…watching. I just love it.

Hope you enjoy these!

More storms over the Superstitions

Yesterday was supposed to be a 60% chance of rain in town, but we ended up with only a few afternoon storms to the east of Phoenix and nothing else all night. My little girl and I headed out to the Superstition Mountains after picking her up from the sitter and saw some beautiful clouds to go along with the stunning vistas of those great cliffs and peaks.

This is looking northward from the southern side of Apache Junction. We weaved our way through the housing up there to find a spot devoid of man-made objects to get this shot off. Lyla was busy with Toy Story in the car, which allowed me to setup and get my brackets before moving on to the next location.

Definitely have fallen in love with these mountains…they are just so beautiful and picturesque…it almost feels like a cop-out using them for photos now…it’s almost too easy.

Watchers of the Storm

Everyone has those “bucket list” shots you want to get someday. Yes, for me one of the big ones has to do with the weather. Shocked? Now, the shot above doesn’t completely satisfy my inner desire to get another shot like it, but it’s the kind I’m looking for.

I was inspired first by this photo taken by Sabrina Henry when she was in Africa. The way the cloud seems to appear on the horizon out of nowhere with a tree in front of it…just amazing perspective.

To me, there is something inspiring about a small silhouette of a tree or object, placed against the awesome power of a giant storm cloud. Trying to capture that is another story however. Arizona does offer tons of mountains, but “trees” are harder to come by unless you make it to higher elevations. So what do I have to work with down here?

Cactus.

The shot above combines a lot of stuff I love, obviously storms, clouds, a slightly black and white feel, and those little silhouettes. There is something so captivating for me about a giant monsoon cloud…the stuff going on inside it, the rain falling, the lightning that is sure to be exploding out of it…but it’s also just the sheer beauty of the way it develops so uniquely each time. I love the couple of saguaro cactus caught along the hilltop, seemingly watching the action happening just on the other side of the mountain.

Now, while this photo is dear to me, the bucket list version has me a lot closer to the cactus or tree, much like Sabrina’s photo. I’m still on the hunt for it…and probably like all photographers…when I do finally capture that “perfect” shot…I’ll be on the lookout for an even “more perfect” shot immediately thereafter.

As my buddy Brian mentioned this morning in his blog, sometimes we go back to the same spot over and over to take the same photo, but come away with something unique every time.

It’s kind of the same thing here. Once I get the shot I want, nothing will quench that desire to capture it again. Nothing.

It’s just who we are.

Wandering with the Arizona monsoon: On the Apache Trail

What’s amazing about Phoenix is that stuff like this can be seen on just a short drive east of town. Now, it’s not Grand Falls or anything spectacular in the sense of landmarks or stunning vistas…but if you take the time to stop, get out of the car, walk down a short path and look around…you can see beautiful scenes everywhere.

This was a short distance from a pull-off on Apache Trail, a road that takes you to Canyon Lake and eventually Roosevelt Lake. My buddy Bryan (Whom I made famous yesterday) and I made all kinds of stops along the way to Canyon Lake to snap photos of the desert landscapes mixed with the monsoon clouds of the afternoon.

That was essentially the goal of the summer and my “wanderings with the Arizona monsoon.” This coming week I’m headed further northeast into the pine trees for a little camping and hope to get a different angle on the monsoons with the evergreens and mountain lakes.

Definitely click on the larger version of the photo because I think it actually looks a little sharper than the scaled down image above.

Storms over the Four Peaks

What I love about Arizona are the unique places that make it obvious where you are. The trademarks or characteristics of this fine state.  In reality, there are probably hundreds of these kinds of places that when you see them in a photograph, you automatically know it’s Arizona.

The Four Peaks is one of those places for me. They’ve always been there. I’ve lived here my whole life and for some reason, it’s comforting to look up and see them. Like four big brothers keeping an eye on Phoenix and the surrounding deserts. They usually get snow on them during the winter at least once or twice, which is one of the other reasons I enjoy looking at them so much. Living in the middle of a hot desert, being able to look up in January and see snow…well…it’s nice.

Come to think of it, back in January I took a picture of the Four Peaks with some snow on them…one of my favorite shots of all-time.

Sadly, I’ve probably not been much closer to them than in this picture, which is a good ways away. Someday I’m driving up there…to the top…to see what I see. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later. Or maybe I’ll wait until that snow returns and make the journey then.

I took this back on July 22nd during one of my “Wanderings with the Monsoon” treks around Arizona.

Wandering with the Arizona monsoon

One of my goals for this summer was to chase the monsoon around Arizona and essentially create a journal of my travels in a photobook. I have no idea if that will pan out once the monsoon season is over, what it might look like, if it’s silly, whatever.  But part of the plan is to take a few day trips each month out into the Arizona wilderness and follow the storms around as they develop and move towards Phoenix. Wander around if you will, see what I see. Frame the monsoons with the gorgeous Arizona deserts and high country, then finish off the day with some lightning photography.

Well yesterday provided some great vistas for me, but the lightning part never materialized. Two days in a row of storms rolling into town and then dying out, with rare lightning strikes.

Still, I came away with some stuff I’m happy with, this is one of them. This was taken a bit northwest of Saguaro Lake which is northeast of Phoenix along the Bush Highway. A thunderstorm is developing out on the horizon and the high clouds really make for a beautiful sky. I did love how the landscape created an almost curved effect, and the cactus being as tall as it was gives an upward angle to the shot.

Saguaro Sunset in the San Tan Mountains

A shot of a tall Saguaro cactus with the sun setting behind it. I drove out to the southeast side of the San Tan Mountains on Friday afternoon, hoping to find some flowers to photography at sunset. I didn’t find much, but I did like this shot.

Beautiful, stunning mountains on that side of those mountains.