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Downpour on the San Tans

San Tan Downpour - Arizona

(click, see larger, dark background, you get the idea)

It’s kind of interesting if you ever go back to just wipe out old RAW files that you realize you’ll never, ever process, so may as well just recover some disk space. While I do usually end up deleting a ton of files, sometimes you discover those that you just plain forgot about. And at the same time, you may have improved your processing techniques enough that suddenly an image that didn’t “move” you before, suddenly speaks to you in a new way.

This shot is from waaaay back on August 17th, 2010, a full year and a handful of days ago. I had been lucky enough to capture this isolated thunderstorm dropping rain over the San Tan Mountains, which were close neighbors of mine until we moved downtown last October.

Snagging moments like this one are up there with my favorites…like lightning, or someday a tornadic supercell. That lonely, solitary storm dropping a heap of rain on a single spot in the desert. It’s kind of what the monsoons are all about out here. Sure, we can get walls of storms that are miles and miles wide…but a lot of the time it’s hit or miss.

(canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100, 1/50th – buy print)

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.

Lazy Clouds over the San Tan Mountains

If I remember correctly, I took this back on July 1st while sitting out on this road praying that the monsoons would start up soon. Nothing happened of course, but the clouds were beautiful, lazy and fluffy.

I believe this was also one of my first images with the newly acquired Tamron 17-35 2.8. I love the glass, it’s sharp and the aspherical nature of it has been a lot of fun.

These are the San Tan Mountains, which you’ve probably seen in quite a few of my photos since this spot is only 1.5 miles from my house. I may end up posting as many San Tan shots as I can this week as we’re moving on Saturday to downtown Phoenix and places like this will take more of a drive to get to.  A final farewell to the ol’ stomping grounds.

The photo itself is a single exposure (no HDR) with some texturing added in Photoshop.

Desert Cornfields

One of the stranger things you see when you roam the Arizona desert is the occasional summer cornfield. You just don’t EXPECT a dry, arid climate to be a place you’d want to grow corn…but of course, that’s why I’m not a farmer and mostly keep cool inside my air conditioned house.

Back towards the end of August, we had a few days with fast-moving, severe storms blow through the state and this is a capture of one of them. These are the San Tan Mountains, a subject in many of my photographs. On the right horizon you can already see a dust storm blowing somewhere.

I’ve discovered my 17-35mm Tamron glass definitely “squashes” things a bit, as I remember these monsoon storm towers being a lot taller in person than they ended up being in this picture.

Tonight/tomorrow appears to be a last gasp for some good monsoon weather, so praying for lightning, rain, clouds and good storm structure!

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.

Wishing you were a wall cloud

Most of you know I went on a stormchasing trip to Nebraska earlier this year. The reason I went was to see stuff like in the picture above. Of course, when you see stuff like that in Oklahoma, Kansas, etc., you run and hide because that’s looking like a fairly monster-sized funnel dropping to the ground.

Ah, but in Phoenix…it’s rarely that. This storm had no rotation, it was just a severe thunderstorm that had the look of something much more evil. I loved it…and was kind of glad it wasn’t a funnel, because it was coming right at me and I didn’t want to move. A glorious storm, right after this it kicked up dust under the funnel area of the cloud and suddenly a wall of dust came flying at me within a few minutes.

I ran to the car before the big dust got there, went home…watched the sky over us get darker…watched my daughter play in her first rain storm, and then we all watched from the doorway as a massive microburst engulfed our neighborhood in wind, rain and spotty hail stones. We received 1.3 inches of rain at my house in about 60 minutes. That’s an insane amount of water.

A fun storm, probably will end up being the pinnacle of the monsoon season at my house and one of the best in a few years.

Illegal Shadows

That’s me and my shadow perched on the trunk of my car on Thursday night, watching the clouds develop along an outflow boundary. The sun was close to setting and I liked how my shadow looked as it stretched across the road, plus the clouds and the mountains were fairly interesting.

So what’s up with the shadows being illegal (if you read the title)?

Well, where I’m parked is about 10 feet off Gilbert Road, which runs through the Gila River Indian Community for a few miles before it hits State Route 87. While I sat there, a DPS officer went by, then came back, u-turned and drove up behind me.

He informed me that where I was sitting, on my trunk, taking pictures of the clouds and sunset, was an illegal location. I was on Indian land and it was against Federal Law to sit there.

Funny…last year I was out there in the dead of night shooting lightning photos, a DPS guy pulled up, saw what I was doing and informed me that a storm was coming from the south (ya, I already knew that) and I may get a few more shots. Then he drove off. He told me I was fine sitting there.

So back to present day, the guy next informs me that two Gila River RANGERS were on their way to explain this to me in a little more detail. I was like…”Really? Rangers are coming? Because I’m taking pictures of the sunset?”

Yup.

So this giant truck flies up, two bulky guys get out, strut up to me and tell me what’s up. Of course, these guys say I was basically OKAY sitting where I was, but nowhere else. I asked about a few previous photos I took further south of a graffiti-ed bridge we found, and one of them said I would probably get in trouble if they caught me doing that. Ugh, whatever.

Bottom line, they left and I sat around for a little longer, apparently just fine and dandy.

But what is it about photographers that draws this evil eye from law enforcement? Here I am, calmly sitting on my car, with a camera, watching the sky…and next thing I know, I’ve got two police vehicles and three officers talking to me. People passing by must have thought I was doing something PRETTY bad to warrant all that attention.

I’ve read countless stories like this, but it’s starting to happen to me with more frequency. I like what a friend of mine Allison said about a photog she knows…“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Fluffy clouds over the San Tan Mountains

Something a little different than the standard HDR photos I tend to post here. While HDR is amazing at adding drama to a scene, I still love a good black and white or even a textured photograph. This was shot while out testing my new Tamron 16-35mm f2.8 without a CPL (which I hope to get today in time for Holland!).

What I usually do with shots like this is to use the RAW editor to manipulate the same photo two different ways…one to bring out the sky and clouds, the second to get the foreground just right. Then I blend them in Photoshop. I’m positive I’ve shot this scene before, probably on the same road and from the same spot, so I tried something new with the faded effects and texture overlay.

Definitely feels like the Arizona west I know.

Glorious morning over the San Tans

I woke up yesterday, saw the clouds, put on sandals, grabbed camera bag, told wife Starbucks was coming, left house, drove south, set up and enjoyed a nice rising sun streaming rays behind the fluffy clouds.

This is Arizona. We haven’t seen clouds like this in what feels like a month. It’s nothing but sunshine now…even the green desert is starting to turn brown already.

The land just south of my house is mostly fields and some farming areas, so there isn’t much in the way of excitement for the foreground of most photos (although yesterday’s shot with the dead log was luck!), but I still like long dirt roads and fields of gold…plus there wasn’t much time before the sun rose higher and the clouds disappeared.

A glorious morning indeed.

Howl: Some full moon photography

One of the things that drives me when it comes to photography is trying new things. I may be especially good at something, but I definitely would love to give it a shot. Doing that gives me an opportunity to expand my skills, learn a different way of doing something and enhancing my abilities to provide quality work.

For example, I’ve never been able to really photograph the moon very well. Mostly because I didn’t have a really good zoom lens to get up close and personal with it, which are the kind of moon photos I tend to enjoy. So I borrowed my friend Tyler’s 55-250mm lens and watched the moon rise last night.

I definitely learned a few things. The first was to never leave home without my main tripod. The snaky one I have in my bag just couldn’t handle the weight of the zoom lens, so this first picture below didn’t get as crystal clear as I wanted.

The second thing I learned is that my old lens CAN actually take some shots of the moon with detail, I obviously didn’t realize how to do it correctly. So all in all, a good night of work.

The first shot below is from the moon rising over the San Tan Mountains.  The second shot I took around 11pm last night on a drive down Highway 87 looking for something interesting to shoot.

This full moon shot DID earn me an Approver’s Choice over on Wunderground last night, so that’s cool!

This church above is called St. Ana’s and is on the way to Coolidge. I’ve seen it during the day and have always wanted to take a picture of it. The moon casting an amazing glow down affording me the chance to just snap it at night instead.

It’s not exactly my style of photography…but it was fun to do it. The moon cast some shadows under the tree and buildings, which made it almost look like it was day out. There were a few lights on in the back of the church grounds.