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A chair at the dog track

A chair at the black canyon dog track

(Click to see the photo larger, almost like you’re sitting in that chair)

I don’t know when the last time was that I posted an image from the dog track visit we did in the final week of December, but believe it or not, I still have a few shots left to show eventually! If you’ve missed any of the series or would like to look back, click here for the “dog track” tag.

This chair of course was just sitting there waiting to be photographed. I’m sure at some point it was moved out to this spot to either be sat on or to be a prop for someone else’s photography. I think it’s way interesting at a place like this to wonder a bit about why things are where they are. One of my buddies with me on this trip kept pointing out objects that were different from the time he was there before. In fact, a giant ticket booth was sitting in the middle of the main building, definitely a new thing. Who dragged that booth into here? The owner looking to dump stuff? A photographer wanting something interesting for a backdrop?

Anyways, I”ll always remember back fondly on the three hours or so we were here. A great experience.

Tonight a bunch of us are descending upon Tempe for a little photowalking action, so I’m looking forward to that! Haven’t been down there for awhile and while the forecast calls for the opposite, I’m praying for clouds over the lake to help us with some great sunset photos. If you are interested in going, let me know!

Have a nice weekend!

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5)

 

Cholla Hill

(Clicking on the image gives you a sweeter look in lightbox)

This is another shot from my brief little trip to the Nelson/El Dorado Canyon area southeast of Las Vegas on Wednesday. I have to say…I’ve really been loving these little trips after working on the road. I do a little research the night before (or the day of) and find something that looks interesting. Since I’m working with locals, I ask them if they know anything cool close by and then scout it out on Google Maps.

This hilltop jumped out at me. It was literally peppered with hundreds of Cholla cactus…something we also know as “Jumping Cactus” around these parts. There is a special reason for that, a fact you out-of-towners may need to pay attention to since I’ve heard a few of you would LOVE to visit Arizona someday (we have these there too, they aren’t only in Nevada).

Jumping cactus grow just fine and aren’t much of a threat…but when those lower growths start to die, they fall off and disperse/pile-up on the desert floor. The big issue is…if you walk over these dead needles in a pair of normal sneakers…prepare to have some sharp pains in your foot very quickly. The needles seem to “jump” at your shoe and burrow their way into them and right into your foot. And really it’s not just your shoe, but your entire body. Keep clear if you can.

Here’s a shot of a poor soul who had no idea.

I loved this scene. The sun was setting on the left side of the frame and really lit up the tops of each cactus. You usually see these all over, but it’s a little more rare to find a giant “forest” of them like this.

It’s amazing how much photography has made me appreciate the deserts. I just love exploring them these days.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/22, iso 100)

 

 

Foundations of Stone

(Looks nicer in lightbox…just click on the image for a larger view)

– Usery Mountains, Apache Trail, Superstitions

One thing becomes evident when you explore the mountains and cliffs of the Arizona desert: The stuff under the ground appears to be made from jagged rock and rising stone. Everywhere you look, you see giant precipices bursting out of the earth…and you realize that the soil is hiding some amazing beauty that we may never see.

The title of today’s post is from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack. Weird how just kind of browsing for a title helps find meaning in a photo.

This was taken back on January 30th on my lone day off before I started the new day job. I can’t even tell you how amazing that day was with the light, the shadows and the clouds. I was definitely blessed when I hit the road that morning.

What I do like about this shot is the fact I pulled out the 50mm for it. I tend to mostly shoot landscapes wide with the 17-35, but sometimes you want to get something different.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/10, iso 100)

The Shadow

There was really only one choice for this week’s Movie Title Wednesday when it came to this picture. I actually don’t remember much about The Shadow other than it was a sort of old 1940’s superher noir kind of film and it had Alec Baldwin.

One scene that did stand out to me was that hidden building on some corner…the lot looked abandoned to anyone walking by, but that was just masking this giant skyscaper. I also remember thinking the Shadow’s powers were kind of cool…but darn it I’m writing this fast on the road and haven’t had time to get the plot refreshed in my mind.

This image was taken during this past weekend’s photowalk in downtown Phoenix. Part of the fun of a photowalk is just observing what’s around you and snapping shots without any prior planning. While I was paused taking a picture of a doorway, I looked over and saw this. In fact, I wasn’t the only one because I was asked by at least two other photogs to FREEZE in place so they could snap a few shots of my shadow.

The Notebook

Chair and Notebook from the Dog Track

I could have gone with another movie here guys, but I didn’t think anything else worked as well as The Notebook. Sure…Shattered Glass starring Hayden Christiansen is probably more manly…but truthfully? I think Christiansen is actually a bit more girly than a girly movie.

I’ve been married for almost 13 years. My wife is from a family of criers. Before we ever got hitched, I remember sitting in a theater watching one of the biggest sob fests of all-time, My Life (Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman) with my wife, her parents, her sister and her sister’s husband. I looked down the aisle during the movie and they all had tears down their faces. I was like…really?

Flash forward to now and I’m officially part of the family because I get choked up at everything. Having a daughter has even made it worse. Too many father/daughter moments in TV/movies just totally ruin me now.

The Notebook was a great film and an amazing story…one that hits close to home with  my now deceased grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t super close to him, but I remember always reminding him of my name when I saw him those final years. And I’m sure my grandma went through more than anyone knows.

With no real way to segue from that, the movie title is also a main subject of the photo above, one of my favorites from the dog track. This photo was kind of like The Notebook for me…it almost made me cry. Ha! Okay, not really, but when I took it, I showed it to buddies Rick and Scott and told them “This is probably the best photo I’ll take the entire time we’re here.” And I meant it. And I still feel that way.

As photographers, we can take a picture, look at it and feel like we totally nailed it. Best.Photo.I.Have.Ever.Taken. But I’ve had a number of occasions where a photo of mine that I felt was my best work just didn’t get received the way I thought it would. We have all probably dealt with that because it’s hard to be  completely objective when it comes to our own stuff.

I love this scene from top to bottom. The chair amidst shattered glass with a notebook sitting on it. An open doorway letting in an intense amount of light from the setting sun. Rich shadows. This was one of the first shots I processed from the dog track but it took me this long to post it to the blog. I was almost fearful of putting it out there and getting hit with the stark reality that it’s just not as good as I think it is.

But that’s photography really isn’t it? I mean, not all of it…but we want our photos to be seen by people and when you do that, you are welcoming in all comments and critiques…good, bad, indifferent. And that’s just part of being what we are. And the truth is…the more I shoot, the less I care about what people think because this is WHO I am…this is my style…and I’m confident in it and proud of it.

Now excuse me, I’m sure my buddy Bob Lussier is going to ask me for my man card at any moment, but the joke’s on him…I gave that thing away a looooong time ago.

Light and Shadow

I put some legwork into this one. I walked and walked and walked around this parking garage at 5:30am in the morning looking for the perfect symmetry of lights…one hidden, one not, but feeling like both of them were pointed directly at me. I found a similar scene elsewhere, but I didn’t like the lack of detail on the garage floor, so I kept looking for some awesome tire tracks that would appear as if they were coming from where I was standing. And, I mean, to get the reflection of shiny cement on the left, but a shadow on the right…well, that takes planning, practice and lots of trial and error.

Okay, whatever…I’m totally lying. This is what I see everyday at work the second I step out of my car. In fact, I think my camera fell out when I opened the door, hit the ground, fired off a bunch of brackets and I was like “Wow, these are pretty good Camera…well done.”

But seriously, I have been wanting to take some photos of this place in the early mornings and it’s finally dark enough still at 6am for it to be possible. I definitely was struck by the support beam blocking out one of the lights and creating this fantastic shadow.

Lesson for today is to make sure you take a look at where you “are” not where you could “be.” Sometimes I see the photos that friends take in exotic locations that I just can’t afford to get to. Like the coast of Oregon just as a small example. And while yes, I still want to go there someday, there is nothing better to pass the time until that happens by taking a look around you.

This photo is by no means the Pacific Northwest and the infamous Thor’s Well…but you know what, if you were standing by that sinkhole and had taken 100 photos of it…you might be thinking, “I really wish I could take a picture of a dark and stanky parking garage with some sweet shadows…”

Beat you to it man.

The Beguinage Convent in Bruges, Belgium

This is the Beguinage Convent located in the middle of Bruges, Belgium. We saw this place on the little tourist map we grabbed and figured it would be an interesting contrast to the cobblestone streets and alleyways we had seen so far.

The first thing you see before entering is that no commercial photography was allowed and no tripods. Which would mean this photo of mine is not for sale. The convent is actually still functioning, which we kind of discovered when we entered into the old church that was on the grounds here.

The nuns inside were all praying aloud, in a sort of musical unison…it was amazing. It definitely caused me to lower my camera, place it behind my back and just listen to the beautiful melody they were creating.

Upon leaving, I felt so moved by this place…these nuns still serving God, allowing us tourists to visit this place, that I ended up feeling protective about it you might say. There were signs about the photography yes, but also about keeping off the grass. The trees are very old poplars, the grass well maintained…I mean, the whole place has buildings dating back to the 13th century. They wanted to keep it from being trampled to death by people.

So I come out of the church, look up and four tourists, all with gigantic Nikon cameras, are trouncing all over the grass, posing for portraits, shooting up into the trees, etc. Now, I don’t care what language you speak: the sign to stay off the grass was universal. Not to mention, as a photographer, I would rather not have idiots giving us a bad name.

I let out a big “Psssst!” (it was incredibly quiet there), and they looked at me, and I motioned them to get off the grass. They got a guilty look and quickly shuffled out onto the sidewalks. They knew they shouldn’t have been there. Tsk tsk.

My buddies I was with kind of laughed at me, but I felt good about helping these sweet old nuns out. I may return and apply for a job as the Beguinage Convent Bouncer. Pretty sure I saw a sign for that job opening somewhere…

Oh yeah, the photo…some dude on Twitter once said they “abhorred” HDR because it sucks all the life out of shadows. Well…okie dokie.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and I absolutely loved the way the shadows played on the grass and the path in front of me. The old buildings in the background give it some nice depth as well. And I kind of dig that you can’t see the tops of these huge trees…it definitely adds some scope and height to the photo.

(More photos from my Holland trip)

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.”