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Crack of Dawn

(click on the image to see it full sized)

Last summer I made quite a few trips up to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to capture lightning, but always I failed. I even had a perfect storm right in front of me with a nice little downdraft, but nary a bolt came out of it. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. To make the attempt over and over and come away empty handed…well I’m sure you can understand how that might feel.

I’ve had a few people say…but you’re at the Grand Canyon though, so it’s always worth the trip. Inside, I wanted to say…no, it’s not. It’s 7 hours of driving only to fail again and again. Outwardly, I’m like…yeah, true. You’re right. But of course I really didn’t feel that way.

However, this photo kinda represents what those people were trying to say and maybe it’s changed my heart a little bit. I arrived the night before to capture any lighting I could, but the storms didn’t cooperate as usual. I parked in a campground, pretty depressed, slept an hour or so, woke up early and made my way to Navajo Point to watch the sunrise before heading home.

The sky was dark, and then slowly the light grew. Then clouds were majestic. The North Rim caught the first light of the sun perfectly and I stood there in silence, taking it all in. It was overwhelming. Even though it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, it was 6am and I was utterly alone. It was perfectly quiet except for the clicking of my camera.

I won’t soon forget that morning. Despite the supposed failure, I was thankful to be there. I left with a happy note in my heart and knew I’d be back yet again.

The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

Wall of dust

Wall
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1/640th // buy print)

A lost (or unposted) image from back in July of 2012. This was a crazy good dust storm resulting in a couple of nice timelapses for me personally. You can see one here. I was capturing that while I took this photo.

Was an uber dense storm…once it hit, the freeway behind me was completely empty and it felt like I was in some post-apocalyptic world for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for summer.

 

A salty sunset from Death Valley

A salty sunset
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1.6 sec (blend) // buy print)

I’d been dying to go to Death Valley for awhile now. And when I finally got the chance, it was more amazing than I thought it would be. I only wish I had more time to explore. On our trip I kept comparing this place to an amusement park. You’d drive along and there were salt flats. Further the salt flats were taller and jagged, almost like frozen waves. And then there were dunes. And then rocks that slide. And a giant volcanic crater. And Star Wars had parts filmed there.

I mean…it was endless. And we only had two days. So we did what we could.

And by we, I mean my buddy Rick Young and Chris Frailey. Super thankful to have these guys along, we had an awesome time!

The above photo was taken somewhat near Badwater Basin. We have a photographer named Rick to thank for leading us to this spot. We met him the night before at Race Track Playa and he was such an amazing guy…he gave us advice on the cold, where to shoot and then he pointed us in the right direction for the salt flats. We’d have frozen our buns off that first night if he hadn’t warned us ahead of time. And we STILL were friggin’ cold!

We got lucky to have a beautiful sunset for the salt flats, despite my buddy Chris Frailey’s worry that it would be a bust like the night before. These flats were pretty crazy…you honestly feel like you are walking on a frozen landscape, but it’s just crispy salty earth. The patterns they form are incredible and amazing.

I shot a bunch of timelapse sequences during this trip, so I’ll have a short movie out hopefully soon.

A dusty sunset in Buckeye

Dusty sunset in Buckeye
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/4 sec, f/who knows // buy print)

Nothing is better in photography than happy accidents and unintentional shots you dig. This photo is a big example of that.

As you may know, or not, I love road shots. I want to hunker down just a foot off the road and get an epic photo with a storm in the distance. Just something I enjoy. When you take pictures of storms, it helps to have good foreground elements and roads are usually the easiest thing to come by. But in this case, the road was busy. There was a beautiful sunset happening and a dust storm rolling across the mountains into Buckeye…so of course I wanted the middle of the road. But there were cars coming, so after I set up for a shot, I had to bail before taking a photo.

So I hurried over to the left shoulder, set up the tripod and snapped the shutter anyways. I wanted to get the color in the sky before it was gone. And I ended up loving it because the slow shutter speed added some motion to the truck, which is driving right into the storm.

This was taken back on August 18th in Buckeye along Highway 85. This was the same day an epic haboob rolled through Phoenix and I was way out here shooting a lesser haboob.

Lesser haboob. I love it.

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 few more shots of the July 21st haboob in Phoenix

Here are just a few more images I captured yesterday during a fairly awesome haboob that rolled through town. And yes, even the people that hate the use of the word “haboob” might admit that Saturday’s storm certainly had some of the same characteristics as last year’s giant one on July 5th.

In case you missed it, here is a timelapse from yesterday’s dust storm and below are a couple more pictures. These were captured south of town as the storm rolled in. I had been timelapsing the entire thing when it was south of Casa Grande, and stopped when it hit me at I-10 and the 587. This first shot below was from that intersection.

This second shot was on the shoulder of I-10 just a tad north of Queen Creek, which is the overpass in the distance. These vehicles were going at a very slow pace and it was packed.

Police closed the freeway further south of this, which was evident once the wall of dust hit because the road suddenly became like something out of the Book of Eli. There wasn’t a soul anywhere close except for me.

Unforgiven

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 l, 17mm, iso 50, f/22, 1/15 // buy print)

If you are new to the blog, I usually reserve Wednesdays for movie themed images…something I like to call Movie Title Wednesdays. Genius right? I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now…in fact, if you click on the tag at the bottom of the page for “movie title series” you can look back at all of them.

This week we’ve got Unforgiven, a Clint Eastwood film that came out my junior year of high school. Crazy long time ago. Probably the fact that I was 17 and a moron, led me to feel like the movie was boring at the time. And then it won an Oscar for Best Picture. I’ve still only seen it that one time. I would love to re-watch it someday and find out why it got that Oscar. Likely due to the fact it was a sick cast of Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman I reckon.

So when I finished this image up and was thinking about a movie title, Unforgiven immediately came to mind. This desolate beach landscape on the western shores of the Salton Sea was almost like something out of a nightmare. Crunchy ground, soft in places, the smells of dead fish and fowl filled your nostrils…and then you see all these dead trees that appear to have had their tops sheared off as it from a bomb blast.

Definitely an unforgiving world…and unforgiving landscape.

Tributary

Tributary - The Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 4.0 l, 22mm, f/22, iso 100, 56 sec, b+w 10-stop // buy print)

Our first stop on the Salton Sea was on the northwest shores. Rick Young took us down some random road that gave us the heebie jeebies. We had no clue if it was truly safe or if we might suddenly stumble upon a murder in progress.

Yes, it’s really that creepy over there.

We got out and took a beautiful stroll down a beach with the crunch of rotting fish under our feet and the smell of those carcasses in our noses. It was a bit like stepping into another world. This place was only 40 miles from Palm Springs and just a turn off I-10? Really?

As I tend to be, I don’t like to sit in one place too long. I started walking south and eventually found this tributary. The second I saw it I knew I had likely found the one shot I’d take away from this first detour along the Salton Sea. I loved the curves it made as it approached the water…and the reflection of the clouds. I knew while I was shooting this would be a B&W shot.

Thanks to Rick for letting me borrow his 10-stop for this one. I believe he made photographer #3 to loan me one on this trip. They’ll all be happy know I finally purchased a 10-stop, so needless to say I wont be so annoying on our next outing!

 

A road less traveled

A road less traveled - Arizona dirt road clouds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/60 // buy print)

A random dirt road off I-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff. The day was supposed to be epic up north, but it turned out to be mostly a bust. Still, my daughter and I drove down this road looking for something interesting to shoot against the puffy clouds and desert-y terrain.

I climbed a low hill to shoot the giant rocks up there, but ended up seeing this instead and liked it a whole lot better. Love me some roads and love seeing them curve and bend as they disappear.