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Lower Grand Falls

Below the Grand Falls

(Click to view larger with a nice, dark background)

This will likely be the last image from this past April’s annual trip to Grand Falls, Arizona. I’ve held onto it long enough, figured it was time to just post the thing. I’m sure some of you photogs who post daily photos can relate to hoarding some of your favorites for a rainy day.

If you follow my work at all, then you know about Grand Falls in the northern portions of this state located on Navajo land. It only flows from snow melt or flash floods due to massive monsoon storms. It’s one of those places that most people in Arizona have never heard of, including myself up until a few years ago. It’s not advertised, there are no signs, no parking lot, no gift shop. It’s just there.

And I like it that way.

Seeing a place like this in Arizona is something special. We don’t have many waterfalls, but this is our Niagara. In fact, from top to bottom, it’s taller than Niagara.

We last visited on April 2nd, my buddies Rick, Ken, Chris and then a bunch of other people showed up late in the day, like my wife, daughter and some other friends. This was taken at the bottom of the falls as the sun was beginning to the disappear behind me. I wanted to get a shot with the light shining off the falls before I hiked back up in time for the sunset (a shot you can see here).

There is not much else I can say about this place. You really have to see it in person.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100)

Old Man Sunset

The Watcher - Arizona Monsoon Thunderstorms

(Click to watch the storm as God intended…larger, with a dark border)

Scenes like these are the reason why I love chasing and photographing the monsoons here in Arizona.

This was the day before the big haboob arrived in Phoenix. As you can see, dust storms in this state are a normal occurrence during the summer (just nothing so bad as the July 5th one). I was headed south from Phoenix and saw a big wall of dust headed our way, along with a pretty epic looking stormcell. On radar, it was actually headed perfectly towards town.

So I had found this spot the day before and set up here again. I love this old tree. It looks dead, but has green growth on some of the outlying branches. I’ve grown quite fond of it…dubbing it “the old man.” I started running a timelapse and let it go for quiet awhile. I may actually post it sometime soon, but as I am just young in doing these, I moved the camera around a few times, so I need to work a bit on the final product. It’s actually pretty gorgeous how this storm grows, dies and the colors move across it until night falls.

As it stands, a shot like this isn’t super-easy to get. Being able to capture a dying monsoon anvil, complete with awesome sunset colors, PLUS grab a wall of dust moving in front of it…well, it just doesn’t happen much. The only thing that would have made it more rare would be a lightning strike!

Hoping for a few more monsoon sunsets like this before the season ends! Still have a lot of chasing to do.

The bridge at Two Guns

(click to make the photo bigger (you must have a pretty big monitor!) or so it fits your screen)

I’m exhausted, I must say. Four hours of yardwork on Saturday resulted in a bit of a sun burn. Sunday I joined my buddy Rick Young in shooting a destination beach wedding in Los Angeles. More sunburn. Flew in at 7am, got home around 10:30pm. Last Thursday I was notified that I was needed in Vegas this week for my day job, so today I was up at 4:15am after hitting the sack around midnight.  And here I sit in the little control room wanting to focus on work, but I’m tired, cranky and miss my girls back home.

So of course I figured why not write up this blog post real quick, since I haven’t had anytime to do it before now.

I love this image. It was taken on our trip to the Two Guns ghost town back on April 2nd.  To get in this spot, I hiked down an animal-created path that was made up of a combination of deer prints and perhaps a few bear prints. My buddy Ken Peterson told me I’d probably get bitten by a snake while down here too. Lots of tall, dead things. It may be hard to tell, but all those tall branches at the bottom of this image were over 12 feet tall at least.

But I saw this bride out in the distance and wanted to see what it looked like underneath. The aforementioned Rick Young has a great shot of the bridge from far away right here. I love how he applied a bit of Focal Point foreground blur to make the image pop.

I liked this angle though and am glad I made the hike to get here. A beautiful, old bridge and one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Two Guns in the first place.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16)

The Road Ahead (Welcome to the new look)

(click to see the image above in a beautiful lightbox with a nice, dark border)

Well, you’ve no doubt noticed things look a lot different here today. Of course, if this is your first visit, that may not mean much, but I welcome you here just the same!

To those that follow this blog and my photography on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, this is the first theme change I’ve done to this website in a very long time. I’m never the type of person to stay happy with a theme for very long, but the previous one was awesome, I loved it and I actually still love it.

But it’s time to move on to something else. I didn’t do it lightly, nor without a lot of help, advice and feedback.

Why the change? Well, for awhile now I’ve been struggling with the idea that people may not get a clear idea of everything I do. Portraits, weddings, events…and prints of course. The old theme was okay, but I needed something that would hopefully tell you who I am the second you hit the website.

The slideshow on the frontpage is pretty awesome. The guy who designed this theme did an amazing job overall, but that style of a slideshow is all kinds of bad ass. And it solved my problem. When you arrive here, you get to see a smorgasbord of my images…from people to places. I love it.

There are a lot of other, fairly important reasons for doing this and I’m not going to go into them all. If you are interested in knowing, you can email me, ask in the comments, or whatever. I’ll gladly answer any questions you have. If you have feedback, I’m open to that as well. If you notice anything broken or acting funny, I urge you to let me know.

Thanks to those of you who saw the new theme ahead of time and gave me feedback, especially my little focus group that actually took the time to explore it and send me detailed notes. So very appreciative! I feel like this change (among other things) is going to lead to bigger things for me down the road and I’m beyond excited about it!

OH YEAH…the image at the top of this post. I shot it back in March whilst in Las Vegas. This was the road to El Dorado Canyon and of course I had to stop and get out. Clouds…awesome. Road…perfect. Done deal.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, iso 100, f/22, 17mm)

 

Seraphim Falls

(image can be viewed larger with a sweet black border if you click on it. you know you want to…)

Coming up with a title for this image for Movie Title Wednesday was kind of difficult. Most of the movies that came to mind I either didn’t remember much about, or really didn’t think fit too well. My wife liked Legends of the Fall, but I think I’ll save that for when the leaves change down the road. There was The Grand, or The Majestic…or even one that seems to fit perfectly…A River Runs Through It. But again, I don’t remember much about it other than Brad Pitt was in it and that I was a senior in high school! Ack! There was also The River Wild with Meryl Streep…but I didn’t like that either.

In the endSeraphim Falls was the title. I highly doubt most of you have seen it, but it’s definitely worth renting. Pierce Brosnan is hiding in the Rocky Mountains just after the Civil War has ended and Liam Neeson is a Confederate Colonel who wants the man killed to avenge a wrong. It all goes back to something that happened at Seraphim Falls…which you eventually discover.

I loved the title of the movie when I first heard it. I wanted to make it fit here but wasn’t quite sure EXACTLY what Seraphim meant, so I looked it up and was pumped when it has a rough translation of “burning ones.” Sure, it’s kind of a stretch, but when you think of a sunset and the fiery red skies you tend to get…it works.

Last weekend I got up at 3am to meet three other photogs to go up north and shoot all day. Despite all the fun I had and the pictures I took…this one shot above of Grand Falls was my entire reason for going. I’m not saying this about the photograph itself, but more about the scene.  Ever since I visited for the first time last year and had boring blue skies, I’ve been dreaming of getting back there and capturing a gorgeous sunset. It was like the entire day boiled down to this span of five minutes when the sky changed color.

The fact that we even got color was amazing. The sun was stuck behind some very thick clouds and as it got darker and darker…I thought that was it. Nothing was coming through that. And then suddenly in the northeast the clouds turned red. My heart jumped. I started waving at the other guys to point it out. People started moving around excitedly. Slowly the color moved westward until…for what was probably less than a minute…the sky looked as it did in the photo above.

Then it was gone.

I loved the day, loved the time spent with friends and especially loved that my wife and daughter were up there to share this with me.  Last year’s trip was exciting, but this one will be the one I remember always.

(of course, until I go back next year…have some fun ideas for 2012)

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso 200)

 

The Book of Eli

Bush Highway Arizona Desert

(newish: click on the image to view in a lightbox)

Last week was a drag for some reason, so it’s hard to believe it’s already Wednesday! And that means it’s time for a Movie Title!

The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. Lots of fun stuff about this film, not the least of which was how it was processed. Stark contrast, fast moving clouds…hyper-details…it felt a lot like a super-processed HDR movie or something. The plot itself is kind of hard to talk about without giving away too much…because sadly I was told awhile before I saw the movie exactly what would happen at the end and it kind of ruined it for me.

I think you get a mixed bag of reviews for this movie. I loved it, thought the ending was great and just enjoyed the entire post-apocalyptic yummyness. Also Mila Kunis was in it…and…well, you can’t do much wrong there.

This image was taken on Sunday morning. I got up around 5am (on a Sunday, yeah, I have problems) and drove way out east of town along Bush Highway. When I shoot weather and clouds, I am huge into contrasting lines in the sky with lines on the ground.  So there was no way I was not going to grab a few shots of this road. I actually didn’t stop for it…I had hopped the railing for another image that will arrive another day.

I usually start out with an idea of what I’m going to do with an image in post, but this sort of “post-apocalyptic” look came about totally by accident and suddenly I knew I wanted to create a bit more of a “hyper contrast” kind of style.

Hopefully it reminds you of the Book of Eli as much as it did me.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/20)

Morning Reflected

Sunrise Reflected Chase Tower Downtown Phoenix

Yes, it’s another shot of Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix. I’ve taken a few different views and angles of this thing, but none of were taken in the early morning hours as the sun was rising. I photographed this back on December 22nd.

My buddy Rick Young told me months before that I gotta get down there for a sunrise once because the reflection will be amazing.

You were right my friend.

I definitely feel like I need to plan a few more early-mornings out before the sun comes up. Lately I end up being too tired, so I stick to later in the day/sunsets instead. But my last trip out to the Superstitions on January 31st was in the morning and I loved it.

I’m hoping that the weather is awesome this weekend and perhaps another morning drive will be in order.

Air Produce

Downtown Phoenix Urban Building Airplane

The day before our chilly, 6am Urban Phoenix Photowalk takes place, figured I’d drop one more image from one of my excursions down there before Christmas. We’ll probably be walking by this building once again and I’m hoping to find something new and different about it that I missed before.

Before I go on…I figured I’d talk a bit about clouds. Not a surprise right?

My buddy Bob Lussier (whom I apparently am in love with since I’ve now linked to him twice this week) is just finishing up a series he calls “Off-Season.” It’s a fantastic look at what the wintery season looks like up in Massachusetts and the New England area when things close down. Check out one of his latest shots.

The reason I bring it up is because without the moody, cloudy skies, I don’t think he’d get the same “abandoned, off-season, winter” feelings that he conveys through those shots.

Clouds are important to the photography I enjoy. I hate blue skies. If I find a building or structure that I’m dying to shoot…I’m going to wait until I get the skies to go with it. The entire reason I was out the morning I took the above shot was the clouds. There is something magical and beautiful about the morning sun creating textures and depth in clouds like this. It draws me and moves me.

While I was setting up to take this shot, I noticed how close the airplanes were on their decent into Sky Harbor, so I waited to snap my brackets until another one was flying over. I like the image with or without the airplane, but I think it just adds something extra.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/8.0, iso100)

Fresh snow on the Four Peaks

Just under a year ago I captured a beautiful, slightly snowy sunset on this mountain range known as the Four Peaks.These mountains are at the 7,000 foot level, so they tend to get a dusting of snow once or twice a year. You just never know when it’s going to happen or how many times. In fact, after the previous one last January, there hasn’t been snow up there until today. Once it melts, it could be another year before it happens again (although I think we’ll see more in the coming weeks).

All that to say…when there is snow up on the peaks, you have to go. I dragged my wife and daughter out of the house around noon today and this shot was taken close to 5pm. Needless to say, no nap for Lyla, a long day for my wife reading magazines, books and watching the snow fall as we drove around. I love them both for putting up with me. It’s so very rare to see snow fall around the Phoenix area and this storm system moving through will be the coldest since 2007. After a morning movie, I could see some storms popping up north of town and it looked like the Beeline Highway would see the most action, plus Four Peaks is in that direction. I wanted to just take a drive and see what we saw…and that resulted in some beautiful clouds, at least five separate snow showers and a boatload of photographs.

The clouds capping the peaks in this image were the last set of snow showers to roll through before it was done for the day. I was running frantically through desert brush, hurdling prickly pears, getting stuck by needles…all to find the perfect composition. The goal of course was to contrast the snowy peaks with the desert floor below and these two Saguaro sentinels proved worth enough to be included in the framing.

I’m pretty sure I saw my Twitter buddy Ted Wendel out there…check out his shot taken probably within minutes of mine.

The Towering Inferno

I’ve never seen The Towering Inferno, but considering it stars Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, it’s probably a good flick. It arrived in theaters sometime in 1974, a full year before I was even born. Despite not ever seeing it, I’ve heard the  name multiple times and it was the film that came to my mind when I was looking at this image for Movie Title Wednesday.

I’ve posted a few shots of Chase Tower since moving downtown (here and here), but I end up going back to it when the background and reflections will be different. One day I will probably have a series of images from this very spot with varying types of weather backdrops.  This was sunrise on Tuesday morning and I wasn’t sure if I had missed it or not, but I headed up to the top of a nearby parking garage and suddenly the sky behind (and to the southwest) of the building exploded in a beautiful orange plume of color. Not only that, but the sky to the east of it was also lit up, so you get a reflection off the building.

There is something so simple and stark about a building framed against a sky with nothing else around it. Almost feels unreal… isolated…lonely. I love it.

Been a great week for weather in Phoenix…amazing morning and evening skies, rainy, gray clouds…and more to come.