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Up in the Air

(Rebel XSI, Tamon 17-35 2.8, 24mm, ISO200, F5, 1/1600)

So this post title has changed since I published it just over an hour ago. I told my wife that I went with Far and Away as the movie title for this image, and she said…”Hmmm, I would have gone with Up in the Air.”

Argh! She’s always right, she’s better at this than me…and I’ve decided that now I will run all my Movie Title Wednesday photos past her first to make sure I pick the right film.

Thus, for the first time in the history of this series, I’m completely changing the name of the movie AFTER I’ve published the article. First off, I am not sure how much I really liked Far and Away anyways…but Up in the Air was brilliant. George Clooney and an awesome cast…a story about a guy who does nothing but travel on an airplane for most of his life, an empty apartment with nothing in it and failed relationships. This is a relatively newer movie compared to other ones I choose, so if you haven’t seen it, go check it out. Awesome stuff.

And of course, the film’s title is a great one to describe a photograph of one of the more iconic downtown Phoenix buildings, Westward Ho. It was built in 1928 when it was the the tallest structure in Arizona.

I just love the building. In fact, I plan on trying to finagle my way into some interior areas of the place because I know it’s gotta hold some secrets.

I snapped this photo right before a shoot at the Civic Space Park. The clouds were just amazingly fluffy and the sun was playing off them beautifully. There is nothing more beautiful to me than soft, cotton-candy-clouds like this, especially with a foreground as iconic as this one.

Judgment Night

(Canon Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO100, F8, six exposure HDR)

Back in 1993 in the late fall, a little movie called Judgment Night hit theaters and my wife (then new girlfriend, we had graduated that summer from high school) checked it out one Friday evening. We never knew exactly what it was…maybe the theater was cold and it made the atmosphere feel a bit more real…but my wife and I got totally sucked into this film and completely freaked out by it. And we loved it. I mean, it’s a vivid memory for both of us to this day, 17 years later. When I showed this image to my wife last night asking if I should call it “The Matrix” or “Over the Top” for Movie Title Wednesday, she looked at it for a few seconds and said, “No, it makes me think of Judgment Night.

And that’s why I love this woman. She is always there to make me re-think things or to give me that other point-of-view that I so desperately need.

So this movie was great right? Denis Leary chasing Cuba Gooding Jr. and Emilio Estevez across the urban slums of some big city. After Jina pointed out the name of that film, it made complete sense to me. I can totally see these guys scrambling up some stairs and crossing this bridge over the freeway to get away from the guys wanting to kill them.

I love this photo…it’s one of the first few I shot once we moved to downtown Phoenix and it’s part of a 3-image series…the first being “Speed” and the second a shot I used for First Friday. I’m a big fan of symmetry and depth in an image, hence a lot of my shots have roads in them. The shape of the protective cage on this pedestrian bridge was also fun. Of course, I think the sky makes this image complete…stormy clouds just after the sun went down…such a great night.

I’m really starting to get sucked into to the world of urban photography and finding the beauty in all of it. I need to get out there a bit more!

(PS. I just posted this shot to Flickr and for some reason it took me this long to see that it might not be perfectly level…sometimes I see that, sometimes I don’t. Hard to tell on this one)

Mirror to the Sky

Sometimes you can go light on the processing, sometimes you can go heavy…this photo of the Chase Towers in downtown Phoenix is a bit on the heavy side. There is a plugin called Topaz Adjust and I love the Exposure Color Stretch filter. It can take a good photo and add something unique to it. Most of the time I love the way my images look naturally, but on occasion, I like to shake things up!

I shot this over a month ago…just a few weeks after moving downtown. The exploration of the urban Phoenix area has progressed a bit since then, but mostly I’ve been doing photoshoots of people down there instead of bracketing old buildings and architecture. That changed last night as I took some time post-photoshoot to drive down some alleyways and peer under bridges to see what I could find.

I didn’t post this one earlier because I had already posted another shot of this building last month from a slightly different angle. I figure if you are going to blog more than one angle of a specific structure, you may as well spread that stuff out over a few months. Which may or may not mean I have a third one coming 🙂

The Sandlot

The Sandlot…I know the only way you connect that film with this photo is obviously the playground area boxed in by sand, but when I was trying to think of something for Movie Title Wednesday, this one clicked into place. May as well use it now, I think this may be the first time I’ve ever shot anything sunset/landscape related from a children’s playground. There was a reason for that of course, I’ll tell you in a bit. But first…The Sandlot…once of those cult classic movies for me that will never get boring, never get old and never fail to bring a tear to my eye at the end. It’s kind of like Toy Story 3 in the way it makes us think of our childhood gone.

Some of my favorite lines:

“Only one kid in history had ever attempted what Benny was about to…and he got eaten.”

“He had kissed a woman, and he had kissed her long and good.”

And of course:

“You play ball like a GIRL!”

So this image above…wow, the sunset last night was friggin’ amazing. One of those skies you only get 2-3 times a year where the entire heavens seem to be lit up in fire. We have family in town this week and had a dinner planned for last night at my wife’s aunt & uncle’s place…and thinking it might be a good sunset, I grabbed the tripod and gear to bring along. I knew where we were going and remember that there was a park behind the house. I had no idea what was there or what I could even use to frame a shot if needed, but at least there was a wide open space to use.

I stepped out into the backyard with my daughter, saw the sky, ran for my camera and gear, snatched up Lyla and ran out into the park. Now sometimes you panic with a sky like this because you have no idea when the apex of the colors will be. The first shot was with a light pole and I was just kind of blah with it. Then Lyla saw the slide and the swings and went running off, and I said “Oh yeah, great idea Lyla!” Turned out the peak color moment was about to happen.

As I’ve said a lot of times before…with unplanned shots while out stormchasing or in your aunt and uncles backyard…you just have to frame the scene with whatever is handy. What better than a swingset? And a motionless one at that…not a breath of wind, not a hint of movement. This is a six-bracket HDR shot, although the sky itself is actually about 99.2% original bracket. I found that the HDR process just killed the textures for some reason.

Beyond the swingset…it’s definitely not a foreground ideal to a sky like this…but sometimes you gotta make lemonade outta…well you know.

Fall is just around the bend

Okay, technically fall is in full swing across the country, but here in Phoenix, it’s still around 90 degrees and for this guy who really dislikes the summers out here…it’s just not “fall weather” yet. Although the nights are amazing right now.

But on my trip up north to Williams back on the 13th of October, I did run across the beginnings of fall in a few places. One of the areas I visited on my way back to Phoenix was Oak Creek Canyon which is accessible via State Route 89a from Flagstaff. I hadn’t driven down that road in a very, very long time and it was amazingly beautiful. The steep drive down with the sheer canyon walls demanded photos but there was nowhere to stop. Maybe next time.

The two lane highway presented all kinds of interesting shots where there were places to pull over and this was one of them. The trees in the far horizon are a little cloudy because of a prescribed burn going on just down the road.

Definitely need to go down there again someday…preferably with some stormy weather (of course).

Glowing Rails

(Canon Rebel XSI, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, 8-exposures, F8)

Back three weeks ago when I realized it was going to be a nice sunset, I’d drive 5 minutes and be in the middle of the desert. Now I’m scrambling for places in downtown Phoenix that will compliment the gorgeous skies we get down here in the evenings and mornings.

My little family and I had been driving around downtown two weekends ago just exploring and seeing what kind of restaurants are there, shops, etc. Of course I was unconsciously more focused on things I could photograph, but when isn’t that true? We passed these tracks and I just knew I had to come back sometime.

By the way, the cardinal rule about never leaving a sunset until it’s well past the sun actually going down is so very important. As the sun disappeared on this night, the high clouds that were hanging around all afternoon suddenly appeared to vanish. I was like “UGH! They were amazing, why did they just go POOF like that? Argh, better drive around and see what else I can find to shoot while I’m here.” Sure enough, I found something that I’m extremely excited to post at a later time, but as I was snapping the shutter I saw the sky. Wow…all the clouds were back and they were on fire.

Obviously they had never left, but the sun going down made them blend in with the sky for a few minutes before they got nailed with that amazing light. Don’t. Give.Up.On.Your.Sunset.

I love the train tracks in this photo more than anything…the way they were shiny enough to reflect the sky was remarkable. Next time though I think I’d like to be further down the tracks, closer to that bridge you see in the distance.

Speed

Downtown Phoenix Freeway Interstate 10

Oh how I longed to live closer to the downtown area so I could explore taking shots like this one. Long exposures over freeways with loads of vehicles. Although, I realized when I look at this that it could basically have been taken on any ol’ freeway with a pedestrian overpass! But I love it because it’s downtown Phoenix!

I also love the movie Speed, which is the name of the film for my weekly Movie Title Wednesday entry. I don’t care how much people hate Keanu Reeves and his acting (or lack of) style…I usually find him entertaining. If I remember correctly, this movie kind of re-birthed Reeves as an action star after being a total dweeb time-traveler in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Speed was such a fun movie, lots of action, intensity, Dennis Hopper and not to mention Sandra Bullock.

“Shoot the hostage!”

Now, this photo has an extra special quality about it because it’s ALSO being used to help advertise the “gallery” I’ll be displaying my prints in for First Friday on November 5th and for the rest of that month. You can see it being used on the frontpage of DayTwelve.org and displayed on the official flyer for the event (click here to see it!).

If you live in the area, I hope you can make the event and check out my work PLUS the other five awesome photographers there, including my buddies Dee Nichols and Rick Young.

Reach for the Sky

The Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix

“Reach for the skyyyyyyy.”

Ah, a favorite line from one of my daughter’s favorite things to watch…Toy Story. I should note…I also love those movies. I find that I can still laugh at them over and over despite the amazing number of times we’ve watched it in our house!

This is Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix, a monolithic structure that immediately caught my eye on one of my first real exploratory drives down there. We’ve now lived down here for a few weeks now and I’m finding more opportunities to explore here and there and in the process of doing that, discovering all kinds of things I want to photograph. This particular skyscraper I believe is the tallest building in Arizona, or at least it was a few years ago. I haven’t see anything that could surpass it as I’ve driven around.

I have several angles of this building, from about 20 feet away looking straight up, to this shot from across the street in a parking garage (a ‘parkade’ for our Canadian friends). I intend to post the others someday, but what struck me the most with this one is the kind of “flaring” clouds behind it.

Six brackets make up this shot, processed in Photomatix and CS5, with a finishing touch using Topaz Adjust. I don’t use Adjust as much anymore, but I do have to say the Exposure Color Stretch is my favorite filter in that entire tool. The image above was done with that filter, and while it gives is a sort of “halo” about it…this was intentional and not an indication of sloppy HDR work *grin*

Signs

Well, it’s another Movie Title Wednesday and this time it may be more subtle than most, but there is a quick story behind it. Super quick.

“Hey wife, what do you think of this photo?”

“I like the signs.”

“There are signs? Oh yeah…wait a second…”

And thus we now have a title for the picture.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Signs was one of my more favorite M. Night films, and it was probably one of his last good ones. It had some great music, spooky moments and a cool ending where everything tied up nice and neat.

“Swing away Merrill…swing away.”

Nothing beats Sixth Sense and Unbreakable though in my eyes when it comes to M. Night movies.

So linking this image to Signs isn’t exactly obvious, but I like it anyways. It definitely has that dark, scary thing going on. And you can’t argue with my wife…it does indeed have signs in it. I shot this up at Sunset Point last week during the tornado insanity here in Arizona. I had driven north at 8am hoping to catch my first shot of a twister, but ended up sitting here for a bit before heading back to work. Pulled off on the right side of Interstate 17 and walked out into the scrub a bit. I’m sure I’m going to get a ticket one of these days for parking on the edge of a major highway.

On the way back home I did get a photo of a small funnel cloud though and will post those later this week more than likely.

Dumbo

Sometimes you look at a photo and the title of it just hits you. I knew this was the one for today’s Movie Title Wednesday ongoing series! If you can’t spot Dumbo in the photo, I don’t know if anyone can help you *grin*

This is basically right out of my RAW editor with some processing done to the contrast and RGB coloring. I love to take time to compose shots, set down the tripod, grab a bunch of brackets and then spend a few hours processing that shot. However, I also just LOVE random photos of clouds and storm structures, and this is one of those shots. Just something unique you might not see everyday.

In fact, my buddy Bryan was with me and we were both in awe of this cloud…because while the camera can’t capture it, in real life, it was flying from right to left and you could see the “trunk” form withing seconds and just spin upwards. In reality, I think it was just an outflow from the storm churning up clouds as it flew by. The last time I saw clouds move and form like that was in Nebraska earlier this year, and Bryan hadn’t ever seen it happen like that. These were definitely storms you don’t see much of around Arizona.