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The Million Dollar Highway in Colorado has some sharp drop-offs and incredible scenery, plus this amazing switchback. I spotted it on Google Maps a few days prior and was hoping it would look amazing from the air…and I think it was better than I imagined.

Photographed with a DJI Phantom 3.

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 shelf cloud photo/timelapse over Fountain Hills

Shelf Cloud over Fountain Hills
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/8, iso 200, 1/200th // buy print)

When I chase in the central plains every spring, I do so with the intent of hopefully capturing a tornado someday, but mainly to get beautiful cloud structures that we don’t see much of out here in Arizona.

And then yesterday happened. I had been out shooting snow on the Superstition Mountains in the early afternoon when my buddy Jeff started texting me about the lightning and hail raining down all over Scottsdale. In parts of that city it hailed so badly it was a crazy whiteout on freeways and even the Diamondbacks couldn’t practice this morning as their field is a sheet of ice.

I started to head back towards the cell intending to cut it off at Gilbert and the Beeline. I had a smaller storm to drive though first, but when I emerged on the other side I saw some serious dark clouds with great looking cloud bases and structures. I rush to this spot that I’ve been too before knowing it would be perfect and started timelapsing.

And while the cloud were gorgeous before, suddenly this crisp looking shelf cloud emerged and made my day. It was absolutely beautiful. My only wish is that I had been somewhere a bit nicer, but there was no time to drive anywhere else. But I didn’t care really. I was just so happy to stumble upon this thing. It even had that bluish-green tiny from all the hail falling. Amazing.

A timelapse of this storm is below…watch it full-screen so that you can have a dark background because of how dark the scene itself is.

(btw, the video quality via Vimeo seems suspect today, not sure what’s up. Usually a bit more crisp than it is.)

The snow-capped Superstition Mountains

White-capped Superstitions
(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/8, iso 200, 1/320th // buy print)

What a day.

I have so many images I haven’t even looked at yet, but this was the first one I took early this afternoon. Never before have I seen the Superstition Mountains with snow that low to the desert floor. It was an amazing sight and one I wont soon forget.

This was taken at 12:47pm right after the early morning storms rolled through.

I discovered this spot a few years ago on my own, although it’s not really a secret apparently. The normally empty location had 20 cars parked on the shoulders of the road, mud everywhere, people walking, taking pictures and a police officer hanging out to make sure nothing happened.  Was definitely tough to take any kind of shot without people in it, so you get what you get!

More to come, including a pretty awesome shelf cloud I captured later in the day!

One | Roxanne, Josh & Bowser | Engagement

Nothing cuter than a couple and their little Yorky in the middle of the snowy aspens up north of Flagstaff. Wedding is in December, can’t wait!

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Snowy Saguaro

Snowy Saguaro
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 200mm , iso 100, f/2.8, 1/1250th // buy print)

Took a nice drive up the Beeline Highway today and ran into snow falling well before I thought we would. The level had dropped crazy low and it was amazing to see some of these Saguaro with snow on their needles all all around the desert floor.

I’ve been wanting a shot like this for awhile and I’m sure you’ve seen these dozens of times, but for me it was awesome to finally get some snow on a cactus like this. A wonderfully fun day driving around and playing in the snow with the family!

Obscured | Four Peaks Sunset

Obscured
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 is l, 75mm, iso 100, f/20, 1/5 // buy print)

It’s so very rare that I go back to images more than a year ago. Usually I think anything that far back must suck anyways, so what’s the point? But I always loved this day out in the Four Peaks wilderness area and I never did a whole lot with this image. So yesterday I was playing around with it and re-processed it using luminosity masking that’s been my main tool of late.

I captured this on December 14th, 2011. It was such an amazing evening. Stunning light, low clouds, beautiful colors. What I like about this image is that most photos of the Four Peaks…show the actual four peaks. Here…it’s implied that they are there, but you don’t see them.

Haven’t been out to the Four Peaks this year at all…been unfavorable circumstances for stormy, snowy weather like this. Hoping for a few more chances before the winter storms go away.

 

Snowy December Morning

Snowy December Morning

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 29mm, iso 100, f/8, 1/50th // buy print)

Haven’t had a ton of time in December to just go for drives on stormy days, so it was awesome to end the year with a nice road trip with the kiddies. I have to say, our little almost-11-month-old Eli joined Lyla and myself for the first time ever and he rocked. Never cried, just had an awesome time and I couldn’t be happier for what that hopefully means in the coming years!

This is a shot of the Superstition Mountains with some snow you can see in the higher elevations. One of my favorite spots in Arizona. A gorgeous, cloudy morning…was well worth getting up at 5:45 and dragging the kids with me.

Into the Wild

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, exposure blend // buy print)

I’ve had a couple of friends lately tell me they miss Movie Title Wednesdays on my blog, and it kind of made me realize I do too. I haven’t done one in a few months now, but we’re back and better than ever!

If you haven’t heard about the story of Christopher McCandless, than I suggest you rent the film Into the Wild, starring Emile Hirsch. The movie is based off the book of the same title written by Jon Krakauer. I would highly recommend the book too, maybe even before you see the movie. It’s an amazing tale of a guy who sells everything, gives all his money to charity and hitchhikes his way to Alaska to live in the wilderness.

It’s a true story and one that will grip you until the end. He made such an impact on people along the way, that author Krakauer was able to piece together his journey from interviews with those people, plus friends and family. Check it out!

So my wife picked out the title today because the one I had before was horrible. She brought up a good point though about my struggle to find a good one: I shoot so many road shots, at some point, movie titles aren’t going to work as I don’t like to repeat them and never have before.

But for today…Into the Wild kind of fits here. This is a stretch of the Beeline Highway headed towards Payson. This long, downward straightaway into this valley has always been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. It’s just kind of suddenly THERE when you aren’t expecting it.

I’ve always wanted to do it justice and this day back on March 19th was perfect. We’d just had some winter storms blow through (in fact, there is snow falling on some of the distant mountains), the clouds were astounding and the fading sunlight mesmerizing.

It took some time to get this though…it’s a busy highway and finding a time with no one behind or ahead of me wasn’t easy. Luckily I had about 1/4 – 1/2 mile warning of oncoming vehicles, although when they are going 75-80mph, that’s not a ton of distance!

Sunset out at Four Peaks

(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, blended brackets // buy print)

Before heading out last Monday to try for a sunset out on Four Peaks after a big winter storm blew through, I hadn’t shot anything “landscapey” for over a month. Was a long drought and it felt good to be out there again.

So like I said, a huge storm hit Arizona this past Sunday and Monday, leaving the high country blanketed in snow. Everyone in the world knew Four Peaks would be included in that, and I believe everyone in the world was out there on Monday evening. Not only a few photographers I know, but a whole herd of others. Never seen it quite like that before.

I tried to separate myself from all of them by driving further than I ever had before, to get someplace new and different. My main objective was to find a spot where a cactus would still be catching that last bit of sunlight while at the same time capturing some color in the sky.

The sunset we all wanted didn’t exactly show up, but the clouds here were worth the trip for me. And there was still a bit of color in them as well.