Posts

Star Wars

A few days ago I decided to get some buddies together to go shoot the Geminid Meteors for the peak of the shower Sunday into Monday. We met up in Organ Pipe in far southern Arizona and enjoyed some dark skies and one of the most active meteor showers I've ever seen! Got home and took this morning to put this image together...it's a stack/blend of about 25 meteors put into one photo. This is part of a time-lapse sequence as well, shot at f/2.8, 20 seconds and ISO 5000.

I heard about the Geminid Meteors being at their peak Sunday into Monday, so I called around to a few buddies this weekend in an effort to drag them out with me somewhere remote so I’d have a few meat shields in case of attack from crazy peeps. We decided to do Organ Pipe south of Ajo since Greg McCown lives in Tucson and it was sorta central for us. Keith Kessler and Davo Laninga, who took my Monsoon workshop a few years ago, also joined me! So great to hang with these dudes. Organ Pipe is stunning. Saguaro everywhere. We got there and meteors were all over the place in most directions. It was nuts. But at first the cameras just weren’t picking them them, so I got discouraged. Still, I cranked the ISO to 5000 and we sat in the truck with the heat blasting for a couple of hours…and when stopped my little time-lapse, I found all these crazy meteors scattered throughout the photos.

Here’s a stacked photo of a bunch of images amounting to roughly 25 meteors. This isn’t anything new, I’ve seen lots of stacked meteor shots and I wanted to give it a shot. I love the way it turned out, but hope to get more practice down the road. I just learned some new techniques for noise and editing of Milky Way shots, hoping to up my game down the road…but for now, hope you enjoy!

Wilaha

A distant thunderstorm rumbles and throws down tons of bolts west of the small community of Wilaha in northern Arizona.
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/5.6, iso 500, 25 sec, 6-images stacked)

I spent yesterday afternoon up in northern Arizona, hoping to grab some lightning at the Grand Canyon, but of course…that’s an elusive goal and once again it didn’t pan out. But I did see quite a few rotating storms, drove through a great hail storm east of the Canyon, then witnessed a beautiful rainbow over the Little Colorado canyon there, followed up by a gorgeous sunset from Moran Point and then this little isolated storm on my way home towards Williams. It blew up in the distance west of Wilaha, moved closer and closer to me, the bolts were great, but sadly no good west roads and it died out before I was hoping.

Decided to do a 6-image stack of this storm…because it was so distant and any single bolt didn’t seem to do it justice!

Let’s go places

Let's go places
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, ISO 3200, f/2.8, 20 seconds // buy print)

Last Tuesday I left my house around 4pm for Colorado and two days of chasing storms. Around 3 in the morning I couldn’t go any further, so I pulled over at a parking area north of Las Vegas, New Mexico to grab a few hours sleep.

A perfect spot to grab a shot of Vera II against the Milky Way. Loved how dark it was here…not to mention open and flat. Standing there, seeing the stars blaze in the sky like you don’t usually living in a big city…is always awe-inspiring.

Positive

Positive CG
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm (cropped), iso 400, f/5.6, 6.0 sec)

One of my favorite kinds of lightning bolts are the ones that exit out the top of a cloud and have a long ways to go before they hit the ground. I feel like I must have known this before, but either way, thanks to Jeff Beamish down in Tucson, I now know these kinds of strikes are “positive cloud-to-ground” bolts (more info here).

I’ve caught one or two during my storm chasing adventures, but I’ve really been craving one from a distance. It was goal this year. That way you not only get the whole strike, but the cloud structure and maybe some sky…in this case…a few stars as an added bonus. If you aren’t sure what I mean by all of this…you can see in the photo above at the top of the cloud, there is a real BRIGHT part where the bolt exits the cloud. If you can picture things in a 3D environment, the bolt is likely coming towards us a bit before heading downwards.

Below is another example of one I’ve caught in the past (2012). It’s not so powerful as the one above, but you can see it coming out of the top of the cloud, making its way to the left and then down to the ground. Gives you more of an idea of what the bolt in the above photo might have been doing.

Stoked to nab this before the season ends.

From top to bottom

Thunder and Stars

Thunder and Stars
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, iso 4000, 16mm, f/2.8, 20 sec // buy print)

I’ve been chasing storms like crazy for almost six years now. During that time I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Milky Way just hanging out with a thunderstorm brewing nearby.

This past Saturday I pulled off at a favorite spot, got out of the car and saw the Milky Way just up there, hanging out, watching some lightning. Blew my mind. And this thunderstorm to the left was going nuts. I’m almost always out at night to strictly photograph lightning, but I knew I couldn’t pass up this amazing opportunity, so I started time-lapsing the whole thing.

I haven’t posted it yet, I may save it for my end-of-year film…but suffice to say, I’m stoked about it. The stars of course were awesome. But the lightning was non-stop. I took about 450 photos for the time-lapse, all at 8-seconds, and there was some kind of lightning flash in every shot. It was unbelievable how active these storms were.

Stuff like this is why I love chasing storms. I’ve been out hundreds of times over these past six years, and still I get to see something new on a regular basis.

 

Out of the cloud

Out of the Cloud
(please click to view this image on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 160, f/8.0, 15 sec // buy print)

Last season I captured a brief timelapse of a thunderhead building up with lightning illuminating it from the inside. What made it awesome was the moonlight. The moon was almost full and thus the cloud was already visible with the naked eye even though it was well past dark. It made it extra awesome because you could already see the cloud building almost as if it were daytime, and then the lightning as also visibly illuminating the cloud as well.

Since that night I so badly wanted to capture some storms with the moon nearing fullness. And on October 17th, it finally happened.

I was out on Interstate 8 near Gila Bend shooting north when I look behind me and see this line of storms building. What’s so awesome is that normally, without the moonlight, I likely wouldn’t have seen it very well…and maybe missed it entirely. But with that extra light, I could see the cloud plain as day. One section started growing larger, so I aimed that way and waited.

Even more interesting was the fact that this cloud didn’t even seem that big. But boom! Bolts started raining down. Standing there it almost felt like the strikes themselves were just as tall as the cloud. I’ve never captured lightning from a such a small storm before…I couldn’t even believe it produced anything.

Definitely one of my favorite shots from 2013.

The Milky Way over Sedona | YoloZona

Milky Way over Sedona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 5000, f/2.8, 30 sec // buy print)

An epic trip happened this past weekend…a meeting of four photographers who are great friends of mine, all coming here to Arizona, to help me take pictures of a wedding and then shoot the crap out of this state. We created a hashtag for the weekend…#YoloZona.

On Monday morning, after maybe 5 hours of sleep, we all woke up at 3am to shoot some stars out at Courthouse Butte in Sedona. Thanks to some great advice from our buddy in Kansas, Scotty Ackerman, we knew when the Milky Way would rise and roughly where it would be.

I don’t photograph stars very much and when I have, I’ve never seen anything this good. You’d think only 5 minutes south of a town like Sedona that the sky would be saturated from city lights, but thankfully Sedona is super dark at night because of lighting ordinances. Looking up with the naked eye you could clearly see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

I edited this in Lightroom first for color and shadows, and then used a bit of luminosity masking techniques to make the sky pop a bit more. I’m super stoked with how this image turned out, my only slight regret is that it’s a 30 second exposure which is a tad too long. The stars are streaking just a bit on the edges of the frame. I was at ISO 5000 on the 5D3, which really didn’t give me much noise, so I might have gone higher and done a shorter, 20 second exposure.

Regardless…I love it anyways, and I’m thinking about getting this printed on metal. The stars are amazing and having lived in Phoenix my whole life…I rarely, if ever, see something like this. What an amazing night.

 

 

Reaching for the stars

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 20mm, f/4, iso 5000, 30 sec // buy print)

Since I know you skipped the italics above, PLEASE click on the image to see it fit your monitor with a sexy black border.

One of the more exciting opportunities in Joshua Tree National Park was the chance to shoot some nighttime star shots, including the Milky Way. I’ve never really done that before and have always wanted to give it a shot.

Props again go to my buddy Heath O’Fee for inviting me to meet him out there (along with some other peeps), and also for finding this tree. Sure, we all probably would have found the tree eventually, but like Christopher Columbus, Heath gets the credit.

I’ve posted another shot of this tree from an angle further away, so this was one up close, almost underneath it. In fact, I took this one first…wandered around a bit elsewhere and then saw the second composition that I posted earlier.

This shot wasn’t a solo effort. The entire group of us…Chris DeAngelis, Chris Frailey, Doug Wise, Heath and Rick Young were all shooting this same scene. We had Rick firing off his strobe while we all sat in various spots with different compositions. Was a heck of a fun time yelling at everyone to get their exposures ready so we could FRAKKING take the picture already!

As hella cold it was that night, it was also a ton of fun. Loved hanging with these guys who have all become amazing friends over the last year.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life - Joshua Tree National Park

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 20mm, f/4, iso 5000, 30 sec // buy print)

It’s funny. We were freezing cold at Joshua Tree National Park when the sun went down, but then the stars came out and none of that mattered.

My buddy Heath O’Fee found this tree. Earlier the lot of us had been right under it, shooting upwards at the stars while someone light-painted the rocks. We were all having so much fun taking pictures of things we normally do not. The night sky. It’s fairly new to me and I want to explore it more.

But then we all kind of dispersed to find our own compositions in and around the rocks. And I found this one. I thought the sky would light up nicely on the horizon because of the far off cities and the sun having gone down earlier. The tree growing between the rocks was pure awesome.

The real treat though…was one of my cohorts doing his own light-painting on the far side of that tree. I decided to take advantage and so I waited for him to take another shot and then I took mine.

No idea who it was, but thank you.

Moon

Moonrise - Highway 87

.

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 4000, 20 sec // buy print)

It’s Movie Title Wednesday, a series that has been going on so long that I’m surprised I haven’t run out of films to use yet.

Moon is one of those hidden gems that you may not have heard of before. It came out several years ago and stars Sam Rockwell as a guy who is on a 3-year stint managing a mining operation on the Moon that helps replenish Earth’s resources. If you love pure, classic science fiction…this is a film you gotta see. The movie received an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.0 rating on IMDB. Solid numbers.

On the last day of stormchasing the monsoons last year, I ended up driving over 450 miles. I was up near Winslow, the day was over and it was time to head home. I chose highway 87 which would take me through Payson, a route I’d only been on once before. A bit after 8pm I realized I was in this wide open area with retreating clouds and some of the Milky Way appearing above me. I pulled over and aimed south to capture some stars, but the clouds were quickly returning and the shot didn’t turn out so well.

But then, as usually happens, I turned around and saw the moon rising. I’ve shown this picture to a few people, plus it appears at the end of my latest book, and most of the time the first thought is that it’s a sunrise. Until you see the stars in the sky and realize that would be impossible.

The moon rose with a orange glow about it and the clouds were perfect, even getting lit up underneath a bit as if it were a sunrise. The taillights from the car illuminated the highway.

It was so peaceful out there too…quiet, nothing for miles and miles and miles. Not a car in sight. Was a wonderful way to end the stormchasing season.