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Lightning over the Rincons

Rincon Lightning
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 f/2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 125, f/8, 8 sec // buy print)

The monsoon moisture is just around the corner, so I’m all kinds of excited and looking back at old images I never posted.

Here’s one from the Rincon Mountains last July 1st. Was early in the season and a spectacular lightning show for an hour or so. Can’t wait for more of this next week!

Electricity over Sierra Vista

LIghtning over Sierra Vista
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L, 70mm, iso 160, f/8, 13 sec // buy print)

This was taken on the night before I left for Africa last summer. I was determined to get as as many storm images as possible since I was going to be gone for 10 days, and so that goal compelled me to chase all the way down to Sierra Vista on this night.

I have to say, it was worth it. This southern Arizona town was getting blasted with lightning bolts and I had a nice perch just north of town along highway 82. This particular storm did have some interesting looks to it, even at one time having supercell appearance. Definitely love this shot…mean looking storm and two cloud-piercing bolts.

An Arizona hail core

Severe storm near Douglas
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/13th // buy print)

I remember this storm like it was yesterday. I was even live streaming it and couldn’t have been more excited for the people watching to see a storm like this in Arizona. You can even see a timelapse of it right here.

This area had storms all over…to the left, to the right…but something about this one looked different. I was watching an area of intense rain when suddenly you could see the blue a lot clearer and the clouds started making some crazy looking shapes, especially on the right side of the image above. It almost looked like a wall cloud and there was some insane upward motion. Insane for this state that is.

I got so lucky last year to be on two storms like this that looked so unusual for Arizona. Hoping for more of the same in 2014!

In the Hills

In the Hills
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm f/2.8 l, 70mm, f/8.0, 8 sec, iso 125 // buy print)

Some of the best lightning I photographed this past summer all happened on July 1st, super early in the monsoon season. This was another image over the Rincon Mountains southeast of Tucson.

I rarely use the 70-200 for lightning images these days. As much as it seems like it would be useful, even a sturdy tripod has a hard time keeping it perfectly still during thunderstorm outflow winds. Hence limiting this exposure to only 8 seconds. Plus it was at  70mm anyways, not the full zoom.

Most of the time if I try to zoom in to 200mm and photograph lightning, it’s not going to be tack sharp like a 50mm. I plan on using a 135mm next year to see how that goes.

Besides, I like to be a lot closer to the lightning and if I’m a 200mm-focal length away, it’s too far 🙂

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This print is part of my Square Collection, which you can see right here

A hail core near Douglas, Arizona

A hail core near Douglas, Arizona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm 1.2, iso 50, f/16, 0.5 sec // buy print)

I’m super bad at chasing storms ahead of time. What that means is…I usually wait until I see them start firing up and then I go. Sometimes when you are busy with work, life and that kind of stuff, you can’t drive 3 hours somewhere and risk that nothing will happen.

But yesterday I said screw it and we left early in the day for southern Arizona, hoping to catch some storms that would eventually fire up around 3pm. And sure enough, we got near Sierra Vista and they started crossing into Arizona.

We ended up east of Tombstone and caught up with a line of storms that were just exploding everywhere. But this one cell in particular just north of Douglas caught my eye. It started lookeing fierce, so I found a clear spot and watched it. The right side evolved in such crazy ways it’s hard to believe. But eventually it looked like this. I’ve rarely, if ever, seen such a strong blue hail core on a storm in Arizona. It was amazing. Yes, the photo has been edited with some contrast through Luminosity Masking, but that color was real and legit. I was mesmerized by it. The movement in the clouds was astonishing for a monsoon storm.

It made me realize…these storms probably happen in Arizona all the time…maybe once or twice on a daily basis when it’s a good day. You just have to leave ahead of time in order to get them when they fire off like this.

The shutter speed on this was 1/2 a second because I was hoping for lightning, so the clouds may be a TAD on the soft side because of how fast they were moving.

Hoping to post the timelapse of this guy tomorrow!

The Twilight Zone

The road ahead
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 500, f/18, 1.3 sec // buy print)

Nothing I like better than a spooky, dark, cloudy scene when it’s storming. Here is one of my favorite roads in all of Arizona…it’s popular of course, for obvious reasons. The long road extending downwards towards the Superstitions in the distance.

One of the cooler spots in Arizona.

I captured this back in February of last year…a beautifully dark winter storm was blowing through and thus I hit the road as per usual. The one thing that seems to pop out in this image to make it extra-special to me is that one headlight. Something about it is ominous and when I looked at it again this morning, the title “Twilight Zone” just popped into my head.

Ahhhh, I’m dying for some stormy weather…monsoon season just over a month away.

Stormy sunset at Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, blend // buy print)

I’d been to the Oregon coast about three times before our vacation to Cannon Beach and then four nights during our recent stay. In all that time this is the best sky I’ve had. It’s always been overcast and murky, which I love most other times, but I’ve been dying for color and stormy looking skies at sunset.

Even this one didn’t end up with the color you might hope for when the sun hit the horizon, but I dug it anyways because…well I love storms as you may know. The cloud on the left above the two little pillars of rock kept moving towards me and as the sun went down and I left the beach, I got hit with some pellet-size hail. It was cold and windy…even the surf blew up a few times into my lens and I had to clean it off. A beautiful, beautiful evening.

You may even be able to spot the first floating around the top of Haystack Rock.

I processed this image by manually blending with luminosity masks, which is a tough, tough system to understand and perfect. I’ve been using LM’s for awhile now, but mainly on single images. This was a four exposure blend to get the detail in Haystack, but also the clouds and sunset off in the distance. The blending is tough. But if you get it right, I think it looks amazing.

I love LM’s for this kind of thing because I feel it’s a way more natural result than HDR processing that I used way back in the day. Still learning and perfecting, but digging the results.

 

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!

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!