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Flight of the Navigator

Okay, I had two choices tossing around in my head for the title today in my weekly Movie Title Wednesday post. The first was obviously Close Encounters, but it’s so overdone and overused whenever someone has a picture of a spaceship-like cloud formation. So I skipped it.

Flight of the Navigator…wow, for some reason this was a movie that made an impact on me growing up. Maybe it was the idea of a kid being whisked away, his parents having no idea he, ahem, traveled through time, and now appears to them eight years later, not having aged at all and they all thought he was dead. Maybe it was the sci-fi angle and I’m sure I loved that kind of stuff even back then. I had to look up when this film came out…1986…yikes, I was 11. I don’t think I had a clue who Paul Ruebens was back then, but he was the voice of the spaceship. Crazy.

Wow, and as I’m typing this, I remembered the line, “Compliance!

Anyways, this photo kind of reminded me of the spaceship in the movie and how it would convert from a sort of oval blob to a stretched out, sleek looking speed machine. This was yet another photo from my trip to northern Arizona back in May, a journey that seems to have yielded an endless supply of brackets for me to return to again and again. The clouds were fun that day and this guy was a storm that was fading out…and it just hovered over the ground like some giant space vessel.

Monsoons and Barbed Wire

I’ve been holding onto this one since late July for some reason. I just wasn’t sure about it. I actually have a version of it without the barbed wire, but for some reason I kind of like this a little better. You get a sense of what is happening in the background anyways, the cactus, the vegetation and the monsoon storms brewing in the background.

I had taken the original photo, was about to walk away and realized I liked the rusty old barbed wire and wanted to see what I could do with it. This is an HDR from about 5-6 brackets.

Lots of blur going on here, something I don’t really mess around with too much, so I’m curious how it comes across to people. Do you like the style or does it make your eyes water? 🙂

Desert Cornfields

One of the stranger things you see when you roam the Arizona desert is the occasional summer cornfield. You just don’t EXPECT a dry, arid climate to be a place you’d want to grow corn…but of course, that’s why I’m not a farmer and mostly keep cool inside my air conditioned house.

Back towards the end of August, we had a few days with fast-moving, severe storms blow through the state and this is a capture of one of them. These are the San Tan Mountains, a subject in many of my photographs. On the right horizon you can already see a dust storm blowing somewhere.

I’ve discovered my 17-35mm Tamron glass definitely “squashes” things a bit, as I remember these monsoon storm towers being a lot taller in person than they ended up being in this picture.

Tonight/tomorrow appears to be a last gasp for some good monsoon weather, so praying for lightning, rain, clouds and good storm structure!

Death and Birth

Simple scene. A desert hill, some foreground growth and a monsoon storm growing on the horizon. But that’s the simplicity I love sometimes. I tend to look for super dramatic, wide-angle, busy scenes…but occasionally I find the lack of drama just as awesome.

The main element in the foreground is a dead tree of some sort…it almost looks like a bird sitting on one of the right top branches, but I think it’s just a snapped branch. There are a few cacti and of course, the growing storm behind it all. I dig B&W and love silhouettes…I always find it amazing how a scene can change so much when you just darken it to shadows and nothing more. The shapes take on new life and suddenly form something entirely different.

An old, rusty water trough

This shot is from way back in May of this year. Sometimes I take brackets, smash them into an HDR shot, they end up being removed from my laptop to save disk space and get lost on my backup drives until I stumble across them eventually. I was browsing my HDR library on the backup disk last night and found this little guy sitting there.

Yet another gorgeous scene from my trip to Northern Arizona. This was on the way to Grand Falls and I just had to turnaround, drive down a dirt road in the rain in my little two-door and hope I didn’t get stuck anywhere. My only wish looking back is that I had my 17-35mm for this and had gotten a little closer to the water trough.

At least, I think it’s a water trough…the little bucket in the front appeared to be able to hold liquid, there were cow prints around and it seemed to serve no other purpose. I loved the rust and graffiti on it in contrast with the sort of smooth terrain around it and the stormy skies.

Cloudy skies over Phoenix

Looking at the above shot, you might think it was taken with an iPhone and processed with that awesome software iPhone photos use. No, I don’t have one, but I want one someday. Just praying Verizon actually gets the iPhone in January.

But no, that photo was actually taken with my Rebel XSi out of the 19th floor window of my office building. They are dirty, dirty, dirty windows. But I kind of like it sometimes, especially when you chose to process photos with a sort of faded, older look to them.

These aren’t anything special…meaning I didn’t take them thinking they would be sellable or anything. I just love weather and storms, and while at work, sometimes I just have to walk over to the window and snap photos of unusual cloudy skies.

Yesterday morning we had some surprisingly cloudy skies, with rain falling in a few random places. Some of the clouds just looked “different” than normal.  I think maybe because a few looked huge enough to be dropping pouring rain and lightning, but they ended up just floating by.

Anyways, I do love the view out of the windows of my office…someday I hope to shoot a lightning storm from them.

Down that dark road

I’m lucky to have a few great friends at work and one of them is Jesse. He’s a car guy, loves to go “wheeling” every Friday night and would go out of his way to help you install a new car stereo, not to mention a bazillion other things. A week or so ago we had to drive up to Williams for work, which is something we love doing despite the 3-3.5 hour drive time. Especially in the summer when it’s 110 in Phoenix, but a cool 75-80 in the gorgeous pine country of northern Arizona. He’s such a good guy and let me pull over a bunch to satisfy my insatiable hunger to photograph cool stuff.

As a photographer, you sometimes get tunnel vision. It happens to me all the time. You get an idea in your head about a shot and you focus all efforts on making it happen. That’s usually when a shot you weren’t even planning on taking becomes the actual reason you went there.

Once we were up close to Williams, we passed a giant lake bed full of flowers. I posted that shot not too long ago. The thing was, I was so infatuated with the flowers and storm clouds, I wasn’t looking anywhere else. As I came back to the car, Jesse calmly points out this dirt road heading into the trees. Me, being the AWESOME photographer that I am, who knows ALL…said “Yeah…okay Jesse…looks cool.” So I walked over there to snap some brackets, almost feeling like I was doing this as a courtesy because at least Jess was trying to help me out a little. Figured I would just get the brackets real quick and we’d be on our way.

Back in the car when I looked at the results in my camera…I realized it was going to be one of my favorite shots from the day and maybe in awhile. I knew right away I’d do it in black and white.  It would end up looking much more mysterious devoid of color.  I was giddy thinking about what the final product was going to look like. This is a 6-bracket HDR using Photomatix, CS5 and Nik Silver Efex for the B&W.

I guess the moral of the story is to always listen to your buddy Jessie.  He may be obsessed with Family Guy and wear his sunglasses at night (inside joke), but when he points out an idea for a photo…you’d damn well better do what he says.

The Caterpillar

I rarely take photos of construction vehicles unless there is something interesting going on in the sky. I’ve seen so many awesome HDR photos of these kinds of subjects, including my buddy Brian’s awesome shot using a fisheye lens, but I just haven’t done too many myself.

I found this Caterpillar Motor Grader was on site at the wastewater plant up in Williams, Arizona when I was there last week on a service call. With the stormy skies behind it, the puddles of rain and the awesome rusty features on the vehicle itself, I had to snap some brackets.

The style on this one is a little bit different than my normal HDR processing. I think when I do natural landscapes, stormchasing, etc., I tend to go for the most natural look possible. But when it comes to an alleyway in Amsterdam or a giant Caterpillar…I like to mess things up a little.

This was processed normally in Photomatix and CS5, but I threw in some desaturation and some Topaz Adjust on the colors. I love the muted look, the over-exposed sky and the overall feel of the shot.

Just something a little different for your Friday.

Stormy weather ahead

A couple of days ago we had some fairly severe weather develop across Arizona. Storms dumping a lot of rain and producing 60+mph winds. The cell on the left of this grouping was actually severe warned a bit after this. Damaging winds, tons of rain…good stuff.

I shot this in the middle of Gilbert Road just south of Hunt Highway looking north. They are actually way across town on the very far side of Phoenix, but it’s amazing how clear the skies were that you could actually see the rain falling.

Again…my love affair of roads continues.

This is a hybrid exposure blend, plus a little Topaz Adjust on the road and Nik Silver Efex for the black and white processing.

One of my favorite spots: Lost Dutchman Road

This scene may not be a stranger to some of you. It most definitely isn’t for me. Since I’ve started seriously chasing storms earlier this year, I’ve probably taken photographs from this spot 10 times? I can’t help it. The road and cliffs stay the same, but the light, the shadows and the clouds always change.

I’ll probably throw something together someday with all the different views of this place over the course of a year.

I photographed this last Monday while out with my daughter. She was in her car seat, watching Toy Story on the DVD player and I was setting up in the middle of the road.  I can’t wait for the day she can go out there with me and appreciate the view from this spot. I hope she enjoys it as much as I do.

This is a six-bracket exposure using my trusty Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, Photomatix, CS5 and other goodies.