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Crack of Dawn

(click on the image to see it full sized)

Last summer I made quite a few trips up to the Grand Canyon in an attempt to capture lightning, but always I failed. I even had a perfect storm right in front of me with a nice little downdraft, but nary a bolt came out of it. It was incredibly frustrating to say the least. To make the attempt over and over and come away empty handed…well I’m sure you can understand how that might feel.

I’ve had a few people say…but you’re at the Grand Canyon though, so it’s always worth the trip. Inside, I wanted to say…no, it’s not. It’s 7 hours of driving only to fail again and again. Outwardly, I’m like…yeah, true. You’re right. But of course I really didn’t feel that way.

However, this photo kinda represents what those people were trying to say and maybe it’s changed my heart a little bit. I arrived the night before to capture any lighting I could, but the storms didn’t cooperate as usual. I parked in a campground, pretty depressed, slept an hour or so, woke up early and made my way to Navajo Point to watch the sunrise before heading home.

The sky was dark, and then slowly the light grew. Then clouds were majestic. The North Rim caught the first light of the sun perfectly and I stood there in silence, taking it all in. It was overwhelming. Even though it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, it was 6am and I was utterly alone. It was perfectly quiet except for the clicking of my camera.

I won’t soon forget that morning. Despite the supposed failure, I was thankful to be there. I left with a happy note in my heart and knew I’d be back yet again.

Sunrise at Sunset

Sunrise from Sunset
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, f/8, 1/500th, iso 100, graduated filter // buy print)

On the first day of our road trip up north a few weeks ago, we stopped at Sunset Point to wander out in the golden fields that are all over up there on the plateau. It was dark and serene, other than the passing cars on Interstate 17. We found some spots in the dark, like with this cactus…almost out of place with all the tall grass around it.

Sunrise was perfect…the light just peeking over the horizon lit up all the grass and the tippy points of the cactus…it was stunning.

A great omen for our trip…more to come, including a time-lapse film, a documentary by Jay Worsley and more images from yours truly!

Morning on the Apache Trail

Saguaro Morning
(please click to view larger on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/5.0, iso 200, 1/800th // buy print)

Sometimes it’s hard to believe I live in a state with scenery like this. You take it for granted. I know I have at times.

This image was shot along the Apache Trail in the Superstition Mountains on the way to Roosevelt Lake in late December. I cannot recall a time I ever drove down this road. And it’s not a true road after awhile…the pavement ends and it’s dirt for the next 20+ miles. It was stunningly beautiful, especially on this morning. It was after an overnight winter storm and these clouds were being created “orographically” and ended up dropping snow in the higher elevations during our drive. We even got pelted with a bit of tiny hail further into the hills.

The light was fairly amazing as it poked out from all the clouds and there is nothing more beautiful than Saguaro cactus in the early morning hours.

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.

A Brooklyn bench

Brooklyn Bench - Dumbo

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm 2.8 l, 17mm, f/8.0, iso 100, 46 sec, b+w 10-stop filter  // buy print)

I left New York last October with a bunch of photos, but I’ve always come back to this guy as one of my favorites. I dig leading lines…or just lines in general, and this boardwalk along DUMBO had them aplenty. The boards themselves, the railings, the benches…and then the massive Manhattan Bridge in the background.

This is a long exposure processed simply with #VSCOFILM. Thanks again to my buddy Rick Young for letting me borrow his B+W 10-stop and drag it not only to New York, but also on a follow-up trip to Oregon. That dude is one of the best people I know.

I have a bunch of other random shots from NYC and at some point soon I plan on throwing the rest of them into one giant blog post. It’s probably about time.

Sunrise in Brooklyn Bridge Park

Sunrise in Brooklyn Park

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 16-35mm 2.8 L, 17mm, f/8.0, iso 100, 39 seconds, 10-stop filter)

So I was in New York last Thursday through Sunday, and here I am sitting in a hotel in Corvallis, Oregon. New York was a vacation, Oregon is for my day job. Looking forward to my off-hours in Oregon though, as I plan on hitting the coast a few times, starting tonight.

Since I don’t have a lot of time, I wanted to pass on an image from my trip to NYC. This was taken at 7:25am in Brooklyn Bridge Park. I was there along with a few other amazing photographers and I’ll talk about that whole part of it on another post. Lack of time today. But I have a ton of portraits of the guys I  met and I can’t wait to share them.

This shot includes the Manhattan Bridge, which sits east of the Brooklyn Bridge. I love this little boardwalk and the sun peeking out from under the bridge. The light was amazing.

Click on the image to view it bigger with the border, think it adds a lot to the viewing experience.

 

Good morning, Kansas

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/8.0, iso 100, 1/400 // buy print)

Please click on this one to view in the lightbox, I think it looks a lot more accurate.

This photo represents such a beautiful moment for me, it’s an image I’ve held back for awhile, for whatever reason. I took it on the open roads of Kansas the second day of my stormchasing trip to the Midwest this past May.

I had landed in Denver the day before around noon, drove to Nebraska’s northwestern corner…then into South Dakota…then hovered around those two states until maybe 11pm. I knew at some point I had to head south because storms would be popping in southern Kansas the next afternoon and it was about a nine hour drive.

So I was up until around 4 in the morning driving into Kansas. I slept in the back of the car until the alarm went off at 6am. And so I kept driving. It was still a bit dark out, but the light was coming up.

And for some reason…it was hazy almost my entire trip out there.

I’m driving down this road headed for the interstate when I see the sun start rising off to my left. I’m tired. I hadn’t talked to another person in quite awhile. There was this overwhelming sense of freedom deep inside me. I had no rules to follow, no one telling me where to go. I just woke up and started driving.

And then I see the sun outlined against this hazy, Kansas sky. I know we all touch up our photos for color, etc., but all I did here was a tighter crop and some contrast in Lightroom. The sky just looked like it was painted on by an artist. And the silhouette of the wind mill is just what Kansas is about to me.

You’ll notice some faint lines stretching across the image. To the right of the image was a very tall antenna of sorts, with these cables keeping it tied firmly to the ground. I dunno…I didn’t mind them much.

I can’t explain too well the feeling I had while taking this picture…but I know it will stick with me for a long, long time.

The Superstitions just before dawn

(click to see an extra larger than normal version to really fill your screen)

Back in April we had some good rain on the 9th, so the morning of the 10th I planned to get up waaaaay early and head out to the Superstition Mountains to shoot a beautiful sunrise with gorgeous clouds, cactus and all kinds of juicy stuff.  I was also meeting by buddy Ken Peterson out here and we’d hit the Apache Trail together.

You can imagine the slight disappointment you get when you are praying for awesome clouds in the morning and this is what you see above.

As is always the case, however…nature turns your sour lemons into lemonade by giving you something unexpected and just as beautiful. I sat at my favorite spot along Lost Dutchman Road waiting to meet Ken. And so I sat there watching the sky behind this mountain turn beautiful shades of morning colors. Normally I hate skies without clouds, but I loved all the solid colors here…dark silhouette with these gradient shades of purple and orange.

Plus you have Venus up there (at least I’m pretty sure it was Venus) adding just a hint of something extra.

For those that live in Phoenix, even a silhouette of these mountains is probably easily recognized by most people. I love that about some places…you can just see an outline or a shadow of something and know it instantly because you live there. It’s makes it something special.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/10, iso 100, 5 sec)

Ripples

(click to see larger and a bit better…Wordpress re-sizing makes this one a tad too dark in places)

The image I posted yesterday evoked some awesome comments from you guys about what might be wrong with the composition of the scene. It came down to the foreground element. And over the course of the comments, it became clear that the foreground in a landscape photo can make it or break it.

I wanted to thank you all for your input. I honestly wasn’t able to put a finger on it until your thoughts helped me realize I was thinking the same thing all along.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ve probably heard me talk about foreground elements while I’m out storm/weather chasing. Often you are in such a hurry to capture a scene before it changes that you run around like a crazy person looking for a special object to include in your photo…like a cactus, or rock, or abandoned building…whatever. I love this part of it, but sometimes you just can’t find something awesome.

The image above was taken in the early morning of February 19th. The sky were amazingly thick from an approaching storm, but what was incredible was some of light from the rising sun was hitting the bottom of these clouds, giving them those orange, purple and red tones. You couldn’t even see where the hole in the clouds was for the light to shine through. It just felt so dark.

Ironically, I’ve converted this to black and white because I like drama in my stormchasing photos and these clouds look more foreboding and mysterious void of color. The foreground in this shot is very subtle, but the reason I chose it was the rippled in the ground leading out towards the horizon. I’m not sure where they were from…perhaps some heavy rains created some running water and the waves were formed.

We’ve entered the driest time of the year for Arizona, so I’ll be looking back at some older weather images I haven’t processed yet and post them in the coming weeks. Otherwise I’ll go  nuts without any storms to shoot!

Although…if things line up in the next few weeks out in the midwest, I’ll be taking a 3-4 day trip out there to stormchase…and I cannot wait for that!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/13)

 

Waves in the Desert

(click to view with a dark border and sized to fit your monitor/resolution)

I’m pretty tired right now. I get back in town tomorrow afternoon, but will be back here in Vegas all next week. Long days, focused work…draining. I’ll be a happier man once vacation gets here in mid-May. I can’t wait to see some of our family living in Memphis.

This is another photograph from last Sunday morning’s trip along the Apache Trail in search of those wonderful morning-after-a-storm pictures that I love. The scene has a lot of crazy elements to it, including a solo Saguaro cactus, low-lying foggy clouds hugging the valleys between mountain ranges, snow on the Four Peaks on the left horizon and some absolutely gorgeous clouds creating an ocean-like waves in the sky.

My love for this time of day is growing. Up before dark, headed out somewhere just waiting for the sun to rise…and just exploring the place you are at, looking for something unique and interesting. It’s always an adventure.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16)