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Serenity

(Click to view larger and sexier in lightbox)

I’m been on a Firefly kick the last few weeks, so it makes complete sense that when I looked at this image tonight, the name of the movie came flying at me.

For those that don’t know, Firefly is an awesome, awesome sci-fi TV show that the Fox Network brutally, and without just cause, canceled before it had a chance to really find legs. They only aired about 10 episodes and all told there were 14 made which you can see on DVD now.

It had such a big following that the ended up making a movie to essentially give the TV series a rightful ending. It was called Serenity, which is the name of the ship in the movie/series. The lead in the show was Nathan Fillion, the captain of Serenity and you may know him from the current show Castle (which I love mostly because of him). It’s hard to describe what is so appealing about the show to people. I mean, it’s basically like a sci-fi western set in space. It doesn’t sound too great.

The writing was amazing though. It was so unique and had its own style and language…it was brilliant. And the entire ensemble cast meshed so well together from day one that you instantly fell in love with them all. Fillion was excellent though…he’s one of my all-time favorite actors now.

All I can say is to go rent the DVDs and then cry when they end and you wish for more. Then watch the movie and cry again that is over. You’ll love it.

NOW, the image above. I’ve been holding onto this thing since the end of January. I have a lot of love for this photo and at times never wanted to post it. The motion in the clouds is so beautiful to me. The single yucca stem rising from the ground gives this feeling of peacefulness and solitude. More to the point of using the title from the film…it’s serene. It’s also a desert setting, which you see a lot of in the movie/series.

This was on a rainy morning of course and to me, there is nothing more relaxing than watching storms drift by and the occasional drops falling on the roof.

What’s fun about photography is the unexpected shot. I climbed this hill because I saw a ton of Ocotillo Cactus peppering the landscape behind me. After all this effort to get up there, I hated any of the compositions I came up with. Instead, I turn to leave and spot the scene above. I go for the forest and end up with the opposite. Ironic.

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

Anduril

(click on the image for a nicer view in lightbox)

Sometimes getting the right shot is all about being there.

I’m not going to brag about this photo being some kind of amazing composition…because in reality, it’s pretty simple. At the time I was actually wishing I had something better to get into the frame than just a few saguaros. Like maybe a glacial lake in the Himalayas (whaaat?)  But sometimes all it takes for me is a killer sky. And killer skies aren’t always easy to come by.

I remember seeing photographs and always being jealous that they somehow lucked out to get that beautiful sunrise or sunset.

The fact is…they were there to get it. That’s all it takes really.

I’ve grown to love getting up before dark, packing my gear, grabbing a coffee, some snacks and heading out down some desert road to see where the morning finds me. Sadly, it just isn’t something I can do all the time. On this particular morning, it was around 33 degrees out, I was bundled up, hiked down a short trail and waited for the sun to peak over the Superstitions.

If you ever are wondering how you might decide whether or not there will be cool clouds the morning you decide to do a trip like this (esp when it’s dark out still), usually times during or after a rain storm can be perfect. Yeah, it might be raining, but it will likely break here and there and offer stunning shots. In this one above, you can see rain falling on the left horizon, headed my way. You can also look at infrared radar to see if the skies are cloudy around your area before you head out.

Of course, a lot of this is based on Arizona. I know in places like Oregon or the east coast…just because it stops raining doesn’t mean the skies wont stay gray.

Then again…if you aren’t out there waiting for a spectacular moment…you’ll miss it.

Oh, if you are wondering about the title…it’s from Lord of the Rings. If you figure out what it means, it kind of fits the image perfectly.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/16, iso 100)

Terry’s Bug

(image looks a wee bit sexier if you click on it to view in lightbox)

This bug was one of the first arrivals at a car show the morning of our February 5th Urban Phoenix Photowalk. The sun wasn’t even up yet when we wandered through here and there were quite a few of us grabbing shots of this sweet ride.

I’ve always had a fondness for Beetles even though I never owned one. I was friends with a girl in high school who for some reason had an awesome tripped out blue Bug that I got to ride in a few times. I always thought that thing was cool.

So a quick story about the Bug in the picture. The owner was standing around, but none of us got his name or information. When I was processing this photo, I zoomed into the little decal on that rear quarter-panel window and got the name of Wolfsburg Registry. Amazing resolution on this 5D.

Quickly I did a search, found the Wolfsburg website, clicked on photos and voila, there’s a shot of this bug. The caption under it read “Terry’s Rassy taking in the day.

No idea what a “rassy” is…I thought it was perhaps a special type of Bug, but I couldn’t find anything. I’m so very NOT a car guy, so perhaps one of you out there has an idea.

I tried to register on the site, but it’s pretty locked down, so I saw the name of the photographer, tracked him down to Facebook, sent him a message and haven’t heard back.

I’m just hoping he’s one of those guys who only checks Facebook once a month and will eventually write me.

I love this shot of his car. The Heritage Square area of downtown Phoenix is absolutely beautiful and he picked a perfect place to park his bug.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/4, iso 100)

Foundations of Stone

(Looks nicer in lightbox…just click on the image for a larger view)

– Usery Mountains, Apache Trail, Superstitions

One thing becomes evident when you explore the mountains and cliffs of the Arizona desert: The stuff under the ground appears to be made from jagged rock and rising stone. Everywhere you look, you see giant precipices bursting out of the earth…and you realize that the soil is hiding some amazing beauty that we may never see.

The title of today’s post is from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers soundtrack. Weird how just kind of browsing for a title helps find meaning in a photo.

This was taken back on January 30th on my lone day off before I started the new day job. I can’t even tell you how amazing that day was with the light, the shadows and the clouds. I was definitely blessed when I hit the road that morning.

What I do like about this shot is the fact I pulled out the 50mm for it. I tend to mostly shoot landscapes wide with the 17-35, but sometimes you want to get something different.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/10, iso 100)

Precipice

Stormy Morning Over Phoenix

I feel like I’m running out of titles for blog posts. Part of the problem is I tend to do these things on the fly, without much preparation, so I don’t take a whole lot of time to think about them. I usually just write what’s on my mind when I sit down and finally start typing.

Like today.

On our last few photowalks in downtown Phoenix, I noticed my buddy Rick Young with a headphone stuck in one ear as he wandered around looking for shots. It was interesting and I thought that sounded kind of cool. My car has a CD player in it, but nothing else and I hate listening to my iPod touch over those crappy FM transmitters. So at the end of January on my trip out to the Superstition Mountains, I stuck the iPod in my pocket, plugged in the headphones and went for a drive.

It was amazing what a difference it made. Now when Rick listens to tunes, it’s the Smashing Pumpkins and other bands like that. For me…I like soundtracks. And dark, murky, majestic soundtracks. My playlist consists of a few Battlestar Galactica seasons, The Dark Knight, Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October, all three Lord of the Rings and the Firefly/Serenty combination.

There have been a few moments since where there will be a track that culminates in some massive revelation…while at the same time I’m cresting some hilltop and see the sun breaking through the clouds up ahead. It’s almost like my own soundtrack while out shooting. And I love it.

All this to say that I will likely be poaching song titles from these albums to help name these blog posts. Although ones like “The Council of Elrond” will be hard pressed to be useful for anything…some of them work well.

Like “Precipice” from season three of Battlestar Galactica. This image was taken up at South Mountain on Saturday morning, overlooking the city below. We had some fun storms roll through, lots of rain and some amazing clouds on Sunday afternoon.

A quick note about the processing of this shot. Brutally tough with the windy conditions…even using the -2 bracket I still have some blur in the shrubs and I’m okay with that. But there is a lot of motion overall in the scene…the cloud swooshing across the sky…so perhaps it works.

Morning Reflected

Sunrise Reflected Chase Tower Downtown Phoenix

Yes, it’s another shot of Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix. I’ve taken a few different views and angles of this thing, but none of were taken in the early morning hours as the sun was rising. I photographed this back on December 22nd.

My buddy Rick Young told me months before that I gotta get down there for a sunrise once because the reflection will be amazing.

You were right my friend.

I definitely feel like I need to plan a few more early-mornings out before the sun comes up. Lately I end up being too tired, so I stick to later in the day/sunsets instead. But my last trip out to the Superstitions on January 31st was in the morning and I loved it.

I’m hoping that the weather is awesome this weekend and perhaps another morning drive will be in order.

Then the morning comes

Superstition Morning Sunrise Cactus Saguaro Arizona Desert

(Website note: My images are now clickable and displayed in a handy-dandy lightbox. Please check it out, let me know what you think!)

When you are advancing in your career or just going down the path of life, people tell you never to look back…just worry about what’s ahead. What’s coming. No need to relish on mistakes or even past victories…it’s all about the future.

I think photography may be the one place where that advice is completely wrong. I wont even get into the benefits (for me) of seeing where I’ve come from and how I’ve changed, but mainly want to stick to the physical implications of “looking back.”

There is a trail in the middle of the photo above. I ran up it quickly to get in place for the sunrise (in 34 degree weather…brrrr for this desert rat) because there was a nice cactus that you can see up aways AND it had a nice height to overlook the entire area. I spent some time there, I loitered, I got some shots…but then it was time to go because I wanted to look for some new scenes.

As I was leaving down the path, I remembered how often it’s paid dividends in the past…so I turned around. Obviously we all have our own ideas of good composition, but to me this was the one image I would end up taking away from stopping at this location.

Never forget the value of turning around or looking back when shooting sunrises, storms or landscapes.

I don’t know how to describe the mornings here in Arizona…especially the open deserts. I hope this image conveys it to you. As a matter of fact…and it may seem funny considering all the time I spend shooting out there…but this shot and this particular morning kind of restored or rebirthed my love for photography. Not that it had really gone anywhere…but it had been awhile since I’d been out in the middle of the cactus and rocks…shooting the still morning without a soul in sight.

Kind of like coming back to that one book or movie you never get tired of watching. It feels like home.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

Cliffs of Insanity

Despite my absolute love for stormchasing, lightning and severe weather…a simple drive out to the Superstition Mountains before dawn when there is only a bit of rainy clouds in the forecast…can be just as beautiful and inspiring.

I love the awesomeness of a lightning storm. The adrenaline when I’m trying to get to a good spot for a tripod setup.

The morning I took this photograph wasn’t like that. It was relaxing. Lazy. Rolling clouds, some rain in the distance…but nothing thrilling or exciting. Yet I ended up having just as much fun as I usually do. I don’t believe I have ever been out on the Apache Trail before as the sun comes up. It was magical.

With a day predicted to have rain, you don’t even know for sure if the drive out there will reward you with a sunrise because the clouds could definitely block out any light. But not on this day. The clouds kind of rolled in after the sun was up…and the light and shadows were magnificent.

On a total side topic…this was my first day out with the 5D Mark II. I only had a 2gb card because the others I ordered hadn’t arrived yet. The RAW size is around 21-25mb, so the card could only hold around 60 images. Since most of the time I shoot six brackets per scene…I only had roughly 10 total shots I could take.

So of course I took my laptop with so I could dump photos to it as the morning progressed. Solution to the problem.

And of course I left the USB cable at home…so I couldn’t do anything. Problem remained.

I have to say…it ended up being an interesting experiment. What brackets were actually not worth keeping in exchange for a new scene I just found? Was the new scene better or worse than what I already had? Was I going to cry because I deleted one road shot for another?

I was a nice exercise in self-control. Usually we just fire off millions of shots during a photowalk or excursion like this (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, I certainly wont stop), but it did teach me to take a bit of pause and make absolutely certain this was a shot I wanted.

ON YET ANOTHER NOTE, check out my guest blog post over on Justin Balog’s blog, Light as Magic! Thanks for asking me Justin to be a part of your Out the Front Door series…was a blast to write!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, iso100, f/10)

Herbiette

If there ever was a Love Bug, it would be Herbiette, this fuchsia colored Volkswagen Beatle that we saw during our Urban Phoenix Photowalk on Saturday morning.

I was worried all week about this photowalk because the weather called for clear skies up until 5am that morning. When I scheduled the thing for that early in the day (6am), part of me is hoping we’ll get some amazing morning colors to shoot in the background of our city shooting. As luck would have it, we were all treated to a beautiful sunrise.

At the same time as our walk, there was an old car show forming at Heritage Square. It wasn’t starting until 9 or 10, but a few beauties arrived by 6:30, including this shiny VW Bug. What a combination of the car color and the sky behind it. The focal point is on the headlight at f/4.0 with the 50mm that I love so much. When I’m shooting in the city, I love getting low with the 50 and finding lines that enhance the depth of  my images. I unfortunately hadn’t shot around Heritage Square before, but it was an awesome place and I’m glad we swung by it on our tour of the downtown Phoenix area.

Speaking of the photowalk…we had a total of 18 people! What a blast too…met a ton of amazing photogs and great people. Some of them, like Trevor Dayley, I’ve become great friends with on Twitter/Facebook, but we had never met in person until Saturday (check out some of his shots here). We also had some portrait photographers who were a little nervous exploring the Phoenix alleyways by themselves, so were pumped to be able to do it with a large army of friends. Some of the guys from our first walk in December, like Rick (his first photo here), Ken, Chris, Ed, Chris and Denver, all showed up again. I also finally met John Stolarski (one of his shots here), who apparently worked at the same AMC theater I did in the 90s…only we missed each other by about a year. Crazy.

I’m thinking our next one will be in March and possibly explore a different area…like historic Glendale. I’ve heard it’s a nice place to shoot and I think I’d like to check it out sometime. There is also an upcoming opportunity at Vulture Mine Ghost Town, so we may schedule that first.

Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday and braved the early time and cold weather! Hope to see you all again!

Into the light

Morning Sunrise on the Apache Trail

You know me…a hint of weather, a mention of rain…and I can suddenly feel the juices get flowing again. When I go weeks and weeks at a time with nothing but blue, sunny skies…I kind of forget how much I love being out there chasing storms.

Monday was a day off for me…I wanted a nice little three-day weekend before I start my new job today. As amazing luck would have it (or maybe a nice little gift from the man upstairs), we actually had a storm system blow through the state that morning and afternoon. Clear skies today and the rest of the week…clear skies before that…but somehow…storms on Monday…my day off.

I was pumped.

Now, they weren’t storms that I normally love to get after…lightning, towering clouds…but it’s weather alright? I take what I can get!

I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and make my way to the Superstition Mountains before sunrise to see what I would so. It was a beautiful morning…standing outside in 35 degrees, watching the sun rise and light up the morning clouds.

This was actually the last shot of the day…taken around 9am. As it usually happens when I’m out doing this stuff, I didn’t plan this shot, nor stop to get it. I did stop to climb the hill to take some pictures of a forest of Ocotillo cactus, and on my way down I realized how much of the road I could see disappearing into the distance and then the sun started creating awesome rays from behind the clouds.

That’s my favorite part of stormchasing really. Never knowing what you’ll find when you are out there, nor what shots you’ll get. It’s a matter of exploring, looking, observing and getting lucky.

Now we return you to your regularly blue skies…already in progress (ugh).

(exif: 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm,  f/16, iso100)