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A lucky lightning strike at sunset

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 200, 1/1000th // buy print)

If you watched my timelapse last week, then you’ve already seen this image. I also posted it it on 500px, so you may have seen it there too. But I felt like this still frame deserved it’s very own post on my blog because I absolutely love it and it’s why I am so obsessed with storm chasing.

One thing that’s always been true for me when I’m out chasing…is that I tend to get my best images where I least expect them. Last Thursday my goal was to blast down to Tucson right at sunset to shoot some lightning. That was my whole reason for going. And yet, I was stopped just short of Casa Grande when I saw this cloud turning into something amazing right before my eyes. Whatever I had planned down in Tucson suddenly evaporated and I knew this was the best thing going on at that moment.

It’s kind of what I dig about chasing the monsoon. And it also makes it hard sometimes. I leave the house a lot completely unsure of myself. Will I get anything tonight? Will it be a bust? How can I get something new or different? What if last season’s lightning barrage was it for me?

And then as I’m driving I see a cloud like the one above and I remember why I do this and how it usually works.

Just to speak about the image for a second. This was part of the timelapse as I said. So at this point in the capturing process, I was taking a photo every 4 seconds. The shutter speed was 1/1000th. I shot for around 40 minutes. And in that time I saw less than three lightning strikes.

And somehow…I got lucky enough to get one here. I mean…4 seconds apart at 1/1000th! The odds must be incredibly high. It makes me so incredibly proud of this one!

So thrilled to get this last week…on only my second day out chasing. Going to be a fun season!

A dying monsoon sunset near Casa Grande

(watch full screen if you can. there is musicon this one, in case you are at work)

Last night I was heading down to Tucson late in the day with the specific goal of catching some lightning from lingering thunderstorms. If I had actually stayed on course, I think I would have captured some cool shots down there.

But as things usually turn out when I chase storms, something better comes along. I saw this cloud building up as I was driving and it didn’t look amazing at first. But it increasingly kept building up and then the top started spreading out. The beauty of it was the isolation. All by itself, framed against the evening sky.

I checked the radar before starting to see the movement of the storm, and it was basically sitting in one spot. Amazing to shoot this for around 40 minutes and have it just get bigger and not really move in any direction.

You will likely notice a lightning strike right after the 11-12 second mark. Catching that was unbelievably lucky. At the time the shots were 4 seconds apart at 1/1000th speed. I only saw 2 or 3 bolts anyways the entire time, so I’m not even sure how I got that. It looks great on a still that I will share later.

Hope you enjoy…the colors and the cloud were so amazing in person, I wish you could have stood there with me.

The Forgotten

The Forgotten - Bombay Beach - Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 117sec // buy print)

The Forgotten is a not-so-great film with a pretty great title, so I’m using it this week for Movie Title Wednesday! When I look at this image, the word “forgotten” is the first thing that comes to mind.

The movie itself stars Julianne Moore and is a sort of creepy, sci-fi, horror-ish kind of tale. I honestly don’t remember much other than Moore and seeing a dude get sucked through the roof of a cabin. I’m a sucker for sci-fi films in general and I do feel like I enjoyed this one. But judging by the 5.7 on IMDB, it wasn’t the best-ever reviewed movie. Check it out though if you are in the mood for something different on a Friday night.

This image comes once again from the Salton Sea. The movie title encompasses not only this particular photograph, but in reality, the entire Salton Sea area. It’s so strange that this place exists in the middle of California. At one point the plan was to turn it into a resort and amazing getaway location. Instead you now get to see a land that time forgot. People still live out there, amazingly…but it’s a weird kind of existence.

Bombay Beach was where this image was taken. I urge you to click on it to see it bigger and sharper. I once again have to thank my buddy Chris DeAngelis for letting me use his 10-stop filter (I now have my own, yay!) to get this long exposure. I processed this using tonality control and luminosity masking, which I discovered through an amazing photographer named Zack Schnepf. Now, usually when doing that, I’m going for a natural look, but this scene demanded more and so I added some apocalyptic tones to give it an extra punch.

Next week I head to Oregon for 3 1/2 days and expect to be able to do a bit of 10-stop photography along the coast. I’ve been there once before and it was amazing fun. Can’t wait to get back.

Sunset on the Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/4 sec // buy print)

The sunset the night before in Joshua Tree was without a single cloud anywhere. It was like that video Sh*t Photographers say. All we did was whine about no clouds.

Perhaps I whined the loudest, I don’t remember. I’m sure my five compadres would verify it for you.

But it was like the lack of clouds that night was completely justified because of what we saw the very next evening. We couldn’t have asked for anything better. Almost completely still waters on the Salton Sea…a beautiful sky and an amazing reflection of the setting sun.

It was one of those moments when you just kind of stand and look at it in awe. It was so quiet. So peaceful. So beautiful. Which was a strange juxtaposition because this is the Salton Sea. There are dead fish floating in the water. How can something so disturbing be so amazing?

It was though.

 

Two frames | Lifetyle

From a family shoot on Friday.  Cute little girl.  An amazing sunset.

The Calm

The Calm on Salton Sea

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f4 l, b+w ND 10-stop, 19mm, f/22, iso 100, 124sec // buy print)

I’m dedicating this photo to my buddy Chris DeAngelis, who let me borrow his 10-stop B+W filter and made all of this possible. He loaned it to me a few times at Bombay Beach, while Rick Young loaned me his over on the west side of the Salton Sea. Thank you guys.

Yes, I’m getting my own. Soon.

Normally if you are by water and pull out a 10-stop, you are hoping to pull off a long enough exposure so that the water becomes a misty looking cloud-like substance hugging rocks, sand, piers, whatever.

But when the body of water you are shooting is already about as calm as glass…the filter enhances that stillness and creates a beautiful, almost mirror-like reflection.

This is an abandoned, calcium-laiden old pier extending out from Bombay Beach. The entire beach area makes for one of the spookiest, weirdest places I’ve ever been. If it hadn’t been for the people I was with, the other tourists and even some photographers shooting models with beauty dishes amongst some trashed buildings, I’d have been pretty frightened about being here solo.

I may have said this on Monday’s blog post, but the Salton Sea is a lesson in contradictions. The water was so still, the horizon so smooth, the clouds blended into the water and you felt like you were in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Until you looked down at the fish carcasses or heard the occasional mysterious bubbling from the deep. Or you’d spot these beautiful, white pelicans glancing across the water’s surface as they flew by, which made you think about the dead bird laying between all the rotting fish you saw a bit ago.

I had a few people, like Heath O’Fee or Rick, tell me what the place was like before arriving, but you really have no idea until you are standing there yourself.

 

The Edge of the World

The Edge of the World - Salton Sea

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 0.6 sec // buy print)

This past Friday and Saturday I was part of a whirlwind trip that took me through Joshua Tree National Park and ended at the shores of the mysterious and disturbing Salton Sea. My good friend Heath O’Free was visiting Palm Springs from Canada, and had invited me to meet up with him on Friday. Also along for the journey was some other buddies…Rick Young and Chris Frailey from Phoenix, and Chris DeAngelis and Doug Wise from California.

Together we braved camping out in Joshua Tree despite lows in the mid-20’s (resulting in little to no sleep) and the strangeness that is the Salton Sea. I have an amazing assortment of images from the trip and can’t wait to share them over the coming weeks, but I had to start off with this one.

The Salton Sea is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The minute you see the retreating shoreline and the dead fish…you know you are someplace unique.  And creepy.

But at sunset on the eastern shore of Bombay Beach, the place had an almost epic beauty. The calm waters, the beautiful colors, the way the sky blended in with the lake out on the horizon. It was majestic and amazing, while at the same time you walk along a beach of fish and fowl carcasses and constantly have an odor of decay lingering in your nose.

This particular spot immediately called out to me when I saw it from the car. The closer I got to this old pier, the more it reminded me of something out of the Lord of the Rings. An ancient dock at Minas Tirith as my buddy DeAngelis said. My wife thinks it looks like the scenes at the end of the movie Titanic.

Either way, I knew I wanted to shoot the sunset from here. We were blessed with gorgeous clouds and such calm, reflective waters.

More to come!

 

Old Man Sunset

The Watcher - Arizona Monsoon Thunderstorms

(Click to watch the storm as God intended…larger, with a dark border)

Scenes like these are the reason why I love chasing and photographing the monsoons here in Arizona.

This was the day before the big haboob arrived in Phoenix. As you can see, dust storms in this state are a normal occurrence during the summer (just nothing so bad as the July 5th one). I was headed south from Phoenix and saw a big wall of dust headed our way, along with a pretty epic looking stormcell. On radar, it was actually headed perfectly towards town.

So I had found this spot the day before and set up here again. I love this old tree. It looks dead, but has green growth on some of the outlying branches. I’ve grown quite fond of it…dubbing it “the old man.” I started running a timelapse and let it go for quiet awhile. I may actually post it sometime soon, but as I am just young in doing these, I moved the camera around a few times, so I need to work a bit on the final product. It’s actually pretty gorgeous how this storm grows, dies and the colors move across it until night falls.

As it stands, a shot like this isn’t super-easy to get. Being able to capture a dying monsoon anvil, complete with awesome sunset colors, PLUS grab a wall of dust moving in front of it…well, it just doesn’t happen much. The only thing that would have made it more rare would be a lightning strike!

Hoping for a few more monsoon sunsets like this before the season ends! Still have a lot of chasing to do.

The sunset before the haboob

So last week when I was asked about the big haboob timelapse, I usually started off with saying “I was in the backyard doing another timelapse…”

This is that one.

I had been out stormchasing 4-5 nights already and was pretty beat. I figured I’d stay home that night and let the storms come to me, perhaps shoot some lightning from my balcony or the parking garage down the street. When I saw the clouds building out west, I thought to myself “Hey, I can just do a timelapse and then hang out inside, relaxing, watching TV, whatever.”

Of course, a bit later, a text message sent to me with a picture of the dust storm over the San Tans forced me to leave and shoot that.

However…I was really torn. I actually was around a 60/40 between going and staying. The orange/red glow towards the end was so beautiful, I wanted to keep it going.

But my favorite part of this is the thunderstorm that builds on the right horizon and then releases rain like someone dumped it out with a giant bucket. I also dig the soundtrack a lot. My buddy Brian Matiash will want to take credit for it because he told me to use something from Inception sometime, so that’s part of why I used it. But I also already have the album on my iPhone and was just searching for a minute-long song.

This track fits just perfectly with the way the sky unfolds.

The wind picks up a bit towards the end and my ex-tripod head let the camera move around somewhat. That problem has now been remedied!

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower - Chase Tower Downtown Phoenix

(click the image to view full size for your resolution, or if you have a humongous monitor, see it larger!)

Ah yes…rain in Phoenix. It’s always awesome. I can be completely “blah” about photography for whatever reason…long days at work, tiredness, blue skies, no motivation, you name it. But rain arrives, stormy skies ensue and suddenly nothing can stop me from getting out and exploring the world.

If you’ve followed me for long, you may have seen a shot or two of Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix. I didn’t go down there last night with the intention of shooting it however. I was looking for reflections again, but as I walked in front of this thing I was just struck by the contrast of colors and so of course I stopped and snapped away.

The clouds up top were moving in and after about 10 minutes it started pouring. But the lower portion of the building showed a few patches of blue sky left behind me and that dynamic was just too compelling to pass up.

I did add a few fun reflection shots to my ongoing series, so I can’t wait to process those down the road.

We’re headed out to Memphis today for our family vacation. As it would happen to be, Memphis is on the edge of having some severe weather this Saturday and after having missed out on most of that last week, I am hoping to get away for an hour or so to snap some great weather photos whilst in Tennessee!

I may be a bit absent on the Twitter/Blog front while we’re gone, so have a great week everyone and keep on shooting.

(exif info: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 21mm, f/16, iso 100)