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A Kansas sunset

A sunset in a wheat field in kansas

(Click on the image for a larger-than-normal view…also makes the wheat field a bit more visible)

There was something special about this sunset. I don’t know what it was, but when I was crouching down in front of this wheat field, I was in awe. Here I was, in western Kansas, in a place I’d never been before, in the middle of nowhere, not a sound but chirping birds, not a car to be seen…witnessing something beautiful.

The irony is that this was our last gasp for a storm on Wednesday before it was time for me to go. My buddy Shane and I had seen these things popup out of nowhere, so we turned the car around, drove up this highway and waited. After the sun went down, these clouds got closer and closer…and even though we knew deep down inside that there was a 1% chance we’d get a storm from these…we watched until the bitter end.

Despite the symbol of failure this final chance gave us…it was also incredibly moving. The little journey I went on somehow led me to this place to see this thing.

I’m glad I have some images like these to look back on. Most of you know how disappointed I was afterwards when I didn’t go out there to get what I wanted.

But perhaps I got what I was supposed to get?

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 100, 1/20th)

Hanging sunset

(click…to…see…larger…and…stuff)

Sometimes there are clouds and sometimes there are CLOUDS. This doesn’t even compare to the monster storm clouds I’d love to be photographing in the midwest right now, but as far as sunsets go in Arizona, this was one of my favorites.

You may remember a few shots already taken on this day: The “Seventh Heaven” reflection and the one of Chase Field called “Fever Pitch“. With my wife and daughter looking on in the chilly, windy weather, I was running around like a psycho trying to capture the clouds anyway I could.

Not exactly my favorite composition in the world, but sometimes I just love the sky more than anything. What stands out to me in a shot with stormy clouds like this is the way the lower hanging stuff gets lit up by the sun leaving the rest dark. It’s something you just don’t see very much.

I also love the stuff on the left horizon…the clouds are white and really defined.

Makes me excited for monsoon season…only…ugh…three more months. Sigh.

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

 

A short little time-lapse

(Watch it in 720p for the best viewing)

I’ve never done a time-lapse before and so of course I had to start from the beginning. I have a little control I bought recently that allows not only for manual exposures in Bulb M ode, but also has batteries to do interval, shutter speed and timed exposures. Ever since I got it I’ve been wanting to check out how to do a time-lapse with it and what it might look like.

This is the first attempt and I realize now it’s tough to do something like this when you are shooting right into the sun without a way to control the shutter speed externally so you don’t touch the camera. So hence the exposures get pretty dark at the end. I also learned some other things later, like using a ND filter to allow you to drag your shutter speed more and create more of a fluid movement.

Either way, it was fun to do, which was the reason I did it. I hope to learn how to do them quicker and with better results, especially during stormchasing this summer. I don’t expect to do a ton of them, but it might be fun to do at least a short 30-45 minute time-lapse every time I’m out there and then combine them at the end of the season.

Vera

(Vera wouldn’t mind if you clicked on the image to see it bigger)

My reliable, two-door, sporty, 1999 Toyota Solara is now a thing of the past.  It served its purpose, but in reality…there were only so many dirt roads it could get me down. And with the upcoming monsoon season just over three months away…it was time to make a change.

Enter Vera, my “new” 1994 4Runner with over 190,000 miles on it. And the thing is beautiful. Yes…I had some work done on it after I bought it, but the guys that looked at it said the thing is in great shape. Plus you know these 4Runners and Land Cruisers…they go on forever and ever.

I’ve been driving it around the last few weeks I’ve had it and it’s been a blast. I’m dying to take it down a few trails this summer (or maybe even before that).

Two things you must know about Vera: First, her name was inspired by Jayne’s gun on Firefly, so before anyone gives me crap about it, this is the gun:

Secondly…for someone to waste a pretty epic Arizona sunrise photographing their truck instead of something that might make a sellable print…well, that’s love baby.

Looking forward to where Vera takes me the rest of the year. I think this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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

Se7en

Powerline Sunset in Nevada

(Click to view in lightbox, the choice of a new generation)

If you haven’t seen the movie Se7en, then you probably wont get how it connects with the image above. You probably wont get the horrific moment it represents in the film either. And I don’t want to give anything away for people who still want to watch it, so I’ll do my best to just skip those details.

Needless to say, when I was processing this photo…it was suddenly obvious that it was going to be used for Movie Title Wednesday. I think I even may have had an inkling when I was standing out there taking this.

On a side note, I still am having so much fun with this series. It’s amazing how many images you can take…things that may be similar in a lot of ways (like the bazillion sunsets or sunrises I post) but somehow you find something unique in each of that that can relate to a movie. I love it.

The movie Se7en stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman back in their younger days, and revolves around a serial killer that murders people for breaking The Seven Deadly Sins. It’s gruesome, brutal and I absolutely loved it. One of those great, great thriller/horror/crime films that will always be remembered by movie fans. The scene depicted by the above photo was one of those that will forever be stuck in my brain.

This was taken a few weeks ago during my latest trip to Las Vegas. I had just returned from exploring El Dorado Canyon and the Nelson ghost town area, and was racing to find a great location to capture the sunset. The spot above is situated south of Boulder City and lies in a very wide, bowl-shaped valley. These powerlines in some areas stretched forever, and you could see them for 10’s of miles as they would go up a distant hillside. The symmetry was awesome, and so when the sunset arrived, I knew this is where I wanted to be.

Because of the aspherical aspects of my Tamron 17-35mm, the powerline towers are a bit flatter than reality (even after lens correction), but you can kind of see how the road goes on and on and on forever and the towers go right along with it.

This was taken just a few days before the Super Moon and you can see it in the upper right corner.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/14, iso 100)

Skylights

Sunsets are sometimes a challenge. First off, it helps if you kind of have an instinct about when you think it’s going to be a good one.  But when you do think you’ve got one of those amazing Arizona evening skies headed your way, the next bit of fun is trying to decide just where you’re going to setup. Obviously you can plan ahead and select a few locations you may have found in the past, but I enjoy just heading out and finding something on the fly.

The problem is…when you get that epic sunset…you really only have one shot at it. There is an apex to every sunset, a moment where it’s the best it’s going to be, and you can only hope you are in the spot you want to be.

On this night, I was lucky enough to have a few options within 40 feet of each other that allowed two totally different framings. The first I posted about a month ago, which had train tracks and graffiti. But as I sat there knowing I had just hit the pinnacle of this sunset, I looked around for something, some other point of interest. It really didn’t take more than 2.5 seconds to realize this old train platform roof would look even more amazing if I was right under it.

One of the tiny details I like about this shot are the bits of broken glass speckled all over the platform…more than likely from a homeless person at some point, but they add an interesting element to the shot.

And the roof itself…kind of like a bunch of skylights, allowing the colors to be seen directly overhead. Just beautiful.

I still would like to go back to this place sometime and explore just a little more…it was wide open to the public, no fences, nothing…just right there off the side of the road.

(Exif: Canon Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm F2.8, F8, ISO 100)

Window to the End of the World

Black Canyon City Abandoned Dog Track Sunset

This is the first of many, many images from the abandoned dog track north of Phoenix near Black Canyon City. I made the trek up there with my good AZ photog buddies Rick Young and Scott Wood. The place hasn’t been used as a dog track since 1982 and after that it was a swap meet until closed a few years later. Now it sits there waiting for explorers to venture inside in search of hidden treasures…which for us are photographs.

There was talk that we’d go in the morning, but I pushed for the late afternoon hours, having told Rick that the seats and windows face West/Southwest, so the light coming in will be amazing while we’re there and maybe we’ll get a sunset out of it. Of course, I’d never been there really, only saw it from the road once. This was Rick’s second time.

Well, he doubted me, saying the mountains were too close for a good sunset, but we decided to get out there around 3pm anyways and spent a couple of hours wandering the place until the sun finally did set and gave us one of the most magnificent shows in awhile. Rick called out to me from across the bleachers area, “See Mike, told you the sunset would suck.

But even if the show was good, there was nothing like sitting in those old chairs, in eerie quiet, watching this amazing sunset framed by huge windows which themselves were framed with whatever remaining glass they had left. I can’t even describe the feeling…part of me wanted to just sit there and watch, and the other (more commanding) part scrambled around to find the perfect way to compose the shot.

I’m thrilled and excited to bring you more images from that trip…it was an amazing place of course, but also the very first true indoor urban exploration for me and I relished every moment.

Warp Speed

A few nights ago I declared I was tired of urbex for awhile and wanted to get out and shoot some desert landscapes against the setting sun. I hadn’t been to South Mountain in awhile and didn’t remember much of it, so I dragged along my wife and daughter and we drove up to the top of Summit Road where you can see the entire city. It’s breathtaking. But for me, I didn’t want to just sit there with the hundreds of other people and take a picture that everyone else was taking. So we didn’t even stop at the top and I headed back down, trying to find something to frame the evening sky against.

Only the pull-0ffs were very few, the road very tight. My wife is the one who suddenly pointed out this tiny little turnoff amidst my frustration at not seeing ANYTHING. I stopped, gave her a peck on the cheek saying she was awesome as usual and squatted outside the car to snap off some brackets.

This spot I loved immediately because the road had a sweet S-curve to it and although you can’t see it in this picture, it curls back to the right off in the distance. I also dug the little bit of pink clouds creating some contrasting lines in the sky.

But of course, it was the car that drove by during my bracketing that made this for me. You don’t necessarily plan for stuff like this, but I did want to see if I could get some car lights in the shot. These turned out awesome…almost a warp speed effect with the ghostly image of a car leaving a trail of light behind it.

This made me realize how much I miss the desert. I mean, sure, this spot was just about 30 minutes away or so, but it’s not like where I used to live where it was a half-mile to the wide open spaces. I’ve been so focused on the city and urban environment, it was a nice break to realize that the desert and mountains still hold me captive.

The Departed

Yes, it’s Movie Title Wednesday once again, where I choose a movie title to go with one of my photographs. Although, in reality, it now goes something like this on Tuesday nights:

“Hey, Jina, come look at this.”

“What?”

“I need you to pick a movie title for this week’s image, I obviously suck at life when I do it. Far and Away? REALLY? Ugh…”

So now I run it by the lady in charge…because she is wise, keen and knows much more than me. She’s always been that way in many different areas, but now it spreads over to my photo blog. Her potential for helping me be a better person is endless.

The Departed. Wow…an epic mobster film from Martin Scorsese, Leo, Marky Mark (who is awesome btw) and a whole mess of good actors. It’s set in the Boston area (which I love) and involves undercover people on both sides of the law…the police and the Irish Mafia. I only saw the film once, I don’t honestly remember a lot of it other than some shocking scene of a guy getting blasted in the head with a gun. What I do remember is loving the film and being glued to the screen the entire time.

The title of the movie can be seen in this image on so many levels it’s not even funny. First off, it definitely has that South Boston, urban feel to it…it might work as a location in the film. Next up the sun is setting…leaving or departing for the day. Wow, can you believe we’re not done yet? Third it’s a train platform where people or products would end up leaving from on a journey to who knows where. FINALLY, it’s abandoned, unused and sitting alone…almost departed from relevancy in this world.

Although for a guy like me, it’s very relevant. It’s beautiful. Once again it was one of those nights where I pack Lyla up in the car, turn on Mickey Mouse and drive around looking for a good, grungy spot for a sunset. There was a road I’d never been down before and suddenly I see this ramp leading up to a long lost train platform. The tracks stop just left of the image at the platform, which I’m standing on.

Of course I was blessed with an epic sunset. Whenever I see one of these, I always like to place it in the best 2-3 of the year. But the fact is, we get these a lot more often than that. This state has unfounded beauty that I continue to discover on a daily basis, be it in the sky, the desert or the forgotten parts of downtown Phoenix.

(special nod to Brian Matiash for looking at this image last week and telling me to “pop” the graffiti a bit more)

A pair of rails at sunset

(Rebel XSi, Tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, ISO100, F16, six exposures)

As I’ve talked about in a few recent posts, I’ve been exploring downtown Phoenix more in the past week. On two separate occasions I’ve been able to drive around just before the sun went down and just see what I see. And you know me…I don’t tend to go out shooting unless there is hope for something good in the sky…cool clouds, a sunset, whatever. Blue skies depress me.

This was a fun night with a fairly decent sunset, although it was pretty far off on the horizon. Still, a couple of contrails thrown in gave a nice parallel with the train tracks below.  I’m a sucker for lines heading to the horizon, so these tracks were perfect. Once again, I just found myself here at sunset and tried to compose the best scene I could. I find it a lot of fun to know a sunset is coming within the hour, head out downtown somewhere and just look for a place to frame the sky on the fly. I don’t plan a shot weeks ahead…I just let it happen organically. Sure, I sometimes see a spot that I think will be good at a later date…but those don’t always seem to work out as well as the random spots you find when you are crunched for time.