Posts

The Watcher

The Watcher
(please click to view on black // buy print)

I rarely, if ever, post photos from years ago. I tend to hate my processing even as recent as 2012. I feel like I’ve really grown into a more polished look (with lots of room yet to grow), so looking back is rough.

But…when an image is one I love enough, I may actually go back and re-edit the thing. And that is the case here. I may have posted this before, but this time it’s been processed using my staple of luminosity masking.

The story behind this photograph, which I just realized a few days ago…is that it’s July 4th, 2011, which was just a day before the big historic haboob hit on July 5th. In many interviews I’ve done since then, people always ask “why was that dust storm so massive?” And I usually say something like “Well, it was early in the season, we hadn’t had a good dust storm yet, or even a good storm…drought…” etc.

But in reality…this was the scene the day before just south of Phoenix along Riggs Road. So we’d already had a dust storm prior to the big one. This one turned out to be fairly weak after a bit, but it’s still a nice wall of dust. Makes the next day seem even more intense because the storms were so strong that they kicked up even more dust after this one rolled through.

I love this image because of the dead tree, the dust wall and that epic, dying monsoon thunderstorm. It also marked one of the first timelapses I did, but I’m so embarrassed by the mistakes I made, I’ll never post it. Suffice to say…I sincerely wish I had done that one correctly, because this was a beautiful scene. But I think it was the beginning of my love for capturing the motion of dust storms.

A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

Hole in the sky

After the Storm - Arizona Monsoons

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1/80 // buy print)

I’ll always remember this day as one of my favorites of the 2011 monsoon season. I had gotten away by myself, alone on the road, not a soul with me, no one tagging along…just me going where I thought the storms would be. It felt liberating for some reason.

It also turned out to be the second day in a row where I found myself on a tornado-warned storm. The structures from the midwest weren’t there necessarily, but the exploding tops were gorgeous, the lightning vicious and the clouds magnificent. I kept an eye out for funnel clouds, but never saw anything. Still, the thrill of the chase was why I loved it so much.

This was a stretch of State Route 79, looking south at the Catalina Mountains. I loved the darkness on the left in a juxtaposition to the gorgeous blue sky on the right, plus the bit of sunlight on the mountain range.

Prickly Pear

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/20, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

Back in mid-December we had some great cold fronts move through the state leaving snow on the mountains surrounding Phoenix. I must have been out in the Four Peaks and Superstition Mountains area every other night for a week. Trying to capture a sunset…trying to get the snow on the hills.

This was probably one of the more gorgeous sunsets of 2011 that my camera saw. You can see the snowy Four Peaks off on the right horizon, shrouded by clouds.

The foreground is filled with Prickly Pear cacti…and you can see a few of the “leaves” have captured the last rays of the setting sun. In fact, it was kind of a hard shot to get because my own shadow kept getting in the way.

Within about 45 seconds, the light was completely gone. I took this shot right after this other one I posted awhile ago with the giant Saguaro.  An amazing sky that evening.

The cotton fields

The cotton fields - monsoons arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/125 // buy print)

If you ordered a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, or happened to see my Best of 2011, you may have seen this image already.

But it was one of my top five probably from last year’s monsoon season, so I felt like it was owed it’s own blog post. Right?

Am I the only one that believes his images have feelings and would feel shunned if they didn’t get their own blog time? I mean, yes, this one made it into the book, but they all know the blog is the shiznit. The place you want to be. Where the magic happens.

So ANYWAYS, this is from north of Tucson overlooking a huge cotton field. Awesome storm on the horizon dropping rain. Nothing I like more than a wide vista or landscape with a distant rain storm.

There was also a timelapse to go with this.

I humbly apologize to this image for taking so long to give it the honor it so richly deserved. You weren’t forgotten. Just lost in the shuffle. I wont let it happen again.

Moon

Moonrise - Highway 87

.

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 4000, 20 sec // buy print)

It’s Movie Title Wednesday, a series that has been going on so long that I’m surprised I haven’t run out of films to use yet.

Moon is one of those hidden gems that you may not have heard of before. It came out several years ago and stars Sam Rockwell as a guy who is on a 3-year stint managing a mining operation on the Moon that helps replenish Earth’s resources. If you love pure, classic science fiction…this is a film you gotta see. The movie received an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.0 rating on IMDB. Solid numbers.

On the last day of stormchasing the monsoons last year, I ended up driving over 450 miles. I was up near Winslow, the day was over and it was time to head home. I chose highway 87 which would take me through Payson, a route I’d only been on once before. A bit after 8pm I realized I was in this wide open area with retreating clouds and some of the Milky Way appearing above me. I pulled over and aimed south to capture some stars, but the clouds were quickly returning and the shot didn’t turn out so well.

But then, as usually happens, I turned around and saw the moon rising. I’ve shown this picture to a few people, plus it appears at the end of my latest book, and most of the time the first thought is that it’s a sunrise. Until you see the stars in the sky and realize that would be impossible.

The moon rose with a orange glow about it and the clouds were perfect, even getting lit up underneath a bit as if it were a sunrise. The taillights from the car illuminated the highway.

It was so peaceful out there too…quiet, nothing for miles and miles and miles. Not a car in sight. Was a wonderful way to end the stormchasing season.

 

Equilibrium

Equilibrium - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 125, f/5.6, 30 sec // buy print)

Please click to view on black!

One thing I try very, very hard to avoid is posting an image and then saying something like “OMG, this is my bestest, most favoritest photo I’ve ever taken in all the land!” I have many reasons for that, and if you want to know them, you can ask, but it’s just my general rule.

Yeah, gonna break that one today.

Before that though, it’s Wednesday and I haven’t done a Movie Title image in awhile, so here you go. Equilibrium. Christian Bale. It was really, really good. Check it out.

So this is my favorite lightning image of 2011. I didn’t sit down and look through all my photos and debate over which was best. This was always it. I knew when I saw it that it would be. And there are two reasons why.

(btw, those who bought my book have already seen this and thus know the story behind it already!)

First…the scene itself is incredibly unique. Two layers of clouds…a low one that is hugging the tops of mountains beyond the immediate horizon, and the upper one that is a boiling thunderstorm. Then you have a lighting strike running sideways between these two layers.  I didn’t shoot anything like it over the course of the last two summers and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to duplicate it. The only question I ask myself when I look at this is why I don’t have it printed and hanging in the house yet? I’m so bad at that.

The second and final reason has little to do with the actual picture. It was the work that led up to it. The effort. I had been in Tucson earlier that evening and as the storms were dying out, I decided to fly north and catch what was hitting Phoenix. But those storms were moving too fast. They were northeast of Phoenix by the time I hit town. For some reason though, I kept going. I blew through Phoenix and started up the Beeline Highway. I got almost all the way to Rye when I decided to turnaround. The weather were dying out, it was getting late and I felt like I failed after having just driven 180 miles with nothing to show for it.

But on the way back…a random storm popped up east of the highway. There was no reason for it, everything else had quieted down, but I saw it, I stopped and aimed my camera at the place I saw the flash.

This was the next shot that my camera captured.

It proved to me that what I was doing and the way I was doing it was valid. That my instincts were good and I was meant to do this.

And there was a lesson in that night for me. Simply put…when others stop, I should keep going. If I want a shot that no one else can get, then I need to be doing what no one else is doing.

It’s not easy…but you know what? I was all alone on that highway and the only one around to see this. And I’m so glad I was.

Airplane

Airplane - Downtown Urban Phoenix Reflection

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 30mm, iso 100, f/4 // buy print)

You may know about my love for reflection photos like this one. What you may not know is that I’m kind of specific about when I shoot them.

Like, if someone empties their swimming pool and it floods the street…I don’t rush outside with camera gear in hand. That just doesn’t get me going at all.

But what does motivate me are storms. Of course right? And when it comes to reflections…I like the puddles of water leftover after a good rain. And even more specifically…I like to shoot them at sunset or in the early, cloudy morning. And finally…I need to be in the downtown, urban environment. I could have taken some shots in my driveway this week, but I wasn’t as inspired until I found myself in an abandoned parking lot. Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way it is.

It’s kind of a weird thing to shoot too. You wonder if people are looking at you funny. You are just walking around, tripod in hand…staring at the ground. From 100 feet away, I’ll bet it looks goofy as heck. I love it!

Now I love this shot I posted today, but honestly I think the plane makes it and I never even intended for it to be there. I just liked the pattern in the cement and the glimpse of some powerlines. But as I was bracketing the shot, this plane flew overhead and turned an okay image into some a bit more special for me.

And the reason I like shooting after it rains is the stormy clouds that you usually have and that awesome texture you get in the reflection. Swirls of light and dark…adds an element you can’t really control.

Before Sunset

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/20, 1/5 // buy print)

Yesterday afternoon I had a  conference call that was scheduled to run to 5:30. I was praying it got over early, because the snow on the Four Peaks was amazing and I knew I had to get out there again for sunset.

As luck would have it, the call ended at 4pm and I was bolting for the door. Camera gear, Lyla…her stuff, her DVD player…all of it. We both flew up the Beeline Highway to meet up with my fellow photogs Chris Frailey and Bryan Snider (see Bryan’s pics from last night right here!). I ran into them on Four Peaks Road, but as we usually try to do when we meet up…we went our own ways so that we all don’t end up with the same images.

I had a feeling these low hanging clouds would just ignite with color when the light hit them right, and sure enough…it was one of those absolutely stunning Arizona sunsets. I was in the truck looking for a great spot when I saw this majestic Saguaro still being hit with light atop this hill. You can even see the spikey yucca on the right getting a bit of light too as the sun was almost level with the hill I was standing on.

And if you can’t immediately see them, the Four Peaks sit on the right horizon, covered in clouds and snow.

I love this area of Arizona and I never get sick of the snowy Peaks. I could shoot them everyday.

 

An evening out at Four Peaks

The last six weeks have been filled with nothing but photoshoots, which has been absolutely amazing and huge for me. I’m so excited about where things are headed .

But it also left little time for me to get out of the house to shoot other things. And I missed that. So on Monday when there were reports of snow on the outlying deserts, I packed up the car, including my daughter, and made a beeline for…well, the Beeline Highway. And the Four Peaks area.

The sky was magnificent of course, the Peaks had snow, the desert was gorgeous and the air was a chilly 40 degrees. It was awesome to just be out in nature again after the six week hiatus.

So here are some shots from the evening. You will likely notice a different feel to these. Recently for my portrait/wedding work, I’ve switched my processing over to a toolset called VSCO Film. I used a few of their presets and combined them with my own tweaks to come up with something I just love. It’s been fantastic for all the photoshoots, I absolutely dig how my images are looking these days.

But I wanted to try that same kind of film style on these desert images. And I love it. Truly. It’s actually created a debate in my head on how I want to do this kind of thing going forward.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy them. I used three lenses for these shots below…the Tammy 17-35 2.8, Canon 35 1.4 and Canon 70-200 2.8.

(click to view these on black if you want, and roll through the slideshow)

The next two were taken using the 35mm 1.4 wide open…and I friggin’ love the subtle depth of field.

Had to include this shot of my daughter…bundled up, playing A-Breaker on the iPhone!