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An old Kansas grain silo

Old grain silo in Kansas

(Click to see a bit larger with a nice dark border)

When you go on a three-day stormchasing trip, you tend to get focused on one thing: storms. I think that’s obvious enough. You usually have a ton of driving to do on an excursion like this so there isn’t always a lot of time to spend dilly-dallying as my mom would say.

The fact that this isn’t a storm photo should tell you something. The three-day trip was kind of a huge bust for me. The storms just didn’t happen like they were supposed to and I’m having a rough time dealing with that today. Tons of driving…money…time away from family. I had amazingly high expectations for myself and I basically came away with nothing I had hoped to capture before leaving.

I’m not writing this for people to feel sorry for me. In fact, while I am on the verge of real sadness over this (probably the tiredness is playing a big part too), I see it as a positive for myself. It’s a re-assurance of my passion for photography in general. Feeling this much disappointment over something as silly sounding as stormchasing kind of validates it all for me.

So today’s image is a grain silo that was abandoned in the middle of western Kansas. Because when life gives you blue skies instead of supercells, you try to shoot something else.  With a lot of time on my hands with no weather to photograph, I shot a lot of what I’m dubbing “FarmEx” instead of the normal “UrbEx.”

I definitely wouldn’t drive 2200 miles and spend gobs of money to see a bunch of abandoned farm houses and barns…but I’ll tell you what: Kansas is full of that kind of stuff and you could go nuts shooting out there.

(exif info: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/14, iso 100, 1/160 sec)

The Town

Downtown Phoenix Reflections

(A much better view can be had by clicking to see with a black border and slightly larger!)

This is probably the first time that a Movie Title Wednesday film has been something so recent. That could mainly be due to the fact I don’t SEE as many movies as I used to what with a kid and all. Before Lyla, my wife and I would tend to see around 1-2 movies a month, always on Saturday mornings with the elderly folks at the earliest possible showing. It’s less crowded, more quiet and then we could always come back home after and taken a nice little nap.

Ah…the good ol’ days when we were just kids.

The Town stars Ben Affleck and Jeremy Renner, along with the awesome mad man himself, John Hamm. Fantastic movie, I love that it was set in Boston and it’s one of the best movies Affleck has done in awhile. I really liked how it revolved around what it claimed to be a true story about robbery families being a part of the history of Charleston. There are some really tense scenes, and it reminded me a lot of the film Heat, one of my all-time favs.

Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

This image is the final one from my downtown Phoenix reflection series. That series could get a sequel down the road if we ever again see a drop of rain, but for now, this is the last entry. And I couldn’t be more proud of it and the entire series. In fact, this week I will be showing six pieces of art down at First Fridays from 6-10pm at the New City Gallery (more info here) and three of the images are a part of this series. The entire theme will be downtown Phoenix and I’m so excited about doing something way different than the last time I showed.

I will be there from around 6:30pm onwards, so if you happen to live close by, I would love to see you again, or meet you for the first time, whatever. There are going to be some other great artists, live music and food/wine. It’s a great night to be downtown and is also going to be the last of the New City Gallery’s First Fridays until the fall.

My wife saw the above image and asked if I did a texture overlay on it or something, because the reflection kind of makes it hard to tell. But no, this is just a puddle of water over a concrete slab with some awesome stains on it. I especially love the glowing “rift” near the top that was likely some leaked oil at some point now a part of the surface.

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

Into the West

(to see the image larger or so it fits into your screen resolution, have a click-see)

It’s been awhile since I posted any images from our trip up to the abandoned ghost town of Two Guns, Arizona. First off, you gotta love a name like that. If there was ever a contest to name an old west town in Arizona…that has to be up at the top.

I will say, the structures left behind at Two Guns weren’t exactly what you’d picture seeing if you heard “ghost town”. Normally you’d think of old wooden saloons, stables, whatever. At least, that’s what floats into my head. But Two Guns was pretty much made up entirely of old stone walls and wooden support beams where they still existed. And only one or two places still had a roof up.

The windows became obvious culprits in framing some of our shots. My buddy Ken Peterson posted a photograph from a different spot last week. I liked this little lone tree-ish looking thing up on the cliff through the window in this room. I tried it with my 50mm at first, but it proved lacking. I dig how my wide angle brought in not only the window, but the lack of a roof.

Title of this post was taken from the soundtrack of Return of the King.

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

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.

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)

 

Morning on the Bradshaws

(click to view a little bigger and better in lightbox)

Do you ever have an image where you struggle and struggle with liking it, then hating it, then liking it, then hating it…and…well you get the idea.

I’m sure you do. For those of us blogging on a daily basis, we can’t necessarily post masterpieces every single day. We sometimes have those borderline photographs that we like, but we may not like it enough to actually hit the “publish” button on the blog.

This image is one of those for me. I figured I may as well post it to see what people honestly think. I love it because the scene from this spot up by the Sunset Point rest area was breathtaking in person. It was cold, wet…but the view of the Bradshaw Mountains with the low clouds and fresh snow was mesmerizing. I’ve been wanting to post this one because it felt like the only decent image I came away with that early morning run up north.

But I feel like something is missing…and am not sure what. It could just be the sort of bluish mono-tone the morning had…so the colors aren’t vibrant or striking. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but even if it did, the clouds were too thick to let any real light through.

I don’t usually ask for critiques, but if you got ’em, let me hear ’em.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/8, iso 100, 17mm)

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)

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)

Seraphim Falls

(image can be viewed larger with a sweet black border if you click on it. you know you want to…)

Coming up with a title for this image for Movie Title Wednesday was kind of difficult. Most of the movies that came to mind I either didn’t remember much about, or really didn’t think fit too well. My wife liked Legends of the Fall, but I think I’ll save that for when the leaves change down the road. There was The Grand, or The Majestic…or even one that seems to fit perfectly…A River Runs Through It. But again, I don’t remember much about it other than Brad Pitt was in it and that I was a senior in high school! Ack! There was also The River Wild with Meryl Streep…but I didn’t like that either.

In the endSeraphim Falls was the title. I highly doubt most of you have seen it, but it’s definitely worth renting. Pierce Brosnan is hiding in the Rocky Mountains just after the Civil War has ended and Liam Neeson is a Confederate Colonel who wants the man killed to avenge a wrong. It all goes back to something that happened at Seraphim Falls…which you eventually discover.

I loved the title of the movie when I first heard it. I wanted to make it fit here but wasn’t quite sure EXACTLY what Seraphim meant, so I looked it up and was pumped when it has a rough translation of “burning ones.” Sure, it’s kind of a stretch, but when you think of a sunset and the fiery red skies you tend to get…it works.

Last weekend I got up at 3am to meet three other photogs to go up north and shoot all day. Despite all the fun I had and the pictures I took…this one shot above of Grand Falls was my entire reason for going. I’m not saying this about the photograph itself, but more about the scene.  Ever since I visited for the first time last year and had boring blue skies, I’ve been dreaming of getting back there and capturing a gorgeous sunset. It was like the entire day boiled down to this span of five minutes when the sky changed color.

The fact that we even got color was amazing. The sun was stuck behind some very thick clouds and as it got darker and darker…I thought that was it. Nothing was coming through that. And then suddenly in the northeast the clouds turned red. My heart jumped. I started waving at the other guys to point it out. People started moving around excitedly. Slowly the color moved westward until…for what was probably less than a minute…the sky looked as it did in the photo above.

Then it was gone.

I loved the day, loved the time spent with friends and especially loved that my wife and daughter were up there to share this with me.  Last year’s trip was exciting, but this one will be the one I remember always.

(of course, until I go back next year…have some fun ideas for 2012)

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso 200)