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Sticks and Snow

Desert Storm Arizona Dead Tree Snow Weather

Lately the blog has been returning to more and more of my usual landscape and storm shots. We’ve had quite a few nice winter storms since December and it’s reignited my passion for this stuff. I was out last weekend a few times, and this weekend I went out Sunday morning to chase after some high desert snow, but it was a lot higher than I was hoping.

This image is from back in late December when we had daytime highs of around 36 degrees and some fun snow storms along the Beeline Highway.

One thing that helps your landscape or storm images is to have something interesting in the foreground. I can’t tell you how often that is a struggle for me. Not because the desert is devoid of interesting things, but mostly you worry about boring people to death with yet another shot of a Saguaro cactus with a storm in the background.

So when I’m out there running around, I do my best to mix things up. Find something else that will make a key element to the photo that people don’t normally get to see. That’s been a fun goal for me lately and has made me think twice about a lot of photos I might take.

Do I really need that scene? Is it a whole lot different than one I’ve shot in the past?

I loved this gnarled old tree skeleton. I’m not sure what it was when it was alive, but it was beautiful in death. The sun was lighting it up nicely against the dark, stormy clouds off in the distance. Really dug the contrast.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/20, iso 100)

Air Produce

Downtown Phoenix Urban Building Airplane

The day before our chilly, 6am Urban Phoenix Photowalk takes place, figured I’d drop one more image from one of my excursions down there before Christmas. We’ll probably be walking by this building once again and I’m hoping to find something new and different about it that I missed before.

Before I go on…I figured I’d talk a bit about clouds. Not a surprise right?

My buddy Bob Lussier (whom I apparently am in love with since I’ve now linked to him twice this week) is just finishing up a series he calls “Off-Season.” It’s a fantastic look at what the wintery season looks like up in Massachusetts and the New England area when things close down. Check out one of his latest shots.

The reason I bring it up is because without the moody, cloudy skies, I don’t think he’d get the same “abandoned, off-season, winter” feelings that he conveys through those shots.

Clouds are important to the photography I enjoy. I hate blue skies. If I find a building or structure that I’m dying to shoot…I’m going to wait until I get the skies to go with it. The entire reason I was out the morning I took the above shot was the clouds. There is something magical and beautiful about the morning sun creating textures and depth in clouds like this. It draws me and moves me.

While I was setting up to take this shot, I noticed how close the airplanes were on their decent into Sky Harbor, so I waited to snap my brackets until another one was flying over. I like the image with or without the airplane, but I think it just adds something extra.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/8.0, iso100)

Diagone Alley

This was a popular scene on our photowalk in late December. I had found this alleyway about a year prior to that when I was so hungry to shoot anything that I left home without much direction and ended up in downtown Phoenix. After daring myself to walk down it despite the very late hour, I ended up loving the back of this particular building. It’s a small section of an entire block and it kind of stands out…almost like it’s the entrance to the magical Diagone Alley from Harry Potter.

One of my co-horts Adam Schmid really got a nice view of this same building with an ultra-wide angle, which you can see right here. Gives you an idea of what I mean about it “standing out.”

What’s remarkable and fun about this spot is the eerie green glow that comes from above and on the opposite side of the alley. You may not notice it at first, but after doing a few long exposures, the green really pops. You can see in my image, the link above and some of the ones below from the other guys that the greenish tint is everywhere. And it casts some heavy shadows too.

Hence…while it’s probably a nice place during the day to shoot, at night you get something a bit more unique.

Photo Walkers

Green Alley

Lockdown

The Birds

Sometimes when you look at a photograph quickly, you may not notice the subtle nuances about it. My buddy Mark Garbowski recently posted a shot called The Bowl on the Cobblestone Street…because the shot was so wide, so expansive, you might have missed a curious little bowl sitting in the middle of the road, which for me, kind of made the image unique.

Well, today is Movie Title Wednesday and I dubbed this photo The Birds, just in case you missed them on first glance. I left the image clickable to a larger size so you can see them better.

Alfred Hitchcock was a genius when it came to thrillers and scary movies, and The Birds was no exception. Terrifying, creepy…it’s probably up there with Jaws in how a couple of films caused an entire generation of people to freak out whenever they see a large gathering of ravens or a fin in the ocean (although, a fin in the ocean is good cause to freak out).

I saw that movie as a kid and the scene that always stands out is the end when all the birds are just sitting and watching them leave the house. It’s awesomely eerie.

So this is yet another image from the dog track, taken about 20 minutes or so before the amazing sunset we ended up with once we walked back inside. We had already explored the interiors of the place, then circled around outside. The overhang is what used to be the entrance to the place.

These freaking birds kept flying around randomly, and they looked so awesome against the clouds that I just waited until they appeared again to fire off some shots.

As I continue to go through these dog track shots, I can’t tell you how much fun I had being there that day with Rick and Scott. But what’s cool is that I get to keep processing images weeks after it happened…and so it’s kind of like getting to go back over and over.

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)