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A Superstition thunderbolt

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, iso 320, f/16, 0.8sec // buy print)

The last time I chased a storm was a week ago. I needed the break anyways, I was getting burned out and had suffered a few “epic fail” kind of days. Needed some time off to rejuvenate and to process some of the massive amounts of images I took in the past few months.

This was taken back at the end of July along the Beeline Highway. I am not too positive, but that lightning strike could be coming down somewhere near Saguaro Lake along Bush Highway.  I don’t remember even seeing this strike, I had both cameras going in different directions with the shutter releases locked down in continuous shoot mode. Was stoked when I looked back to see this shot on only a 0.8 second exposure!

Our monsoon season ends here in a few weeks, so hopefully we’ll get a few rounds of good storms before it’s over. I have a little more chasing left in me before wedding season starts!

A micro-dust-burst-haboob something or other

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/9.0, iso 100, blend // buy print)

I was shooting a timelapse of the dust storm in the opposite direction when I turned to look behind me and saw this. A  towering monsoon thunderstorm, a strong downdraft (potential microburst) and an approaching dust storm/haboob all creating one crazy scene.

The dynamic range was intense though as you might be able to tell. The sun was hidden by clouds except at the top of that thunderstorm where it was so bright that if exposed correctly, made the rest of the image almost black. I rarely go into post-processing talk these days, but this guy was kind of tough. As I’ve gotten away from doing HDR, I am doing more blending using luminosity masking (LM). I use LM on almost all my processing these days (other than B&W), I find it a lot of fun with more natural results. But blending something like this was tough for me and I’m still learning how to do it correctly.

Whatever the processing method…it was still an amazing sight. Usually storms build up along the outflow of a dust storm, not way out in front like this one. So it’s rare to get a scene like this with an incoming dust wall and a large downdraft out ahead.

An isolated storm over Mesa

Last night we had some impressive, isolated towers go nuts in about 3-4 spots around Phoenix…mostly in the east Valley. I stepped outside my backyard and saw them going up and so we drove east to see if we could get some lightning.

Here’s a shot of the cell over east Mesa that dropped a ton of rain and caused some wind damage. I took over 600 shots and it never landed a bolt on the ground, everything was just in-cloud. A bummer…but then again…look at this thing right at sunset. Gorgeous colors.

One of my favorite moments in storm chasing is to stumble upon these solo storms. I find them absolutely majestic.

A Tucson strike at sunset

(please click image to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 50, f/16(ish), 2 sec // buy print)

After I took this shot, I gave a high-five to a Frenchman who was standing beside me who captured it as well. I met Dimitri up on Tucson’s A-Mountain last night (check out his website) and we had a blast hanging out for almost 2 hours. He was actually on vacation from France in Arizona for the sole purpose of shooting lightning. I mean…how awesome is that?

He had a serious setup…two full frame cameras each with a lightning trigger, plus a major HD video camera.

Anyways…we’d been shooting for a long time when suddenly this rain falling over metro Tucson started turning orange. A beautiful sunset was in store for us. And then the lightning started And while you may have a hard time seeing it because of the intense orange color of the sky, there is a rainbow in there running vertical alongside the right edge of that bolt.

I looked over at Dimitri and asked if this was his best shot since he got here a week or two ago…and he said yes. He was a lot like me…hooting and yelling everytime he got a great strike. Was so very cool to see the same passion I have in a guy visiting from France.

Good luck my friend, hope the rest of your trip rocks!

Also…on the full-sized image…you can make out where every strike lands…pretty amazing.

Back to the Future II

(please click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/6.3, iso 200, 25 sec // buy print)

I wanted to do a Movie Title Wednesday, but since I released the new website/branding yesterday, this post got bumped until today. I’ve already used Back to the Future as a movie, so I believe this is the first time ever I’ve gone with a sequel!

Usually when there is lightning to photograph, I’m out and about in the early evening getting to where I need to be. But on Monday night, I didn’t leave the house until almost 9pm. We had chilled with friends for dinner and when I got home, I realized a pretty substantial outflow was marching northwest from southeast Arizona.

I expected to be shooting around the Tucson area, maybe south of it, but as I got near, the storms to the east were going nuts and everything south was dying. I ended up traveling along highway 77 through the town of Mammoth for the first time ever. And basically followed this storm all the way back north-northwest to Superior.

Ended up not getting home until after 2am. Was a fun night. Especially when you get a shot like this.

This is a single 25-second exposure. The route was pretty low on traffic, so the odds of snagging some light trails along with five bolts in one frame must have been crazy high.

I figured Back to the Future II worked here…the light trails being like fire trails, and the lightning strikes providing 1.21 gigawatts of awesomeness.  Huge fan of those films. Although #2 is kind of the weaker one IMHO.

An isolated thunderstorm at sunset

This was one of the more amazing sights I’ve seen so far this year. Kind of reminds of the other “dying monsoon sunset” timelapse I posted back at the start of the season. An isolated, decaying thunderstorm right at sunset.

Everyone was talking about this one last night. You could see it for miles and miles. What made it majestic, kind of like the other one, is that there were no steering winds, so the storm built up and feel apart without really moving. I always find that utterly spectacular for some reason.

Hope you enjoy. Thanks to Luke Neumann for providing the background music.

Shot this from Gilbert Road and the Salt River. Here’s another shot of it with a wider lens. Click on it for the full effect.

A few more shots of the July 21st haboob in Phoenix

Here are just a few more images I captured yesterday during a fairly awesome haboob that rolled through town. And yes, even the people that hate the use of the word “haboob” might admit that Saturday’s storm certainly had some of the same characteristics as last year’s giant one on July 5th.

In case you missed it, here is a timelapse from yesterday’s dust storm and below are a couple more pictures. These were captured south of town as the storm rolled in. I had been timelapsing the entire thing when it was south of Casa Grande, and stopped when it hit me at I-10 and the 587. This first shot below was from that intersection.

This second shot was on the shoulder of I-10 just a tad north of Queen Creek, which is the overpass in the distance. These vehicles were going at a very slow pace and it was packed.

Police closed the freeway further south of this, which was evident once the wall of dust hit because the road suddenly became like something out of the Book of Eli. There wasn’t a soul anywhere close except for me.

A lightning strike over Tucson

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 39mm, f/10, iso 200, 20 sec // buy print)

My frenzy to catch up on what I missed last week has left me sleeping basically 7 hours the past two nights. I arrived home around 1am this morning from a long drive to hopefully catch up with a lightning barrage in far southern Arizona, but it proved to be a #fail.

But earlier in the evening was fun. I arrived in Tucson as the sun went down and a severe storm developed just to the south. I was struggling to find a place to shoot in the city because I don’t know it well at all and all the little hilltops have buildings and it makes it tough. Luckily I spied this short “mountain” that was very close (A-Mountain), and I drove up to the top and had this amazing view of southern Tucson.

Hopefully I get to shoot here again, it was such a great location. Downside is the park ranger came by to announce the gates were closing right around 8:30! A bit too early, but luckily I grabbed this one before I had to bail. I also met another photographer up there who has been shooting lightning around Tucson since at least 1991.

The image above, when zoomed in on the full resolution version, shows the impact point of the lightning on a building. Nothing I love more in a lightning photo than to see where the bolt lands.

 

A thunderstorm near Sunset Point

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200mm 2.8 is l, 70mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

Being gone from Arizona for seven days usually means you miss a heck of a lot of sunshine. But last week was different. Sky Harbor Airport received measurable rainfall FOUR straight days. That hasn’t happened since 2008 per my buddy Royal Norman. The storms were nuts, all over and I certainly missed out on a killer start to the monsoon season.

But vacation was great, it was needed and I wouldn’t change a thing.

That being said, when I landed last night at 10pm, and saw storms going nuts to the north, I decided to watch things a bit to see if I could actually chase. Around 12:30am I headed out and ended up around the Sunset Point rest area. The lightning wasn’t earth-shattering awesome, but one of my favorite things is being able to see an entire storm cloud get lit up at night. Things had been pretty quiet in this direction for about 20 minutes and then suddenly the cloud got intense and strikes started happening.

This is one.

Glad to be back, can’t wait to make up for lost time!

 

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!