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In the field

In the Field
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 16-35mm f/2.8 l, 16mm, iso 100, f/16, 0.5 sec, Lightning Trigger // buy print)

Earlier this week I decided out of nowhere to fly out to the plains to chase me some storms for two days. I didn’t even make the final decision until 12:45am on Tuesday, which was 5.5 hours before my flight left. But I’m glad I went. This was taken yesterday north of Blair, Oklahoma. I recently picked up The Lightning Trigger after the Nero one failed me miserably last year (hat tip to Ruth Montgomery for showing me how good this new one is), and luckily it was just in time for this trip.

I caught all kinds of strikes, but this one was the most crazy. The bolts were landing all around me, so I quickly set up the camera and jumped back into the car. I didn’t even see this strike because I was looking at radar or something, but I definitely saw a huge flash and the crack of thunder was amazing. You can see where it lands, which I guess was about 1/4 mile away or less. Super close, it was pretty freaky to have strikes everywhere. What a blast!

Lots more to come from this trip…photos and some cool time-lapses!

 

Dark City

(click on the image above to see it fit to your desktop resolution…and view it in a nicely framed lightbox)

I’m a huge science fiction movie fan. Not really so much the silly stuff that’s out there, but more of the solid, make-you-think kind of films, like Primer, Children of Men or Moon. When I completed this image and decided to use it for Movie Title Wednesday, I actually was thinking Inception at first, but without realizing it, I had been saying the true title to myself over and over while staring at it.

Dark City.

First off, I need to be honest. I saw the movie a long time ago and most of what I remember is that Keifer Sutherland was in it…it was dark and the ending was awesome. Oh, and I liked it. But I forgot everything else. I had to look up the plot again on IMDB just to remind myself. I even failed to remember that Jennifer Connelly was in it…and that’s hard to do.

If you haven’t seen it and love great sci-fi, go rent it asap. Almost everyone I know who has seen it thought it was brilliant. It’s kind of a cult classic in the way that not everyone knows about it but at the same time has a huge following. Like Firefly.

Also, if you haven’t seen Primer, Children of Men or Moon…well, rent them too.

This photo comes from two nights ago after it rained for half the day. I was hoping it would start clearing up before the sun went down and I got lucky. What I love about weather…is that even if I’m in the most urban of environments, I can still include it in my images. The leftover puddles…the clouds. I basically left home with the idea to find reflections in puddles wherever I could and I can’t wait to post the other shots I got from this night.

One last thing about this image. It’s HDR. It’s kind of dark. There are details you can’t see because of the shadows. And I love it. Don’t be afraid to process your high dynamic range images with details lost  in shadows. I know it seems counter-intuitive to capture the entire light range of a scene and then not show it all…but I urge you to give it a shot.

Also, I shot this with my 50mm 1.4. I *heart* that lens.

Sunrise photowalk in downtown Phoenix

A few of my photo buddies from Flickr and Twitter braved the chilly morning weather in Phoenix and joined me on a photowalk starting at the wee dark hour of 6am. We hit some great spots, but the one of the best was arriving at these railroad tracks right when the sunrise lit up for what amounted to maybe 5 minutes of stunning color before it vanished. I used my 50mm 1.4 on this shot instead of the usual 17-35mm that tends to dominate my landscape/urbex photos. I decided the night before that I would stick mainly to the 50 just to see what happened. I love that lens so much.

Below is a shot of most of the crew…Ed, Adam, Denver, Ken, Chris X 2, Rick…a great bunch of guys, we chatted along the way, saw some old buildings, creepy alleyways and even some light rail cars flying by.

The group now knows that me losing lens caps wasn’t just me blowing smoke. Nor is it confined to only lens caps. I left behind my brand new tripod bag in an alleyway and thankfully Denver ran across it. I am completely absent-minded sometimes, ugh. Thanks man.

Hope to see you guys all again very soon. I’m going to wait until people post more images from the day and then do a collaborative blog post later on.

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.

Brick

Yes, there is a movie called Brick.

Thanks for visiting for another Movie Title Wednesday and an image that I’m extremely excited about and what it might mean for me down the road. First off, the movie itself is a strange one.  It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the dialog is almost written like a Shakespearean play. If you love Independent films, you might want to track this one down and give it a looksee.

This photo was shot in downtown Phoenix back in October and represents a new world that I plan on exploring slowly over the coming months. I knew it would be an awesome challenge to tackle urban exploration (UrbEx) close to my new home and this photo is my first real trek into that arena. I’m a complete weather junkie, but I also love old and decrepit buildings and architecture. There is something beautiful about worn out bricks, discolored pavement, rusty metal, graffiti, broken glass, etc.

I’m friends with a few photographers who love to shoot UrbEx. Some of them are downright awesome at it. Their work has been an inspiration to me personally and being able to learn from the masters has been a blessing. I know some of them love to follow my stormchasing images…so I’m hoping to turn the tables on them today *grin*

There is much to see yet in downtown Phoenix and hopefully I get a few chances in the coming weekend to be out there a bit more. I want to get better at it and hopefully develop more of an eye for architecture and the urban environment in general.

Glowing Rails

(Canon Rebel XSI, Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, ISO 100, 8-exposures, F8)

Back three weeks ago when I realized it was going to be a nice sunset, I’d drive 5 minutes and be in the middle of the desert. Now I’m scrambling for places in downtown Phoenix that will compliment the gorgeous skies we get down here in the evenings and mornings.

My little family and I had been driving around downtown two weekends ago just exploring and seeing what kind of restaurants are there, shops, etc. Of course I was unconsciously more focused on things I could photograph, but when isn’t that true? We passed these tracks and I just knew I had to come back sometime.

By the way, the cardinal rule about never leaving a sunset until it’s well past the sun actually going down is so very important. As the sun disappeared on this night, the high clouds that were hanging around all afternoon suddenly appeared to vanish. I was like “UGH! They were amazing, why did they just go POOF like that? Argh, better drive around and see what else I can find to shoot while I’m here.” Sure enough, I found something that I’m extremely excited to post at a later time, but as I was snapping the shutter I saw the sky. Wow…all the clouds were back and they were on fire.

Obviously they had never left, but the sun going down made them blend in with the sky for a few minutes before they got nailed with that amazing light. Don’t. Give.Up.On.Your.Sunset.

I love the train tracks in this photo more than anything…the way they were shiny enough to reflect the sky was remarkable. Next time though I think I’d like to be further down the tracks, closer to that bridge you see in the distance.

Farewell you blessed train tracks

These train tracks are something special to me. We’re moving on Saturday to downtown Phoenix, which is around 27 miles from this spot in the photo above. I doubt I will be seeing them anytime soon unless next year’s monsoon chasing somehow leads me this way. Or maybe I’ll be on this side of town and swing by, but regardless, it’s no longer going to be a 5-minute drive from my house.

I took the above photo two nights ago as a way of saying farewell to them. I actually hadn’t been by this way in awhile and it felt only right that my last set of bracketing done on this side of town was on these tracks. Man was it a beautiful sunset…sadly the clouds on the horizon blocked a lot of the light and didn’t allow for a nice fiery red sky…but the clouds were unique and appeared to be coming directly from the same horizon as the train tracks. God blessed me that night with a little farewell of his own.

There are two huge reasons why this place is so important to me. Both of them have to do with the photo below.

I had done an HDR photo or two by this point last November, but I don’t think I had a real understanding of what it could do for me or what would look good.  I took a lunch break to drive around and just photograph stuff around my area as a way to learn to open my eyes a little more. I walked out onto these tracks, and for some reason decided to do an HDR of this scene. I believe the thought was that at least train tracks might look cool all HDR-ed up.

But this was shot in the middle of the day. The clouds were barely visible to me with the naked eye. Little did I realize how much the HDR process would showcase the amazing contrails from overhead airplanes that day. I consider this my very first real HDR photo. The few others prior were just practice.

I posted this on Wunderground.com later that day (a weather website where I post all my weather photos, here is my profile there), and the response was overwhelming (you can see all the comments here). It received an Approver’s Choice right away and I was kind of blown away by the love it got. I just hadn’t been expecting it.

I kind of see that moment as an awakening for me. I had photographed something that moved people to say amazing things. It opened my eyes to what was possible within myself to do.  Since then…the sky has been the limit.

The second reason this photo and this spot are so important…it was the first print I ever sold. A woman knew her grandfather would love it hanging in the same room with all his model railroad stuff.

I, of course, agreed *grin*

The cool thing is that no matter how much time goes by between now and when I walk this spot again…they will still be there and the memories always will be.

The train tracks in Nuenen

The day I took this photo was kind of frustrating for me because I left the hotel without my spare camera batteries and instead of just going out to dinner, we went on a little tour of Nuenen. Of course right then my battery decided to die quickly and so I missed the first windmill I saw in Holland and a few other juicy items.

So when we got back, I ran inside, grabbed my stuff, a fresh battery and basically stormed back out, annoyed at myself and determined to get a shot before the sun went down. I had seen these tracks on the way to the hotel and it was just a quick 1/4 mile walk to get to them.

Trains FLY on these tracks and I was kind of nervous standing out there. In fact, if you look at the large version by clicking on the photo, you can see three little lights way off as the tracks disappear. I moved off the tracks pretty fast after this shot and within 30-40 seconds, that thing flew by going at least 80mph. The wind almost knocked me over *grin*

Just a sampling of the kind of railroads you see over here in the Netherlands.

(More shots from Holland: Holland Trip)

Sunset on the ol’ railroad tracks

I’ve taken quite a few photographs from this spot over the last 6 months. It’s amazing to think it’s only about 2 miles from my house (for now, until we move). I rarely try to dip from the same well more than once, but this place is fond to me. And I do try to go there for different reasons when I do.

And as far as I know, they are rarely, if ever, used because I’ve stood there for a long time and never have seen a train.

Last night we had some rainy-ish looking clouds roll through and while there appeared to be stuff falling from them, it seems to be only virga that never hit the ground.

The lines of the rails never goes in the direction of the setting sun, so I sat there praying the virga would be ignited by the final gasps of sunlight, and while I wasn’t completely disappointed, it definitely didn’t pop the way I’d hoped.

Click on the photo for a larger view.

Technobabble: Two, 3-bracket HDRs merged in photoshop.