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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.

The Milky Way over Sedona | YoloZona

Milky Way over Sedona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 5000, f/2.8, 30 sec // buy print)

An epic trip happened this past weekend…a meeting of four photographers who are great friends of mine, all coming here to Arizona, to help me take pictures of a wedding and then shoot the crap out of this state. We created a hashtag for the weekend…#YoloZona.

On Monday morning, after maybe 5 hours of sleep, we all woke up at 3am to shoot some stars out at Courthouse Butte in Sedona. Thanks to some great advice from our buddy in Kansas, Scotty Ackerman, we knew when the Milky Way would rise and roughly where it would be.

I don’t photograph stars very much and when I have, I’ve never seen anything this good. You’d think only 5 minutes south of a town like Sedona that the sky would be saturated from city lights, but thankfully Sedona is super dark at night because of lighting ordinances. Looking up with the naked eye you could clearly see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.

I edited this in Lightroom first for color and shadows, and then used a bit of luminosity masking techniques to make the sky pop a bit more. I’m super stoked with how this image turned out, my only slight regret is that it’s a 30 second exposure which is a tad too long. The stars are streaking just a bit on the edges of the frame. I was at ISO 5000 on the 5D3, which really didn’t give me much noise, so I might have gone higher and done a shorter, 20 second exposure.

Regardless…I love it anyways, and I’m thinking about getting this printed on metal. The stars are amazing and having lived in Phoenix my whole life…I rarely, if ever, see something like this. What an amazing night.

 

 

A foggy day at Multnomah Falls

Foggy Multnomah Falls

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 200, f/10, 131 seconds // buy print)

It’s kind of amazing that you can get to this place in less than 30 minutes from the Portland airport. I’ve never been here, or down “The Gorge” and I have to say, it was utterly amazing. Waterfalls everywhere and such beauty. On my way back to Portland, I looked across the Columbia River to the north shore and saw sheer cliffs with waterfalls crashing down into the river…and it was like something out of Lord of the Rings or some fantasy movie.

Even these falls…Multnomah Falls…with the bridge and the trees, seems like it’s from some dream.

It was a foggy, rainy day. Which probably isn’t out of the norm for this area or Oregon in general. But I think it’s moreso like this in the winter months. Everything was wet. Everywhere. The sky was murky and foggy…the trees sometimes masked in clouds. When I got home and looked at these shots, I knew I wanted to do one in monochrome. It just felt right.

This was a 131 second exposure using a 10-stop filter. I started this in Silver Efex 2 and then took it into Photoshop for some luminosity masking to add more detail. Love how it turned out.

Make sure to click on it for the best effect.

The hand of God

The Hand of God - Oklahoma Panhandle Thunderstorm

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/8.0, 1/400th // buy print)

When we saw this thing explode along the dry line in the Oklahoma panhandle…it was a sight to behold. It’s weird how stormchasing works. You setup in some location, the skies are clear and you wait. Your forecasting buddies have told you that a dry line will be moving eastward, hitting moisture and instability, and somewhere west of Woodward, OK…storms should start firing off in the next hour.

And then boom, clouds go nuts.

I am constantly amazed at how hard it is to predict weather even with all our technology, but at the same time, I marvel at how much we do know.

This storm ended up being the cell that produced that massive anvil in a photo I posted last week. The scene above was about 15-20 minutes before that.

The way the anvil starts spreading at the top right of the cloud reminding me of a giant hand reaching out. And with an angelic light behind it from the sun…who else could it be but God?

The Trees

When I last flew to Oregon, I high-tailed it for Cannon Beach. I was in such a hurry, it’s a surprise that I noticed anything else, but I did. I actually drove past the spot below before turning around and pulling over. Something caught my eye and for some reason I knew I had to go back.

I saw all this moss hanging from the branches…and the sun had come out from the clouds. From my car, it looked pretty amazing. But it was nothing like the view from a little path I found. Backlit, mossy trees…it was like walking in heaven. In the first scene below, all I could think about was a that I wish I had a bride & groom standing down there. I mean, it most likely would end up being one of those shots you only dream about.

So I hope you enjoy a little stroll through some trees I found in Oregon. Processed with VSCO Film.

This last one…such a sweet spot.

Unforgiven

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 l, 17mm, iso 50, f/22, 1/15 // buy print)

If you are new to the blog, I usually reserve Wednesdays for movie themed images…something I like to call Movie Title Wednesdays. Genius right? I’ve been doing this for quite awhile now…in fact, if you click on the tag at the bottom of the page for “movie title series” you can look back at all of them.

This week we’ve got Unforgiven, a Clint Eastwood film that came out my junior year of high school. Crazy long time ago. Probably the fact that I was 17 and a moron, led me to feel like the movie was boring at the time. And then it won an Oscar for Best Picture. I’ve still only seen it that one time. I would love to re-watch it someday and find out why it got that Oscar. Likely due to the fact it was a sick cast of Eastwood, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman I reckon.

So when I finished this image up and was thinking about a movie title, Unforgiven immediately came to mind. This desolate beach landscape on the western shores of the Salton Sea was almost like something out of a nightmare. Crunchy ground, soft in places, the smells of dead fish and fowl filled your nostrils…and then you see all these dead trees that appear to have had their tops sheared off as it from a bomb blast.

Definitely an unforgiving world…and unforgiving landscape.

Reaching for the stars

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 20mm, f/4, iso 5000, 30 sec // buy print)

Since I know you skipped the italics above, PLEASE click on the image to see it fit your monitor with a sexy black border.

One of the more exciting opportunities in Joshua Tree National Park was the chance to shoot some nighttime star shots, including the Milky Way. I’ve never really done that before and have always wanted to give it a shot.

Props again go to my buddy Heath O’Fee for inviting me to meet him out there (along with some other peeps), and also for finding this tree. Sure, we all probably would have found the tree eventually, but like Christopher Columbus, Heath gets the credit.

I’ve posted another shot of this tree from an angle further away, so this was one up close, almost underneath it. In fact, I took this one first…wandered around a bit elsewhere and then saw the second composition that I posted earlier.

This shot wasn’t a solo effort. The entire group of us…Chris DeAngelis, Chris Frailey, Doug Wise, Heath and Rick Young were all shooting this same scene. We had Rick firing off his strobe while we all sat in various spots with different compositions. Was a heck of a fun time yelling at everyone to get their exposures ready so we could FRAKKING take the picture already!

As hella cold it was that night, it was also a ton of fun. Loved hanging with these guys who have all become amazing friends over the last year.

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life - Joshua Tree National Park

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 20mm, f/4, iso 5000, 30 sec // buy print)

It’s funny. We were freezing cold at Joshua Tree National Park when the sun went down, but then the stars came out and none of that mattered.

My buddy Heath O’Fee found this tree. Earlier the lot of us had been right under it, shooting upwards at the stars while someone light-painted the rocks. We were all having so much fun taking pictures of things we normally do not. The night sky. It’s fairly new to me and I want to explore it more.

But then we all kind of dispersed to find our own compositions in and around the rocks. And I found this one. I thought the sky would light up nicely on the horizon because of the far off cities and the sun having gone down earlier. The tree growing between the rocks was pure awesome.

The real treat though…was one of my cohorts doing his own light-painting on the far side of that tree. I decided to take advantage and so I waited for him to take another shot and then I took mine.

No idea who it was, but thank you.

Streets of New York

Streets of New York

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(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35 mm 1.4 l, f/2 iso 100 1/160 // buy print)

When we were in New York back in October, my wife and I took a day to wander the city. We started off in the West Village by grabbing a quiet little breakfast and then wandering down random streets, taking pictures of anything we thought was interesting.

There is something quite beautiful about an empty road. I loved the slight sprinkling of leaves, the bike, the shadows and the trees.

I focused on the manhole cover at f/2 to drop off focus in the background quickly.

Moon

Moonrise - Highway 87

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(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.