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Touchdown in Tucson

Touchdown in Tucson
(please click to view on black and so it fits your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 39mm (cropped), iso 200, f/10, 20sec // buy print)

Ahh…south Tucson. This was the first time I’d ever ventured up to A-Mountain and I barely had time to setup before the lightning rained down. I loved being up so high, but was also pretty close to this strike. It was a bit nerve wracking…this was only 39mm (albeit cropped to the left side of the frame), but I felt a weeee bit exposed up there.

The bright line of city lights next to the landing of the bolt is Interstate 10 as it turns and heads off towards New Mexico.

Nothing I enjoy more in a lightning strike than seeing where it lands.

Make sure to click on the photo to see it fit your screen if you happen to be on a smaller monitor.

Con Air

(click image to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, rokinon 14mm 2.8, iso 400, f/8, 1/80th // buy print)

Back in late July on a random storm chase down in Tucson, I ended up close to the Boneyard, so I thought I’d try to frame some of these amazing old airplanes against a monsoon sky. It wasn’t super easy, as every yard has barbed-wire-laced chain link fences surrounding them. I pulled my truck up to about 2 feet away from a fence, got up on top of the roof and shot down into the yard. Was actually kind of interesting because it was like the truck was a moving tripod and I repositioned a few times to get the composition I wanted.

I believe when I was taking the shot, 50% of the motivation was so I could use it for Movie Title Wednesday, haha. Con Air has been a long-time favorite of mine…Malkovich, Buscemi, Cusack…Cage…”Put the bunny…back…in the box.” There is nothing about that movie that isn’t awesome. Great lines, great actors…glorified, over-done action scenes. So good.

These boneyards would be such an amazing place to photograph for a day or two. Endless fun.

 

A couple of bolts over Tucson

(please click to view larger // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 26mm, f/14, iso 100, 4 sec // buy print)

The evening of 8th of August was an extraordinary one up on A-Mountain on the western edge of Tucson. This was the same night with the sunset-rainbow-lightning combination and I actually have 2-3 more shots I will share at some point down the road.

This was when the color was just about gone, so I opted for B&W, which is one of my favorite ways to process lightning photos anyways. You gotta love Tucson with the city lights, but also majestic mountains right on the north and east sides of town. Makes for such an awesome skyline.

The monsoon is on a break now and I’m hoping and praying that we still have a few days left before the winds shift and I don’t get to shoot lightning for another 9 months!

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.

 

Hillside

(please click to view on black and fit your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 200, 8 sec // buy print)

We had some winter storms blown through the state last night, and there was even lightning strikes south of Phoenix in Casa Grande. Needless to say, it got me impatient for the monsoon season to arrive this summer. So I dug up this shot from last July. For those that have a copy of my stormchasing book, you’ve likely already seen it!

It was one of my first experiences shooting lightning down in Tucson and especially the Catalina Mountains. The strikes are just so intense there.

I love this shot. Depending on your monitor and how it’s calibrated…you’ll either see the lower right cactus really well, or not that well. I loved all the layers I got, starting with the Saguaro, then going to the mountain, the strikes, the lower clouds and the flowing ones at the top.

I said it above, but sometimes that text it’s hard to see. These portrait compositions on my blog are HUGE, so click on the image to have it fit your monitor!

The cotton fields

The cotton fields - monsoons arizona

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/125 // buy print)

If you ordered a copy of my Stormchasing Arizona book, or happened to see my Best of 2011, you may have seen this image already.

But it was one of my top five probably from last year’s monsoon season, so I felt like it was owed it’s own blog post. Right?

Am I the only one that believes his images have feelings and would feel shunned if they didn’t get their own blog time? I mean, yes, this one made it into the book, but they all know the blog is the shiznit. The place you want to be. Where the magic happens.

So ANYWAYS, this is from north of Tucson overlooking a huge cotton field. Awesome storm on the horizon dropping rain. Nothing I like more than a wide vista or landscape with a distant rain storm.

There was also a timelapse to go with this.

I humbly apologize to this image for taking so long to give it the honor it so richly deserved. You weren’t forgotten. Just lost in the shuffle. I wont let it happen again.

Stormchasing Arizona 2011 is ready for Pre-Order!

Stormchasing Arizona

I’ve been a writer of sorts for a long time now. Started with a three-year or so stint doing sports writing, then some entertainment jabbering, a lot of personal bits and of course, stories to go along with the work I’m doing in photography. But during all that time, if I ever thought about publishing a book, it was always with the idea of writing some kind of science fiction novel or something like that. In fact, I actually wrote a few chapters.

Yet here I am on volume two of Stormchasing Arizona and that sci-fi story sits waiting for me to re-visit it someday.

The book was finished last Friday, November 4th and now is available for Pre-Order! I’m so totally stoked about this year’s edition, which is filled with over 100 images and 25 more pages than last year’s.

You can see a preview of the book, more details on what’s inside and the way to pre-order by clicking right here or the My Book link at the top of this page!

Thanks so much to everyone involved with making this a possibility!

Leaning

Leaning - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 400, 5 sec // buy print)

The thing about wide angle lenses is that they give you the perception that things are far away. Like these lightning strikes. They probably were a decent distance aways, but I was hanging in there and hanging in there hoping to get a photo with strikes as big as possible. I was ducking down, hunched over as the storm crawled towards me and the lightning going nuts all over.

This was not just a normal thunderstorm…this was a severe warned cell down in Tucson and therefore intense. The clouds that I had just shot off to the left were some of the spookiest I’ve ever seen in Arizona and I’ll post those sometime soon.

The Saguaro on the left…that isn’t the fault of the lens, it was just a leaning cactus.

Probably one of my favorite images from the season. A mean, beautiful looking storm with unusual colors, gorgeous textures, lightning strikes and a well-lit desert foreground to display the awesomeness of Arizona.

A sunset near Tucson

Lightning Sunset in Tucson

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/22, iso 250, 6 sec // buy print)

Saturday was a blast. I left the house early in the afternoon, probably between 12 and 1. I headed south where I knew it was going to be an active day and sure enough…by the time I get down to Picacho Peak, I’m on the first severe warned storm of the day. Not only that, about an hour later, as I’m still chasing it…the cell gets tornado warned.

I never saw a funnel, but I had fun just following the thing, seeing epic lightning striking all around the desert, getting awesome views down into the valley north of Catalina and pretty much just enjoying a relaxing day in the amazing Arizona weather.

The above image was taken on the north side of Tucson right at sunset. Again, for a shot like this, with daylight left and no lightning trigger…cranking the camera to f/22, plus upping the ISO lets you take some longer exposures despite the time of day. And even with that, I had to take about 35 shots to get the perfect strike, plus wait for it to get closer and closer.

I loved the clouds and the way they are kind of like waves in the sky. This storm moving across Tucson had some pretty amazing cloudscapes that I’m not used to seeing in Arizona and I’ll post some of those at a later time.

On another note…Saturday was probably the longest chase I’ve done in Arizona. 375 miles. I was down south in Tucson when the storms started popping up in Phoenix, and dying where I was, so I raced all the way through Phoenix, up the Beeline when things really ended up dead. But I did end up with a single lightning shot from that long trip towards Payson that I’m pretty excited about.

All in all…worth the miles. And I gotta give props to Vera, my 4Runner…she’s been amazing the last few days!


The Hills are Alive

Lightning over the Catalinas

Man. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that sick. Strange abdominal pain. 103 temp. Trip to the ER. Almost 10 days being completely away from the online world. And the whole time with the iPad on my lap re-watching Battlestar Galactica. God bless Netflix.

Happy to report I got through all 76 episodes. And yes, it was awesome as always.

Anyways, despite being sick, it was a nice break from everything. Cleared my head a bit, stopped thinking about what I’m usually obsessed about(photography) and just laid around, soaking up up some time off. Felt good.

Also feels good to be back posting again. This particular image was shot on July 30th down in Tucson over the Catalina Mountains. My buddy Ken Peterson and I left around 1-2pm and spent the day timelapsing and waiting for the sun to go down so we could shoot some lightning.

Witnessing lightning over these mountains is something to behold. I assume the people living down there are used to it, but the sheer power and frequency was amazing.

Normally to get these many strikes in one shot takes a long exposure, maybe one around 30+ seconds. This was only 10 seconds. That’s it. Five strikes. And this is actually cropped a bit, losing another strike that was off camera left.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 100, 10 sec)