Posts

Seventh Heaven

Downtown Phoenix Urban Storm Sunset

(new: click to view in a lightbox)

This picture is really dedicated to my wife, whom without I doubt we’d have even been in this spot. We had a nice storm system move through this past weekend and I got up real early on Sunday and spent a few hours driving out in the mountains to get some photos.

Because I’d already been out, I just didn’t think about going out again because I had a lot of stuff to get done. Yet my wife comes home in the late afternoon and says “I can’t believe you aren’t out there with these clouds.

And she was right. I couldn’t believe it either. So around 5pm we packed up Lyla and hit downtown Phoenix.

I’ve been wanting inside this parking garage for a long time now and this was a perfect occasion. The guy at the gate said it would cost me $12 despite no event and not a single soul parked in the garage. I asked what I could do if I just wanted to shoot some photos for an hour. He decided to let me park for free near their office in the garage itself which was awesome.

We took the elevator up to the highest floor…number seven, and as my wife told her mom later that night…I was like a kid in a candy store.

The clouds were just amazing. Stormy, huge, fluffy…floating just above our heads. The entire city was basked in this amazing light when the sun went down. I have to rank it up there with the top three sunsets I’ve witnessed here.

I was a snapping, bracketing fool and we were actually on our way out (because there is only so much you can take seeing your two girls bundled up, looking cold, Lyla with those little eyes saying it’s probably time to go daddy) when I saw this scene. The roof of Chase Field where the Diamondbacks play can be seen on the left, which is kind of amazing because it’s such a huge stadium…the roof still towers above us despite being seven levels up.

The puddle obviously makes the shot, but I also just love this cement landscape that stretches out towards the horizon.

I had a heck of a time processing this one last night, starting over several times and spending at least 2-3 hours on it. I’m kind of a perfectionist now and when I think of something being blown up to 20×30, I realize all the tiny details matter.

Can’t wait to get to a few more sets from this parking garage. I have some nice shots of Chase Field itself so I hope those turn out awesome.

Wow I rambled today! Hope your week is going well!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

Precipice

Stormy Morning Over Phoenix

I feel like I’m running out of titles for blog posts. Part of the problem is I tend to do these things on the fly, without much preparation, so I don’t take a whole lot of time to think about them. I usually just write what’s on my mind when I sit down and finally start typing.

Like today.

On our last few photowalks in downtown Phoenix, I noticed my buddy Rick Young with a headphone stuck in one ear as he wandered around looking for shots. It was interesting and I thought that sounded kind of cool. My car has a CD player in it, but nothing else and I hate listening to my iPod touch over those crappy FM transmitters. So at the end of January on my trip out to the Superstition Mountains, I stuck the iPod in my pocket, plugged in the headphones and went for a drive.

It was amazing what a difference it made. Now when Rick listens to tunes, it’s the Smashing Pumpkins and other bands like that. For me…I like soundtracks. And dark, murky, majestic soundtracks. My playlist consists of a few Battlestar Galactica seasons, The Dark Knight, Crimson Tide, Hunt for Red October, all three Lord of the Rings and the Firefly/Serenty combination.

There have been a few moments since where there will be a track that culminates in some massive revelation…while at the same time I’m cresting some hilltop and see the sun breaking through the clouds up ahead. It’s almost like my own soundtrack while out shooting. And I love it.

All this to say that I will likely be poaching song titles from these albums to help name these blog posts. Although ones like “The Council of Elrond” will be hard pressed to be useful for anything…some of them work well.

Like “Precipice” from season three of Battlestar Galactica. This image was taken up at South Mountain on Saturday morning, overlooking the city below. We had some fun storms roll through, lots of rain and some amazing clouds on Sunday afternoon.

A quick note about the processing of this shot. Brutally tough with the windy conditions…even using the -2 bracket I still have some blur in the shrubs and I’m okay with that. But there is a lot of motion overall in the scene…the cloud swooshing across the sky…so perhaps it works.

Ugly Mug

This is what happens on road trips in lonely hotels…

Artificial light is something that I’m kind of nervous about. There is so much involved with it…umbrellas, softboxes, transmitters, receivers, stobes, speedlites, light metering…it seems overwhelming to me. I’ve learned a decent amount about a one-light off-camera flash setup for doing simple photobooth kind of things at events. My buddy Rick Young helped a lot with that. I am doing that again this weekend at a charity event and this time with my very own Speedlite EX II and Alien Bee transmitters.

I think it was Rick or Ken…but one of them told me to just practice. Photography is fun, and supposed to be fun…so enjoy playing and trying things out.

This is what you get when I practice 🙂

I dragged all my gear to Las Vegas last week, but left the umbrella and light stand at home. Figured I’d find a way to make it all work.

I had the camera on a tripod using a remote trigger. To the right of the picture was a giant mirror, so I decided to setup there and use that as a way to kind of bounce the light to the other side of my face. I held up the flash manually with my right hand, and used a white sock as a diffuser.

Yeah, a sock.

I asked my wife if I should even post this, she said totally. Maybe she hates me, I dunno. I also have no idea what face I’m making…I believe it’s a goofy, exaggerated wink that my wife and I sometimes do back and forth to each other to get the other person to laugh.

Either way, I wanted to have some fun on Friday. Hopefully this doesn’t give you nightmares tonight!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, f/10, iso200, 1/80, speedlite exii off left)

Then the morning comes

Superstition Morning Sunrise Cactus Saguaro Arizona Desert

(Website note: My images are now clickable and displayed in a handy-dandy lightbox. Please check it out, let me know what you think!)

When you are advancing in your career or just going down the path of life, people tell you never to look back…just worry about what’s ahead. What’s coming. No need to relish on mistakes or even past victories…it’s all about the future.

I think photography may be the one place where that advice is completely wrong. I wont even get into the benefits (for me) of seeing where I’ve come from and how I’ve changed, but mainly want to stick to the physical implications of “looking back.”

There is a trail in the middle of the photo above. I ran up it quickly to get in place for the sunrise (in 34 degree weather…brrrr for this desert rat) because there was a nice cactus that you can see up aways AND it had a nice height to overlook the entire area. I spent some time there, I loitered, I got some shots…but then it was time to go because I wanted to look for some new scenes.

As I was leaving down the path, I remembered how often it’s paid dividends in the past…so I turned around. Obviously we all have our own ideas of good composition, but to me this was the one image I would end up taking away from stopping at this location.

Never forget the value of turning around or looking back when shooting sunrises, storms or landscapes.

I don’t know how to describe the mornings here in Arizona…especially the open deserts. I hope this image conveys it to you. As a matter of fact…and it may seem funny considering all the time I spend shooting out there…but this shot and this particular morning kind of restored or rebirthed my love for photography. Not that it had really gone anywhere…but it had been awhile since I’d been out in the middle of the cactus and rocks…shooting the still morning without a soul in sight.

Kind of like coming back to that one book or movie you never get tired of watching. It feels like home.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, iso100)

Junction

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso100)

I’m out in Henderson, Nevada for work this week and of course dragged my gear along with me. I used to hate carrying a lot of crap with me back in the day, but now I take along my personal laptop, camera bag and tripod if I’m gone longer than a day or two. It certainly makes things more difficult, but then again, I’d miss out on stuff like the above image.

I had no idea where I was going yesterday, but I decided to take a drive after getting done at the plant. I headed south on the 515 which turned into the 95 and then took the 93 towards Lake Mead. Not sure what I was looking for…I just knew the sun was going down and I wanted to get a cool picture of something.

I passed by this building off to the left and saw a bunch of broken windows. Bingo. It was close to the road, no fences, so I flipped around and parked at a pullout right by it. Was almost like it was an overlook to view this place (link to it here from Google maps).

Now, there is something about a building being abandoned, windows broken…the oldness, the quiet…that spooks me. I mean, this thing was only a few hundred feet from the road but I still kept looking over my shoulder. I need to get over that.

I slowly explored the area and was amazed to find the door to the above room open. I didn’t have to work hard to slide it all the way which allowed in a bit more light and let me setup the tripod.

The site itself was interesting. It looked like a power generation station but also a small water reservoir storage system. This set of pipes is some kind of junction for the process…I count at least five valves in the picture. I love old, worn, decrepit stuff like this…and I seriously love how the HDR process brings it to life.

I took a few more shots from around the place and will post them at a later time. Below is kind of a quickie image that gives you an idea of what the outside area looked like (posted it on Twitter last night).

The Shadow

There was really only one choice for this week’s Movie Title Wednesday when it came to this picture. I actually don’t remember much about The Shadow other than it was a sort of old 1940’s superher noir kind of film and it had Alec Baldwin.

One scene that did stand out to me was that hidden building on some corner…the lot looked abandoned to anyone walking by, but that was just masking this giant skyscaper. I also remember thinking the Shadow’s powers were kind of cool…but darn it I’m writing this fast on the road and haven’t had time to get the plot refreshed in my mind.

This image was taken during this past weekend’s photowalk in downtown Phoenix. Part of the fun of a photowalk is just observing what’s around you and snapping shots without any prior planning. While I was paused taking a picture of a doorway, I looked over and saw this. In fact, I wasn’t the only one because I was asked by at least two other photogs to FREEZE in place so they could snap a few shots of my shadow.

Cliffs of Insanity

Despite my absolute love for stormchasing, lightning and severe weather…a simple drive out to the Superstition Mountains before dawn when there is only a bit of rainy clouds in the forecast…can be just as beautiful and inspiring.

I love the awesomeness of a lightning storm. The adrenaline when I’m trying to get to a good spot for a tripod setup.

The morning I took this photograph wasn’t like that. It was relaxing. Lazy. Rolling clouds, some rain in the distance…but nothing thrilling or exciting. Yet I ended up having just as much fun as I usually do. I don’t believe I have ever been out on the Apache Trail before as the sun comes up. It was magical.

With a day predicted to have rain, you don’t even know for sure if the drive out there will reward you with a sunrise because the clouds could definitely block out any light. But not on this day. The clouds kind of rolled in after the sun was up…and the light and shadows were magnificent.

On a total side topic…this was my first day out with the 5D Mark II. I only had a 2gb card because the others I ordered hadn’t arrived yet. The RAW size is around 21-25mb, so the card could only hold around 60 images. Since most of the time I shoot six brackets per scene…I only had roughly 10 total shots I could take.

So of course I took my laptop with so I could dump photos to it as the morning progressed. Solution to the problem.

And of course I left the USB cable at home…so I couldn’t do anything. Problem remained.

I have to say…it ended up being an interesting experiment. What brackets were actually not worth keeping in exchange for a new scene I just found? Was the new scene better or worse than what I already had? Was I going to cry because I deleted one road shot for another?

I was a nice exercise in self-control. Usually we just fire off millions of shots during a photowalk or excursion like this (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, I certainly wont stop), but it did teach me to take a bit of pause and make absolutely certain this was a shot I wanted.

ON YET ANOTHER NOTE, check out my guest blog post over on Justin Balog’s blog, Light as Magic! Thanks for asking me Justin to be a part of your Out the Front Door series…was a blast to write!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, iso100, f/10)

Herbiette

If there ever was a Love Bug, it would be Herbiette, this fuchsia colored Volkswagen Beatle that we saw during our Urban Phoenix Photowalk on Saturday morning.

I was worried all week about this photowalk because the weather called for clear skies up until 5am that morning. When I scheduled the thing for that early in the day (6am), part of me is hoping we’ll get some amazing morning colors to shoot in the background of our city shooting. As luck would have it, we were all treated to a beautiful sunrise.

At the same time as our walk, there was an old car show forming at Heritage Square. It wasn’t starting until 9 or 10, but a few beauties arrived by 6:30, including this shiny VW Bug. What a combination of the car color and the sky behind it. The focal point is on the headlight at f/4.0 with the 50mm that I love so much. When I’m shooting in the city, I love getting low with the 50 and finding lines that enhance the depth of  my images. I unfortunately hadn’t shot around Heritage Square before, but it was an awesome place and I’m glad we swung by it on our tour of the downtown Phoenix area.

Speaking of the photowalk…we had a total of 18 people! What a blast too…met a ton of amazing photogs and great people. Some of them, like Trevor Dayley, I’ve become great friends with on Twitter/Facebook, but we had never met in person until Saturday (check out some of his shots here). We also had some portrait photographers who were a little nervous exploring the Phoenix alleyways by themselves, so were pumped to be able to do it with a large army of friends. Some of the guys from our first walk in December, like Rick (his first photo here), Ken, Chris, Ed, Chris and Denver, all showed up again. I also finally met John Stolarski (one of his shots here), who apparently worked at the same AMC theater I did in the 90s…only we missed each other by about a year. Crazy.

I’m thinking our next one will be in March and possibly explore a different area…like historic Glendale. I’ve heard it’s a nice place to shoot and I think I’d like to check it out sometime. There is also an upcoming opportunity at Vulture Mine Ghost Town, so we may schedule that first.

Thanks to everyone who came out on Saturday and braved the early time and cold weather! Hope to see you all again!

Into the light

Morning Sunrise on the Apache Trail

You know me…a hint of weather, a mention of rain…and I can suddenly feel the juices get flowing again. When I go weeks and weeks at a time with nothing but blue, sunny skies…I kind of forget how much I love being out there chasing storms.

Monday was a day off for me…I wanted a nice little three-day weekend before I start my new job today. As amazing luck would have it (or maybe a nice little gift from the man upstairs), we actually had a storm system blow through the state that morning and afternoon. Clear skies today and the rest of the week…clear skies before that…but somehow…storms on Monday…my day off.

I was pumped.

Now, they weren’t storms that I normally love to get after…lightning, towering clouds…but it’s weather alright? I take what I can get!

I decided to get up at the crack of dawn and make my way to the Superstition Mountains before sunrise to see what I would so. It was a beautiful morning…standing outside in 35 degrees, watching the sun rise and light up the morning clouds.

This was actually the last shot of the day…taken around 9am. As it usually happens when I’m out doing this stuff, I didn’t plan this shot, nor stop to get it. I did stop to climb the hill to take some pictures of a forest of Ocotillo cactus, and on my way down I realized how much of the road I could see disappearing into the distance and then the sun started creating awesome rays from behind the clouds.

That’s my favorite part of stormchasing really. Never knowing what you’ll find when you are out there, nor what shots you’ll get. It’s a matter of exploring, looking, observing and getting lucky.

Now we return you to your regularly blue skies…already in progress (ugh).

(exif: 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm,  f/16, iso100)