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Chris and Kathryn’s engagement session

Kathryn and Chris explored the Salt River with me…here’s what we found.

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Cholla at sunset

(please click to view image so it fits your screen // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40 f/4 l, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 0.6 sec // buy print)

Way back in very early February I found a neat little hilltop filled with a mess of cholla cactus. The sun was setting, we had a bit of stormy weather going on and I captured some images of the cactus lit up by the final few rays of light that evening. Here’s a look at the other one I posted a few months ago.

This was my favorite from the day. I really dug the contrast of golden sunlight against the dark blue stormy clouds in the background. It’s also kind of amazing to be looking down and have the hilltop shaded, but the cactus still have light on it. Almost like you are observing the very edge of the sunlight disappearing.

Along Bush Highway

I tend to get out of my car a lot when stormchasing. I suppose that part is obvious. Of course, it can also depend on conditions. I may end up driving an hour just to get somewhere before I find the need to take a photo. Or I can stop every two miles along a beautiful stretch of highway and still have an endless supply of scenery to shoot.

Now, because summer isn’t here yet, I use the word “stormchasing” loosely. Mostly I’m just out shooting pictures before/during/after we get anything that involves rain or clouds. So it’s not really chasing anything…other than that next masterpiece of a photo I expect to take.

On this particular instance, I was out of my car along this stretch of Bush Highway because believe it or not, I had spotted some wild horses meandering through the desert. I know they exist, but it’s definitely rare to see them. Without the 70-200mm that I’d love to have someday, my biggest zoom lens right now is my 85mm 1.8. On a full-frame, it’s not awesome, but I slapped it on hoping to get a bit up close to these horses.

I nabbed a few shots, but the ponies were far off and quickly moved on. When I turned back to the car, I saw the road heading off in the distance and thought it might look kind of nifty with the 85 and a wide open aperture.

I used FocalPoint to help accentuate the blur in the foreground and off in the distance, which helped finish off the vision I had in my head when I took the shot. Simple B&W processing.

The thing about racing to the next storm or the next scenic view is that you end up flying past cool stuff. If I hadn’t been stopped to see the horses, I undoubtedly would have not scene the road in the same way I did standing alongside it.

I definitely treasure those moments when I stop and see something I didn’t expect.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/2.0, iso 100, 1/640 sec)

The Book of Eli

Bush Highway Arizona Desert

(newish: click on the image to view in a lightbox)

Last week was a drag for some reason, so it’s hard to believe it’s already Wednesday! And that means it’s time for a Movie Title!

The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. Lots of fun stuff about this film, not the least of which was how it was processed. Stark contrast, fast moving clouds…hyper-details…it felt a lot like a super-processed HDR movie or something. The plot itself is kind of hard to talk about without giving away too much…because sadly I was told awhile before I saw the movie exactly what would happen at the end and it kind of ruined it for me.

I think you get a mixed bag of reviews for this movie. I loved it, thought the ending was great and just enjoyed the entire post-apocalyptic yummyness. Also Mila Kunis was in it…and…well, you can’t do much wrong there.

This image was taken on Sunday morning. I got up around 5am (on a Sunday, yeah, I have problems) and drove way out east of town along Bush Highway. When I shoot weather and clouds, I am huge into contrasting lines in the sky with lines on the ground.  So there was no way I was not going to grab a few shots of this road. I actually didn’t stop for it…I had hopped the railing for another image that will arrive another day.

I usually start out with an idea of what I’m going to do with an image in post, but this sort of “post-apocalyptic” look came about totally by accident and suddenly I knew I wanted to create a bit more of a “hyper contrast” kind of style.

Hopefully it reminds you of the Book of Eli as much as it did me.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/20)

A new year begins

Well…here we go. It’s 2011 and time to forget whatever I did last year, start with a clean slate, try some new things and see where it all goes.

Okay, kind of hard to do if you realize I posted the color version of this photo on Friday, the last day of 2010. Where is the new? There is a reason of course, and I think a good one.

Last year I was inspired by Mitch Dobrowner’s storm photography. His work is absolutely incredible, powerful and spellbinding. He’s naturally become my favorite storm photographer. There is a picture in his Storm section called “Monsoon: Lordsburg, New Mexico, 2010″…there aren’t many words to describe how beautiful that work of art is to me.

The main inspiration I took away from his work is the power of the black and white storm image. After publishing my first stormchasing book last fall, I wanted the next one to be filled with powerful B&W storm photos. I have an incredible love for the style, but it’s hard to break the habit of naturally processing an image in color. Hence the reason I’m posting the above image twice…it’s a reminder to me to not be so focused on something that I forget my goal for this year.

I was prompted by a reader of my blog to do the image in B&W and I was thankful for the prodding. It reminded me of what I forgot I wanted to do. It was like the photowalk we did last Wednesday in downtown Phoenix. The night before I told my wife I was thinking of shooting with nothing but my 50mm 1.4. But once I got there, I had the Tammy 17-35 on there by default and almost forgot my mission until buddy Rick mentioned he was going to use his 50mm a lot. Slapped my forehead and wondered aloud how I could have let the plan slip my mind. Doh!

Same thing with this photo. Because while I enjoyed the one I posted on Friday, this one gives me chills. I would venture to guess this photo could end up being on the cover of the next book and likely a print on my own wall.

I’m excited to see where this year will go as far as stormchasing goes. Of course I have other passions…the urbex stuff is compelling, the portrait work, the weddings…I’m pumped for all of it. But photographing weather will always be in my blood, driving me and compelling me to keep chasing.

Snow storm on the Beeline

Unless you get a nice hail storm during the summer months, it’s really rare to see pure white downpours from storm clouds, hence it was a ton of fun yesterday seeing snow falling all over the desert.

I pulled over to the shoulder on the overpass at the Bush Highway/Beeline Highway intersection. Stood there for about 20 minutes watching this storm move from left to right as it slowly approached the Four Peaks off camera. Once it went by, we took off for the Four Peaks themselves and that’s when I got the image previous to this one.

I had a ton of fun just shooting yesterday, but it was also great to see all these other people pulling off next to me, or in other places…kids, families, everyone, just out looking to see some snow and take pictures. It’s a rare sight to see cars parked alongside roads just to snap a photo of a brief snow shower! Welcome to Arizona!