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A salty sunset from Death Valley

A salty sunset
(click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 17mm, f/16, iso 100, 1.6 sec (blend) // buy print)

I’d been dying to go to Death Valley for awhile now. And when I finally got the chance, it was more amazing than I thought it would be. I only wish I had more time to explore. On our trip I kept comparing this place to an amusement park. You’d drive along and there were salt flats. Further the salt flats were taller and jagged, almost like frozen waves. And then there were dunes. And then rocks that slide. And a giant volcanic crater. And Star Wars had parts filmed there.

I mean…it was endless. And we only had two days. So we did what we could.

And by we, I mean my buddy Rick Young and Chris Frailey. Super thankful to have these guys along, we had an awesome time!

The above photo was taken somewhat near Badwater Basin. We have a photographer named Rick to thank for leading us to this spot. We met him the night before at Race Track Playa and he was such an amazing guy…he gave us advice on the cold, where to shoot and then he pointed us in the right direction for the salt flats. We’d have frozen our buns off that first night if he hadn’t warned us ahead of time. And we STILL were friggin’ cold!

We got lucky to have a beautiful sunset for the salt flats, despite my buddy Chris Frailey’s worry that it would be a bust like the night before. These flats were pretty crazy…you honestly feel like you are walking on a frozen landscape, but it’s just crispy salty earth. The patterns they form are incredible and amazing.

I shot a bunch of timelapse sequences during this trip, so I’ll have a short movie out hopefully soon.

The end of the road

End of the Road
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2, f/8, iso 125, 15 sec // buy print)

I love middle of the road shots…but rarely do I get a chance to have lightning bolts striking at the other end! I sat here for a good 15-20 minutes capturing bolt after bolt…and this turned out to be the best of the bunch.

This was back on August 18th out in Buckeye…a night I’ll always remember because of the amount of lightning that I captured in a span of two hours within a 10 square mile area. I barely moved the entire evening.

Over Booker, Texas

Over Booker
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, iso 800, f/8.0, 1/6 // buy print)

The Booker Supercell was undoubtedly ranked either 1 or 2 in my experiences as a storm chaser. My only wish is that we had gotten there a few moments earlier, but I’m pretty sure we saw the storm at it’s best right before it started dying out. Here’s a look at the storm as it was losing strength, finally passing over the town of Booker, Texas. Earlier in the chase we had been north of Booker, watching the storm move to the southeast…and then we raced south into town and blasted east to stay ahead.

This was one of the final moments of the storm before the sun was completely down and dark overtook us.

Sunset over Tempe Town Lake

Sunset over Tempe Town Lake
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, f/5.0, iso 800, 1/160th // buy print)

Life is so busy right now that I rarely get out to take photos unless it’s a wedding or lifestyle session. Let’s just say I’ve seen a ton of great sunsets and sunrises from my house lately.

Even last night I had a photoshoot. So normally I wouldn’t get to take a photo like this, but I happened to be returning from Mesa and the sky went NUCLEAR and I flew to the off-ramp at Scottsdale/Rural, parked in a spot I probably shouldn’t have and ran like an idiot about 500 feet to the water’s edge.

It felt amazing to actually be in a spot with a lake, a reflection of the sky, Tempe and A-Mountain in the background and a gorgeous sunset. Made me realize how much I’m missing just being out in nature capturing awesome skies and beautiful landscapes.

Going to have to go on a road trip soon.

Out of the cloud

Out of the Cloud
(please click to view this image on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 35mm f/1.4 l, iso 160, f/8.0, 15 sec // buy print)

Last season I captured a brief timelapse of a thunderhead building up with lightning illuminating it from the inside. What made it awesome was the moonlight. The moon was almost full and thus the cloud was already visible with the naked eye even though it was well past dark. It made it extra awesome because you could already see the cloud building almost as if it were daytime, and then the lightning as also visibly illuminating the cloud as well.

Since that night I so badly wanted to capture some storms with the moon nearing fullness. And on October 17th, it finally happened.

I was out on Interstate 8 near Gila Bend shooting north when I look behind me and see this line of storms building. What’s so awesome is that normally, without the moonlight, I likely wouldn’t have seen it very well…and maybe missed it entirely. But with that extra light, I could see the cloud plain as day. One section started growing larger, so I aimed that way and waited.

Even more interesting was the fact that this cloud didn’t even seem that big. But boom! Bolts started raining down. Standing there it almost felt like the strikes themselves were just as tall as the cloud. I’ve never captured lightning from a such a small storm before…I couldn’t even believe it produced anything.

Definitely one of my favorite shots from 2013.

A dash of November lightning

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(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 135mm f/2 l, iso 125, f/8.0, 25 sec // buy print)

I’d been hearing about the chance of some rare November thunderstorms since Saturday, but you can never be too sure how that will pan out. To top it off, most of my family hasn’t been feeling well, including me, so when the storms did start popping up around Phoenix, I was almost too tired to even leave the house.

Later after failing near Avondale, I was downtown watching from a parking garage, debating whether or not I head home and get some sleep, because honestly, I wasn’t feeling awesome. Of course I saw a strike to the southeast of town where new cells were on radar, so I overrode whatever my body was telling me and headed towards the storms.

I set-up on the shoulder of Queen Creek just east of I-10, where I’ve been countless times. I grabbed the new Canon 135mm, aimed southeast to frame the Intel plant in the shot and started looking around at other storms off in the distance. I was looking back to the west when a big flashed happened somewhere behind me…but I didn’t know where. I usually pause the camera at that point so I can look back, but I decided to just keep going in case I missed the only strike of the night.

When I was packing up, I quickly scrolled through the images on the camera and BOOM I saw this strike…the only one worth keeping from the night. I had no idea…couldn’t believe I could get a strike like this in November. Amazing power.

Crawlers over the Rincons

Crawlers over the Rincons
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 24mm, f/8, iso 100, 25 sec // purchase print)

I snagged a bunch of fun lightning images way back on July 1st over the Rincon Mountain southeast of Tucson. I had been timelapsing from A-Mountain, but decided to fly southeast when I saw storms moving down from the the northeast.

It was a fantastic spot to be in because the storms just marched right at me for over an hour. The lightning was striking behind the Rincons for awhile, but finally it began to move to my side of the mountain range and the show got better.

This was one of the bolts that night. Rare for me to have one like this…a strike hitting the ground along with giant crawlers across the sky. This was a 25-second exposure, so I don’t remember if this was all a single strike or if they happened at different times during the exposure. But I love seeing the mountains looking kinda small in the lower left of the frame and then how simply massive the crawlers were to stretch across the sky. .

 

A dusty sunset in Buckeye

Dusty sunset in Buckeye
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, rokinon 14mm f/2.8, iso 100, 1/4 sec, f/who knows // buy print)

Nothing is better in photography than happy accidents and unintentional shots you dig. This photo is a big example of that.

As you may know, or not, I love road shots. I want to hunker down just a foot off the road and get an epic photo with a storm in the distance. Just something I enjoy. When you take pictures of storms, it helps to have good foreground elements and roads are usually the easiest thing to come by. But in this case, the road was busy. There was a beautiful sunset happening and a dust storm rolling across the mountains into Buckeye…so of course I wanted the middle of the road. But there were cars coming, so after I set up for a shot, I had to bail before taking a photo.

So I hurried over to the left shoulder, set up the tripod and snapped the shutter anyways. I wanted to get the color in the sky before it was gone. And I ended up loving it because the slow shutter speed added some motion to the truck, which is driving right into the storm.

This was taken back on August 18th in Buckeye along Highway 85. This was the same day an epic haboob rolled through Phoenix and I was way out here shooting a lesser haboob.

Lesser haboob. I love it.

Lightning south of Casa Grande

Lightning over Casa Grande
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 50mm f/1.2 l, iso 125, f/9.0, 25 sec // buy print)

This particular night out near Casa Grande in early July was spectacular. I’ve already posted one image from this general area, this is a second one. Sooo, so many lightning strikes over the course of an hour. Twice this summer I’ve been blessed with storms that moved very little but kept popping out lightning for a long duration.

The lights belong to the city of Casa Grande and the bolts were landing just to the south of it beyond Interstate 8. You can see blowing dust to the right of the bolt as well. I really dig the two little filaments coming out of the cloud in the upper right…because you know they are connected to the main strike, but split way up further in the clouds.

Still have a ton of storm images from the summer to share but we’re starting wedding/family portrait season and things are going to get busy!

A Corona by Moonlight

Moonlight Corona
(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark iii, canon 17-40mm f/4 l, 22mm, iso 1000, f/9, 13 sec)

Something a wee bit different today.

A few weeks ago I was in Florida shooting a wedding and wanted to capture some lightning over the ocean while I was there. It didn’t happen…but this little decaying storm was perfectly silhouetted against the late night moon…it was beautiful.

And I was also wishing for an ice cold Corona for some reason.