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Humming by the creek

Early last Sunday morning I met my buddy Ken Peterson up near Table Mesa Road north of Phoenix. We’d had a crazy bit of cold weather move through and the snow level was supposed to be as low as it’s been in a few years.

I think we probably should have gone east of Phoenix into the Superstitions where the snow was a lot closer, but sometimes when you wake up before dark, you just can’t really be too sure!

Besides, I would have missed hanging out with Ken and this beast of a vehicle. I’d never been in a Hummer before so it was a rare treat to go barreling down dirt roads, splashing muddy water all over the windshield and making mincemeat of whatever terrain the desert could throw at us.

We hit this creek that eventually flows into Lake Pleasant. There were two half-submerged trucks in the water (see Ken’s photo here) which was mainly why we made some pretty awesome maneuvers to get down to this spot.

I’ll end up posting some shots of the trucks at some point, but I had so much fun in the Hummer that I wanted to process this for Ken. I can’t imagine ever going off-road without one of these bad boys (or some of the sick vehicles two of my buddies Jesse and John have).

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100)

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)

More storms over the Superstitions

Yesterday was supposed to be a 60% chance of rain in town, but we ended up with only a few afternoon storms to the east of Phoenix and nothing else all night. My little girl and I headed out to the Superstition Mountains after picking her up from the sitter and saw some beautiful clouds to go along with the stunning vistas of those great cliffs and peaks.

This is looking northward from the southern side of Apache Junction. We weaved our way through the housing up there to find a spot devoid of man-made objects to get this shot off. Lyla was busy with Toy Story in the car, which allowed me to setup and get my brackets before moving on to the next location.

Definitely have fallen in love with these mountains…they are just so beautiful and picturesque…it almost feels like a cop-out using them for photos now…it’s almost too easy.

Wandering with the Arizona monsoon

One of my goals for this summer was to chase the monsoon around Arizona and essentially create a journal of my travels in a photobook. I have no idea if that will pan out once the monsoon season is over, what it might look like, if it’s silly, whatever.  But part of the plan is to take a few day trips each month out into the Arizona wilderness and follow the storms around as they develop and move towards Phoenix. Wander around if you will, see what I see. Frame the monsoons with the gorgeous Arizona deserts and high country, then finish off the day with some lightning photography.

Well yesterday provided some great vistas for me, but the lightning part never materialized. Two days in a row of storms rolling into town and then dying out, with rare lightning strikes.

Still, I came away with some stuff I’m happy with, this is one of them. This was taken a bit northwest of Saguaro Lake which is northeast of Phoenix along the Bush Highway. A thunderstorm is developing out on the horizon and the high clouds really make for a beautiful sky. I did love how the landscape created an almost curved effect, and the cactus being as tall as it was gives an upward angle to the shot.

The Flatiron cliffs in black and white

Nothing but Flatiron all week, although I hope you enjoyed the interlude with the alleyway yesterday. There is a slight chance there will be nothing but Flatiron and the Lost Dutchman area next week as I may go hike it again on Saturday *grin*

I loved all the color at Flatiron last week, as you can see from all the photos I’ve posted about it. The flowers were incredible, the yellow tones and hues were rich and everywhere. But I also went out there because the sky had some cool clouds going on from a cold front moving through and everyone knows how much I love photos with awesome fluffy things in the sky.

So during the hike, I see this view. It appeared almost like a scene from Close Encounters to me. A mountain with a cloud centered directly above it. Looked spooky, other-worldly.

Something about it cried out black and white to me, so I changed things up. This is a three-bracket HDR to bring out the details, but converted to a black and white to remove focus from the wildflowers/color and instead point it to the cloud hovering over Flatiron.

Plus when you are out photographing the desert, sometimes black and white just gives you that old western look that feels natural. I adore black and white so much, yet most of what I photograph cries out for colors and tones, so this was a fun little break in the action. Hope you guys like it!

More from the Flatiron Cliffs

Hopefully no one is getting bored with photos from the Flatiron Cliffs in the Lost Dutchman State Park. I for one can’t get enough of looking at the mountains and the color of the flowers flooding the desert floor. It’s up there with some of the most favorite things I’ve photographed in my young little career.

Yesterday I posted a shot that was sort of a square, which made up the shot above and a pan to the left. But from the start I’ve always loved this single shot, with the stairs on the right, the little valley leading up to the cliffs and the clouds…man the clouds are cool.

This is an HDR photo from a single-RAW, something I usually don’t do. I’ve not found it to produce great results all the time, but in this case, I thought it worked.

More wildflowers from Flatiron at Lost Dutchman

On Friday I posted an HDR version of what I saw out at Flatiron on Thursday late afternoon. The HDR is cool, brings out a lot of textures and gives it a really deep feel, but I also love standard photography as well. The colors were so amazing, you really didn’t need to try hard to get a good shot.

If you live in the Phoenix area or close to the Lost Dutchman State Park, I highly suggest you head out there sometime soon before the flowers are gone. They are stunning…simply stunning.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived here in Arizona for my entire 35.2 years of existence and have never made it a point to see the desert wildflowers bloom. I’m so thankful for photography right now for opening my eyes up to the beauty that has always been around me.

Hope you enjoy these.

a few more shots

The Flatiron cliffs of Lost Dutchman

I almost wanted to title this, “Hey Dutchman, I found the gold!”

A somewhat stormy day here in Arizona, awesome clouds everywhere, so I grabbed up my daughter from the babysitter and headed out to the Superstition Mountains and Lost Dutchman state park to take some photos. I’ve been around there a few times, but never have gotten a shot that I really liked.

And then I saw Flatiron and the fields of gold wildflowers surrounding the base of the cliffs. They were everywhere. It was amazing to see. Contrast it with sunlight breaking through stormy cumulus clouds and it made for a dramatic scene.

I’ d like to go back in about a week to really hike the trails that lead to the top. Having my amazing 17-month old daughter along for the ride made going too far difficult, but we did walk quite aways into the flowers. I have more photos I will post at a later time.

Technical crap…two, 3-bracket HDR photos merged into this panoramic. I was going to do more than three brackets, but without the magic promote tool I want someday, the clouds were just moving too fast for anything other than 3 quick shots.

Ah, I can’t help it…here is my daughter picking little flowers amidst a sea of gold.