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The dust bowl known as Phoenix

(click to view on black!)

I realized tonight that this image somehow never made it to the blog. I posted it on Flickr and Facebook, but I skipped it here because it took place during my OneQuestion series that I ran for the week of July 18th.

So that very same day, the 18th of July, we had our second big dust storm of the monsoon season. As it would turn out, it was just one of the first few in a line of five or six that have taken place this summer.

I’ve heard a lot of people comment on the number of them so far…that it seems more than any other year. I feel like we get dust storms every summer and 5-6 of them seems pretty normal to me. We had that giant one on July 5th, which was decidedly NOT normal, but the rest have just been the regular deal that comes with being part of the Arizona desert for the monsoons. There has also been some late evening ones that no one sees, they don’t come with a lot of strong wind, but you could walk outside at 11pm and notice a haze over the entire city.

It’s definitely had a unique feel to it. Your car…your house…your stuff…feels like it’s always coated in dust. The car wash places out here have reported booming businesses. Craziness.

This image was part of a timelapse that I did back on that same day.  I played with this one a bit, gave it that vintage-y look that I use on a lot of my portrait images, and I kind of liked it. The foreground is pretty dark because the sun was obscured by a huge storm cloud on the right, which still shining over the clouds on the left.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/16,  iso 100, 17mm, 1/15th)

The August 18th, 2011 dust storm

With the massive storms that built up south of town, the dusty outflows formed a beautiful, long wall that gained momentum and pushed its way into the greater Phoenix area last night. I decided to head to the south side of town this time and used Queen Creek’s elevated shoulder near I-10 to get a quickie timelapse of it moving in.

I have to say, all the craze over the July 5th haboob/dust storm was awesome, but I’ve really discovered a love for seeing these things in motion. The way the clouds develop over the top of them, the way the wall of dust itself moves…because it’s sometimes hard to see when you are just standing there.

Had a fun time shooting this last night…a guy who’s car broke down up a few hundred feet borrowed my phone and we talked a little bit about what I was doing. Think someone else gained an appreciation for watching these things roll in since he said he had actually never taken the time to observe one before.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, 290 exposures)

A thing to note about this timelapse. In the beginning portions, the cloud formation on the center-left is actually dropping rain in what we call a “microburst.” This microbrust was right over the San Tan Valley last night and caused all kinds of damage. I didn’t know I caught it until the local Channel 3 meteorologist Royal Norman noticed it in the timelapse this morning.

Microbursts are basically quick downdrafts of rain and wind, sometimes the wind can hit the ground at speeds from 50-100mph and then explode in all directions. Lots of localized damage from storms like this. Below is a sort of “enhanced” still frame of the microburst.

Another Phoenix Haboob – July 18th, 2011

Another big dust storm/haboob just nailed downtown Phoenix. Nothing as epic as the first one, but it was still pretty cool.

I caught it on timelapse again from the same parking garage. I had wanted to bolt further south, but I had run out of time with rush hour traffic, so I just went to the quickest vantage point and turned the camera on. There was a little dust storm first, then the second, larger one rolls in towards the end.

A few things of note for this one.

1. I killed my last remote timer control, so I purchased a Satechi TR-A Timer Remote Control Shutter for Canon and it was HANDS DOWN better than the junk I had before. Never buy the cheap, sub $20 version. Ugh. The connector for the 5D Mark II was just awful.

2. I hang around until the dust hits this time! Got so much crap last time…of course, the dust was pretty thin, and I knew this *grin*

3. I so badly wanted to pan right, but I held my ground.

4. This was an all-manual timelapse this go-round. The harsh light and shadows made this pretty tough to do that way, think I may have been better off in a total auto mode for something like this, but I think it turned out okay.

I love the cars at rush hour just flooding the freeway. You can’t see it, but a plane flies from right to left and almost disappears inside the wall of dust. I saw one wing rise up kind of fast for a second, must have been a fun ride!

Enjoy!

July 18th Downtown Phoenix Haboob - iPhone

The Phoenix Haboob of July 5th, 2011

People have asked how to buy prints of the haboob. You can do so right here: Black & White or Color. If you would like to license the video or images, please contact me via the contact form.

There are really not many words to describe this dust storm, or what we call it here (and they also do in places like the Sahara Desert)…a haboob.

This was a haboob of a lifetime. I’ve lived in Phoenix for my entire 35 years of existence and have never seen anything like this before. It was incredible. I stood on the top of a 4-story parking garage just off 7th street and McDowell and couldn’t believe it. Some dude raced up next to me a bit too late with a video camera. People were snapping photos and posting them EVERYWHERE like madmen, me included.

This is a timelapse of the haboob. I wish I could have lasted five more seconds, but the dust was so thick, daytime turned into night instantaneously.

Below are two images from the haboob, one in color and one in B&W!

The Spreading Anvil

This shot may look somewhat familiar to some of my dedicated readers and followers…at least the bottom half. I posted another photo of this storm last week that mainly focused on the downdraft area of this cloud and the dust storm created from it. The photo above was taken about 5-10 minutes earlier than that one.

One of the most beautiful parts of a monsoon thunderstorm is the eventual spreading anvil as the top grows high enough to hit the fast moving winds in the upper atmosphere. This little storm cell was close enough to me that the wide end of my 17-35mm couldn’t capture the entire thing horizontally, and when I turned it vertical, it still required a panoramic of two positions to get as much as I could. Plus it was kind of moving towards me and to the left of the scene above, so it kept getting bigger and bigger in the viewfinder.

So this is a sort of vertical panoramic stitched together from two HDR photos, both of them made up of five brackets each.

A strong monsoon downdraft

I love seeing a thunderstorm in action. Normally when you are just minding your own business, you just see the clouds move in, maybe some dust blows ahead of them and then the rain/lightning starts.  But rarely do you get to see the origin of all that stuff.

This is the second opportunity I’ve had this summer to see a dust storm forming. The first I posted last week, The Birth of a Monsoon Dust Storm, which was a fun “time lapse” of sorts.  But today’s photo really shows you the raw power of a thunderstorm’s downdraft and what it can do.  You might also consider this a microburst.

I shot this on Saturday afternoon where storms were producing 65mph winds, hail and all kinds of lightning.  Sometimes you can get a downdraft like this and not see the same results, but the storms were fairly severe on this day and so you get to see something kind of cool. The dust you see forming on the edges above looks like it’s just on either side of the storm, but in reality, it was spreading in all angles and just hadn’t picked up any dust yet.

While this is a great way to see how a dust storm begins, it’s nothing like the giant Haboobs we sometimes get where multiple cells like the above storm are all grouped together and producing many downdrafts that join forces to send massive walls of dust headed towards Phoenix.

I rarely do this, but if you have an account on Flickr, maybe you wouldn’t mind favoriting this photo over there? It’s been doing well and I think just a few more comments/faves might get it Explored!