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Waves in the Desert

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I’m pretty tired right now. I get back in town tomorrow afternoon, but will be back here in Vegas all next week. Long days, focused work…draining. I’ll be a happier man once vacation gets here in mid-May. I can’t wait to see some of our family living in Memphis.

This is another photograph from last Sunday morning’s trip along the Apache Trail in search of those wonderful morning-after-a-storm pictures that I love. The scene has a lot of crazy elements to it, including a solo Saguaro cactus, low-lying foggy clouds hugging the valleys between mountain ranges, snow on the Four Peaks on the left horizon and some absolutely gorgeous clouds creating an ocean-like waves in the sky.

My love for this time of day is growing. Up before dark, headed out somewhere just waiting for the sun to rise…and just exploring the place you are at, looking for something unique and interesting. It’s always an adventure.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16)

Fresh snow on the Four Peaks

Just under a year ago I captured a beautiful, slightly snowy sunset on this mountain range known as the Four Peaks.These mountains are at the 7,000 foot level, so they tend to get a dusting of snow once or twice a year. You just never know when it’s going to happen or how many times. In fact, after the previous one last January, there hasn’t been snow up there until today. Once it melts, it could be another year before it happens again (although I think we’ll see more in the coming weeks).

All that to say…when there is snow up on the peaks, you have to go. I dragged my wife and daughter out of the house around noon today and this shot was taken close to 5pm. Needless to say, no nap for Lyla, a long day for my wife reading magazines, books and watching the snow fall as we drove around. I love them both for putting up with me. It’s so very rare to see snow fall around the Phoenix area and this storm system moving through will be the coldest since 2007. After a morning movie, I could see some storms popping up north of town and it looked like the Beeline Highway would see the most action, plus Four Peaks is in that direction. I wanted to just take a drive and see what we saw…and that resulted in some beautiful clouds, at least five separate snow showers and a boatload of photographs.

The clouds capping the peaks in this image were the last set of snow showers to roll through before it was done for the day. I was running frantically through desert brush, hurdling prickly pears, getting stuck by needles…all to find the perfect composition. The goal of course was to contrast the snowy peaks with the desert floor below and these two Saguaro sentinels proved worth enough to be included in the framing.

I’m pretty sure I saw my Twitter buddy Ted Wendel out there…check out his shot taken probably within minutes of mine.

Storms over the Four Peaks

What I love about Arizona are the unique places that make it obvious where you are. The trademarks or characteristics of this fine state.  In reality, there are probably hundreds of these kinds of places that when you see them in a photograph, you automatically know it’s Arizona.

The Four Peaks is one of those places for me. They’ve always been there. I’ve lived here my whole life and for some reason, it’s comforting to look up and see them. Like four big brothers keeping an eye on Phoenix and the surrounding deserts. They usually get snow on them during the winter at least once or twice, which is one of the other reasons I enjoy looking at them so much. Living in the middle of a hot desert, being able to look up in January and see snow…well…it’s nice.

Come to think of it, back in January I took a picture of the Four Peaks with some snow on them…one of my favorite shots of all-time.

Sadly, I’ve probably not been much closer to them than in this picture, which is a good ways away. Someday I’m driving up there…to the top…to see what I see. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later. Or maybe I’ll wait until that snow returns and make the journey then.

I took this back on July 22nd during one of my “Wanderings with the Monsoon” treks around Arizona.

Sunset on the Four Peaks

My plan on Wednesday was to drive out and get some photos of the snow on the Four Peaks mountain range northeast of Phoenix. You can get a nice view by heading up the Beeline Highway and turning off on the appropriately named Four Peaks Road.

I’ve always wanted to take a great picture of the Four Peaks covered in snow. It happens out here once a year if you’re lucky and the snow disappears quickly.

On this day it was already stormy and rainy out. Jina told me it might be better to wait until Thursday for a clearer day. She was right for a bit, because when I got out there around 3:30, the peaks were entirely covered in clouds. And it didn’t look like it would clear up.

I gave up and drove further up the Beeline, in hopes of finding some other snowy peaks. I found A LOT of good stuff up there, some of which I’ll post tomorrow.

But on my way back, I realized it was clearing a bit. I rushed to the spot I found earlier on Four Peaks Road and setup. The clouds were lifting off the peaks and the sun was starting to set.

I knew if I could get a shot of the peaks lit up orange from the setting sun, it might be the photo of a lifetime for this Arizona native. But the sun was behind clouds and the horizon was barely visible.

I sat there waiting for almost an hour, but the sun finally did peak out from below the clouds and slowly it lit up the hills below the peaks, up the peaks and then finally the peaks themselves and the clouds above.

It only lasted about 5 minutes, but it was the pinnacle of my short photography career up until this point. I don’t know how you get a better chance than this. High clouds over the peaks, lit up from the setting sun. The very tippy tops of the peaks shadowed slightly from the clouds. The snow…the orange-purple light…the clear day…it all added up to something I wont ever forget.

Oh yeah, it’s available to hang on your wall somewhere! Check out the new price guide I posted the other night.