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Wishing you were a wall cloud

Most of you know I went on a stormchasing trip to Nebraska earlier this year. The reason I went was to see stuff like in the picture above. Of course, when you see stuff like that in Oklahoma, Kansas, etc., you run and hide because that’s looking like a fairly monster-sized funnel dropping to the ground.

Ah, but in Phoenix…it’s rarely that. This storm had no rotation, it was just a severe thunderstorm that had the look of something much more evil. I loved it…and was kind of glad it wasn’t a funnel, because it was coming right at me and I didn’t want to move. A glorious storm, right after this it kicked up dust under the funnel area of the cloud and suddenly a wall of dust came flying at me within a few minutes.

I ran to the car before the big dust got there, went home…watched the sky over us get darker…watched my daughter play in her first rain storm, and then we all watched from the doorway as a massive microburst engulfed our neighborhood in wind, rain and spotty hail stones. We received 1.3 inches of rain at my house in about 60 minutes. That’s an insane amount of water.

A fun storm, probably will end up being the pinnacle of the monsoon season at my house and one of the best in a few years.

The Beguinage Convent in Bruges, Belgium

This is the Beguinage Convent located in the middle of Bruges, Belgium. We saw this place on the little tourist map we grabbed and figured it would be an interesting contrast to the cobblestone streets and alleyways we had seen so far.

The first thing you see before entering is that no commercial photography was allowed and no tripods. Which would mean this photo of mine is not for sale. The convent is actually still functioning, which we kind of discovered when we entered into the old church that was on the grounds here.

The nuns inside were all praying aloud, in a sort of musical unison…it was amazing. It definitely caused me to lower my camera, place it behind my back and just listen to the beautiful melody they were creating.

Upon leaving, I felt so moved by this place…these nuns still serving God, allowing us tourists to visit this place, that I ended up feeling protective about it you might say. There were signs about the photography yes, but also about keeping off the grass. The trees are very old poplars, the grass well maintained…I mean, the whole place has buildings dating back to the 13th century. They wanted to keep it from being trampled to death by people.

So I come out of the church, look up and four tourists, all with gigantic Nikon cameras, are trouncing all over the grass, posing for portraits, shooting up into the trees, etc. Now, I don’t care what language you speak: the sign to stay off the grass was universal. Not to mention, as a photographer, I would rather not have idiots giving us a bad name.

I let out a big “Psssst!” (it was incredibly quiet there), and they looked at me, and I motioned them to get off the grass. They got a guilty look and quickly shuffled out onto the sidewalks. They knew they shouldn’t have been there. Tsk tsk.

My buddies I was with kind of laughed at me, but I felt good about helping these sweet old nuns out. I may return and apply for a job as the Beguinage Convent Bouncer. Pretty sure I saw a sign for that job opening somewhere…

Oh yeah, the photo…some dude on Twitter once said they “abhorred” HDR because it sucks all the life out of shadows. Well…okie dokie.

The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and I absolutely loved the way the shadows played on the grass and the path in front of me. The old buildings in the background give it some nice depth as well. And I kind of dig that you can’t see the tops of these huge trees…it definitely adds some scope and height to the photo.

(More photos from my Holland trip)

A windmill near Buitenkaag, Holland

On my bucket list of things to shoot whilst in Holland was a nice looking windmill. Actually, come to think of it, that was probably the only thing I really wanted to come back with. Ironically, it wasn’t until about 24 hours before I had to get on a plane home that I finally was in position to snap a few photographs of these beautiful structures.

Even more lucky is that we just turned off the freeway to look for a place to eat in a small town and ended up next to a place with about 30 windmills scattered over miles. If we hadn’t of turned, I never would have gotten a shot.

You may ask, “Why didn’t you just make an effort to find some?” I dunno really…sometimes I like things to happen more organically. Like I’ve said before…most of the shots that end up being my favorites are those I don’t plan. They just happen.

This windmill was at the end of a long, skinny road that ran for about 1/4 mile. People still live here and operate the thing.  The skies were great this day, lots of puffy, billowing clouds with rain falling in random places.  You can see the grass blowing from left to right in the photo.

Yet another beautiful place in a very beautiful country.

(See more of my Holland photos: Holland Trip)

Boiling storm over Nuenen

This is another shot of the storm from behind my hotel a few nights ago. You can see some brightness to the right which was a wall of rain coming that I ended up having to outrun since I stood there shooting until it was almost too late.

This is a black and white, HDR photo from three handheld brackets. It’s got a looooot of grain. I kind of like it that way and it’s mainly why I decided to go with the B&W styling, but once I removed the color, I liked the scene even more. Getting rid of the grain proved too hard to do without losing the integrity and anger in the clouds. It just smoothed them out too much. I may look into other ways to do it later on when I refine it, but I also honestly don’t mine it looking this way.

Loved getting to see a seriously nasty cloud all the way here in Holland!

Stormchasing: A backlit Nebraska storm

Of all the things I saw during my trip to Nebraska to chase around some storms, this scene was one of the best. I don’t even know if the HDR processing can convey what it looked like in person, but it was breathtaking. The sun back-lighting the falling rain, the scud clouds moving quickly along the surface…the dirt road running into the distance…the grass was blowing, the clouds churning…it was a sight to behold.

Myself and another stormchaser were just standing here, talking, looking in awe and snapping photos. A good guy too, from the town of Ogalalla where I shot the feed mill photo posted yesterday. Love the people in Nebraska, just good, kind folk.

Technically this was just a hand-held, 3-bracket HDR using Photomatix, CS5, Imagenomic and Topaz.

An old Nebraska tree

I love all the bazillion kinds of ways to process photos. You can make something a simple black and white or go crazy with HDR or textures. The possibilities are endless.

I snapped this photo during my stormchasing trip to Nebraska. It’s doubtful that normal person would have realized those puffy, cute clouds would turn into a raging thunderstorm a few hours later, but that’s another topic. While I was there for storms, I couldn’t help stop over and over again to take photos of some of the beautiful Nebraska countryside.

It may be cliche or uncreative of me, but I do so love trees and when they are found isolated in cool settings, I dig that. I loved the bigness of the tree with the rolling prairie grass behind it and the fluffy clouds all around. It was almost a mission of mine on this trip to find scenes like this.

Technically this was processed simply by fading the color, overlaying a texture and applying some additional vignetting.

New look, new beginning

Chances are if you visit this photography site with any consistency, you’ll notice things look a little different today. This redesign has been a long time coming and I was finally motivated last week to get it done.

The old design was great, but I felt it was lacking in simplicity and focus. When you arrived at the frontpage, it was hard to determine just exactly what kind of photography I did. Better yet, I felt it led visitors to believe I only did outdoor, landscape images when in fact I do much more.

I love the new frontpage. The background texture is one I shot at a nearby desert recharge park in Chandler. The images on the slideshow give a quick overview of some of my best work and the style of photography I love. The blurbs at the bottom guide newcomers where they want to go. Moreover, it’s much easier to find a way to contact me on the site.

The information presented on the various pages for portraits, events and prints has been updated. My “about” page rewritten.

Above all, I feel like this is a new beginning for my photography business. Good things are happening around here and I want to stay ahead of the curve.

I appreciate and love all those who support me and my photography…I can’t tell you how blessed I am. Thank you for stopping by. Please take a moment to look around the new site and let me know what you think!

Also, a super special thanks to my amazing wife (of almost 12 years) for helping me put the finishing touches on the site. She helped me decide on the background, proofread my jibberish, twisted and turned them into coherent sentences, and I look much better for it. Simply put, she’s the best thing in my life and I couldn’t do any of this without her. Thank you Jina!

Stormchasing: More stormy skies

This is another photo from the Nebraska plains near the town of Mullen. The shot has an interesting feel to it, partly because of the HDR processing, but also the motion in the tall grasses.

Before this big stormchasing adventure, I hadn’t planned on doing much HDR photography because I figured when you were up close to this stuff, the high winds would really be a disadvantage to taking multiple exposures in rapid succession. Even doing them quickly can’t keep up with 40-50mph winds and clouds that seem to be only hundreds of feet above your head.

Photomatix is pretty good about eliminating ghosting from the movement of objects and stuff across multiple exposures, but I just felt it might be too hard to do here. I think I was wrong about that, hence the reason my series has changed to HDR for my last few posts.

Because of the blur caused by the motion in the grass and the rapidly moving clouds, this picture almost seems like a painting to me. Either way, it’s just another shot from my fun adventure out in Nebraska. Can’t imagine what next year will be like when I chase for 4-5 days.

Stormchasing: Nebraska Roll Cloud

Up until now, none of the photos I’ve posted from my Nebraska stormchasing trip have been in HDR, but I thought I’d try a few and see what happened. I did three-exposures for every shot I took while out there, and it was impossible to take much more than that without an automatic method. The clouds moved so amazingly fast, doing 7-9 exposures wouldn’t work.

I am loving the way a few of them turned out, so I will be posting a couple here and there. This first one is of a giant roll cloud that came racing across the sky to the right edge of this frame. This cloud was moving so incredibly fast, I stood there with my jaw hanging open. The clouds were rushing up and building in front of the thing like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

The Green Arizona Desert

My buddy Jon who was in town with his family this past weekend joined me for a hike of the San Tan Mountains just southeast of the Chandler-Gilbert area. It’s a neat little regional park that I never really paid much attention to until I started getting into photography.

The views were great, but one of the main reason I went out there was to capture the greenery that is now covering much of the desert floor here in Arizona. The incredible amount of rainfall has created greenish tints to all the mountains around town and when you examine them closely, you’ll find newly growing grass, weeds and other vegetation.

Some of these vertical photos might look cool together in a side-by-side display…maybe three frames together, or one wide frame with three spots. I may try to do that myself.

This last photo is just a wide landscape shot of these cliffs on the south area of the San Tan Mountain range. It was too far for us to hike that day, but I plan to get closer eventually.