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War of the Worlds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec // buy print)

It’s Movie Title Wednesday here on the bloggity blog blog, and this week we have a remake of an old classic, which was an adaption from one of my favorite books of all-time.

War of the Worlds. The recent remake version starred Tom Cruise and was just okay for me. I love those kind of sci-fi, end of the world type disaster films, but they just didn’t do a very good job with it. The original version (at least, I think there are only two, I’m not doing any research here…there might be hundreds, who knows) was considered the “classic”, but all I remember is being disappointed at how different it was from the book.

Now…the actual book was brilliant. Written by H.G. Wells, I read it in high school and I was so sucked into the story, I remember looking over my shoulder a few times while I read it in my bedroom. If you’ve never read the book, then ignore both movies I mention above and go pick up a copy. In fact, I may read it again.

So why did I choose this movie anyways? Well…the lightning above….it reminded me of the Tom Cruise version with the tall, slim robotic tripod alien beings walking over the cities destroying everything around them. In fact, I don’t know how you look at the image above and don’t at least get some impression of a giant, spindly creature towering over Chandler, Arizona. Kind of creeps me out actually.

I have to give some credit for the title of this image to my friend Scott Wood. Not the title itself, but the idea of finding “things” in lightning. Sort of like looking at puffy clouds and seeing a dog, or a car, or whatever. Scott posted an image called The Skater” and it made me realize how much fun it is to look for familiar things in a lightning strike. It’s definitely not always easy.

But this one was a no-brainer.

Speed Limit 55

Speed Limit 55 - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

What a day of stormchasing on Friday! All the way south almost to Tucson, when crazy lightning starts happening, but also a lot of rain and tough shooting conditions. We ended up heading back to Phoenix because newer storms were building west of it and we figured that was easier to intercept than chasing them south of Tucson.

Almost looked like this amazing night would turn out to be a bust because I hadn’t gotten a single lightning photo. Then we got to Phoenix and it was still looking grim. But I noticed a darkness growing over South Mountain and after that that skies opened up and we had lightning to shoot in multiple directions!

I found a dry spot just south of Hunt Highway on Gilbert Road, my old stomping grounds, and just fired away.

I have a few similar shots of lightning hitting beyond this road…but only this one has the speed limit sign lit up from a passing car.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec – buy print)

A Nebraska supercell after dark

Nebraska supercell after dark

(Click to enjoy the storm a little bigger, almost like you were there. Okay, not really)

Whew. It’s around 9am right now and I just landed in Phoenix a bit after 7am after flying out from Oklahoma City this morning. A long trip, I added around 2200 miles to the lovely Hyundai Santa Fe I rented and slept in the car two of the three nights for a total of five hours. I did actually rent a hotel on Tuesday night and it was some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.

The bottom line from the trip was that I didn’t really see what I wanted to see. I was hoping for beautiful, isolated supercells with gorgeous cloud structure. Ehhh…not this time. That’s okay though…I had a blast, got to spend a day with an awesome stormchasing photographer named Shane Kirk that I’d never met in person before and I saw so many beautiful places I’d never seen before.

I have a ton of stories, and a video I’ll be putting together of my few adventures…but right now I’ll talk quickly about the photo above.

The photo above was taken in the NW corner of Nebraska on Monday night. The beautiful storm clouds you see in this shot had just passed over this road from the left side. This was a fairly intense supercell that was tornado warned and had a vortex signature on it. The fun part was I had come down this road doing about 95mph so I could not be slaughtered by the thing. Basically it was akin to walking really slow across some railroad tracks as a massive locomotive comes barreling down at you. The train barely misses you, but you get slammed with all the wind anyways.

As I was coming down the road at one point, I thought I saw stuff blowing across the road up ahead and figured it was a funnel and I was screwed. But it was just some nasty RFD (rear flank downdraft) that rocked my car all over the place.

When I finally got to a safe spot, I turned around and aimed my camera at this cell. It was just gorgeous. The photo can’t do it justice. The thing was flashing non-stop and it was something to behold.

I have a few more lightning shots I may post down the road, but this was one of my favs. The first good shot on a crazy stormchasing trip.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.6, iso 200, 8 sec)

Warp Speed

A few nights ago I declared I was tired of urbex for awhile and wanted to get out and shoot some desert landscapes against the setting sun. I hadn’t been to South Mountain in awhile and didn’t remember much of it, so I dragged along my wife and daughter and we drove up to the top of Summit Road where you can see the entire city. It’s breathtaking. But for me, I didn’t want to just sit there with the hundreds of other people and take a picture that everyone else was taking. So we didn’t even stop at the top and I headed back down, trying to find something to frame the evening sky against.

Only the pull-0ffs were very few, the road very tight. My wife is the one who suddenly pointed out this tiny little turnoff amidst my frustration at not seeing ANYTHING. I stopped, gave her a peck on the cheek saying she was awesome as usual and squatted outside the car to snap off some brackets.

This spot I loved immediately because the road had a sweet S-curve to it and although you can’t see it in this picture, it curls back to the right off in the distance. I also dug the little bit of pink clouds creating some contrasting lines in the sky.

But of course, it was the car that drove by during my bracketing that made this for me. You don’t necessarily plan for stuff like this, but I did want to see if I could get some car lights in the shot. These turned out awesome…almost a warp speed effect with the ghostly image of a car leaving a trail of light behind it.

This made me realize how much I miss the desert. I mean, sure, this spot was just about 30 minutes away or so, but it’s not like where I used to live where it was a half-mile to the wide open spaces. I’ve been so focused on the city and urban environment, it was a nice break to realize that the desert and mountains still hold me captive.

Speed

Downtown Phoenix Freeway Interstate 10

Oh how I longed to live closer to the downtown area so I could explore taking shots like this one. Long exposures over freeways with loads of vehicles. Although, I realized when I look at this that it could basically have been taken on any ol’ freeway with a pedestrian overpass! But I love it because it’s downtown Phoenix!

I also love the movie Speed, which is the name of the film for my weekly Movie Title Wednesday entry. I don’t care how much people hate Keanu Reeves and his acting (or lack of) style…I usually find him entertaining. If I remember correctly, this movie kind of re-birthed Reeves as an action star after being a total dweeb time-traveler in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Speed was such a fun movie, lots of action, intensity, Dennis Hopper and not to mention Sandra Bullock.

“Shoot the hostage!”

Now, this photo has an extra special quality about it because it’s ALSO being used to help advertise the “gallery” I’ll be displaying my prints in for First Friday on November 5th and for the rest of that month. You can see it being used on the frontpage of DayTwelve.org and displayed on the official flyer for the event (click here to see it!).

If you live in the area, I hope you can make the event and check out my work PLUS the other five awesome photographers there, including my buddies Dee Nichols and Rick Young.