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A little Colorado mothership

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, iso 200, f/8, 1/250th // buy print)

When it comes to stormchasing, one thing that Arizona lacks 95% of the time is iconic storm structures from supercells. Don’t get me wrong…they are beautiful and fun to photograph. But in Arizona, our storms tend to build up, drop a ton of rain and lightning, and then die out. If you don’t know what a supercell is…sometimes a storm cell is so intense and powerful, that it almost becomes it own entity. It’s rotating, pulling in gobs of moisture…and most of all, it moves across the land like a low-flying spaceship.

Which is why every spring/early summer I try to get out into the central plains to chase these unique storms, because the structures are just so amazing.

This past Saturday I flew to Denver along with a couple of buddies…Matt Granz and Andy Hoeland. We had a whirlwind two-day adventure which saw us drive almost 1500 miles across three states. We started on Saturday in Colorado where severe storms were set to explode over the eastern portions of the state.

We got lucky enough to see the storm above. We waited patiently for it to get closer to us, because the roads out there were a bit scarce. It was overcast and a bit gloomy, so it took a bit of time, but finally the cell we were watching on radar emerged from the dark and we got a good view of it. You can see in the center portion of the image…clouds that look like striations from right to left, going upwards. That indicates rotation in the storm. Also, below those striations is a low hanging cloud…probably just the base, but I think there is a little wall cloud in there too. Hard to tell.

For me…this was the kind of thing I have been trying to photograph. It wasn’t monstrous or epic…but it was fun to watch. I also have a timelapse of this entire scene…so stay tuned for that. You’ll get to see the rotation I’m talking about, and also how the cloud kind of flies low across the ground.

In the upcoming months I’ll be showing more images from this day and the next!

 

A storm on Picacho Road

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16, 1/25 // buy print)

Yes, it’s Wednesday, and yes, I usually do a movie title…but I have run dry on films that work with roads and storms.  If you got one, throw it at me, but otherwise, I’m going with a more SEO friendly one!

This was one of my favorite storm images from last year. If you bought my book, you’ve seen it already, but I never posted it online. You can see up ahead a major downpour of rain and hail going on over the distant mountain. And if you look at the cloud base, you can see what appears to be a lowering or small wall cloud. I know for a fact this cell was severe warned and had rotation on it, so it very well could have been a wall cloud. You can see a timelapse I made of this storm, plus see a funnel cloud by clicking here.

I post it today in anticipation of my annual stormchasing trip to the Central Plains which will take place starting Saturday. I’m beyond excited to finally have it here and set in stone. I’m going with a couple of buddies and it would be epic fun. Matt Granz is a fantastic photographer and I can’t wait to shoot with him again. And Andy Hoeland is a few steps below a meteorologist and nothing can be better than having one of those right in the car with you.

Hoping to come back with at least a handful of awesome storm pictures and perhaps a lot more than that. We’re kind of throwing luck to the wind and praying it lands our way. There isn’t a severe event showing up yet, but we definitely know storms are in the forecast.

 

My 2011 stormchasing trip in 7 minutes

(To view this video in HD, click right here to go to Vimeo…a lot better quality.

I had a different post set for today, but the clouds this morning and the humid-ish area has me excited for the monsoon season here in Arizona which could make an appearance as early as tomorrow!

I finally finished working on the video from my stormchasing trip back on May 9-11. Most of the video I shot was kind of boring since the a lot of the trip turned out to be a bust, but I put together the best clips I had. I think you’ll enjoy the lightning show the most…the second clip is pretty incredible in terms of the non-stop nature of the flashes. I apologize for my silly voiceovers!

All the video was shot with the 5D Mark II and I have to say, it was awesome. Next year when I do this though, I’ll bring along a 70-200mm. Being able to zoom around like that would have been nice, especially for some of the distant lightning.

Below are two images I captured along the way. The first one has a radio/cell/TV (whatever) antenna in it and I’ve always wanted to get a good lightning shot with one of these in the frame. Not the best lightning, but still fun!

The second one was shot after the final lightning clip in the video. As I’ve said before, I love up-close lightning that fills the frame, but there is something cool about seeing the entire cloud from far away.

Vegas Baby…Vegas

As many of you may know about me, I love to shoot the weather with the best composition I can come up with in whatever situation arises…however, sometimes all you can do is run up to the top of a parking garage and snap photos of a monster storm and not care about anything else.

I was in Vegas two weeks ago during some good stormy weather, driving back to the airport with a colleague from another company, and I can’t even tell you how badly I wanted to pull the car over. I didn’t have a tripod or lightning trigger, but I would have done anything to get into a better position to shoot this thing.

However, as it ended up…this vantage point was awesome. I was lucky enough to have some time before my flight, so I got to the sixth floor of the employee parking garage (I guess) and was somehow not harassed by any security guards. Maybe it was the lack of a tripod, who knows.

Awesome storm though…and I couldn’t decide between two images I made from it. The top is an HDR from 3-railing-propped brackets…and the bottom is a single bracket with some processing done to it.

(BTW, if you don’t know where the quote “Vegas baby…Vegas” comes from, please go rent Swingers 🙂

Storms on Interstate 8

Ah…the first week in October will go down in my very own history books as the most awesome weather event of 2010. Storm after storm, organized systems, training…cloud structures I don’t get to see much out here…just fantastic fun.

This is one of the first images I captured from that week. Around mid-day I noticed a storm building up down on the Arizona-Mexico border that was moving north. About an hour later it hadn’t died out at all, it just kept moving towards Interstate 8. You don’t see that much out here…usually storms build, die and the outflows created by rain and wind form new storms. This was an organized cell moving steadily in one direction. The kind of thing you see in the midwest. I closed up shop and raced south.

I shot this about 20 or some odd miles west of the I-8/SR 84 interchange. And yes, after a few minutes of shooting from here, I headed inside that thing. A lot of those photos can be seen in my blog post last week with all the random storm images.

To the left of this shot more storms would end up building from the south creating one heck of a day of weather. I plan on posting another collage of storm photos perhaps later today or sometime this week.

Power

In my head I see the word “power” represented three times in this image. I shot this a few weeks back during the severe storms we were having here in Arizona. My buddy Bryan was with me at this spot and we were just marveling over the thundering clouds, the speed of their movement and the sun exploding with rays everywhere.

I made several attempts to process this photo with HDR, but it never looked right and I ended up coming back to this version a few times.

So can you see the three forms of power in the photo yet?

Obviously, the powerlines right? I mean, that’s obvious. I love them in this shot. You’d figured with this awesome set of sunrays and a massive thunderstorm, you wouldn’t want anything in front of that scene. I dunno, it works here for me. The powerlines kind of disappear to the horizon and it brings a little depth to the photo.

Second form of power is the sun. Duh…probably the most powerful form of energy for many, many light years. I mean, just look at it.

The last one is the storm itself. It was building so fast and moving at a 50mph+ clip…you could just sense the raw power contained inside it. These storms packed high winds and damaging hail. Not something you normally see in these parts.

Definitely ended up being one of the best storm chasing days for me ever in Arizona.

Signs

Well, it’s another Movie Title Wednesday and this time it may be more subtle than most, but there is a quick story behind it. Super quick.

“Hey wife, what do you think of this photo?”

“I like the signs.”

“There are signs? Oh yeah…wait a second…”

And thus we now have a title for the picture.  I love it when a plan comes together.

Signs was one of my more favorite M. Night films, and it was probably one of his last good ones. It had some great music, spooky moments and a cool ending where everything tied up nice and neat.

“Swing away Merrill…swing away.”

Nothing beats Sixth Sense and Unbreakable though in my eyes when it comes to M. Night movies.

So linking this image to Signs isn’t exactly obvious, but I like it anyways. It definitely has that dark, scary thing going on. And you can’t argue with my wife…it does indeed have signs in it. I shot this up at Sunset Point last week during the tornado insanity here in Arizona. I had driven north at 8am hoping to catch my first shot of a twister, but ended up sitting here for a bit before heading back to work. Pulled off on the right side of Interstate 17 and walked out into the scrub a bit. I’m sure I’m going to get a ticket one of these days for parking on the edge of a major highway.

On the way back home I did get a photo of a small funnel cloud though and will post those later this week more than likely.

October Monsoon Storm Photos: Part 1

Two weeks ago Arizona was lambasted with severe weather over the course of 2-3 days. Heavy rains, hail, dented cars, tornadoes, damage to homes and property. None of that happened to me, but I certainly enjoyed chasing it all!

The first two photos are from the 4th of October where we just had some heavy rains, nothing too horrible. But after that the fun really began.

I mentioned this before on another post, but I love weather photos in general and sometimes I just like to remember a scene regardless of where I was standing or what kind of crappy composition I had going on. I process them afterwards to highlight the clouds and storminess, but for the most part, I don’t share these with intentions of selling them. Sure, if you want to buy one PLEASE do, but otherwise, these are all for fun (even if 1-2 might make it on my coming soon photobook).

The next few below were taken on October 5th along Interstate 8 between Gila Bend and Casa Grande. Some massive storms, some of them supercell in nature, were raining heck down on the freeway and I raced there to capture some of the madness.

The next few below look like wall clouds from a supercell and they MAY or MAY NOT have been that…I was so consumed at the time with my lightning trigger I totally forgot to look for rotation. That’s how much of an Arizona boy I am…pathetic if you ask me.

I LOVE these shots…menacing, dark, spooky…and the third one actually has a lightning strike in it captured with the trigger!

This next one was heading back towards Maricopa…a spectacular hail/rain storm.

This one below is just east of Queen Creek and I-10.

The last two are along highway 587 and I shot them with my buddy Bryan, the only person I know who will actually join me stormchasing and be as excited as I am.

The structure on this last one was awesome. A slight tint of blue inside that storm indicating hail.

Ocotillo Wall Cloud

This is the second image in what will end up being many, many photos from the recent severe weather in Arizona. These storms were much more Midwest-like than anything we’re used to, especially up in northern Arizona where they now have confirmed six tornadoes touched down in a matter of 12 hours.

The title of this photo calls that low hanging, dark area a wall cloud. I don’t necessarily remember seeing a ton of rotation in the thing, but then again, I had my lightning trigger out and was focused on trying to capture that stuff. I was barely paying attention to anything else but the bolts hitting towards those mountains…until I realized how awesome the cloud looked and how green and brilliant this Ocotillo cactus was. A perfect frame for a desert storm.

For those living here, I photographed this down on Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend.

Dumbo

Sometimes you look at a photo and the title of it just hits you. I knew this was the one for today’s Movie Title Wednesday ongoing series! If you can’t spot Dumbo in the photo, I don’t know if anyone can help you *grin*

This is basically right out of my RAW editor with some processing done to the contrast and RGB coloring. I love to take time to compose shots, set down the tripod, grab a bunch of brackets and then spend a few hours processing that shot. However, I also just LOVE random photos of clouds and storm structures, and this is one of those shots. Just something unique you might not see everyday.

In fact, my buddy Bryan was with me and we were both in awe of this cloud…because while the camera can’t capture it, in real life, it was flying from right to left and you could see the “trunk” form withing seconds and just spin upwards. In reality, I think it was just an outflow from the storm churning up clouds as it flew by. The last time I saw clouds move and form like that was in Nebraska earlier this year, and Bryan hadn’t ever seen it happen like that. These were definitely storms you don’t see much of around Arizona.