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One of my favorite spots: Lost Dutchman Road

This scene may not be a stranger to some of you. It most definitely isn’t for me. Since I’ve started seriously chasing storms earlier this year, I’ve probably taken photographs from this spot 10 times? I can’t help it. The road and cliffs stay the same, but the light, the shadows and the clouds always change.

I’ll probably throw something together someday with all the different views of this place over the course of a year.

I photographed this last Monday while out with my daughter. She was in her car seat, watching Toy Story on the DVD player and I was setting up in the middle of the road.  I can’t wait for the day she can go out there with me and appreciate the view from this spot. I hope she enjoys it as much as I do.

This is a six-bracket exposure using my trusty Tamron 17-35mm 2.8, Photomatix, CS5 and other goodies.

Flowers and Storms on Deer Park Lake

You may be wondering where the heck the lake is, but I’m kind of standing in it. At least, that’s where it should be. Sometimes there is water and sometimes not. I think the snow melt earlier in the year floods this place, forms the lake, and then once summer hits…you get fields of gold just like this.

We were driving to Williams for my real job and noticed more and more flowers on the way up…and when we passed this wide open area…I knew we’d come back to it on the way home.

What made it even more awesome of course was the thunderstorms going nuts up there. You know me…something as beautiful as a field of flowers only gets better if you throw in some wicked monsoon clouds!

While this spot may look beautiful…I was getting attacked by mosquitoes and who knows WHAT else. But most of the time when you see a shot you just have to have…the environment doesn’t matter. You’d lay in field of cactus to get that PERFECT shot.

Technical crap: 6-brackets using my Tamron 17.35mm 2.8, Photomatix 4 Beta, CS5 and some masking.

Stormchasing with my buddy Bryan

Nothing is more fun doing by yourself that is even MORE fun if you have someone with you who is just as enthusiastic as you are. I have a healthy obsession with stormchasing. Bryan said one day that he wouldn’t mind joining me sometime…to learn how to take lightning shots, HDR brackets and see some cool stuff.

Well, when I asked him two weeks ago and then showed up at his house, I had no idea how excited he actually was. Not only did he have his camera, tripod and gear all out…he had an extra pair of shoes in case it rained, a poncho, snacks, water and supplies.

Yeah, he was the perfect stormchasing buddy. He even offered to drive half the time and allow me to watch the radar. Awesome.

Now this spot was fab. We had to hike a few hundred feet to the top of this hill, and yes, there were towering powerlines just out of the frame of the shot here…which during a lightning storm isn’t super-wise, but it had an fantastic view of the approaching dark clouds so we didn’t care.

I had gotten the brackets I wanted, but Bryan was still going strong. I stopped here, saw him posed against the sky and setup my tripod real quick. I told him to hold still for a second and then fired off my shutter three times.

Now…I try to keep my language clean. Our pastor will probably read this and shake his head at me…but sometimes you just gotta say what you gotta say. A really bad work day can cause the filter to fade a bit and who knows what’s going to happen at that point.

Well, back to Bryan and my brackets. He didn’t know what I was doing, I told him to hold still, I fired off the shots…and there was really only one thing to say after that.

“You’ve just been HDR-ed…b*tch.”

Why? I dunno, but it made perfect sense to me and Bryan laughed. I’m fairly certain it’s loosely based off of a movie quote that I can’t think of right now. If someone knows it, enlighten me.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you are going to be out stormchasing, photowalking or whatever, it’s nice to have someone with you who’s excitement is almost equal to yours.

Oh, and stay out of range of my wide angle lens when I’m in an HDR kind of mood…you never know if you’re about to get owned and made famous on my blog.

(I use the term ‘famous’ loosely)

The Flat Iron Cliffs after the storm

The credit for this photo goes entirely to my buddy Bryan Cox. If it wasn’t for his insistence that I turn the car around, I’d never have captured it. Yes, as we were driving by, I saw the light, I commented to Bryan how amazing it looked, but we were trying to catch some storms and I just didn’t think we had the time to stop, even for a few minutes.

Finally Bryan says something like, “I’m gonna have to put my foot down here…turn the car around.

This was last Wednesday…Bryan decided to tag along with me as a bunch of storms were rolling into town and the goal was to just be out all afternoon chasing, taking photos and then finishing the day with some nighttime lightning photography. I’m so glad Bryan joined me…we had a blast and saw some fun stuff.

It takes a good friend to be able to tell you to turn the car around like that, and I totally appreciated it.

So this shot contains one of my favorite places in Arizona…the Flat Iron Cliffs of the Lost Dutchman State Park in the Superstition Mountains, seen beyond a small field of Joshua Trees. I almost feel I take too many shots of it because those cliffs are such a gorgeous backdrop to any kind of weather or desert cactus shot, that you can spend an eternity photographing around there.

A big storm had just blown through, so the skies were a smooth, grayish-blue color, but the sun still shined from the west and the light playing off the cliffs was absolutely amazing.

This is an HDR from 6-bracketed tripod shots, tonemapped in Photomatix, polished off in CS5.

Dusty colored monsoon sunset

Sometimes when people process an HDR photo, the colors can get skewed and tweaked so you are looking at an unrealistic interpretation of what the photography actually observed.

Not so here. If you look at the foreground elements…the desert, the grass, the construction vehicles…you can see those colors are fairly accurate. It was just a crazy sky right before the sun went down last night.

We’re not sure what caused it to get this weird, paled burnt color. You can see a little dust storm on the left horizon in this picture, so it didn’t appear to be reflection from that, even though it reminds of that kind of look. I think it was just other clouds, rain and the sun being reflected off the desert or something that created this sort of spooky scene.

Yesterday’s atmosphere was packed with water, so any rain that fell came in buckets. You can see the downpour in the shot above…lots of flash flood warnings all across the state and a few severe thunderstorm warnings as well.

For the locals, this was taken on the southern most part of Kyrene, just as you turn West to head towards the casinos. The direction is towards the San Tan Mountains.

Monsoon sunset from Picacho Peak

A great photographer friend of mine, Matt Granz (see his work here on Flickr), was driving through Phoenix with his family on his way across the country to see relative in Pennsylvania. We had planned to do some monsoon chasing when he got into two and sure enough, the monsoon looked fairly spectacular so we headed out around 4:30pm and Matt got to see a little bit of what the monsoon is about. High winds, dust storms, gorgeous sunsets, awesome clouds…but sadly, no night-time lightning.

We started out in Apache Junction and by 7:30pm we were down at Piacacho Peak, halfway to Tucson. We pulled off the road to snap some photos of the clouds over Tucson, but turned around to see the sun setting behind this beautiful, dying monsoon storm.

Needless to say, we snapped about a bazillion photos of it and I was just happy Matt got to see one of our awesome monsoon sunsets.

Wandering with the Arizona monsoon

One of my goals for this summer was to chase the monsoon around Arizona and essentially create a journal of my travels in a photobook. I have no idea if that will pan out once the monsoon season is over, what it might look like, if it’s silly, whatever.  But part of the plan is to take a few day trips each month out into the Arizona wilderness and follow the storms around as they develop and move towards Phoenix. Wander around if you will, see what I see. Frame the monsoons with the gorgeous Arizona deserts and high country, then finish off the day with some lightning photography.

Well yesterday provided some great vistas for me, but the lightning part never materialized. Two days in a row of storms rolling into town and then dying out, with rare lightning strikes.

Still, I came away with some stuff I’m happy with, this is one of them. This was taken a bit northwest of Saguaro Lake which is northeast of Phoenix along the Bush Highway. A thunderstorm is developing out on the horizon and the high clouds really make for a beautiful sky. I did love how the landscape created an almost curved effect, and the cactus being as tall as it was gives an upward angle to the shot.

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)

Postcard from Bruges, Belgium

By far…by far the place I loved the most on my trip over to the Netherlands, was the drive we took to see Bruges (or Brugge), Belgium. I had heard about it from the movie “In Bruges”, a fantastic, funny, dark comedy that came out a few years ago…and then had some friends tell me I needed to see it if I went there.

The town is old and has medieval architecture. The canals twist around, little bridges go here and there and old trees, paths and stone can be seen everywhere.

This particular shot was taken around 9pm as we were getting ready to leave. The sunsets in this area of the world tend to drag out a long time, so it was nice to have time to see the city in a lovely dusk color.

I was struck by the reflection of the buildings in the water, the details on the left canal wall, the color of the roofs on the right and the simpleness of the few clouds in the sky. I wasn’t carrying my tripod, so this was propped on the railing of another stone bridge to get. Three bracket HDR.

Definitely one of my favorite shots of the trip…because it will always remind me of Bruges. A quiet, peaceful, ancient and awe-inspiring town.

(More shots from Holland: My Holland Trip)

First monsoon storm of the season

Yes, I am a happy camper tonight. When I left last week for Holland, all I heard was how that weekend was going to be a big one for the monsoons in the Phoenix area and I was going to miss out on the start of all the storm fun. Yeah, I know, I was going to the NETHERLANDS, so how could I be bummed about going and missing a few lightning shows?

Well…turns out nothing hit the Phoenix area really until tonight. And I was here to capture it. Luck spins my way one more time.

The shot above is one of my favorites from the night. The right bolt is glowing blue/green at the bottom because it hit an electrical box. You know when this happens because usually the lightning strike disappears but you see a bright explosion of light on the ground basically POP and then go away. The boxes in Phoenix used to be green so the glows could be an awesome green back in the day. I dunno if we still have those or not, maybe in the older areas.

A ton of fun out there tonight, I just sat in one place, two guys in a truck pulled up, whipped out chairs and watched along with me and there was much “ooohhing” and “ahhhhing” going on!