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The train tracks in Nuenen

The day I took this photo was kind of frustrating for me because I left the hotel without my spare camera batteries and instead of just going out to dinner, we went on a little tour of Nuenen. Of course right then my battery decided to die quickly and so I missed the first windmill I saw in Holland and a few other juicy items.

So when we got back, I ran inside, grabbed my stuff, a fresh battery and basically stormed back out, annoyed at myself and determined to get a shot before the sun went down. I had seen these tracks on the way to the hotel and it was just a quick 1/4 mile walk to get to them.

Trains FLY on these tracks and I was kind of nervous standing out there. In fact, if you look at the large version by clicking on the photo, you can see three little lights way off as the tracks disappear. I moved off the tracks pretty fast after this shot and within 30-40 seconds, that thing flew by going at least 80mph. The wind almost knocked me over *grin*

Just a sampling of the kind of railroads you see over here in the Netherlands.

(More shots from Holland: Holland Trip)

Insane thunderstorm over Nuenen

So at the facility we’re working at today, I asked this crazy, funny, Dutch guy around noon, “So what, no rain today? Looks pretty nice out!” He responds, “Oh no, bad storm coming, will be here between 5-6pm.” Alright, we’ll see!

Photo above taken at 5:42pm.

Umm, wow, this was probably the coolest looking storm I’ve ever seen. Well, maybe I’m just excited, but as you can see from the photo, there was some serious nastiness headed right for me. The clouds were churning, I saw a small funnel up high in the clouds (probably just a “cold air funnel”, barely anything, but I saw it!), the lightning was all over and then once the storm hit, there was 70mph winds and debris from trees all over the place.

We went out to dinner later and there were some flattened cornfields, a few uprooted trees and broken branches littering the small town of Nuenen.

This shot is a “shakily” held merge of two 3-bracket HDR images. CS5 worked some magic for me here which I may talk about at a later date, but no time for it now.

Suffice to say…it’s hard to believe I was worried about missing the monsoon in Arizona when stuff like this was waiting for me.

I have some more nasty photos I may post later on…but this one took some time and I had to get it out there.

(More Holland photos here: 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!

Storms over the Strawberry Fields

Go figure. I get slightly jealous about Phoenix having an amazing chance of storms last weekend and ME having to go to Holland. Okay, I wasn’t TOO upset, but part of me wished I was there enjoying the first big storms of the year. But it turns out it wasn’t a bad thing to be over here.

They definitely didn’t materialize in Phoenix, but I sure got a dose of them here in Nuenen, Netherlands. First night I was here I was woken up by a thunderstorm, and then today we had two big storms roll through and drop a ton of rain.

This shot was taken about 25 feet from our hotel on the farm next door. That is a giant strawberry field spreading out before you and the puddles came from the rains earlier in the day. Such gorgeous country with the trees and farms around our hotel…simply beautiful.

Also, that’s not my tripod out in the field, it’s some kind of watering sprinkler 🙂

It’s been fairly warm and humid here, but the rains really turned this evening into something amazing. I have a few more storm pictures, this one really turned out well.

(You can see more pictures from Holland by visiting this link: Holland Trip)

Illegal Shadows

That’s me and my shadow perched on the trunk of my car on Thursday night, watching the clouds develop along an outflow boundary. The sun was close to setting and I liked how my shadow looked as it stretched across the road, plus the clouds and the mountains were fairly interesting.

So what’s up with the shadows being illegal (if you read the title)?

Well, where I’m parked is about 10 feet off Gilbert Road, which runs through the Gila River Indian Community for a few miles before it hits State Route 87. While I sat there, a DPS officer went by, then came back, u-turned and drove up behind me.

He informed me that where I was sitting, on my trunk, taking pictures of the clouds and sunset, was an illegal location. I was on Indian land and it was against Federal Law to sit there.

Funny…last year I was out there in the dead of night shooting lightning photos, a DPS guy pulled up, saw what I was doing and informed me that a storm was coming from the south (ya, I already knew that) and I may get a few more shots. Then he drove off. He told me I was fine sitting there.

So back to present day, the guy next informs me that two Gila River RANGERS were on their way to explain this to me in a little more detail. I was like…”Really? Rangers are coming? Because I’m taking pictures of the sunset?”

Yup.

So this giant truck flies up, two bulky guys get out, strut up to me and tell me what’s up. Of course, these guys say I was basically OKAY sitting where I was, but nowhere else. I asked about a few previous photos I took further south of a graffiti-ed bridge we found, and one of them said I would probably get in trouble if they caught me doing that. Ugh, whatever.

Bottom line, they left and I sat around for a little longer, apparently just fine and dandy.

But what is it about photographers that draws this evil eye from law enforcement? Here I am, calmly sitting on my car, with a camera, watching the sky…and next thing I know, I’ve got two police vehicles and three officers talking to me. People passing by must have thought I was doing something PRETTY bad to warrant all that attention.

I’ve read countless stories like this, but it’s starting to happen to me with more frequency. I like what a friend of mine Allison said about a photog she knows…“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

The final gasp

Taken last week when I snapped my previous sunset photo that I did in HDR, I loved this shot with the darkened trees and the final gasp of the sun exploding through the clouds in front of it.

Just another one of those gorgeous sunsets you see all the time during the summer months in Phoenix.

Fluffy clouds over the San Tan Mountains

Something a little different than the standard HDR photos I tend to post here. While HDR is amazing at adding drama to a scene, I still love a good black and white or even a textured photograph. This was shot while out testing my new Tamron 16-35mm f2.8 without a CPL (which I hope to get today in time for Holland!).

What I usually do with shots like this is to use the RAW editor to manipulate the same photo two different ways…one to bring out the sky and clouds, the second to get the foreground just right. Then I blend them in Photoshop. I’m positive I’ve shot this scene before, probably on the same road and from the same spot, so I tried something new with the faded effects and texture overlay.

Definitely feels like the Arizona west I know.

Just another Arizona sunset

At first glance I would expect most people to see this photo and NOT choose Phoenix, Arizona as the location it was taken. You have some farm fields, tall trees, wildflowers and some hay protected by the sun. Definitely not something people naturally picture when it comes to Arizona and our deserts. Ah, but it is.

I photographed this last night about 1.5 miles from my house down in Chandler, which is basically on the southeastern corner of the metropolitan Phoenix area. We’re moving soon to downtown Phoenix and I’m going to miss sights like these on a few miles away. But out here, amidst the new home developments, shopping areas and industrial construction, you still have pockets of farms and agriculture thriving and hanging around. I love it.

The monsoon season hasn’t really nailed Phoenix yet, but the debris clouds have been spectacular and last night’s sunset was full of rays shining through clouds, stretching across the sky. The sunset photo I posted a few days ago ironically also had sunflowers in them, but they are really all over the place right now. I saw them here earlier in the week and knew I wanted to head back for a sunset shot whenever I got the chance.

Technically, this is a hand-held, 3-bracket HDR from Photomatix, CS5, Imagenomic and some Topaz. I Actually processed two HDRs for this, one to get the sky right, one to get the flowers and foreground a little more colorful, and then masked them together in CS5.

I also used a new lens that I purchased off Craigslist…a simple Tamron 17-35 f2.8-4 Di LP SD. The price was cheap and I’ve been wanting to get a nice wide angle for portrait shooting, and one with a decently wide aperture. All the reviews of this lens, plus the sample shots, were fantastic. If anything, it’s an amazing upgrade from my 18-55mm Canon kit lens. I loved the way this shot turned out.

Sunsets, Sunflowers and Cactus

After bailing on the storms, I saw a giant monolith of a mountain jutting from the land way east of Florence. I knew I couldn’t get there, so I tried to get as close as I could…so I took off down a dirt road named East Price. Well, I never got to the mountains as the sun just set too quickly, but it didn’t stop me from pulling the car over on a few occasions and lining up a couple of shots.

A typical Arizona summer sunset right here, with debris clouds from the monsoons creating some spectacular lighting. The special part of this shot I think was the sunflowers in the foreground with the cactus and sky. Interesting all the wild sunflowers growing all over the deserts.

The dark line across the shot are some train tracks that appeared to be too old to carry a train until one came by just before this shot was taken.

And on another note, this earned me an Approver’s Choice over on Wunderground, so very awesome!

The road through the forest

While it may be obvious from my constant babble about weather, storms and lightning, that I LOVE that stuff with passion, there is also something else I enjoy immensely.

The cool pine trees of northern Arizona.

Being a desert-born dude who lives in the Phoenix area almost year round, minus the occasional excursion elsewhere, getting out of that blistering sunshine is of vital importance, especially during the summer. Ever since I was a kid my dad used to take us camping once or twice a summer. People who don’t live in Arizona have no idea that the pine trees are only less than 90 minutes northeast of Phoenix, and if you drive just a little further, you can go from 105 degrees to 75 in just two hours. And at night, the temps drop to the 40’s and lower.

We’re hopefully going camping again this summer, me and a few buddies. The place I always go is the Mongollon Rim, north of Payson, AZ.

This photo, however, was taken about three hours north and west of Phoenix, around the Williams area. I visited back in May and this weekend while cleaning up my hard drives, I found out I hadn’t processed all of the photos I took that day. I cannot lie, I love this shot. The storm clouds add a nice contrast to the green pine trees, and you know me, I always enjoy a nice road in a composition.

I processed this with the usual suspects: Photomatix, CS5, Topaz Adjust, Imagenomic….but with Topaz I used a little more flavor than just a simple contrast adjustment, and I like the effect that I got here.