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Prickly Pear

(please click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35 2.8, 17mm, f/20, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

Back in mid-December we had some great cold fronts move through the state leaving snow on the mountains surrounding Phoenix. I must have been out in the Four Peaks and Superstition Mountains area every other night for a week. Trying to capture a sunset…trying to get the snow on the hills.

This was probably one of the more gorgeous sunsets of 2011 that my camera saw. You can see the snowy Four Peaks off on the right horizon, shrouded by clouds.

The foreground is filled with Prickly Pear cacti…and you can see a few of the “leaves” have captured the last rays of the setting sun. In fact, it was kind of a hard shot to get because my own shadow kept getting in the way.

Within about 45 seconds, the light was completely gone. I took this shot right after this other one I posted awhile ago with the giant Saguaro.  An amazing sky that evening.

Before Sunset

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/20, 1/5 // buy print)

Yesterday afternoon I had a  conference call that was scheduled to run to 5:30. I was praying it got over early, because the snow on the Four Peaks was amazing and I knew I had to get out there again for sunset.

As luck would have it, the call ended at 4pm and I was bolting for the door. Camera gear, Lyla…her stuff, her DVD player…all of it. We both flew up the Beeline Highway to meet up with my fellow photogs Chris Frailey and Bryan Snider (see Bryan’s pics from last night right here!). I ran into them on Four Peaks Road, but as we usually try to do when we meet up…we went our own ways so that we all don’t end up with the same images.

I had a feeling these low hanging clouds would just ignite with color when the light hit them right, and sure enough…it was one of those absolutely stunning Arizona sunsets. I was in the truck looking for a great spot when I saw this majestic Saguaro still being hit with light atop this hill. You can even see the spikey yucca on the right getting a bit of light too as the sun was almost level with the hill I was standing on.

And if you can’t immediately see them, the Four Peaks sit on the right horizon, covered in clouds and snow.

I love this area of Arizona and I never get sick of the snowy Peaks. I could shoot them everyday.

 

An evening out at Four Peaks

The last six weeks have been filled with nothing but photoshoots, which has been absolutely amazing and huge for me. I’m so excited about where things are headed .

But it also left little time for me to get out of the house to shoot other things. And I missed that. So on Monday when there were reports of snow on the outlying deserts, I packed up the car, including my daughter, and made a beeline for…well, the Beeline Highway. And the Four Peaks area.

The sky was magnificent of course, the Peaks had snow, the desert was gorgeous and the air was a chilly 40 degrees. It was awesome to just be out in nature again after the six week hiatus.

So here are some shots from the evening. You will likely notice a different feel to these. Recently for my portrait/wedding work, I’ve switched my processing over to a toolset called VSCO Film. I used a few of their presets and combined them with my own tweaks to come up with something I just love. It’s been fantastic for all the photoshoots, I absolutely dig how my images are looking these days.

But I wanted to try that same kind of film style on these desert images. And I love it. Truly. It’s actually created a debate in my head on how I want to do this kind of thing going forward.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy them. I used three lenses for these shots below…the Tammy 17-35 2.8, Canon 35 1.4 and Canon 70-200 2.8.

(click to view these on black if you want, and roll through the slideshow)

The next two were taken using the 35mm 1.4 wide open…and I friggin’ love the subtle depth of field.

Had to include this shot of my daughter…bundled up, playing A-Breaker on the iPhone!

Four Peaks

Evening at Four Peaks

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-200 2.8 is l, 115mm, f/14, iso 100, 0.5 sec // buy print)

It’s been awhile since I posted a landscape or weather photo on the blog, and even longer since I’ve actually been out shooting that stuff.

But an early winter storm woke me up a bit and the reports of snow on the outlying areas of town Monday morning kicked me into gear. I picked up Lyla from the sitter just after 3pm and we made our way towards Horseshoe Lake, where I had seen snow earlier on the news. But it seemed to have mostly melted by the time we made it up to Scottsdale. At the same time, I could see the Four Peaks standing mightily, covered in snow…so we braved rush hour traffic to get all the way to the Beeline Highway.

There were some incredible clouds around before sunset, but sadly they moved off too quickly for me to get into this composition. But we were still left with those gorgeous peaks, a nice dusting of snow and of course, those stoic saguaro cacti.

I’m vowing to drive up to the top of those peaks the next time we get a good winter storm. Never been there, but I’ve heard it’s awesome.

Snow on the Four Peaks

Snow on the Four Peaks Arizona

Back on the very last day of December, I posted a picture of the Four Peaks mountain range fresh after a snow storm hit them. You can see that one below. I didn’t process the one above for awhile after that, but eventually got around to working on it. I’m glad I did because it ended up being kind of cool for me to really see how fast things can change when viewing a landscape.

The top photo occurred exactly 7 minutes and 42 seconds after the one below. I moved spots between the two captures…going lower I believe for the top one.

It’s kind of amazing to see this back on frames instead of what you saw with your eyes. While I  totally witnessed this and knew what was happening…it’s hard to top a before and after pair of images.

Oh, and if I haven’t said it before…man I love Arizona.

(top – exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/14, iso 100) (bottom – exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 100)

Snow on the Four Peaks Arizona

 

Cold Mountain

Arizona Desert Snow Photography

(please click on me, I look better a bit bigger with a nice, dark frame around me – sincerely, the image above)

Sometimes the movies I pick for Movie Title Wednesdays are ones that I absolutely love and would watch a hundred times over. However, on some occasions, I love them mainly because the title fits perfectly with the photo I want to use.

At the same time…you can always be sure I’ve at least SEEN the movie. That is my one rule.

So this week we have Cold Mountain, a film starring Jude Law, Nicole Kidman (pre-plastic) and Renee Zellweger.  The main plot revolves around Law’s character as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War and his trip back home to Cold Mountain. I don’t remember hardly a thing about the plot, but I almost always remember when I liked a movie and this one was pretty good.

You can forget the movie at this point (although I’d love to hear how many of you have seen it and liked it) because the title is really all that matters. This image is one I shot back in late December when we had some crazy snow storms blow through Arizona. Around noon that day I saw some pretty good storms building up the Beeline Highway so I dragged my wife and daughter out there and basically we roamed that area until sunset.

The light was incredible after every wave of storm went by. Such clear, crisp air allowed these amazing views. This was just a shot in the late afternoon after a big storm cell moved through dumping even more snow. I just love the hilltop coated with the white stuff in contrast with the desert below and the dark, menacing clouds in the background.

This kind of black and white processing is something I’ve worked on since the beginning of the year and cannot wait to use during stormchasing season this summer. There is something beautiful about the relationship between stormy weather and black & white. I just love it.

(exif: canon rebel xsi, canon 50mm 1.4, f/20, iso 100)

 

Morning on the Bradshaws

(click to view a little bigger and better in lightbox)

Do you ever have an image where you struggle and struggle with liking it, then hating it, then liking it, then hating it…and…well you get the idea.

I’m sure you do. For those of us blogging on a daily basis, we can’t necessarily post masterpieces every single day. We sometimes have those borderline photographs that we like, but we may not like it enough to actually hit the “publish” button on the blog.

This image is one of those for me. I figured I may as well post it to see what people honestly think. I love it because the scene from this spot up by the Sunset Point rest area was breathtaking in person. It was cold, wet…but the view of the Bradshaw Mountains with the low clouds and fresh snow was mesmerizing. I’ve been wanting to post this one because it felt like the only decent image I came away with that early morning run up north.

But I feel like something is missing…and am not sure what. It could just be the sort of bluish mono-tone the morning had…so the colors aren’t vibrant or striking. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but even if it did, the clouds were too thick to let any real light through.

I don’t usually ask for critiques, but if you got ’em, let me hear ’em.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/8, iso 100, 17mm)

Waves in the Desert

(click to view with a dark border and sized to fit your monitor/resolution)

I’m pretty tired right now. I get back in town tomorrow afternoon, but will be back here in Vegas all next week. Long days, focused work…draining. I’ll be a happier man once vacation gets here in mid-May. I can’t wait to see some of our family living in Memphis.

This is another photograph from last Sunday morning’s trip along the Apache Trail in search of those wonderful morning-after-a-storm pictures that I love. The scene has a lot of crazy elements to it, including a solo Saguaro cactus, low-lying foggy clouds hugging the valleys between mountain ranges, snow on the Four Peaks on the left horizon and some absolutely gorgeous clouds creating an ocean-like waves in the sky.

My love for this time of day is growing. Up before dark, headed out somewhere just waiting for the sun to rise…and just exploring the place you are at, looking for something unique and interesting. It’s always an adventure.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/16)

Sticks and Snow

Desert Storm Arizona Dead Tree Snow Weather

Lately the blog has been returning to more and more of my usual landscape and storm shots. We’ve had quite a few nice winter storms since December and it’s reignited my passion for this stuff. I was out last weekend a few times, and this weekend I went out Sunday morning to chase after some high desert snow, but it was a lot higher than I was hoping.

This image is from back in late December when we had daytime highs of around 36 degrees and some fun snow storms along the Beeline Highway.

One thing that helps your landscape or storm images is to have something interesting in the foreground. I can’t tell you how often that is a struggle for me. Not because the desert is devoid of interesting things, but mostly you worry about boring people to death with yet another shot of a Saguaro cactus with a storm in the background.

So when I’m out there running around, I do my best to mix things up. Find something else that will make a key element to the photo that people don’t normally get to see. That’s been a fun goal for me lately and has made me think twice about a lot of photos I might take.

Do I really need that scene? Is it a whole lot different than one I’ve shot in the past?

I loved this gnarled old tree skeleton. I’m not sure what it was when it was alive, but it was beautiful in death. The sun was lighting it up nicely against the dark, stormy clouds off in the distance. Really dug the contrast.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm, 17mm, f/20, iso 100)

Two spikey peas in a pod

Desert Snow Storm Arizona Cactus Yucca

I’ve been having a ton of fun this fall/winter playing around with urban exploration, processing grungy images and discovering my love for shooting in downtown Phoenix.

But I absolutely miss the summer storms. Big time. I feel like I’ve learned something about the  kind of photography I want to produce when it comes to weather images and now I’m anxious to see that vision come alive in the upcoming monsoon season.

I love this picture. It was shot during the cold weather that brought some snow storms to the deserts in late December. One of my favorite moments in weather is after a storm leaves. Lots of times you get awesome light, clear, crisp air and an amazing contrast between the storm leaving and what you see in front of you. This image is no exception. As the storm exits to the right of the image, you can see the darkness still alive in it. But here where we stand…beautiful sunlight casting long shadows…and a crisp, vibrant air that gives us an amazing clarity all the way to the snowy peaks on the horizon.

There is one negative to this image: It only increases my craving to get back out there. And summer is still a long ways off.

(exif: rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, f/20, iso100)