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Legends of the Fall

A sea of wheat -

It’s another Movie Title Wednesday around these parts and this one was admittedly kind of hard to match with a film. And if you think, Field of Dreams, already used it. My unwritten rule is to never use the same movie twice, which is getting harder and harder.

Thus today we have Legends of the Fall, it kind of fits this image, although I can’t really tell you much about the movie itself. I usually try to stick to films I love or at least enjoyed, but I don’t remember either way on this one. Brad Pitt before he was Brad Pitt…Aiden Quinn, Madeline Stowe…all that is from memory. And of course, Anthony Hopkins. They lived out on a farm, there was a love triangle I think and yeah, that’s all I remember.

Now…this was another “farmex” image shot this past May, whilst in Kansas, stormchasing non-existent storms. I probably could have forgotten all about the weather and just shot this kind of stuff if I hadn’t been out there for the reason I was. Regardless, as I drove aimlessly through these old farm lands, I was subjected to a feast of abandoned beauties everywhere I looked.

The wind was breezy, which provided some kind of cool motion in the wheat fields that extended out forever in all directions.  I wouldn’t have minded getting a little closer to this old barn, or farm, or house or whatever it was…but it was kind of creepy out there and I also didn’t want to upset the neighbors, not to mention I was actually out chasing weather.

As it was…I kind of liked it from this spot.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/3.5, iso 100, 1/1600 – buy print)

The Hills are Alive

Lightning over the Catalinas

Man. It’s been awhile since I’ve been that sick. Strange abdominal pain. 103 temp. Trip to the ER. Almost 10 days being completely away from the online world. And the whole time with the iPad on my lap re-watching Battlestar Galactica. God bless Netflix.

Happy to report I got through all 76 episodes. And yes, it was awesome as always.

Anyways, despite being sick, it was a nice break from everything. Cleared my head a bit, stopped thinking about what I’m usually obsessed about(photography) and just laid around, soaking up up some time off. Felt good.

Also feels good to be back posting again. This particular image was shot on July 30th down in Tucson over the Catalina Mountains. My buddy Ken Peterson and I left around 1-2pm and spent the day timelapsing and waiting for the sun to go down so we could shoot some lightning.

Witnessing lightning over these mountains is something to behold. I assume the people living down there are used to it, but the sheer power and frequency was amazing.

Normally to get these many strikes in one shot takes a long exposure, maybe one around 30+ seconds. This was only 10 seconds. That’s it. Five strikes. And this is actually cropped a bit, losing another strike that was off camera left.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/7.1, iso 100, 10 sec)

Irrigation

(Click to view with a black background AND so it fits your monitor, unless you have a giant one)

What I love about stormchasing around Arizona is just the random places you find along the way. The farm fields you just happen to be hanging out by for an hour as you watch storms develop over the Catalina Mountains. I never really have plans on where I’m going, I just end up there.

On this day I was with my buddy Ken Peterson and we pulled off to shoot some of the cool clouds, and ended up sitting around at this spot for well over an hour. I shot a timelapse of an awesome downpour on the mountains, so we just hung out for a bit, waiting for the sun to get lower so we could start some lightning shooting.

This was a giant farm area in the middle of the desert, growing some kind of fruit we couldn’t identify. The irrigation canal was so full we couldn’t believe it wasn’t overflowing.

I love lines in my images and this shot was full of them. Powerlines, the canal, the edge of the farm, the road on the left. The main reason I took it was that I liked how it framed the cumulus clouds building off in the distance.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/16, 1/100th)

Timelapse: Monsoon storm rolls into Phoenix

A couple of days ago we had a fairly epic looking storm roll into Phoenix right at sunset. The clouds were just amazing. There was a dust storm. You can see lightning on the left horizon towards the end of this video. The setting sun creating beautiful red tones was awesome. I’ve been torn lately between photographing things like this and doing timelapes, because I really, REALLY love seeing cloud movement afterwards. One of my favorite things in the world are timelapes of storm and cloud motion. Something we just can’t see too well with the naked eye looks so incredible sped up a bit.

That being said, I’m still learning. This particular one was an experiment in using Aperture Priority. I wanted to lock the aperture and ISO, but let the shutter speed vary. Well, turns out while my controller is running, AV mode doesn’t seem to change the SS unless I stopped the controller and started it again. Doh!

I’m figuring all this out as I go. I kind of like it this way. Making mistakes, figuring out why something didn’t work right. Reading up on new things and not being afraid to try them out. Makes me a lot more intelligent about it all instead of just having all the answers right up front.

My goal in all of this was just to have fun and put together a cool video at the end of the storm season with a bunch of monsoon storm clips so people can see how they look out here.

I hope you enjoy this one…despite some of the varying exposures you’ll get. The music is the theme to the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series because I’ve been dying to find a way to use it. The composer of that series, Bear McCreary, is one of my favs. He’s awesome.

Lightning on the 89A

Lightning on the 89A - Sedona, Arizona

(Click to see the image smaller so it fits your screen, or enjoy it on your huge stinking monitor!)

At the start of the year, I had a sort of awakening. I had changed up the way I processed images and discovered the beauty of black and white. It was the work of Mitch Dobrowner that really spoke to me around that time and I vowed to myself that this storm season I’d use a lot less color in my storm photography. Even lightning.

Suddenly it’s the middle of the stormchasing season and I hadn’t done a lick of lightning in B&W. I’ll be honest with you about this. I was kind of scared. I really try hard to be proud and confident of my own vision and processing methods, no matter what people think. But I still hear it and listen when I wish I didn’t.

Some of the lightning I’d posted this summer has gotten nice feedback, but some that jumped out at me were comments like “I love the color” or “My favorite thing about lightning shots is the different colors you get.” Stuff like that.

Believe it or not, it made me do a double-take on a B&W conversion. Plus I tried it a few times and never liked the results.

Fast-forward to this past weekend and a comment I got on 500px from Drew Medlin. He said something along the lines of “you’ve got the lightning, now focus on composition, foreground/background elements…” Yeah, I was a bit bent at first. Sounded a bit too forward to me. So I visited his page.

And realized he knew what he was talking about. His lightning shots were amazing. And they were in black and white. Boom, it brought me screaming back to where I was at the beginning of the year. WHY was I afraid of this? Look at the beauty Drew was showing through his work. It just reassured me that my original vision in January was on target.

I have no problem in this business letting people know where I get the inspiration that changes the way I do things. I think it’s important to acknowledge things like that. The fact is, Drew gave me a kick to the gut and I’m forever grateful for that. Thanks man.

Please check out his website and follow him on 500px.

I ended up dabbling a bit in different processing methods until I got happy with what I ended up with. And I just dig it. I love the starkness and power you get from an image in B&W anyways, now throw in some lightning and it moves me.

Hope all that made some sense. This shot was taken back on the 10th of July up in Sedona, a bit west of town along State Route 89A.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 85mm 1.8, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec)

Sunsets and Strikes

Downtown Phoenix Monsoon Sunset

(click on the images to view in lightbox)

This season of stormchasing has been amazing so far. July is now in the books and yet the stuff I’ve seen already this summer has been just awesome. A lot of that has to do with just BEING out there more than last year, but I feel like there have just been some epic scenes that I’ve been lucky to witness. For example, last night I had planned to stay in town and just shoot lightning if it moved into Phoenix in the evening. Our daughter has been sick and Sunday was pretty rough. Not a lot of sleep for anyone in our little house. So when she finally went to sleep and I saw this massive storm approaching town, I was happy that I was in town and not out chasing in the deserts. Beauty exists everywhere, even in the middle of a giant mess of buildings and asphalt. I visited a new parking garage last night, a taller one with very friendly security guards who were more concerned that I get good shots than caring if I was up there at all! Almost a 360 view of Phoenix from the top, so I’ll probably check it out a few more times. I shot a timelapse of this sunset and will be processing it sometime soon. You’ve got some simply stunning colors, mammatus clouds, and a dust storm on the left horizon. I’m including a bonus lightning shot from last night because I’ve captured so much lightning already this year, there is no way I’ll be able to post them all this summer. Also, you’ll notice it’s in B&W and I plan on writing about that sometime this week. (top image: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/8, iso 100, 1.6sec. bottom: canon 85mm 1.8, f/8.0. iso 200, 20 sec)

Old Man Sunset

The Watcher - Arizona Monsoon Thunderstorms

(Click to watch the storm as God intended…larger, with a dark border)

Scenes like these are the reason why I love chasing and photographing the monsoons here in Arizona.

This was the day before the big haboob arrived in Phoenix. As you can see, dust storms in this state are a normal occurrence during the summer (just nothing so bad as the July 5th one). I was headed south from Phoenix and saw a big wall of dust headed our way, along with a pretty epic looking stormcell. On radar, it was actually headed perfectly towards town.

So I had found this spot the day before and set up here again. I love this old tree. It looks dead, but has green growth on some of the outlying branches. I’ve grown quite fond of it…dubbing it “the old man.” I started running a timelapse and let it go for quiet awhile. I may actually post it sometime soon, but as I am just young in doing these, I moved the camera around a few times, so I need to work a bit on the final product. It’s actually pretty gorgeous how this storm grows, dies and the colors move across it until night falls.

As it stands, a shot like this isn’t super-easy to get. Being able to capture a dying monsoon anvil, complete with awesome sunset colors, PLUS grab a wall of dust moving in front of it…well, it just doesn’t happen much. The only thing that would have made it more rare would be a lightning strike!

Hoping for a few more monsoon sunsets like this before the season ends! Still have a lot of chasing to do.

Bucket List: Downtown Phoenix Lightning

(click to view in lightbox, a much better experience!)

Late last year, after moving to downtown Phoenix, I stumbled upon this special little parking garage when I was trying to capture a beautiful sunset one night. It’s where I shot the haboob video. I’ve been up there a bunch.

But when I first stood there, I knew I wanted to capture lightning over downtown from that very spot. It was a bucket list kind of photo that I just figured would be hard to get.

Turns out it only took a few weeks of monsoon season to make it happen!

Last night was epic. Lightning was exploding everywhere, striking at an insane clip. The only problem was all the rain and finding a good spot. I got a few shots earlier in the evening and was north of town a bit when I saw the lightning alert over south Phoenix.

I dunno how I made it. I was 17 miles away. I had to stop for gas. I only put in five gallons ’cause I was in a hurry. I finally got to the garage after 25 minutes. Didn’t expect any lightning to be still going on. And it had all been north of the garage. When I got there though, it died out. So I ran to the south side, for the shot over the city and within two minutes, lightning started hitting right where I wanted it to.

I definitely let out a loud, echoing yell in this empty parking garage, like I had just won the Super Bowl or something.

(on a side note, I wasn’t up on the top of the structure, I was one floor down, protected from the rain, which was huge)

Some of you who were on Twitter last night will probably remember me bragging about this bucket list shot being a triple-strike. I still have that, but this one hit a few minutes later and I like it the most.

I’ll end up posting the other one at a later date of course.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/8.0, iso 100, 20 sec)

The rainy desert

Storms on Table Mesa - Arizona Monsoon

I love black and white photography. Earlier this year I made a promise to myself that I would endeavor to do a lot more B&W this summer during stormchasing. What’s kind of happened is that I’m really enjoying colors. I’ll try it without any color and will usually end up going back.

This one, however, I really liked with some harsh black and white processing.

Rain falling on the desert, some beautiful textures in the clouds…and a single peak (hard to see) on the left horizon shrouded in light from the sun.

It’s hard to beat capturing the stormy skies of the desert down here in Arizona.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-40mm f/4, iso 100, 17mm, f/18, 1/40sec)

Sideways

Sideways Lightning in Carefree Arizona Monsoon

Last Tuesday I teased about a lightning shot I was going to use for Movie Title Wednesday. Well, after everything that happened that Tuesday  night, I never got a chance to post this. Now that the world is back to it’s normal rotation, I finally have the chance.

Sideways starred Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh. Two middle aged dudes take a tour through wine country and stuff happens. Saw the movie once, I don’t remember the plot too well, but of course I remember loving it. Giamatti is one of my favorite actors and he had a really huge run there for awhile with awesome movie after awesome movie.

Obviously I  chose this film because the title fits absolutely perfectly with the image today.

This was the first time I’ve ever captured sideways lightning in Arizona and it was awesome. There had been one before this that I missed while setting up and a third one AFTER this one that looked almost identical. Would love to know why they were happening a lot in this one spot, but I’ll likely never will.

I do remember a lot of yelling emanating from my immediate vicinity when I saw this thing flash across the sky. I knew I captured it and I knew it would look awesome.

Have been having a lot more fun shooting lightning this year so far…a lot more success in the early going. Tons more season to go. This coming Sunday or Monday is supposedly looking pretty nice for some wicked weather in the A-Z.

(canon 5d mark ii, canon 17-35 F/4L, 17mm, iso 200, 13 sec)