Posts

Forrest Gump

(Click to see the spooky house larger in all its spookiness. Looks better with a nice, dark border)

For any new readers, it’s Movie Title Wednesday on my blog, where I try to link a photograph I take to a movie I’ve seen…and enjoyed.

Definitely up there in my Top 10 All-Time Movie list is Forrest Gump. Heck, it’s impact on our culture was big enough to warrant an actual sign on the highway that Forrest Gump “ran” on during the movie (see Kristi’s photo). It was a movie where I felt like I kind of sat there with my mouth open at times, completely sucked into the story that was unfolding before me. I think the first time I saw it was at the same time that a new theatrical sound system had been released and I just remember the auditorium rocking with all the big moments.

If you haven’t seen the film, I would be shocked. But if you really haven’t, go check it out…Tom Hanks is amazing, the writing, the acting, the story…it’s brilliant.

I was a bit curious when writing this up on how many people would know the way this relates to Forrest Gump without me connecting the dots. Take a guess and then read on.

If you recall, Jenny was abused as a child by her drunk father and years later returned to her old home…an old house on a farm completely falling apart. She starts throwing rocks at it and afterwards Forrest has it bulldozed to the ground.

It was always an important scene in the film and it’s one of the first things I thought of when I passed this abandoned farm house out in Kansas last week. I knew right away that I’d process it in a creepy way to really bring home that scene in the film and how it might have looked to Jenny standing there so many years later.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 27mm, iso 100, f/16)

A Kansas sunset

A sunset in a wheat field in kansas

(Click on the image for a larger-than-normal view…also makes the wheat field a bit more visible)

There was something special about this sunset. I don’t know what it was, but when I was crouching down in front of this wheat field, I was in awe. Here I was, in western Kansas, in a place I’d never been before, in the middle of nowhere, not a sound but chirping birds, not a car to be seen…witnessing something beautiful.

The irony is that this was our last gasp for a storm on Wednesday before it was time for me to go. My buddy Shane and I had seen these things popup out of nowhere, so we turned the car around, drove up this highway and waited. After the sun went down, these clouds got closer and closer…and even though we knew deep down inside that there was a 1% chance we’d get a storm from these…we watched until the bitter end.

Despite the symbol of failure this final chance gave us…it was also incredibly moving. The little journey I went on somehow led me to this place to see this thing.

I’m glad I have some images like these to look back on. Most of you know how disappointed I was afterwards when I didn’t go out there to get what I wanted.

But perhaps I got what I was supposed to get?

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/16, iso 100, 1/20th)

An old Kansas grain silo

Old grain silo in Kansas

(Click to see a bit larger with a nice dark border)

When you go on a three-day stormchasing trip, you tend to get focused on one thing: storms. I think that’s obvious enough. You usually have a ton of driving to do on an excursion like this so there isn’t always a lot of time to spend dilly-dallying as my mom would say.

The fact that this isn’t a storm photo should tell you something. The three-day trip was kind of a huge bust for me. The storms just didn’t happen like they were supposed to and I’m having a rough time dealing with that today. Tons of driving…money…time away from family. I had amazingly high expectations for myself and I basically came away with nothing I had hoped to capture before leaving.

I’m not writing this for people to feel sorry for me. In fact, while I am on the verge of real sadness over this (probably the tiredness is playing a big part too), I see it as a positive for myself. It’s a re-assurance of my passion for photography in general. Feeling this much disappointment over something as silly sounding as stormchasing kind of validates it all for me.

So today’s image is a grain silo that was abandoned in the middle of western Kansas. Because when life gives you blue skies instead of supercells, you try to shoot something else.  With a lot of time on my hands with no weather to photograph, I shot a lot of what I’m dubbing “FarmEx” instead of the normal “UrbEx.”

I definitely wouldn’t drive 2200 miles and spend gobs of money to see a bunch of abandoned farm houses and barns…but I’ll tell you what: Kansas is full of that kind of stuff and you could go nuts shooting out there.

(exif info: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/14, iso 100, 1/160 sec)

A Nebraska supercell after dark

Nebraska supercell after dark

(Click to enjoy the storm a little bigger, almost like you were there. Okay, not really)

Whew. It’s around 9am right now and I just landed in Phoenix a bit after 7am after flying out from Oklahoma City this morning. A long trip, I added around 2200 miles to the lovely Hyundai Santa Fe I rented and slept in the car two of the three nights for a total of five hours. I did actually rent a hotel on Tuesday night and it was some of the best sleep I’ve had in awhile.

The bottom line from the trip was that I didn’t really see what I wanted to see. I was hoping for beautiful, isolated supercells with gorgeous cloud structure. Ehhh…not this time. That’s okay though…I had a blast, got to spend a day with an awesome stormchasing photographer named Shane Kirk that I’d never met in person before and I saw so many beautiful places I’d never seen before.

I have a ton of stories, and a video I’ll be putting together of my few adventures…but right now I’ll talk quickly about the photo above.

The photo above was taken in the NW corner of Nebraska on Monday night. The beautiful storm clouds you see in this shot had just passed over this road from the left side. This was a fairly intense supercell that was tornado warned and had a vortex signature on it. The fun part was I had come down this road doing about 95mph so I could not be slaughtered by the thing. Basically it was akin to walking really slow across some railroad tracks as a massive locomotive comes barreling down at you. The train barely misses you, but you get slammed with all the wind anyways.

As I was coming down the road at one point, I thought I saw stuff blowing across the road up ahead and figured it was a funnel and I was screwed. But it was just some nasty RFD (rear flank downdraft) that rocked my car all over the place.

When I finally got to a safe spot, I turned around and aimed my camera at this cell. It was just gorgeous. The photo can’t do it justice. The thing was flashing non-stop and it was something to behold.

I have a few more lightning shots I may post down the road, but this was one of my favs. The first good shot on a crazy stormchasing trip.

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.6, iso 200, 8 sec)

The big Stormchasing Trip of 2011

It’s Monday morning and if you are reading this, it’s likely I just posted it before boarding a plane for Denver, Colorado as I am off on my 2nd Annual Stormchasing super-duper adventure.

This could lead to two things: 1) I am way too busy to post any blogs until maybe Friday and perhaps not even then…or 2) I will see some amazing stuff and will be unable to control myself and HAVE to post something.

Last year I did this for basically a single day. Flew into Denver at night, drove to Nebraska, crashed at some hotel and then chased that late afternoon, stayed over night and drove back to Denver and flew home. All told, it was around 900 miles driven and no tornadoes or supercells that I really wanted to see.

THIS year…I am planning on three days chasing.  Land in Denver again, but at 8:45am this time. Driving to the Nebraska-South Dakota border and chasing some big storms this afternoon. I’ll then start heading south to the plain states of Kansas and Oklahoma. Not sure how Tuesday looks yet, so I’m hoping to get lucky along the way. That night I may meet-up with an awesome stormchasing photographer named Shane Kirk and shoot some lightning with him. The next day is supposed to be a huge outbreak of severe weather all the way from north Texas to Kansas. That’s the money day. Then I come home first thing Thursday morning.

I can’t even begin to explain my excitement for this. I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night. My brain wouldn’t shut off. I’m writing this blog post Sunday evening and I’m curious how this night is going to go (update: I slept).

The miles I’ll rack up on this trip is probably going to be mind-boggling.

Needless to say, I’m hoping to get a lot of great shots this trip. It’s so unpredictable though…you have to get lucky and be in the right place at the right time. I’m all geared up…two camera bodies, tripod, a lightning trigger, two shutter releases, Flip HD camera, lenses, laptop, GPS, AC converter and weather band radio.

The unique thing about a trip like this…I have no idea what’s going to happen. I have a general idea of where I’ll be today, but that could change. I could end up anywhere. I could see anything. Or nothing.

It’s just so awesome:)

Oh yeah…the image above was shot during last year’s trip and I’ve posted it before. I love the photo, but it’s a bit overprocessed for my current tastes. The fact is…with that amazing backlit-sunset happening, it would have been very, very tough to shoot this scene without HDR.  So much dynamic range.

So wish me luck…still haven’t seen an actual tornado in person, so I hope to end that this trip. And if I do, my buddy Bryan Cox is going to regret not going for the rest of his life!

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)

 

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)

Stormchasing: Scary clouds over the highway

My intention while I was out stormchasing was to get photographs that weren’t dominated by powerlines and other vehicles like a lot of severe weather photography is like these days. But I couldn’t resist the shot of these insanely crazy clouds over this road and the car of a few other stormchasers I was following along with.

These guys were great…they pulled over alongside me earlier and asked if I was chasing, so we chatted and kind of stuck together for awhile. Good guys and it was amazing to find out how friendly people were. I met another stormchaser while out there and he was just as nice a guy. Must be a fun fraternity to be a part of out there.

Stormchasing: Trees and Fences

Still running through my photos from my stormchasing trip to Nebraska on Saturday (plus photos from things other than storms, can’t wait to post a few of those later on), so wanted to dump a few more on you.

I do so love trees, especially isolated ones in the middle of nowhere. The photo above has a little baby tree, some cattle off on the right side of the frame and a giant cloud crossing the sky. It was an ominous scene.

Read more

Stormchasing: Wall clouds and inflows from Nebraska

A few more shots from my trip to Nebraska. I have to say, without having seen most of the state, the parts I did get to journey through were beautiful. Rolling hills, scattered trees…green farmlands, reservoirs, old towns, old buildings…it was just a perfect place to travel through.

The above photo is of the wall cloud I saw, which is the first in my life. You can see the lowering in the middle of the frame. I was hoping soooo badly it would just drop a tornado, but no such luck.

The one below is of the same storm a little later. I think what I’m seeing in this shot on the right inflow into the supercell. The white, smooth arcing cloud is out in front of the wall cloud on the left…so I’m pretty sure it was the inflow area.