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A final sliver of light

There is nothing more fun to me than finding an old photo you forgot to process, especially if it’s something you are excited about. This shot was taken back in January of this year out in the Usery Mountain area northeast of Phoenix. I had been sitting in this one spot waiting for the sun to set and for the clouds to move off the top of the Four Peaks. There was snow on them from a winter storm that blew through and I was worried that the clouds would never lift and it would be a wasted trip. If you haven’t seen that photo before…well, the clouds did indeed rise above! These aren’t the Four Peaks above, but they were just to the south of my location.

The trip taught me one of my early photography lessons: Don’t be so focused on one thing that you ignore what’s going on around you. It was easier here because I was sitting for over an hour and looking around was natural. But the key moment came when the sun hit those Four Peaks and I was so worried about them I almost missed a few other gorgeous views.

This was one of them. The sun’s appearance below a line of clouds until it disappeared for the day lasted maybe 15 minutes. It was a short window of opportunity and that’s what I love about this photo. You can see the sun is only cast on part of the scene…a sliver of light before it left completely. The cactus stand alone, cloaked in shadow, while the hills appear bathed in warm light. Was so peaceful out there that night. Fond memories.

On another note…Arizona is gorgeous. I’ve wanted to move for a really long time…the summers are brutal here and being a native, they seem to get worse for me. But in the last year my desires have changed somewhat I think. I blame photography of course. There is just so much beauty here…I’m a long way from done shooting this state.

Farewell you blessed train tracks

These train tracks are something special to me. We’re moving on Saturday to downtown Phoenix, which is around 27 miles from this spot in the photo above. I doubt I will be seeing them anytime soon unless next year’s monsoon chasing somehow leads me this way. Or maybe I’ll be on this side of town and swing by, but regardless, it’s no longer going to be a 5-minute drive from my house.

I took the above photo two nights ago as a way of saying farewell to them. I actually hadn’t been by this way in awhile and it felt only right that my last set of bracketing done on this side of town was on these tracks. Man was it a beautiful sunset…sadly the clouds on the horizon blocked a lot of the light and didn’t allow for a nice fiery red sky…but the clouds were unique and appeared to be coming directly from the same horizon as the train tracks. God blessed me that night with a little farewell of his own.

There are two huge reasons why this place is so important to me. Both of them have to do with the photo below.

I had done an HDR photo or two by this point last November, but I don’t think I had a real understanding of what it could do for me or what would look good.  I took a lunch break to drive around and just photograph stuff around my area as a way to learn to open my eyes a little more. I walked out onto these tracks, and for some reason decided to do an HDR of this scene. I believe the thought was that at least train tracks might look cool all HDR-ed up.

But this was shot in the middle of the day. The clouds were barely visible to me with the naked eye. Little did I realize how much the HDR process would showcase the amazing contrails from overhead airplanes that day. I consider this my very first real HDR photo. The few others prior were just practice.

I posted this on Wunderground.com later that day (a weather website where I post all my weather photos, here is my profile there), and the response was overwhelming (you can see all the comments here). It received an Approver’s Choice right away and I was kind of blown away by the love it got. I just hadn’t been expecting it.

I kind of see that moment as an awakening for me. I had photographed something that moved people to say amazing things. It opened my eyes to what was possible within myself to do.  Since then…the sky has been the limit.

The second reason this photo and this spot are so important…it was the first print I ever sold. A woman knew her grandfather would love it hanging in the same room with all his model railroad stuff.

I, of course, agreed *grin*

The cool thing is that no matter how much time goes by between now and when I walk this spot again…they will still be there and the memories always will be.

Sunset on the Mogollon Rim

I know what you might be thinking…where is the color? This is a sunset right? Yeah…it was, but honestly…if there are no clouds or other excitement, the tones of a normal sunset tend to bore me to tears. At least, when I look at them in photos. In person, it was a beautiful and serene moment from my camping trip late last week.

I’m shooting from atop the Mogollon Rim area, a ridge that stretches across the mid-to-northern areas of Arizona. It’s about a 90 minute or more drive from Phoenix, and what’s amazing about it is being able to go that short distance and see temperature go from 110 to 77. I love it up there!

What struck me more about this sunset scene in front of me was the “layers” of mountains stretching out in front of me…and the edge of the Mogollon Rim coming from the right horizon and dropping into the valley.

That and of course the moon and Venus up in the heavens. Subtle, but they are there, I promise *grin*

I still look at this photo and can’t decide if I love it or if it’s just okay. The camping trip itself was a blast, but the skies were so clear the entire time, I wasn’t excited about most of the shots I took. This sunset was beautiful in person, but it just didn’t translate well to a photo (in my opinion), so the black and white was a way to “fix it” for me.

Technically this is a six bracket, HDR processed with my usual suspects, taken with my Tamron 17-35mm 2.8.

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.

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)

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)

Sunflower sunset

I’ve never noticed all the wild sunflowers that seem to grow around this desert before…it took this sudden love for photography to make me notice the beauty in the things around me that I take for granted.

This was shot the other night, the same night and in the same area as the sunset in the previous photo. You can see the setting sun in the background. I just wanted to snap a few up close shots of the flowers frames against the fading light.

Processed using a sweet action from Coffee Shop.

Light in the branches

(You can click on the photo for the large version)

I’ve been desperate to chase some monsoon storms around Arizona since the season started over a week ago, mostly to get solid lightning shots, but also general storm photos. But the storms aren’t cooperating and monsoon moisture is taking a very long time to move into the state so all we have are scattered thunderstorms during the afternoon hours that die off before the sun goes down.

I went out anyways yesterday, hopefully to somehow get lucky…which didn’t happen. But I was treated to some great skies with cloud debris from the earlier storms, which made for some nice backdrops around the sunset hour. This scene in particular was shot down East Price Road, northeast of Florence. I’m always a sucker for giant, old, dead looking trees (I’m not sure if these are dead or not, but in the middle of summer with no leaves…they just might be), but these guys were lit up with the setting sun in the higher branches.

I loved that lingering light coming in over the hills to the west and seeing the tops aglow…it’s something you can see better if you click on the photo for the larger version.

A beautiful sunset overall and I have a few other shots I’ll post later this week maybe.

Stormchasing: A backlit Nebraska storm

Of all the things I saw during my trip to Nebraska to chase around some storms, this scene was one of the best. I don’t even know if the HDR processing can convey what it looked like in person, but it was breathtaking. The sun back-lighting the falling rain, the scud clouds moving quickly along the surface…the dirt road running into the distance…the grass was blowing, the clouds churning…it was a sight to behold.

Myself and another stormchaser were just standing here, talking, looking in awe and snapping photos. A good guy too, from the town of Ogalalla where I shot the feed mill photo posted yesterday. Love the people in Nebraska, just good, kind folk.

Technically this was just a hand-held, 3-bracket HDR using Photomatix, CS5, Imagenomic and Topaz.

Sunset behind the old Hayden Flour Mill in Tempe

Saturday night I went out for a little photowalk of downtown Tempe and started the little excursion by climbing up A-Mountain to watch the sunset over the city.

This building on the right is a 100+ year old structure called the Hayden Flour Mill which began construction in 1872. You can read all about it on the Tempe.gov website.

It was a great night for a sunset and I’ll post a few more later this week. I also have another shot of the flour mill after dark, but I just could not find a way inside the perimeter fences. I’d be too terrified to go inside at night anyways *grin*

It definitely begs for some external HDR exploration, but it’s hard to get too close.