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Lower Grand Falls

Below the Grand Falls

(Click to view larger with a nice, dark background)

This will likely be the last image from this past April’s annual trip to Grand Falls, Arizona. I’ve held onto it long enough, figured it was time to just post the thing. I’m sure some of you photogs who post daily photos can relate to hoarding some of your favorites for a rainy day.

If you follow my work at all, then you know about Grand Falls in the northern portions of this state located on Navajo land. It only flows from snow melt or flash floods due to massive monsoon storms. It’s one of those places that most people in Arizona have never heard of, including myself up until a few years ago. It’s not advertised, there are no signs, no parking lot, no gift shop. It’s just there.

And I like it that way.

Seeing a place like this in Arizona is something special. We don’t have many waterfalls, but this is our Niagara. In fact, from top to bottom, it’s taller than Niagara.

We last visited on April 2nd, my buddies Rick, Ken, Chris and then a bunch of other people showed up late in the day, like my wife, daughter and some other friends. This was taken at the bottom of the falls as the sun was beginning to the disappear behind me. I wanted to get a shot with the light shining off the falls before I hiked back up in time for the sunset (a shot you can see here).

There is not much else I can say about this place. You really have to see it in person.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100)

Back to the Future

Back to the Future - Tire tracks in a puddle in downtown Phoenix

(please click the image so it fills your screen in the event you might have smaller monitor like I do. Also a dark border looks nice with it)

Twice this year I’ve been able to do some stormy sunset reflection shots downtown and I have to say, I absolutely LOVE this kind of photography. But first off, this is Movie Title Wednesday and we’re going with Back to the Future this week!

I remember seeing Back to the Future for the first time as a kid at my aunt’s house. God bless her for renting it that night. My brother and I loved it. And we’ve been huge fans ever since. I’m fairly certain the old, long-gone, Cine Capri in Phoenix did a marathon one day of all three films that we attended.  Anyways, this was such a good movie. A bit of science fiction time travel, but in a way that didn’t seem like sci-fi at all. Great music, awesome writing and of course, Michael J. Fox whom I’ve loved forever.

I went with this movie today because of the tire tracks in the puddle leading off to a firey sunset. Kind of makes you think of the Delorean’s fire trails after  jumping back in time right?

There is something a heck of a lot of fun about finding these scenes in giant pools of water after a storm. It was actually still raining a bit when I was down there, so a few times I had to duck under some shelter to wait for it to end.

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

The 505

The 505 - Abandoned Gas Station in Two Guns, Arizona

(Please clickity-click to see the empty garage larger than life with a nice, dark background)

Feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything of the urbex variety on the site, especially now that storm season has arrived. Feels good to change the pace up and throw out an image from waaaay back in April that I kept forgetting about.

This was the inside of an old, abandoned gas station up at Two Guns, Arizona. I friggin’ love old, lost gas stations along well-traveled highways. Anything left for dead like that is cool, but you have to wonder how a gas station could fail when it sits right on a freeway that sees thousands of cars a day.

Probably the creepiest thing in this picture is the little girl graffiti off to the right. I think her name is Gem.

I loved how open the place felt with all the glass and sliding doors long gone, so I wanted to include the sky as much as I could.

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

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)

The Tweezers

Downtown Phoenix Lightning - August 3rd 2011

(Clickity click…to view on blackity black)

So my daughter has been sick all week with a lovely stomach virus. Not napping well, not sleeping through the night, fevers…lots of good stuff. Apparently that transferred to me yesterday, and I was feeling darn lousy all day. I pretty much lounged around on the couch being a big baby.

Wasn’t even thinking of going out after storms. In fact, the forecast called for NOTHING in the Phoenix area last night. No need to worry right?

Suddenly storms just roll in from all over. I walk outside, look just north and it’s like some kind of epic battle going on with non-stop flashing in 10 different directions. I mosey back inside, lay on the couch and start whining to my wife. I know she’d rather me rest up. But she knows me only too well. After a few minutes, she says “Go out for an hour and then get some sleep.”

I was gone for two. Sorry honey bunch. You rock though.

I thought it was almost a useless trip after a bit, the lightning was just flashing in the clouds and doing a lot of cloud-to-cloud loopty-loos and just not hitting the ground much. I was packing up when I noticed some stuff firing to my south, so I went to the other side of the parking garage I was hanging out in and just watched a storm cross in front of me from right to left.

And finally it let loose with some strikes over the city and made my night.

As for the title…doesn’t the lightning strike look like it’s using a set of tweezers on the city where it lands?

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 26mm, iso 200, f/8.0, 15sec)

Red Dawn

The Guardian - Sedona Arizona Sunset

(click to view larger on a black border…just looks better)

A break from all the lightning and storms…time for Movie Title Wednesday!

One of those movies that I just have to watch if I see it on the TV on a Saturday afternoon is Red Dawn. Granted, I haven’t seen it on the TV much recently and probably have watched it through only a handful of times (the last time being a very long time ago), but it’s still such a fun movie. World War II, Russians attack, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson…hiding out in the woods, a resistance, fighting back…awesome stuff.

It should be pretty obvious how this film’s title relates to today’s image…but I have to say, it’s really a total lie.

I shot this at sunset. But come on, that movie is perfect for this picture! I’m not going to apologize for it!

Back in early July, our little family spent some time in Sedona, enjoying time away from the heat. Great stormy weather, beautiful skies and of course, the gorgeous mountains surrounding Sedona. If you’ve never been here, you gotta go.

This was down an old dirt road right as the sun was about to drop away. I was struck by the colors and the shadows on the cliff faces, but also with this towering pine tree, seemingly rising above the rest of the forest.

While my HDR processing with landscapes is becoming rarer and rarer, this is indeed a six-bracket tonemapped image. The beauty of this night was the absolute calm weather, which left this tree unmoving for me while I fired off the brackets.

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

Fire ahead

Sunset Arizona Lake Pleasant

Man I had a tough time last night. I had never been up to Lake Pleasant northwest of Phoenix, but that kind of where this storm was headed, so I thought it would be pretty awesome to capture the sunset glowing over a lake.

But I didn’t know the area very well, so by the time the sunset was arriving, I was still trying to find out how to get down to the water. Plus the gas light started coming on intermittently, and with a 1994 4Runner, you aren’t going to have a ton of miles left to find a station. Not to mention my daughter was in tow!

So that basically led to me finding this quick stretch of road and snapping pictures right there. It actually feels like it’s been awhile since I’ve taken a photograph from the middle of a highway, something I absolutely LOVE doing, so it kind of ended up alright.

The “storms” we had last night amounted to just some low-topped cumulus that dropped light rain here and there. This particular storm cell was dropping it thicker than the rest, so I kept following it, hoping if I get it between myself and the setting sun, I might get a cool show.

Shore ’nuff, the sun started glowing through the falling rain and made the horizon look like it was on fire. Gorgeous. Colors were just sick.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/10, iso100, 1/4 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.

A final visit to the seventh floor

The Puddle - Downtown Phoenix Storm Reflection

(click to see the big puddle in a lightbox)

This evening of February 20th, 2011 was pretty awesome. Those that have followed me for awhile may remember some of the other shots (here and here) from the top of this downtown Phoenix parking garage right next to Chase Field. Seven stories. An absolutely amazing sunset with the most gorgeous clouds you ever saw. And a previous rain left puddles everywhere.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love clouds and sunsets like this. They are incredibly rare.

This will likely be the last image I post from that night. Time to move on, and leave it behind.

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

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)