Posts

From Within

Tucson Arizona Lightning

(click to view in lightbox…the border really adds a lot)

As I said at the start of the week, I had been planning on not really blogging since I have this awesome guest series going on right now. And on a side note, thank you to EVERYONE who participated and made it a success. Been so much fun. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s conclusion.

But anyways, I couldn’t help myself. Had to post today.

So Tucson, Arizona, is where it’s at. Those of us in Phoenix tend to just wait around, maybe drive to Casa Grande on some nights to get lightning, but the storms just aren’t as frequent up here. A friend of mine on Twitter, Beth Allan, comes down once a year in August with a group of stormchasers to shoot lightning all week. And they base themselves out of Tucson.  And they rock it.

Only problem is that it’s about 100 miles away from downtown Phoenix. A long drive, lots of gas. I can’t do it everyday. But I definitely wanted to make it a point to venture down there a few times this summer. Last night was my first trip there and honestly, I should have gotten there a lot earlier in the day. Immediately upon hitting the town, it was like a fireworks show in all directions.

I also am unfamiliar with the city or where good high spots are, so I kind of got lost driving in some hilly areas. I stopped, watched the lightning over the town in the distance and that’s when I this cloud in the photo suddenly start dropping tons of rain. When you see a huge thunderstorm with a massive rain shaft…aim there. That’s usually where 90% of the lightning is going to show up.

It’s always fun to shoot lightning when I can use the 17-35mm lens, because that means it’s close and awesome. I still tend to cower down in the car, or huddle up next to the tripod to stay lower than anything else 🙂

This was the best strike of the night for me, in what amounted to a lot of driving for about 20 minutes of shooting. I love how it looks like two bolts exploded from within the cloud and go in different directions. Awesome.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 24mm, f/9, iso 200, 10 sec)

The sunset before the haboob

So last week when I was asked about the big haboob timelapse, I usually started off with saying “I was in the backyard doing another timelapse…”

This is that one.

I had been out stormchasing 4-5 nights already and was pretty beat. I figured I’d stay home that night and let the storms come to me, perhaps shoot some lightning from my balcony or the parking garage down the street. When I saw the clouds building out west, I thought to myself “Hey, I can just do a timelapse and then hang out inside, relaxing, watching TV, whatever.”

Of course, a bit later, a text message sent to me with a picture of the dust storm over the San Tans forced me to leave and shoot that.

However…I was really torn. I actually was around a 60/40 between going and staying. The orange/red glow towards the end was so beautiful, I wanted to keep it going.

But my favorite part of this is the thunderstorm that builds on the right horizon and then releases rain like someone dumped it out with a giant bucket. I also dig the soundtrack a lot. My buddy Brian Matiash will want to take credit for it because he told me to use something from Inception sometime, so that’s part of why I used it. But I also already have the album on my iPhone and was just searching for a minute-long song.

This track fits just perfectly with the way the sky unfolds.

The wind picks up a bit towards the end and my ex-tripod head let the camera move around somewhat. That problem has now been remedied!

Saguaro Alley

Saguaro Alley Phoenix Arizona Desert

(click to view scaled down to your resolution with a nice black border, or if you have a huge monitor, see it a little bit bigger!)

Last week Wednesday  marked the first day out stormchasing the 2011 Arizona monsoon. In reality, nothing much happened other than few isolated, brief downpours over Phoenix. I met up with my buddy Chris Frailey who has joined the cause of tossing his gas money down into the gully where I dump mine…and we drove around Bush Highway a bit over by Saguaro Lake and got a few shots, but nothing “stormy” to speak of.

As usually happens, this picture was by accident. I was looking behind this scene as I was driving at some clouds and was trying to find some cactus to get in the shot since there was little else to use in the area. As I got out of the truck, I looked up and saw this lone cloud all lit up by the setting sun and it turned out to be a much better shot than I what I was going for.

I’m pretty beat. This holiday weekend actually seemed to last a looong time, mostly because I didn’t sleep a whole lot. Watched the entire Lord of The Rings: Extended Edition on Blu-Ray, and chased Saturday, Sunday and last night. I have a few lightning captures to post, one of them something I haven’t shot before and it will land on the blog tomorrow for Movie Title Wednesday.

Time for a break though. Tonight, I’m going to sit back and wait to see if any storms roll through downtown Phoenix, and if so, then I shoot, if not, I will be lazy on the couch.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso100, f/13)

The Return of the King

Sunset on the Kansas Prairie

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to have to find some image to use for the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in celebration of the release of the Extended Editions on Blu-Ray. Well, that release happened yesterday, I received my copy and it’s sitting there looking pretty, waiting to be watched.

The first two movies have been used already, so it was The Return of the King that needed an image. And this is what I came up with.

It may not look like anything from the movie. In fact, I don’t know how to even lie and make you believe it came from it. This is the Kansas prairie. Doesn’t remind me of Mordor, or Gondor, or Rohan…or even the Fangorn Forest (nerd alert!).

But if you are just going off the title, I kind of dig it. For me there is this majestic, powerful feel to the sun bursting through the clouds. It makes the surrounding landscape feel small and trivial compared to this explosion of light. As if something awesome were making an appearance after a long sleep.

If I failed to mention it before, these movies are near and dear to me. The books made a huge impact with me as a young kid. I can’t explain it, but they did. And years later they decide to make real movies about them, and somehow they create a world on-screen that almost completely matched what I had imagined as a I read the stories. It was amazing.

I loved the originals, but once the extended versions came out, there was no reason to watch the shorter one. They just weren’t the “real” story anymore. So to finally have these guys in beautiful Blu-Ray, 1080p high-definition is awesome. Cannot wait to find time to watch these guys from start to finish.

ONE LAST THING…

I’m wordy today, sorry. This image is a bit inspired by my buddy Jesse Pafundi whom I admire big time. His work has changed this year and it’s been awesome to see. At the same time we both had been moving away from HDR being so involved in our workflow…him more than me. I think he’s done away with it entirely. I still use it a lot but with a different approach. But we’ve had long chats about this subject and how we’re changing.

The photo above…I tried it as a tonemapped image and it failed. I couldn’t get it right. And then I realized I didn’t need to. Why was I forcing it? I liked the composition, the clouds, the sun…it just needed a little weathering to look how I wanted it to. Took 20 seconds.

Anyways…don’t be afraid to leave something behind that used to be so dear to you. It was just part of the journey to get you where you are today.

(canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/22, iso 100, 1/50)

Sunset on the Nevada desert

Sunset south of Boulder City, Nevada

(Click to see this image with a darker border…brings out the colors a bit better)

Back in March I posted a sunset shot from the Nevada desert that had powerlines and I dubbed “Se7en” for Movie Title Wednesday. There were a few other shots I got that night and I just haven’t posted any of them until now.

It had been awhile since I’d seen a painted sky like this. Honestly, this wide open desert landscape was great, but I was scrambling to find something more interesting nearby to include in the frame. I realized, however, that this sunset wouldn’t last forever and sometimes all you need is a great sky.

This was one of the last images from a great afternoon just driving around this area south of Boulder City. In fact, I include the date the photo was taken in my tags, so you can see all the images taken on March 16th. I keep looking back on this day and what I love the most is that I have images to help me always remember how much fun I had just exploring some area that I’d never been before.

I was looking up ghost towns in Nevada, saw a little place called Nelson and headed off with no real plan or idea of what I wanted to shoot. That’s all I need really. Clouds, weather and driving around. It’s when I feel the most free and away from everything. Just me, my camera, the road, my iPod and the unknown.

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

 

 

Point Break

After the wedding we shot a week and a half ago in Malibu, my buddy Rick and I took the Pacific Coast Highway back to Los Angeles. We were both exhausted from an early morning flight, a lot of shooting outdoors and just a long day in general. We had just enough energy to make one stop off the highway and walk down some worn-down stairs to the beach far below.

It’s another edition of Movie Title Wednesday and this week the film is Point Break for obvious reasons I think. I’ve seen the movie and I remember liking it, but I honestly don’t remember much more than Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, a bank robbery and masks.  I know a lot of people who dig this film, curious how many of you out there liked it? I’ve always been a Reeves fan even though most people don’t think he can act. I think he’s a fine actor, the problem is, he has one style that works and that’s about it. Speed is one of my all-time favorite action films and of course you have The Matrix.

I rarely get to the ocean despite living fairly close to California, so I was excited to at least shoot a few images during our day-trip. The ocean is awe-inspiring and frightening for me at the same time. I hope someday to do more of this and have a nice, fat 10-stop ND filter on me so I can really make the images I want to, but in the meantime, I liked how this turned out. I don’t always put a lot of time into processing my images these days, but I spent plenty on this . Phototools was especially useful to help create a nice color contrast between the water and the rocks.

I hope Rick posts his sometime soon because he had a 10-stop and I loved the way his looked right out of the camera.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 20mm, f/25, iso 100

The Two Towers

Two Towers Downtown Phoenix Chase Freeport McMoran

Without realizing what I’ve been doing, this has become the second Lord of the Rings movie to be featured on Movie Title Wednesday in the last few weeks. I guess I’m sub-consciously excited for the June 28th release of the entire extended edition version of the trilogy on Blu-Ray for the first time. It’s been pre-ordered for months and soon I’ll be camped out on the sofa for about 12 straight hours.

I’m going to have a heck of time finding an image to represent Return of the King. I dunno if I can do it.

This week we’re going with The Two Towers for obvious reasons. The movie is of course awesome. There are two parts in the film that I could watch over and over and over and…well…over. The charge of the Ents onto Isengard. Wow.

“The Ents are going to war. It is likely that we go to our doom. The last march of the Ents.” – Treebeard

I get chills just thinking about that scene. The other is the appearance of Gandalf and the Riders of Rohan towards the end. So much love for this film. But I could babble all day.

So the image above. On the left is the Chase Tower in downtown Phoenix that I’ve shot a lot since moving down here, and the other is the Freeport McMoran. I ventured downtown on May 18th after a good rainstorm came through, which granted me another chance at some stormy reflection shots and dark skies for architecture shooting. I got stuck in a few spots when it suddenly started raining and I had to hide myself and my camera under a parking garage or two.

But wow do I love being down there shooting during dark weather as the sun is going down. It’s inspiring.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, f/5.0, iso 100)

 

The bridge at Two Guns

(click to make the photo bigger (you must have a pretty big monitor!) or so it fits your screen)

I’m exhausted, I must say. Four hours of yardwork on Saturday resulted in a bit of a sun burn. Sunday I joined my buddy Rick Young in shooting a destination beach wedding in Los Angeles. More sunburn. Flew in at 7am, got home around 10:30pm. Last Thursday I was notified that I was needed in Vegas this week for my day job, so today I was up at 4:15am after hitting the sack around midnight.  And here I sit in the little control room wanting to focus on work, but I’m tired, cranky and miss my girls back home.

So of course I figured why not write up this blog post real quick, since I haven’t had anytime to do it before now.

I love this image. It was taken on our trip to the Two Guns ghost town back on April 2nd.  To get in this spot, I hiked down an animal-created path that was made up of a combination of deer prints and perhaps a few bear prints. My buddy Ken Peterson told me I’d probably get bitten by a snake while down here too. Lots of tall, dead things. It may be hard to tell, but all those tall branches at the bottom of this image were over 12 feet tall at least.

But I saw this bride out in the distance and wanted to see what it looked like underneath. The aforementioned Rick Young has a great shot of the bridge from far away right here. I love how he applied a bit of Focal Point foreground blur to make the image pop.

I liked this angle though and am glad I made the hike to get here. A beautiful, old bridge and one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Two Guns in the first place.

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

A chair at the dog track

A chair at the black canyon dog track

(Click to see the photo larger, almost like you’re sitting in that chair)

I don’t know when the last time was that I posted an image from the dog track visit we did in the final week of December, but believe it or not, I still have a few shots left to show eventually! If you’ve missed any of the series or would like to look back, click here for the “dog track” tag.

This chair of course was just sitting there waiting to be photographed. I’m sure at some point it was moved out to this spot to either be sat on or to be a prop for someone else’s photography. I think it’s way interesting at a place like this to wonder a bit about why things are where they are. One of my buddies with me on this trip kept pointing out objects that were different from the time he was there before. In fact, a giant ticket booth was sitting in the middle of the main building, definitely a new thing. Who dragged that booth into here? The owner looking to dump stuff? A photographer wanting something interesting for a backdrop?

Anyways, I”ll always remember back fondly on the three hours or so we were here. A great experience.

Tonight a bunch of us are descending upon Tempe for a little photowalking action, so I’m looking forward to that! Haven’t been down there for awhile and while the forecast calls for the opposite, I’m praying for clouds over the lake to help us with some great sunset photos. If you are interested in going, let me know!

Have a nice weekend!

(exif: canon rebel xsi, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/5)

 

The Superstitions just before dawn

(click to see an extra larger than normal version to really fill your screen)

Back in April we had some good rain on the 9th, so the morning of the 10th I planned to get up waaaaay early and head out to the Superstition Mountains to shoot a beautiful sunrise with gorgeous clouds, cactus and all kinds of juicy stuff.  I was also meeting by buddy Ken Peterson out here and we’d hit the Apache Trail together.

You can imagine the slight disappointment you get when you are praying for awesome clouds in the morning and this is what you see above.

As is always the case, however…nature turns your sour lemons into lemonade by giving you something unexpected and just as beautiful. I sat at my favorite spot along Lost Dutchman Road waiting to meet Ken. And so I sat there watching the sky behind this mountain turn beautiful shades of morning colors. Normally I hate skies without clouds, but I loved all the solid colors here…dark silhouette with these gradient shades of purple and orange.

Plus you have Venus up there (at least I’m pretty sure it was Venus) adding just a hint of something extra.

For those that live in Phoenix, even a silhouette of these mountains is probably easily recognized by most people. I love that about some places…you can just see an outline or a shadow of something and know it instantly because you live there. It’s makes it something special.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 35mm, f/10, iso 100, 5 sec)