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War of the Worlds

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec // buy print)

It’s Movie Title Wednesday here on the bloggity blog blog, and this week we have a remake of an old classic, which was an adaption from one of my favorite books of all-time.

War of the Worlds. The recent remake version starred Tom Cruise and was just okay for me. I love those kind of sci-fi, end of the world type disaster films, but they just didn’t do a very good job with it. The original version (at least, I think there are only two, I’m not doing any research here…there might be hundreds, who knows) was considered the “classic”, but all I remember is being disappointed at how different it was from the book.

Now…the actual book was brilliant. Written by H.G. Wells, I read it in high school and I was so sucked into the story, I remember looking over my shoulder a few times while I read it in my bedroom. If you’ve never read the book, then ignore both movies I mention above and go pick up a copy. In fact, I may read it again.

So why did I choose this movie anyways? Well…the lightning above….it reminded me of the Tom Cruise version with the tall, slim robotic tripod alien beings walking over the cities destroying everything around them. In fact, I don’t know how you look at the image above and don’t at least get some impression of a giant, spindly creature towering over Chandler, Arizona. Kind of creeps me out actually.

I have to give some credit for the title of this image to my friend Scott Wood. Not the title itself, but the idea of finding “things” in lightning. Sort of like looking at puffy clouds and seeing a dog, or a car, or whatever. Scott posted an image called The Skater” and it made me realize how much fun it is to look for familiar things in a lightning strike. It’s definitely not always easy.

But this one was a no-brainer.

A hundred million fingers

Fingers - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 35mm 1.4, f/5.6, iso 100, 30 sec // buy print)

My favorite band in all the world is Snow Patrol. I’ve loved them for years now. Most of the time when I like a band, I end up being bored with them after listening to their CD for awhile. Not so with this group. They’ve never, ever gotten old to me. I was finally able to see them in concert a few years back and wish they’d return to Arizona soon.

The reason I bring them up is because the title of this image is a take-off of their album, “A Hundred Million Suns“, which came out in 2008. I always though that title was so interesting and when I saw the image of this lightning strike on the back of my camera, it only took me a second to know what I’d dub it on the blog.

This strike is kind of unique in the amount of tendrils or fingers that are exploding all over the place. It was an intense bit of electrical release.

And stuff like this isn’t always visible to the naked eye. It’s so quick, so bright, you can miss most of what a camera picks up. Especially if you aren’t already looking in the right spot.

Which is why I love shooting it!

The Dance

Symmetry - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210mm f/4, 205mm, f/5.6, iso 400, 30 sec // buy print)

The one fun thing about stormchasing…whether it’s photographing monstrous thunderheads, dust storms, or lightning strikes…is that it’s always different. Something new, something exciting…something you learn.

For instance…lightning strikes. They are never the same. Which is why I love it so much. And even when two lightning strikes almost appear to be mirror reflections of each other, they are still different. Like in this photo.

But it’s still kind of interesting to look at from a sort of “un-microscopic” eye. These two bolts really appear to be doing some kind of dance together…mirroring each others moves. Almost perfect symmetry.

Crashdown

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 70-210 f/4, 125mm, f/8, iso 200, 20 sec // buy print)

One of my favorite characters from the recent epic sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica was a guy named Crashdown played by Alex Quartararo Sam Witwer (totally got his name wrong last week when I posted this). I wont tell you how long he was on the show, or what his fate was, but I always remembered him mostly because I thought the actor was pretty cool. So I was thrilled to see him appear as one of the leads on SyFy’s new Being Human series, about vampires, ghosts, werewolves…stuff like that. I absolutely LOVE that show by the way, can’t go wrong with it.

And if you are a sci-fi junkie and haven’t seen Battlestar Galactica yet…take a chance on it. Anyone I’ve told about it has been happy they watched it.

So that was a whole lot of TV blabber just to say I wanted to use the title Crashdown for this image. This was taken this past Tuesday evening, the same as Purple Rain. I had been driving along 387 north of Casa Grande watching for the lightning to hopefully start up when I see it suddenly strike behind this radio/tv/whatever antenna. I saw the composition in my head immediately, slammed on the brakes, grabbed the 70-210mm and put that thing large as life in the frame.

I was just astounded at the number of strikes I got with this antenna in the composition. I’m also intrigued by the intensity of of the lightning I’ve captured over Casa Grande. Both times I’ve been here it’s been all kinds of powerful and epic. You may remember this other one called Chaos of Light.

Almost makes you wonder what that little city did to warrant God’s vengeance.

Just a road…with a storm

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 17mm, iso 100, f/22, 1/50 // buy print)

There is nothing I love more than a nice road photograph. I really can never tire of them. The problem with stormchasing is that all you are doing is driving down roads most of the time, so you are tempted to do nothing but stand in the middle of every awesome highway you see. Hence I try to find random things down dirt roads, like rocks, cactus, whatever…to try and frame a shot.

But I still shoot roads and this is one from up in Sedona, on the northwest side, from back on July 11th. A large monsoon thunderstorm was moving slowly from left to right over these mountains, dropping heavy rain as it passed by.

Feeling a bit tired and worn out today. Stormchasing is such a passion. It drives me. It’s very hard for me to just take a night off from it when I know good stuff is happening. Part of that is wanting to build a reputation for always being out there, being reliable, being a source for information and the latest photos of our weather. But the other part is just desire to shoot it, to be out in it and to enjoy it.

And there is also the idea that this lasts only about four months during the summer and then it’s over until next year. But I still have to learn how to take a night off when I need one. And to be able to do it and NOT think about what I’m missing the entire time.

Last night was a nice break…hung out with two buddies from high school whom I’ve been friends with and stayed in contact with ever since.  I still looked at the radar on my phone though *grin*

The other thing on my mind today is a kind of hangover from the past five days. Stormchasing Friday afternoon, Saturday, Sunday’s dust storm, a quick Monday night jaunt up the 17, then more Tuesday night. When things die down as they always do (as in right now)…I’m always kind of left with this emptiness…like, what now?

It will pass quickly though, because I’m looking forward to a little relaxation and fall TV premieres! Vampire Diaries tonight!

Thanks for letting me ramble a bit this morning.

Purple Rain

Purple Rain - Arizona Monsoon Lightning

(click to view on black // canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/6.3, iso 200, 25 sec // buy print)

Let me just get this out of the way. It’s Movie Title Wednesday. I needed something to go with this shot from Tuesday night.

Purple Rain. I mean, what else could possibly work right? Although I will say this…it’s obvious to me, but I had my buddy Jacob Lucas try to guess it last night and he didn’t come close to the right title. In fact, he didn’t even know that was rain falling. So maybe it’s just me.

But the caveat is this: I’ve never seen the movie. I don’t want to see it. I wont ever, ever see it. But I had to use it.

Another reason Jacob said he couldn’t guess the title was because he thought the lightning was the subject of the photo, not the rain. Well…that was a good point. But the reality is…I framed the shot the way I did because I WANTED the rain to be the star here, and was hoping for some lightning to compliment it and give it some punch.

Otherwise, it’s just rain falling.

Granted, this was a fairly epic curtain of precipitation. It’s not always so well defined.

Lastly I’ll say this…the color is not enhanced. At least, not with any color slider. I upped the contrast and then ran it through Silver Efex and blended the layer. The background of the image is that ugly orange-ish color because of the distant Phoenix city lights. And sometimes lightning does light up a sky in crazy colors.

 

A sunset near Tucson

Lightning Sunset in Tucson

(click to see on black // canon 5d mark ii, tamron 17-35mm 2.8, 18mm, f/22, iso 250, 6 sec // buy print)

Saturday was a blast. I left the house early in the afternoon, probably between 12 and 1. I headed south where I knew it was going to be an active day and sure enough…by the time I get down to Picacho Peak, I’m on the first severe warned storm of the day. Not only that, about an hour later, as I’m still chasing it…the cell gets tornado warned.

I never saw a funnel, but I had fun just following the thing, seeing epic lightning striking all around the desert, getting awesome views down into the valley north of Catalina and pretty much just enjoying a relaxing day in the amazing Arizona weather.

The above image was taken on the north side of Tucson right at sunset. Again, for a shot like this, with daylight left and no lightning trigger…cranking the camera to f/22, plus upping the ISO lets you take some longer exposures despite the time of day. And even with that, I had to take about 35 shots to get the perfect strike, plus wait for it to get closer and closer.

I loved the clouds and the way they are kind of like waves in the sky. This storm moving across Tucson had some pretty amazing cloudscapes that I’m not used to seeing in Arizona and I’ll post some of those at a later time.

On another note…Saturday was probably the longest chase I’ve done in Arizona. 375 miles. I was down south in Tucson when the storms started popping up in Phoenix, and dying where I was, so I raced all the way through Phoenix, up the Beeline when things really ended up dead. But I did end up with a single lightning shot from that long trip towards Payson that I’m pretty excited about.

All in all…worth the miles. And I gotta give props to Vera, my 4Runner…she’s been amazing the last few days!


Yet another Phoenix dust storm – September 11, 2011

We’ve lost track of the number of large dust storms (or HABOOBS) that have rolled into Phoenix this monsoon season. Some people think it’s more than normal. I kind of think that the big one from July 5th put everyone on alert for these things and now anytime we get one it’s a big deal…and more noticeable. Dust storms are very commonplace out here and we get them every summer.

Granted, we may have had some pretty dry deserts, so the dust could just be a bit more plentiful than normal. Another thing that also may be a difference is that we’ve received a lot more weather moving up from the Tucson area than down from the Mogollon Rim like we usually do…and the Rim usually doesn’t send dust storms.

Either way…we got another one on Sunday night and it looked pretty good creeping over South Mountain.

Soooo…we had some severe storms all over AZ this weekend. Phoenix was forecast to see some of these storms Sunday afternoon/evening. I went to the usual parking garage (it’s so close to home and easy) when I saw some cells on radar moving NE towards town and I was praying a few would develop over Phoenix. I was also hoping that I’d catch these right at sunset and get some amazing colors in the sky coupled with some gorgeous cell structures.

Of course things never go how you want. We got another dust storm. I’m not complaining though, it was a beautiful sky, beautiful clouds and the dust was awesome as it rolled over the mountains into town.

And towards the end…you can still see a bit of a sunset.

A few notes for this timelapse:

1. Pay attention around the 22 second mark…the dust cloud creeping over the mountain is just cool. Looks like a rushing, crashing wave.
2. Hopefully the haters will be quiet now and enjoy a dust storm timelapse that not only keeps running, but doesn’t stop until the dust has passed. *grin*
3. The timelapse is made up of 836 images shot five seconds apart from 5:46pm until 6:55pm (roughly).
4. This was a full manual timelapse. Manual white balance, iso, shutter speed and aperture. I have to say…this ended up being some of the best results I’ve had so far doing this.

Hope you enjoy!

Flash floods in southern Arizona

Friday afternoon and Saturday were some pretty eventful storm days for southeastern Arizona. I was down there both days chasing storms, lightning…etc…but something I wasn’t really thinking about were flash floods.

The deserts are usually very, very dry, so when you get a massive downpour of rain, it doesn’t seep into the earth. It just runs downhill. And if you have mountains and hills nearby, it all adds up to quickly form flash floods.

In the first two clips of flooding, the storm that dumped the rain was severe warned and even had rotation on it…which I kind of captured in this other video. We wanted to chase it, so we got off on Red Rock Road, only to find these low points in the road completely covered in rushing water. I am pretty sure my Vera could have made it…but with all the emergency vehicles that crossed the water after we stopped…it seemed like it could have been worse further up. Plus I didn’t want to get stuck with Lyla in the back!

The third clip in the video was from Saturday and was again the sight of a wash after a severe/tornado warned storm went through the area.

Also…enjoy some pictures of my little girl from Friday’s chase. She’s my little buddy, my stormchasing co-pilot and she’s also becoming very adept at spotting lightning. That’s all a father can ask for really.

Severe storm with rotation near Picacho Peak

I actually didn’t learn this was a severe storm until a few minutes later, but I could tell it was nasty just by looking at it. Very strong downdraft that appeared to be hail, then the dust could be seen exploding in all directions…and the base of the storm itself looked like a very tiny wall cloud in a way.

Suddenly as I’m timelapsing, I notice a curious area of rotation that looks like a funnel up in the cloud. It could have been one, or not…but I did confirm with meteorologist Royal Norman that this storm indeed had rotation on it.

You can see the back end of the cell rotating…then you can see the the funnel feature appear on the top left area of the video towards the end.

(note, a minor editing mistake on the video after the slow-mo title, gonna fix when I can)