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A possible season ending Phoenix monsoon sunset

The monsoon is winding down and last night I figured the brief sunset we had might have been a quiet farewell to the 2012 season.

But this evening…we had a slow moving storm which was kind of “training” as it moved south, the top of it blowing off to the southeast. Caught in this timelapse is a microburst up in Deer Valley which caused all kind of damage to trees and a mobile home park.

We technically have a few weeks left in the monsoon season, but the weather experts are talking about how it’s winding down. Tonight might have been one of the most epic ways for it to say goodbye.

I was watching it on radar during the afternoon, and I kept peeking my head out. Finally I knew I had to go, this thing wasn’t completely dying out and I knew I had an hour before the sun went down. I hit up my 2nd favorite parking garage and started firing off frames.

It was amazing. I was going nuts taking photos with the other camera. I love the end when the left edge of the storm launches up some final towers. The third one on the right goes straight up at the end and is the last little bit to have any color.

I hope the season isn’t over…but if so…this was a great way to end it.

More haboob – September 6th, 2012, Phoenix, Arizona

Watch FULL SCREEN in HD puhleeeez!

Oh yeah…another haboob dust storm awesomeness rolled into Phoenix this evening and blanketed the town in dust for over an hour. The wall was about 50 miles long and the winds didn’t seem that strong, so the dust just lingered in the air forever. Blech.

I regret not getting to this spot 10 minutes earlier, but thems the breaks kid.

Met with some wedding clients right after this and then flew up the Beeline and captured some lightning. All in a days work.

A wall of dust hits Casa Grande

Before my tire went flat from some unseen predator buried in the Arizona desert, I timelapsed this wall of dust as it crossed Interstate 8 and rolled into Casa Grande. It also came up Interstate 10 behind me and spread into Phoenix.

Another year of the haboob out in Arizona…crazy how many of these storms we’ve had.

More severe weather on tap for today, I’m hitting the road right now.

Another dust storm rolling through uptown Phoenix

It wouldn’t bee a monsoon thunderstorm if we didn’t have a wall of dust moving through town. Usually though, that’s all we get…but the last two days have seen decent rain for Phoenix. It’s been crazy weather, flash flooding on the outskirts of town and widespread precipitation.

Been a busy summer for the monsoon season. Definitely more active than I remember in recent years.

An isolated thunderstorm at sunset

This was one of the more amazing sights I’ve seen so far this year. Kind of reminds of the other “dying monsoon sunset” timelapse I posted back at the start of the season. An isolated, decaying thunderstorm right at sunset.

Everyone was talking about this one last night. You could see it for miles and miles. What made it majestic, kind of like the other one, is that there were no steering winds, so the storm built up and feel apart without really moving. I always find that utterly spectacular for some reason.

Hope you enjoy. Thanks to Luke Neumann for providing the background music.

Shot this from Gilbert Road and the Salt River. Here’s another shot of it with a wider lens. Click on it for the full effect.

Another haboob – July 21st, 2012

Another amazing looking dust storm rolled through Phoenix tonight. At times it had the looks of the July 5th, 2011 version. This was a quick timelapse at a shot every 2 seconds before I got slammed by the trailing edge of this thing. It actually kind of wrapped around town from the east and the south.

Here’s an image from the storm below, check out some more right here.

A dying monsoon sunset near Casa Grande

(watch full screen if you can. there is musicon this one, in case you are at work)

Last night I was heading down to Tucson late in the day with the specific goal of catching some lightning from lingering thunderstorms. If I had actually stayed on course, I think I would have captured some cool shots down there.

But as things usually turn out when I chase storms, something better comes along. I saw this cloud building up as I was driving and it didn’t look amazing at first. But it increasingly kept building up and then the top started spreading out. The beauty of it was the isolation. All by itself, framed against the evening sky.

I checked the radar before starting to see the movement of the storm, and it was basically sitting in one spot. Amazing to shoot this for around 40 minutes and have it just get bigger and not really move in any direction.

You will likely notice a lightning strike right after the 11-12 second mark. Catching that was unbelievably lucky. At the time the shots were 4 seconds apart at 1/1000th speed. I only saw 2 or 3 bolts anyways the entire time, so I’m not even sure how I got that. It looks great on a still that I will share later.

Hope you enjoy…the colors and the cloud were so amazing in person, I wish you could have stood there with me.

An early spring dust storm – May 9th, 2012

I got hit by and outraced this dust storm three times. First time I saw it and got hit was down by Eloy. I sped ahead of it on I-10, pulled over on highway 387 and shot it while looking west. I loved the juxtaposition of the cloud moving west while the dust storm moved north-northwest. That’s the first half of the timelapse.

Then I raced up I-10 again and pull over on Queen Creek Road as it rolled into Phoenix. When you watch, notice the little “gust-nadoes” spinning along the front of the dust wall!

Hope you enjoy! This is only May for the love!

Update: Here’s a zoomed in look at the gustnados. Those cars and that sign are Interstate 10.

Screencast: A beginner’s guide to timelapsing

As the title of this post indicates, this is tutorial on how to do timelapses. For beginners. Like myself.

If you don’t know me very well and this is your first time on my blog, I’ll do a quick intro. I do wedding and lifestyle photography, but also have a passion for stormchasing amongst other things. I live in Arizona, so during the summer I chase the monsoon thunderstorms around the state, capturing them in whatever way I can.

This year I decided to learn the art of timelapsing. I wanted to see these epic storms in fast-motion. There is nothing cooler than watching thunderstorms explode in the quick pace of a timelapse.

So I did just that. And I think I finally got to a decent point where I’m around a beginning-to-intermediate level. There are a lot of tools and software out there to do this much, much better, but I’m happy with where I’m at for what I’m using it for. Which is just to document my stormchasing into a single video at the end of each season.

I’ve received a ton of questions this summer on just HOW I’m doing my timelapses. The tutorial + video screencast will show you my entire workflow from start to finish. Below the video will be links to the products and presets that I use to help accomplish what I’m doing.

So let’s get started.

Finished Product

We’re going to work backwards just a bit. Below is my latest timelapse…a recent dust storm that rolled through downtown Phoenix. Figured I would start with a teaser and then show you the actual work involved.

 The Capturing Process

I don’t want to get too deeply involved in the HOW to capture department other than basic stuff. As I said above, there are more ways and more tools to capture your timelapse images. You can use your laptop to control your camera. You can buy another device like the Little Bramber to control your exposures over time. I wont talk about tethering to your laptop here.

But these are the basic needs:

  • Tripod
  • A good Intervalometer
  • A camera with fully charged batteries.

Settings for your camera:

  1. Everything on manual. EVERYTHING. Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, White Balance and Focus.
  2. Depending on the size of your card, how many images you plan on capturing and what your camera can do, play around with using RAW, RAW2, RAW3 or JPG Max. My 5d Mark II has three different RAW sizes, which can allow me to record 1000 images at RAW3 but only 270 or so at the max RAW on an 8gb card.  If you think you can switch cards quickly and without moving the camera, you can always do that too. I probably need a giant 32gb for timelapsing. Someday.

Capturing the images:

  1. Determine how long you want to shoot.
  2. The shorter the timeframe, the quicker the intervals between captures. For example…20 minutes. If you shoot every 3 seconds, that’s 20 images per minute + 20 which is 400 total images. That’s about half of what I like to get on a timelapse…my goal is usually to be above 800. Drop it down to every 2 seconds, suddenly you have 600 images. You can figure the rest out.
  3. And vice versa. If you plan on shooting for three hours, you might want to extend the captures out to 30 seconds or more. Just depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
  4. The above two steps just take practice to learn what you like. Took me shooting about 20 of these all summer to figure a lot of this out.
  5. Set your Intervalometer accorrding to what you want to do.
  6. Get a good exposure for your current scene. Whatever method you like to use…trial and error, light metering, whatever. Shoot some practice shots by adjusting your shutter speed to get a great exposure with a full histogram. I usually like to erase my card at this point once I have a good exposure so I max my memory card usage.
  7. If you can, set your back LCD display to show the histogram after every image capture. This allows you to watch and observe what your exposures are looking like during the capturing process. This comes in handy as you lose light later in the day or gain it early in the day. For example, later in the day, if you see the histogram starting to lose its even exposure and drop to the left, then you know it’s time to change your shutter speed. IF you want of course.
  8. Mike’s Basic Method 1: Get a good exposure and then just let it ride the entire timelapse. If you lose light, you lose light and your timelapse will end up fading to black. With all the settings at manual and a non-changing shutter speed, you wont have a ton of post-work to do.
  9. Mike’s Basic Method 2: Change the shutter speed as the light drops or increases. As the histogram drops to the left/or over exposes to the right, lower/increase your shutter speed to keep a nice, even exposure. Do this for as long as you feel necessary. Be careful though…if your interval is only 2 seconds, and you keep dropping your exposure down to .5 sec, 1 sec…etc…you will start to match your interval and screw up the timelapse. Been there, done that. PLEASE NOTE this method requires you to spread out your shutter speed adjustments. If you do them too quickly, your exposures change drastically and will make things more difficult later during deflickering. Pay attention to how quickly you are losing or gaining light, and space our your shutter speed adjustments accordingly.
  10. Oh, don’t move the tripod unless you got a panning, awesome tripod 🙂

Post-Processing

My post-processing workflow is below. Hope it’s informative enough and doesn’t leave you with more questions. But if you do have them, please ask in the comments or drop me an email.

Best way to watch would be full screen, HD of course!

Links

Go here to get the Deflickering program…you can do a trial for a bit I believe, but I ended up purchasing it – GB Deflicker

The instructions for installing the below presets I found on this site here: Lightroom News. That article just links to the basic 720p TL and Slideshow preset. My video export below has the entire collection all the way up to 1620p, which I was told you really shouldn’t use anyways. But it’s there!

Video Export Presets – lr-video-preset.zip

Slideshow Preset – lr-slideshow-preset.zip

For final touches – Vegas Pro 10

That should be everything. To find a Intervalometer, just Google it or go to Amazon.com. I would link to one, but who knows what camera you have and you’ll need specific kinds with specific connectors. I would suggest to not necessarily go cheap on them. My first one was garbage for $15. My second and current one cost around $35 and for some reason I have to hold the thing with the wire bent at a certain angle for it to work. So I already need a third one. I’m pretty hard on my gear though when out stormchasing, so that’s probably part of the problem!

Good luck!

The Climate Reality Project

Phoenix Haboob July 5th 2011

I wanted to post a quick little announcement and something I’m super excited about.

Today and tomorrow, the Climate Reality Project will be presenting their “24 Hours of Reality” across the world…24 presenters, 24 time zones, 13 languages and 1 message. The finale from what I’m told will be a live presentation on Current TV by Al Gore himself.

A huge event for these guys and I wish them the very best.

So what does this have to do with me? Well, I’m pumped to share that my timelapse of the July 5th Phoenix haboob/dust storm is a part of their presentation! These presentations, from what I learned awhile ago when they contacted me, are to be shown in person by the presenters, online via social media and also on TV when Al Gore does his part.

I haven’t seen it yet…and figure I’ll just catch it on Current TV tomorrow (Thursday, September 15th). You can see more info about the show on Current TV by clicking here.

Thanks to the people at the Climate Reality Project for wanting to include my video. I’m so humbled and thrilled that they found it to be something worthy of being a part of this special endeavor.