Tag Archives: sierra estrella mountains

Storm Clouds Over The Estrella Mountains – Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

Earlier in September, the US Desert Southwest was the recipient of the remnants of a hurricane that moved over the Baja and then mainland Mexico and ultimately Arizona and New Mexico. It brought with it tropical moisture in the form of rain and for some parts of Arizona (Tucson area) lots of it. Here in the Phoenix area, we just received a very nice steady rain throughout one particular morning. As the rains subsided, I was headed out on an errand when I noticed the cloud play over our local mountains (the Estrella Mountains run across the southwestern portion of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area). I knew I had a photo opportunity brewing, so I drove towards the base of the mountains as far as I could without getting on dirt (mud) roads. I stopped at a couple of places and the attached five shots are from that morning.

This first shot gives you an idea of the cloud play along the mountain range. I love the look of these clouds of various shapes and sizes as they interact with the mountains at various elevations. The tallest mountain in this range is 4500 ft and is the sharp peak on the right. As I was taking back roads to get closer to the base of the mountains, it takes me into an agricultural area usually growing hay or cotton. This particular field looks like it was kept fallow for this growing season.

Storm Clouds 1

Storm Clouds 1


The second capture is closer to the base across another fallow field. I like the drama the contrast of the white and gray clouds create against the darkness of the actual mountains.

Storm Cloud 2

Storm Clouds 2


The last three attached pictures were taken when I got as close as I could without hiking or off-roading. I refer to these as this photographer’s artistic efforts in framing and composing shots.

Storm Clouds 3

Storm Clouds 3

Storm Clouds 4

Storm Clouds 4

Storm Clouds 5

Storm Clouds 5

Thoughts?

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Saturday Morning In The Park – Excerpts From A Photo Shoot

In our community, we have two lakes that are the focal point for a lot of social activities. Around the lakes, it is a park setting with a continuous wide sidewalk that always has walkers and joggers enjoying the fresh air and outdoors. The lakes are not physically connected, but sit right by each other. The sidewalk connects them for all of us to easily go between the two. They are called North Lake and South Lake. I love the creativity in the names (yes, sarcasm) and frankly would argue that they aren’t really lakes, but large ponds. It is 2.5 miles around both of them, so we are talking “large ponds”. Both are man made and serve more than just aesthetic beauty. They actually hold recycled water that is used throughout the community to water the vegetation. You must remember, this is Arizona and we are in a desert, but we have learned early on, how to utilize water wisely. And with that said, since it is Arizona and we’ll take what we can get in water…the term Lakes works.

I decided to get up early last Saturday morning and take a walk around the two lakes. I’ve attached six shots from my morning adventure.

Estrella Mountain Ranch - North Lake - Goodyear, Arizona

Saturday Morning In The Park 1

The first shot is at the end of North Lake where there is an open-air amphitheater in the lawn stepping down to the lake with the water fountains as backdrops. Throughout the year concerts are held here representing a variety of music. Notice the early morning couple walking their dog. As I said earlier, the sidewalk and the lamppost go the full 2.5 miles around the lakes with sidewalk connectors into various neighborhoods.

Saturday Morning In The Park 2

Saturday Morning In The Park 2

The second shot is from South Lake looking back east towards the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop. If you look real close along the sidewalk, you’ll see a parent pushing a stroller coming out from under the Palm trees and to the far left, a gentleman sitting on a park bench.

Saturday Morning In The Park 3

Saturday Morning In The Park 3

The third shot shows the end of South Lake, where there is a large park hosting tennis courts, picnic pavilions, playground equipment and a boat ramp for very small boats.

Saturday Morning In The Park 4

Saturday Morning In The Park 4

The fourth shot shows the sidewalk as it winds its way through the picnic pavilions.

Saturday Morning In The Park 5

Saturday Morning In The Park 5

The fifth shot takes us back over to North Lake, where there is a clubhouse hosting a swimming pool and water features that help beat the heat for all ages from young kids up to….well, let’s just say people my age and older.

Saturday Morning In The Park 6

Saturday Morning In The Park 6

The last shot is the dock, which sits close to the clubhouse. From here you can get kayaks, paddle-boards and small sailboats to go out on the water.

Our heat hasn’t gotten too intense yet, so as the day progressed, so did the activity around the lakes. As a side note, I mentioned the lampposts that go along the sidewalk around both lakes…summer nights are a great time to also take the walk as it is well lit, the temperature is more tolerable and the lights reflecting off the water …beautiful. I feel another photo shoot opportunity! Thoughts?

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Desert Sunrise – Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

Last week early one morning and I mean early one morning, I walked out onto our patio, coffee mug in hand. I was ready to sit down and enjoy my coffee as the sun was just starting to lighten up the sky. Our patio faces the eastern sky, so I was looking up expecting clear skies (it is the desert), but instead saw a lot of high-level clouds. (I’m sure you’re thinking “thanks for the weather report Kirt, but really…) The clouds caught my attention because I know that these types of clouds can make a spectacular sunrise or sunset depending on which is happening. Our area is straight west of a mountain range, so our sunrises are more impressive coming over the mountains. I knew I didn’t have much time; so coffee cup gets sat down, I go screaming into the house to grab my camera and dart out to hike up a hill nearby for some cool shots. I didn’t have time to grab my tripod because at this point the sky was changing already into an incredible display of color. The change to the coloring is ongoing and fast as I get up the hill and get my camera ready for some spectacular shots. I position myself and start taking shots…nothing happens…huh? Thought I had turned it on…check again (which means reading glasses back out), yes it’s turned on, but display is blank…..dead battery. I forgot I had been downloading pictures from my camera into my computer a few days back and obviously left the camera on. Knowing that I didn’t have time to get back to the house for the other set (I always have a backup charged and ready), I reverted to my iPhone. The iPhone takes decent enough shots, but not as clear as I would have gotten with my camera. That said, I still wanted to share some of those shots from the sunrise. What I love about a sunrise or sunset is the coloring changes as you watch. I’ve attached a couple of them from that morning so you could see some of the subtle changes.

Desert Sunrise 1

Desert Sunrise 1

The first shot is soon after I realized my camera batteries were dead. I started with a wider angle to get an overall look of the desert and the mountains in the east.

Desert Sunrise 2

Desert Sunrise 2

The second shot is zoomed in a little tighter. Notice the slight color change…just a little brighter orange as the sun has moved further up behind the mountain.

Desert Sunrise 3

Desert Sunrise 3

The third shot shows the sky just before the sun has peaked over the top of the mountains. The color is becoming brighter and the hues have changed slightly. As I waited a minute for the next shot, I looked to my right and noticed the color explosion on the next shot….

Desert Sunrise 4

Desert Sunrise 4

With the fourth shot, the sun is just about up and the light is reflecting off of some high level rain that is dropping from some clouds south of me.

Desert Sunrise 5

Desert Sunrise 5

The last shot is that same view and the sun has broken the horizon. Notice the change from orange to yellow.

All of these shots were taken within 4-5 minutes all total, that’s how quickly the colors change. Once the sun came up, the dance of color in the clouds quickly disappeared. Thoughts?

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Clouds and Mountains – Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

This week I had an opportunity for a photo shoot within a block of home. We live near the Sierra Estrella Mountain Range just outside of Phoenix. Whenever we get “weather”, often times there are very interesting cloud formations that appear over the range. Well, Monday morning was just such an event. Unfortunately it was a record rainfall for the Phoenix area, most in one day. Being on the side of the city we are, we had the rain first and then it moved over the rest of the metropolitan area. The rain subsided in our area while the city was still getting heavy amounts. I took that opportunity to hike up a hill nearby and point my camera at the mountain range. I have attached some shots from that shoot. What occurred to me as I was shooting; when is it best to go with a wide angel shot or zoom in?

When you are taking scenery or landscape shots, often times if you shoot too wide, you lose the effect you were looking for. Unless you are intentionally going for the panorama frame, you have to be careful how much you include. Think about any pictures you have taken of a gorgeous mountain range only to see the finished product and it doesn’t look as dynamic as it was in person. To compensate for this, you can frame just portions of the view into a shot or use a zoom lens to pull the subject closer in. The zoom lens also plays with the field of depth making the subject look closer.

The next thing to think about, what are you trying to portray? What story do you want to tell with your picture? Often times the answer will tell you whether you are going to stay wide or focus in.

Clouds and Mountains 1

Clouds and Mountains 1

Let’s look at the attached shots. (Disclaimer: these shots are straight from my photo shoot without cropping or other cosmetic touch ups) The first one gives you a wide-angle look at a part of the mountain range. You have the houses in the foreground, but the shot encompasses enough that you see a layer of low hanging clouds enveloping the mountains. The peaks that can be seen are only the foothills; there are 4500 ft. peaks behind them covered by the clouds. The city of Phoenix is on the other side of the mountain range.

Clouds and Mountains 2

Clouds and Mountains 2

The second shot is angled just slightly to my right giving you more of the mountain range. These two shots are not pristine (houses in foreground), but do tell a story of low hanging clouds creeping over a mountain range.

Clouds and Mountains 3

Clouds and Mountains 3

For the third shot, I haven’t moved, but zoomed in with my telephoto lens. I have framed the foreground of houses out of the picture and captured less of the mountain range, but still tell a story of storm clouds creepy over a mountain. Notice I said mountain and not mountain range, because that aspect has changed.

Clouds and Mountains 4

Clouds and Mountains 4

For the fourth shot, I have zoomed in more to focus on that particular patch of clouds as it hugs the side of the mountain. Notice how the story is slightly different as the perspective of the shot changes.

Clouds and Mountains 5

Clouds and Mountains 5

The fifth photograph is very close to the fourth, just tighter focus on the clouds hugging the side of the mountain.

I just wanted to give you some things to think about and some examples when shooting landscapes and scenery shots. Depending on what story you want to tell, when is it better to keep the shot wider and when to tighten in. Notice I haven’t said which is better or which is correct, because again, it depends on what story you want to tell. That said, for the purpose of this shoot, I prefer number two even with the houses in the foreground because it tells more of the story I was trying to tell. And with Photoshop, those houses can become cactus easy enough 🙂 Thoughts?

 

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“A Walk in the Desert” Excerpts from a Photo Shoot

I go from the deep woods and snow of the Pacific Northwest to the deserts of Arizona. As an avid hiker, I was spoiled by the hiking opportunities offered in the Seattle area. There are trails everywhere and the scenery is stunning. Having just moved into a new home that we had built in the Phoenix area, it is requiring a complete shift in my hiking expectations. In the area where we live, there are a number of hiking trails into the desert. The following two pictures are from my first venture out last week. Believe it or not, these shots are from a trail just down the street…..

The Sierra Estrella mountain range

The Sierra Estrella mountain range

The Sierra Estrella mountain range is located southwest of Phoenix. There are a number of 4000 ft peaks, which can get snow.

A wash in the desert

A wash in the desert

This is a typical wash that does see water flowing during the monsoon season in the summer. I took a series of shots that day…cactus will come later….

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