Saturday, January 23, 2016

Views Of Colorado

Vacation fun in the Rocky Mountains!
Flew direct SA to Denver, with only one bit of drama after we landed involving a co-conspirator.
It was snowing at sunrise when we went to get our rental SUVs (4-wheel drive was mandatory to get to our rental house) and continued off and on for the rest of the day. After a hearty breakfast, we went shopping for legal intoxicants and food.
Over some mountains to Breckenridge took an hour+, then we settled-in to a beautiful 3-story house with all the amenities.

This is a look at the home next door from the kitchen table, which I claimed as my personal "office".
It gives you an idea of how we were living.

The view from our rear deck. The town of Breckenridge is at the bottom less than a mile to the left.

The snow came up to our bedroom windows on the sunken bottom floor.

This was only my second time in Colorado--the first being in 1987 when my late brother Ken and I went to fly large and dangerous "model" rockets on a high plateau near Hartsell. We became a bit famous on that trip in large part because the hobby was still small and new and we brought high standards of theory, design, construction and finishing to our rockets. It didn't hurt that Ken was a biker and I was a rocker, and we looked it and partied as hard as expected.  
This time the altitude didn't affect me much, possibly because I stay better hydrated these days and also because I spent the first day going up and down stairs as often as possible to speed acclimation.

More to come.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

It has been a few years since I featured the Riverwalk on our card photo, so it felt right to go back there for something new.
Last year, clued in by some nice shots from a member of my camera club, I got some pics that almost made the cut. This is a fairly new section of the San Antonio Riverwalk behind the old and re-purposed Pearl Beer brewery.
On a "scouting mission" I pulled out the camera and tripod anyway, and shot some tests in the area.
One view was better than last year's stuff so we went back 4 days later.
There was a construction crane in the frame, and on our return it was pivoted into a horrible position--so we were out of luck on what I originally wanted.

Trying to stay positive we walked around a bit, hoping that inspiration or good luck would strike.
On our way back to the car, I re-saw a scene that I liked from the previous visit, but had immediately written off as impossible. But it looked SO good, I let my heart overrule my brain.

You can only get this photo from a stairway landing that doesn't have enough room for my tripod.
And there is foliage encroaching from the top and left sides.
Plus a bright light on the right/top just out of frame.
Move the camera more than 2" in any direction, and it all falls apart.
A real prick of a shot, especially at the long exposure times needed.
Anyone walking across the attached steel footbridge will vibrate the crap out of it, leading to a blurry mess.
I had my tripod's legs folded down straight, and then held it in the corner of the guardrail.

We knew we had it as soon as I asked Sylvia to climb back up the stairs and just look at the scene from the landing. After 3 exposures we went to Mama Margie's for dinner.

Watching my new ted2 DVD. Hilarious!
Shot with my phone using the new selfie stick.
Yes, it sounds crazy for a "serious" photographer to even consider such a thing, but I foresee many situations where it'll be exactly what I need. Sometimes "toys" are just what you need, both for fun and a re-thinking of the way things can be done.

My wish for 2016's Christmas card photo is that I get it in the next couple of weeks, to take some of the pressure off.
Merry Christmas.
Happy New Year.
Thanks for visiting.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

10 Years Of Christmas Card Photos

2006, the first one. Might as well start with The Alamo, our most famous landmark. Luckily the tree had white lights so it's brightness in relation to the Alamo is as good as it can get. This year's Spurs-themed tree is very dark.

2007, Tower Of The Americas, San Antonio's other iconic landmark. We made a point to come downtown closer to sunset, for more color in the sky.

 2008 San Fernando Cathedral.
This was the only year this photo was possible because sick trees that would have been in the way were removed and not yet replaced. The fountains had just been installed, too.
Probably the best remembered picture, but it set the bar impossibly high. Sold and gifted a lot of 8x10" prints of this.

2009 The Riverwalk.
Right in the heart of downtown. To get our card photo we go all over town looking at decorations in the weeks after Thanksgiving, then return to the best spots at the optimum time to refine the composition and exposure. I put a lot of work into this project, so it's gratifying to hear that most people save the prints every year and look forward to the next one.

2010 Sneaky Santa.
One of our favorite ornaments, posed on the little silver tree in our front window.
I was looking for a change from "downtown SA at night" and having to drag a heavy camera and tripod all over the place. Super easy, and fun.

 2011 The Riverwalk again.
This was the first year the city used LED lights, to mixed reception. Under the impression that they could leave them up all year, the crews went all-out wrapping the trees almost completely. Unfortunately, the color of these first-generation bulbs leaned pretty far to the blue end of the spectrum. Then squirrels ate the wires when the weather warmed up, destroying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of lights.

2012 St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church.
Taken a couple of years earlier after Christmas Eve Mass.
I was working 60 hours a week that year, and didn't have time to search out something. Also wanted to go in a religious direction. I also took one where the tree is out of focus but Jesus is sharp, then let Sylvia choose.

2013 Little Church At La Villita.
This pic was maybe 5 years old, and is the only daytime shot.
We weren't finding anything else, then quickly ran out of time.
While printing them, the machine got stuck and wouldn't stop. By the time staff got it shut down there were over 100 extra prints that I still have. This was the year my brother Ken died right before Christmas, and I drew some comfort from this picture.

2014 Blanco County Courthouse, Johnson City Texas.
I had been wanting a shot like this for years, to get a small-town view.
Sylvia left work early so we could make the hour+ drive north in time to catch sunset. be continued

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Christmas Prep

El Potuso said earlier this week that going forward with "Climate Change" legislation--worldwide--is the best way to send a big FU to terrorists. WTF??? Like they give a shit.
I'm pretty sure he's wrong because he's the one who said it. Can we somehow vote for a polygraph on the executive branch?

In my Texas opinion, the best way to proceed is to have the very best Christmas possible--to celebrate BOTH sides of this blessed and wonderful Holiday right in the face of both those who want to exterminate us, and those in our own country who have misguided values and haven't figured out that the situation is serious.

Never seen "Old Blue" from this high of an angle.
Still looks OK for a 17 year old truck, although she let me down a few weeks ago after 2 good years so trust needs to be earned once more.

After last year's miraculous record of zero blown strings of lights, THIS year has seen every single Christmas tree, outside string of lights, and miscellaneous decoration come up with some level of failure.
Luckily, I've managed to remember where we got the lights however many years ago and they've still had the same brand/model in stock and sometimes on sale, but many many extra trips to the stores = slow progress at confounding the terrorists.

 Our new addition this year is "Bliss Lights" from QVC which are serious lasers that throw a bajillion dots of light all over your house or into your trees or on the ceiling, etc.
I could have just attached them to the included stakes and put them in our yard, but with all of the recent news stories about fuckheads stealing people's decorations I have zero interest in offering up some free "scores" for crackheads and douchebags.
These bad boys (1 red and 1 green) are securely strapped 20 feet up a tree, and tugging on the extension cord to try and steal them will only make you look like a monkey working his personal vine.
After the installation I learned enough to come up with a greatly refined plan for next Christmas that'll save me an hour of extension ladder time and contain all them wires in a single box.

Advancing Christmas lights = FU, terrorists.

THIS is what I'm talking about.
A steel Santa Claus we got on a deep discount last year @ Pier One, or the Nativity scene my mother bought in the late 1960s that I grew up loving. (Music box = Silent Night)

It's hard to decide which means more to me, and I'm glad I don't have to.

The last photo was done with my phone, tealights behind the nativity and inside Santa's belly, and an LED flashlight.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Deep Eddy Distillery

We recently took a guided tour of the Deep Eddy Vodka distillery in Dripping Springs Texas. (East of Austin on 290)

It was the first cold day of the season. I was under-dressed. 

 This is their "column distiller", which accounts for the incredibly high purity of their vodka. With the old-fashioned kettle method, you have to keep repeating the process, and at a certain point it just takes too much time. My go-to vodka is distilled 4 times. Deep Eddy claims 10x, but because this process is so much more efficient the actual result is probably at least double that. Try their unflavored version against any other vodka--straight--and you'll understand.

These big tanks are where the all natural flavors meet the alcohol.
The product doesn't spend much time there, because this tiny plant is going to top 800,000 cases this year.

 Paper labels are faster, easier, cheaper, prettier, and classic.
I hated screen printing bottles back when Ken and I owned our print shop.

 So...I only got around 3 hours of sleep the night before because it was an early appointment and a long drive. Didn't eat anything either.
This was my breakfast--all 5 flavors of Deep Eddy.
Also got to pick one of their signature cocktails, served in a mason jar type pint glass, which we got to keep. Good thing we brought snacks, then went right to a decent pizza place in town. 

 Couldn't manage one of the slushies.


LOTS of booze.
Sylvia prefers the iced tea flavor.
I like the lemon.
The Ruby Red is great, too.
Don't like cranberry, but their take on it surprised me.
The tour was very educational.
It's a company that has great values and it's going to be a big player before you know it.
All Natural flavors and super-pure alcohol equals the finest vodkas I've ever tried, and at a price that can't be beat.
Made In Texas, Y'all.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Lovely Setting

My band played a wedding last night in this event center on the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country.
After setting up our gear I turned around and realized that maybe...just maybe...I should have brought a real camera.
On the other hand, then I would likely have shot it horizontally and sacrificed the reflection on the floor.

When viewed on Facebook--on a smartphone--it's quite effective since it fills the screen.
On a laptop or desktop--not so much.