Saturday, April 29, 2006

San Antonio Spurs

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

This sign is in our front yard, and yes I spray painted
the black and silver stripes on the post.
We love our (NBA Champions 2005) Spurs.
Not just because they are a very good team, but because
they are a class act all the way.
Mainly from the guidance of retired center David Robinson, who
made San Antonio his only NBA home during his professional career,
and who learned a thing or two about leadership and class as a
Naval Academy graduate and Naval Officer before becoming a star
as a member of the US Olympic 'Dream Team' that spread basketball
fever to the entire world. More than anyone else, 'The Admiral'
instilled a belief in values, community responsibility and true
professionalism into the Spurs organization that continues today
under the leadership of Coach Gregg Popovich (Air Force Academy)
and superstar forward Tim Duncan. Both of whom are known for
having a wonderfully dry sense of humor.
We don't have to worry about thugs and criminals on this team.
With the exception of Dennis Rodman, there have been no embarrassing
players on the Spurs, at least as long as they were under contract
For example, Guard Avery 'The Little General' Johnson, for years
the man-in-charge out on the court, was just voted NBA Coach of
the Year after only his 1st full season leading the
Dallas Mavericks.

Here's a view of their state-of-the-art practice facility,
which was recently built near our home.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Water Tanks

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

This pair of concrete water tanks sit in a field
on Huebner Rd, in Leon Valley Texas.
Very old and certainly not as big or high-tech as the
other ones in this small town, they still have a certain
charm. And they are still in use.
I have always meant to photograph them but never got
around to it until last week.
And only because I needed a subject that reached up to
the sky in order to make the best possible use of these
fine looking clouds. A month sooner would have
been better so the trees wouldn't have had so many leaves
blocking my subjects.
28mm (35mm equivalent) just isn't wide-angle enough to
achieve the look I was hoping for.
And those big piles of dirt on the right didn't help.
But at least I got out in the sunshine and brought home
a photo I don't mind looking at.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Fiesta Oyster Bake Part 2

The question I'm most often asked is "Do you really know
what all those knobs and switches do?"
The answer is yes.
If I didn't, I wouldn't be able to do my job.

Besides the mixing console shown here, there are also racks
full of outboard gear like compressors, EQs and digital delays
patched into individual channels. A realtime analyzer
displays the sound pressure levels of each 1/3rd octave
across the audio spectrum, and a laptop computer shows the
status of each of the amps under the stage.
(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Me at work.
(Photo by Sylvia)

String Theory

Al, lead guitar, with Mike.

Mike, lead vocals and guitar, Gabe on drums, Dave on bass.

Power amps stage right.
Fifty thousand watts here, and a duplicate rack of amps
is on the other side of the stage, too.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fiesta Oyster Bake Part 1

The Fiesta Season has officially started in San Antonio with
the first event of hundreds held over the next week and a half.
Fiesta Oyster Bake, put on by the St. Mary's University Alumni
Association, kicks off our yearly county-wide party in grand
style with great food, concerts and a carnival.
This is the third FOB where I have worked as a sound engineer
but the first time that the band I was with managed to secure
a slot on Stage #1, the coveted main stage.
Let me tell you, they treated us right!

So here's your backstage pass to a behind-the-scenes look
at the staging of a major rock show.
(Please click on the photos to see them full-size)

Local band String Theory was the opening act for John Waite.
His long career started in the USA with the over-hyped British
import band The Babys, then he found success with solo hits like
'Missing You' and as the singer in the '90's supergroup Bad English
featuring Santana/Journey guitarist Neal Schon.

The first photo is an example of unauthorized photography
during soundcheck. This is heavily frowned-upon but I was
able to get a covert shot while the talent's backs
were turned. The last thing you want is a guy with a microphone
and 100,000 watts of sound system yelling at you for taking his
picture, right in front of your co-workers and friends.

Our RV dressing room, which was every bit as big
as John Waite's.

'String Theory' bassist David Rey grooving on the pampered

A view of the backstage area from our dressing room.
The air conditioning was the most popular feature.

The stage and half of the speaker system.

100,000 watts of professional audio power!
I was stoked...

Stay Tuned For Part 2.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Parking Lot Photo Fun 2

(Click photo to enlarge)

Taken two minutes after the previous entry below,
ambient light seemed to work for this photo of
a loose nut that's supposed to be
helping hold this lamppost firmly to it's base
at all four corners.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Parking Lot Photo Fun 1

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

I had an hour to kill before work but because I nearly always
have my camera with me, progress is made and time is not wasted.
This lily was part of the landscaping in a shopping center
parking lot at Blanco & 1604. The sun had set and available
light was low, so contrary to my usual methods I decided to
try using the in-camera flash.
Surprisingly, I liked the results enough to post it here, and
as a bonus I'm going to let y'all see it at a much larger size
than I normally show.
So click on it, and stay tuned for Part 2.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Crownridge Canyon Part 2

Keep in mind that I am decidedly not a good
landscape photographer.
Also, all of these photos are from early March before
the official opening of the park, so the foliage isn't
as colorful as it will be soon.
And please click on the photos to see them at full size.

Here's a dry creekbed visible from the Level 1 trail.

The trail crosses the creek here. You can see that the Level 1
trail is packed caliche, basically rocks and crushed limestone.

Red Oak Canyon Bridge

Two views of the Level 4 trail.
Not for casual walkers, you should wear hiking shoes and be
prepared for steep climbs on narrow trails.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Crownridge Canyon Natural Area

Part 1

In this area we get our water from a huge system
of underground caves and porous limestone called
the Edwards Aquifer.
To protect the quality, not only is development
over the recharge zone limited, but runoff from
parking lots etc is caught in special basins and
naturally filtered before being allowed to seep
into the ground, and into our water supply.
In addition, certain critical zones are bought with
money from a special tax, and either left in their
natural state or turned into parks and natural areas.
The newest one to open is Crownridge Canyon, north
of Loop 1604 near the intersection of Camp Bullis
and Babcock roads.

The entrance and restrooms building, whose sloping roof
catches rainwater which is stored in a cistern for landscape

This mosaic is appropriate.


Trail map
(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Part 2 will have some views from the trails, but please
study the map. I don't want anyone getting lost.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Best Day Of Her Life

(Please click on photo to enlarge)

When the sun rose today, this poodle was at death's door.
Severely malnourished, an eye infection, fur so overgrown and
tangled that it looked like a bag of trash when dumped on the
side of the road.
To make matters worse, some kids were kicking her.
As the sun was setting, she was visiting our house and posing
for this picture, trying to remember how to trust people again.
By now she's fast asleep in her new home, warm and dry, fed
and groomed, secure in the love of her new 'mom' and two
delightfully eccentric chihuahua buddies.

Today didn't start out very well for her, but it was
the best day of her life.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sony F717

(Click on photo to enlarge)

This is the camera I used for all but five of the photos
posted here at Views Of Texas. Well, six photos now.
The F717 was revolutionary when introduced in 2002, and
except for shot-to-shot speed and high ISO quality, it
still holds it's own against the latest offerings from
the so-called 'serious' camera makers like Canon and Nikon
in it's price range, and even among cameras selling for
much more.
It's twisting lens and infrared 'night vision' features
are still unmatched, and the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar lens
is sharper and has more range than lenses costing twice as
much as my whole camera.
Since Sony actually makes the sensors that are at the heart
of many cameras sold by their competitors, it made sense to
me that Sony would know best how to make the most of their
sensor's output, and nothing I have seen or read in the past
few years has made me doubt this idea.
Because it had been replaced in Sony's line by the improved
model F828 and therefore discontinued, mine was among the last
new-in-box examples to be found in all of Texas when I got it.
I had been borrowing one for a few days a month at the time,
and decided that it was THE camera for me.
If you ever get the chance to handle some of the entry-level
digital SLR cameras on the market and then play with one of
these Sonys, you'll quickly understand what terms like
"build quality" and "precision engineered" mean.
Unlike the $1000 plastic contraptions being sold by the
boatload, this camera is made with a tight and solid-feeling
magnesium alloy body, and turning the zoom ring is a
revelation in smooooth.
There will never be another camera like this one.
If you see one in a pawn shop or at a yard sale, get it.

So, how did I time things to take a photo of a camera's
flash going off?
I put a borrowed Sony H1 on a tripod facing the F717, which
was lit with a single 100watt 'natural' bulb with diffuser.
On the H1 I stopped down the aperture until the exposure was
'right' with a 2 second shutter speed.
Then I engaged the 10-second timers on both cameras,
prefocused them to eliminate shutter lag, then started the
countdown on the H1 about a second before the F717.
The H1's shutter opened first, then the F717 went off in
the middle of it's exposure.
I had never tried such a tricky process before, or read
anything on the web about how to pull it off.
It just made sense at the time, and worked like a charm.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Lake LBJ
(Click photo to enlarge)

The State Flower of Texas is the Bluebonnet, seen here on the shore
of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, 75 miles north of San Antonio.
A former Texas Governor, LBJ became President of the United
States when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
During Johnson's term in office, his wife Ladybird convinced him
that the highways of America needed to be made more beautiful.

The end-result is all of the wildflowers seen along the roads in
nearly every state of the union.
Read the full story here: First Lady Of Wildflowers.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pat O'Brien's

(Click photos to enlarge)

Located across the street from the Alamo, Pat O'Brien's
surprised me on my first visit.
An open-air restaurant, piano bar, disco and a wedding reception
were all packed with people having fun and spending money.
All of this on multiple levels in several adjoining buildings
that look to be over 80 years old, it was easy to get lost
or turned around.

The lamp was in a hallway, while the flaming fountain
is in the main roofless dining area and visible from
Dolorosa Street.

(Views Of Texas has passed the 10,000 hits mark in just under
a year of keeping track. Thanks for looking in, everyone.)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Moving Camera

Inspired by the abstract results obtained by the daring
photographers here at camera toss,
a few months ago I made 'Moving Camera' an educational
exercise for the other photographers at an online forum
where I host an assignment series.
Learning a few new tricks from their efforts, I was ready
when my friend Matthew of Robertson Photo re-used the
idea for his assignments on another forum.

The basic idea is exposure times of a few seconds, and either
random or controlled movement of the camera to create new and
often surprising abstract images.

For the first one I put a red keychain light and a blue/white
LED flashlight on a table with black paper background, then
tripped the shutter and moved my F717 in a zigzag pattern,
creating something that reminded me of the aurora borealis.

These next three were made with my light sources on the table
and a Sony H1 on a turntable (for smoother movement) across
the room.
For this one I propped-up one side of the camera to create
an angular streak effect. I called it 'Re-Entry'.

For this last photo I let the camera sit for a second to
fully expose the candle before starting to rotate the
(Click on photos to enlarge)
It was fun experimenting in a new direction, and inspiring
others to try new things, too.
We all learned something in the process of sharing our methods
and results, but Matthew was the only one of us who was brave
enough to actually toss a camera.