Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Trains Of Kenedy County

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
The best way to get to South Padre Island is US77,
which passes through Kenedy County south of Kingsville.
The Union Pacific tracks parallel the highway much of
the way and when I spotted headlights coming towards us
it was a simple matter of pulling over and waiting.
And waiting. And waiting some more.
You see, it's a desolate place even by Texas Standards and
objects in the distance are farther than they appear.
This is my first train photo with prickly-pear cactus in
it so I'm kind of proud.
(How desolate is it? Maybe three small towns.
If you want excitement, hang around at the Border Patrol checkpoint.

On the way home, in the same area, we passed
another northbound UP train. Rather than try to get ahead
of it, park the car and walk across the highway, I took the safer
option and shot this out the window while driving at 60mph.
This explains the motion-blurred foreground, and it's my
favorite 'pacing shot' to date.

As an aside, yes it's Kenedy with one 'N'.
Most of the county is behind the fences of the Kenedy Ranch.
Think of the biggest ranch you've seen, supersize it, then
admit you have no idea what a truly big ranch is like. Multiply by ten and you're getting close.
The King Ranch is bigger, but the Kenedy is still beyond huge.
And these Kenedys have
lived in America much longer, owned more land, engaged in more
honest business endeavors, and have probably done way more good
for society than those drunken politicians, smugglers, and
killers from up north.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

For Selma

(Click on the photo to enlarge)
This photo represents one of those magical moments known by
other photographers, where you are dead-certain that it's
going to turn out great even before you trip the shutter
and hit the review button.
In fact, I only took a single backup shot with a slight
exposure adjustment, but the original was everything I
had hoped for.

The main thought in my mind as I took it was "I hope Selma
likes her print of this".
Now I just need to remember which frame to get so it
matches the last one.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

South Padre Island 3: Port Isabel

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Queen Isabella Causeway
This 2.5 mile long bridge connects South Padre Island
to the mainland at Port Isabel, which is where these
photos were taken.
In the early morning hours of September 15, 2001 a string
of barges trying to pass below, on the Gulf Intracoastal
Waterway, struck a support and a section of the roadway
fell into the water.
So did some cars.
Eight people died and the island was isolated.
This disaster would be very well-known were it not for
the date when it happened.
Please read more here: Causeway Collapse

Port Isabel Lighthouse

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

South Padre Island Part 2

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Here are some beach scenes, like this kite-boarder
caught from the eighth floor balcony of our hotel.

Pelicans flying low over the dunes

Beach shower


Sunset over the Laguna Madre

Monday, May 22, 2006

South Padre Island Part 1

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
One of the bands I work with was hired to
play at a beach-wedding reception, in the ballroom
of the Bahia Mar Resort on South Padre Island, Texas.
If you look at a map, find the southernmost tip of
the state (Brownsville) and then move a few miles up the

South Padre is separated from the mainland by the
Laguna Madre, which is also the start of our country's
vital IntraCoastal Waterway. Barges carry freight traffic
along a shallow channel that's protected from the dangers
of the open ocean beginning here in the Gulf of Mexico to
the upper regions of the Atlantic coastline.

The Bahia Mar can't touch the quality
of the major hotel chains on the island, but it provides
a good experience for those who aren't burdened by too much
disposable income, and it's really quite attractive by day
and by night.

The first night's stay was comped by
the wedding party, but unlike the rest of the band we
elected to stay for an extra day and night.
After driving for five hours to get here it was an easy choice,
especially since we had enjoyed our visit last summer so much.
(Please see the archives from June 2005, and stay tuned
for parts 2 and 3 and...)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I'm Outta Here

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

Going to the beach!
South Padre Island, for a working (free!) vacation.
If you need me, I'll be at the Bahia Mar Resort.

Got some good photos there last June
(see the archives, these are ones that didn't make the cut)
so expect to see some beachy scenes when Views Of Texas returns
in a few days.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

UP No.844 Is In Town

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

At a small railyard for overseas shipping containers
located just south of Rittiman Rd off the IH35 southbound
access road sits Union Pacific No.844.
The railroad's "Goodwill Ambassador" was the very last steam
engine built for UP, delivered in 1944.

This "Northern"-type oil burner
has a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement and was made for high speed
passenger trains. With it's fuel/water tender (not shown)
it is 114 feet long and weighs nearly 900,000 lbs.

While touring Texas No.844 and it's
string of cars will visit most major cities and pass through
countless small towns, to the shock and awe of unprepared
witnesses. San Antonio is a rare exception because we host
this historical machine for an entire week, possibly because
of the need for goodwill UP has in this city after all of
the fatal accidents here in 2004-5.
Reactions among other visitors were interesting.
The middle-aged mostly took pictures while the kids were
beyond excited.
But those old enough to remember the steam era seemed to
be fully removed from the 21st century, reliving their
memories of a time before highways and jets.

While I doubt I will be able to catch this
powerful beast when it pulls it's gleaming yellow and grey train
out of town, I'm glad I got to see it up close.
The steam engine made America.

Squirrel Photo Time!

(click on the photo to enlarge)
The SPURS just lost their third game in this
best-of-seven playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks.
It will take three consecutive wins to keep our hopes of
repeating as NBA Champs alive.
So I can't concentrate on picking photos, and shouldn't be
writing their stories anyway since I'm currently unable to
be funny, or informative, or even civilized right now.

Maybe a nice squirrel photo will cheer me up?
It's easy to caption...all I have to write is
"Here's a squirrel in a tree".

Nope, doesn't work at all.
The focus is soft and the composition is weak.
Pure crap.
And the short caption isn't my style at all, but I guess
it's better than just dropping a long string of F-Bombs.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Presa Street Bridge 2

(Click on the photo to enlarge)
This span dates to 1925, and carries vehicles
and pedestrians over the heart of San Antonio's
famous downtown Riverwalk.
Taken at 8:04 pm during the height of our annual
Fiesta season, getting a photo with no people or
cars in it was difficult, especially since I only
had a few minutes to spare. I was on break from a
club gig down below, and didn't have my tripod with
me: I had to set my camera on the railing for a
5 second exposure.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Six String Masterpieces Part 2

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
I have finally noticed the disturbing trends around here.
After some event or trip I'll rush through my processing
and post Part 1 within an hour of returning home.
Two days later Part 2's photos get posted but they will
be from the same hurried editing session.
No care taken at all.

I'm not a photojournalist, I'm a photoblogger with
self-imposed deadlines.
There isn't a single one of you sitting at their
computer waiting for me to post full-frame snapshots.

Breaking the pattern is a step in the right direction, so these are new photoshoppages based on living with my raw results for two days.

Not saying this batch is any better than the last, but knowing that I actually spent some time on my personal favorites has improved the mood around here by 37 percent.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

6-String Masterpieces: A Tribute To Dimebag Darrell Abbott

(Click on the photos to enlarge)

For those who aren't into heavy music, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott
was the guitarist for the band Pantera, from the Dallas area.
After decades of pummelling audiences worldwide with their
ferocious music, Dime and his brother Vinnie Paul (drums) decided
to take a break and try something different for a while.
They formed a side project called Damageplan, recorded an
album and went on tour.

During a show in Columbus Ohio on December 8, 2004 a
Pantera fan with mental problems, upset that his favorite
band had been broken up (he was mistaken) climbed onstage
and shot Darrell in the head before also killing a few
other people. The 'fan' was then shot to death by a police

As a tribute to the legendary guitarist, San Antonio native
Chris "Curse" Mackey (founder of the band Evil Mothers and
creative director of Action Arts Agency) organized the show
seen here.
54 Dean ML guitars (Dimebag's favorite axe) have so far been
painted (or more) by a wide range of people from tattoo artists
and airbrush types, to famous musicians such as Rob Zombie,
Marilyn Manson, Tommy Lee, Dave Navarro, Hank Williams III,
Zakk Wylde, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, and Kelly Clarkson.

The guitars are touring the country, and we caught them here
in San Antonio yesterday. After the tour the guitars will be
auctioned off to support music and art education initiatives.
The exhibit was free but I donated $10 to the expense fund
in order to help Chris and his family with their costs and to
get the official poster.

Over the next six months the show will hit most of the
major cities across America.
Look for it.

In the early 1980s I was in the sound crew at a Pantera show
and after buying Dimebag a couple of beers we got to talking.
He was a wonderful guy, crazy fun and without pretension,
every bit a Texan. We got along so well that he gave me his
card in hopes that I might come to work for them, but I was
concentrating on my own career as a guitarist at the time.
When exhibit curator Chris Mackey saw me holding it up to
get this photo he made a beeline across the room to hear
my story and tell his own.
Seeing the exhibit and being surrounded by reminders of
our tragic loss was an emotional experience for me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

End Of Fiesta

(Click on photo to enlarge)
This year, I went to the first and the last
Fiesta events, and none in-between.
10 days of partying TexMex-Style, literally hundreds of
related events large and small, and now it's all over except
for counting the profit or the debt.
This shot from Sunday at Market Square is a fair distillation
of much of the experience: bright colors, dense crowds, beer,
grilled food and smoke, and lots of police officers.
(I count 7 cop hats.)

The twisting lens feature of my Sony F717 came in handy once
more, allowing me to compose this photo using the LCD screen
while holding the camera high above my head over the crowd.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

September 11 Memorial

(Click on the photos to enlarge)
Built by a local church, San Antonio's Memorial to
those lost on 9/11/2001 is dignified and attractive.
The artfully 'damaged' wall in the back symbolizes the Pentagon
while the curved walls represent the twin towers of the World
Trade Center. The shadow is made by a tall steel tower with
an eternal flame, in honor of the brave souls aboard Flight 93.

The Eternal Flame

There is a fountain at the base of the tower.
The flag under the stars and stripes shows the current threat level.

Another of the four fountains at the site.