Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gerber Daisy And Lens

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

The title clearly states what we're looking at.
A big question is why?

Not much of a Texas View here.
In fact, except for the black paper background this
doesn't even look like my work.
It's a bit grainy, and not nearly as sharp as my other
close-up photos. This is due in part to my using the
smallest aperture available with a long exposure, so as
to get the maximum depth of focus. My lens is sharpest
wide-open and closer to the subject.
I shot it a few hours ago while testing a tripod attachment
that I built Tuesday night. Cutting steel and aluminum is
fun, but drilling holes in them is easier.
The tests went well, but it's final result(s) won't be shown.
I'm waiting to shoot something more interesting tomorrow
using this new/old technique, so will remain cryptic and vague
until my next post.

All I'll say is that it's going to be very cool.
And deep.
And a bit of a strain on the eyes.
You have 3 guesses.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Fallen Blossom

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Another outtake from our trip to the island, I spotted
this flower that had been pinched off and fell to the
railroad ties that served as retaining walls for the
stream and pathway to the beach.
Finding the little details that everyone else misses
is one of the great joys of photography.
Hundreds of people walked past it without giving the
poor broken flower a second thought, but to me it was
an important discovery that spoke volumes about the
cycle of life and death.
Your mileage may vary.

On the camera front: The damn thing works perfectly
still, and after some custom hardware gets re-invented
and built by me in the next few days there will be some
very interesting new developments here.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Still Life

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

This is a recently re-discovered photo from our
last trip to South Padre Island in May.
I took it to remember the feelings I had at the very moment
when I finished reading the book shown, because it made a
huge impact on my understanding of both the history of
photography as art, and where I want to go with my own work.
Published when I was but four years old, and presenting
the best recorded written works of some
of the greatest photographers of the last century
including Adams, Strand, Weston and Stieglitz, this
little gem cost me $3 and has zero pictures.
The essays I found between the covers blew my mind.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dark Clouds And Broken Windows

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

The little tourist-towns of Texas are a strange mix of
fresh paint facing Main Street and crumbling bricks with
busted glass in the alleys.
I like this because it exposes some truth about buildings
from 150 years ago, but I hate it because the window with
the broken glass was supposed to be where the other one is
in the composition.
I'll chalk it up to being rattled by the sensor issue
and my lack of experience in 'portrait orientation', and
try to do better next time.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dark Clouds Over Boerne

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

This was taken last weekend, just minutes after
discovering that my previous shots were useless due
to the random banding caused by my faulty sensor.
The fun photos of the egg-toss competition and the
dachsund races were ruined.
I never saw so many weiner-dogs in one place in my life,
being all cute while tripping everyone with their sneaky
leash antics.

I guess it's prophetic that one of the only usable
photos featured dark clouds.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Unpatched SP #8577

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

This engine is one of a dying breed.
When Union Pacific bought the ailing Southern Pacific
railroad and added their equipment to the mix of regular
UP stuff (as well as those from other RRs previously
assimilated by 'The Borg'), many of the engines had to be
re-numbered to keep the roster from having duplicates.
With over 8000 locomotives (not to mention all of the
various types of boxcar, hopper, flatcar, etc) keeping
your numbers straight is very important.
This particular unit is one of only a few handfuls that
have escaped the process, retaining the original SP
paintjob with no ugly yellow 'patches' of paint over
the numbers and logos.

One possible reason is that #8577 never ventures out
onto the open road, instead being used exclusively to
move cars and engines around the busy repair shops just
northeast of downtown San Antonio.
It's only fitting, since they were Southern Pacific's
shops in the first place.
(That's them in the background)

In the world of railfan photography, getting a picture
of an unpatched SP unit is something to brag about.
But this engine is almost always within a quarter mile
of where I caught it here, so I have a few dozen pics
of it so far.
This particular view is my favorite because not only was
it lit fairly well, but the shops behind places it
nicely in it's native habitat and the crew member at the
rear reminds us that people make the railroads run.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pig Stand

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

On the premises of Pig Stand #24 on Presa Street
stands this 12' tall "Big Pig".
Generally credited as the first chain of drive-in restaurants,
they also claim to have invented onion rings, chicken-fried steak
and Texas Toast.
You can google "Pig Stand" for too much more info.

On the camera front, the latest news is that my unit was made
during the period when a number of faulty CCD sensors from Sony
made it past QC. Canon and Fuji cameras using these sensors
were also affected. Sony's service advisory covers my model
and date of manufacture, so a free repair may be forthcoming.
So now the problem is just like when your car is doing something
funky but when you take it to the dealer it purrs like a kitten.
After three days of constant useless photos, now that I'm trying
to pass the test on Sony's website (or is it fail?) my beloved
F717 is working purrfectly.
So the current plan is to keep using it, and continue getting
new material for Views Of Texas (and Zzakk's Garage) while hoping
that the sensor finally craps out completely before the free repair
program ends in a few months.
But don't be surprised if I get some weird looking color streaks
across a photo, and decide I like it enough that way to post it
here anyway.
I'm stubborn, and won't be denied my blog posts.
(That means I have already done this elsewhere, and at least
one person liked it.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006


(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Shot for a contest which had the theme: Focus.
I intended to demonstrate how when faced with a
multi-layered composition it's important to choose
carefully which layer gives you the intended mood the best.
Moon, clouds, big branches, twigs...which would you have chosen to be sharp?
As it turned out, nobody 'got it'.

The reason I'm posting this photo tonight is to remind
myself to focus on solving my current problem without
letting emotions cloud my judgement. camera is broken.

Whether I get it repaired or replaced, this is probably
going to cost a lot of money I simply don't have, and I
can kiss the new tripod I need goodbye.
Even if one of the best-case scenarios play out, I might
be without a camera for at least a month.

Views Of Texas will continue getting updates for as long
as I can keep finding stories among the 14,233 pictures
I have taken since November 17, 2004.
The tone of my writing will no doubt get darker.
I'm sorry about that, but y'all will get through
this better than I.

Words can't begin to convey how dark my mood is.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

String Theory

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Shooting rock bands in crappy clubs is harder than
you might think due to the poor lighting, but if you
get creative a few extra 'keepers' can be had.
This is a recent photo of String Theory's bassist
in silhouette.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Archived Images 1

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

To be honest, it's been so long since I took this photo
that I'm not positive which church we're looking at.
It was August of 2005 and I had just bought a +3 macro
lens, but that's all I know for sure.
Possibly on Basse Rd, which would make it the
Alamo Heights United Methodist?
I do remember that the buildings
and grounds were fairly new, amazingly clean and well
maintained. An inspiring place of beauty.

See why I need to get out and shoot some new photos?
Pulling stuff out of my archives means that any possible
stories are covered over by the sands of time.

(But as the title suggests, archived shots will continue
for the next few posts at least--sorry about that.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

An Hour Sitting In A Ditch

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

It happened a few months ago, but I remember the humidity
and mosquito bites like it was yesterday.
Shot for a contest I didn't end up entering, this
was my favorite photo from that particular night's
A 30 second exposure wasn't enough on a moonless night
but that's all my camera can do, so Photoshop helped me
out a bit more than usual here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My City At Night

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

This is the eastern third of downtown San Antonio as seen
from the roof of a nine-story apartment building near
Hildebrand Rd, looking south-southeast.
The church is just down the hill while the rest of
the scene is probably 3 miles away.

A professional photographer (with a $5000 camera) at the same
event saw what I was doing and tried to copy me, but couldn't
figure out why her results had a yellow sky every time.
After watching her press nearly every button she had over
the course of about twenty exposures I took pity and explained
the problem.
The "lady" bagged her shot, then walked away without thanking me.
Not a big surprise.
The other 250 people on that particular rooftop were beyond rude, too.
Some of them have earned very unflattering nicknames for life.

I love my city, but that doesn't mean I have to love
everyone who lives here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


(Click on the photo to enlarge)

I need to escape from the heat and from my mental state.
Please send me plane tickets to somewhere far to the north.
It doesn't have to be anywhere exciting at all, just 'Not Here'.

This photo was taken on January 1st, on College Street.
I'm glad I have a bunch of older material to draw from
or Views Of Texas would be a ghost town.

Hey, there's an idea that just got me excited.
Send me tickets to a place with ghost towns.
I'll bring you back a Tshirt, and some pictures.
Thanks so much.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Prairie Racerunner

(Click on the photo to enlarge)
This is a fine example of the Prairie Racerunner lizard.
As their name suggests, this critter is common in the
middle of the USA, from South Dakota to Texas.
While I see them regularly, catching them is another story
because they can run at up to 18mph.

They are closely related to the Whiptails, which in South
Texas have populations that are entirely female. Reproduction
is asexual, although there are verified reports of 'mounting'

I once had a Texas Spotted Whiptail as a pet and it was a
cool little beast. Very active, with a forked tongue that
was constantly tasting the air for prey just like a snake
or a monitor lizard, it reminded me of a sub-miniature
Komodo Dragon.

In fact, over the years I have owned over 25 different
species of lizard and snake, although I currently have
none. The State Of Texas changed the laws regarding the
capture and sale of native species, so pet stores no
longer carry them and I would need a hunting license
to catch my own.
This is a shame, because out of all the exotic reptiles
from every continent** I have had, the local ones were
the most interesting to me.
Except maybe the Mongolian Sand Lacerta, which coincidentally
looks and acts a lot like our friend here.

(**No reptiles in Antartica)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's Hot

(Click on the photo to enlarge)

The first high-rise office building with
air conditioning in the entire USA was in
San Antonio.
This isn't it, but I like this photo because
it can serve to remind the world that if you
visit our city, you will only be uncomfortably
hot on the street.
Every car, and every building you're likely to visit
has air conditioning.
The trick is to walk from tree shadow to shady doorway
quickly, then look around at your surroundings before moving on to the next temporary oasis.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


(Click on the photo to enlarge it a little)

I suppose the previous post makes no sense without
the original photo.
This is what it looked like straight from the camera.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Chinese War Horse 2

(Click on the photo for a 1024x768 version)
Please click on this link for Part 1

I decided to again try and refine my HDR processing
techniques, using a shot from my last visit to
the Chinese War Horses at PFChang's China Bistro.
I'm posting it large for everyone who enjoyed the
previous ones, and because I think it just looks
really cool.
A photo like this doesn't tell much of a story but
it makes a nice desktop wallpaper.

(HDR=High Dynamic Range, a digital photography
approach to getting the full range of tonal values
and color that can possibly be extracted from the
image file(s) from a camera. You can bracket your
exposure and combine them in Photoshop or just
isolate the subject from the background and process
them separately as I have done here.)