Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

I hope everyone has a fun and safe celebration tonight, and my wish is that we all improve our lives and those around us by a greater margin than we managed in '07.

There are a few older photos waiting to be posted, but I want to push this one to the head of the line.
Yesterday I finally got this particular View of Texas out of my head and into my camera.
I've long been an advocate of planning and doing research to get better photographs.
When combined with luck and skill, impulsiveness and attention to detail, you can truly combine the best of both worlds--right and left brain.
Yin and Yang?

For example, this old and abandoned electrical power station sits in an area I frequently visit (or at least check periodically) whenever I'm shooting downtown.
There's a lot to like about it--crusty and tall and industrial, with many different textures.
But until yesterday it has never been photographed by me, not even once as a test.
The reason for that is simple: I knew it would take some real work to get it right, and I wasn't fully prepared before now.

The side that's visible from the local streets are in complete shadow unless it's morning, and I don't exist in the morning.
The western side which gets afternoon and evening light is closely bordered by the San Antonio River, and beyond that is fencing around the old Lone Star Beer brewery with even less public access.
So there was no easy way to get a well-lit shot casually, but a few weeks ago while hunting for a specific nearby mural I spotted an access route to this angle--but I also saw that I would be close, meaning a vertical shot with no zoom and lots of sky and lens distortion.

For two weeks I kept all this on the 'to do' list in my head. (Other photos of mine have had to wait for years).
Then on Christmas Day I stepped outside and looked at the beautifully stretched and wispy high cirrus clouds we were blessed with, and made a few test shots in infrared.
The results after processing were amazing, and I was tempted to post them here had it not been for a decided lack of a subject in front of those great clouds--so a purely technical exercise entered the equation at just the right time.

On Saturday when I woke up the Xmas Clouds were my desktop wallpaper (a timely reminder) and when I looked outside they were back!
And I had the afternoon to kill on my own, with our good car.
Checking the radar and visible light satellite imaging on the internet confirmed that the conditions would hold for a few hours, so no need to hurry and screw myself out of the lower-angle sunlight which always looks better.

I packed up my gear and cruised downtown, and was quickly denied hitting the train tracks first by the traffic mess of the AlamoBowl®, and went after Plan B: the abandoned CPS power plant next to Roosevelt Park.
Parked in the nearest lot, took my monopod as a visible warning against the undesireables who were around (they don't know exactly what it is, but can sense that it can't be good) and hiked out to shoot.

Attached the needed IR filters, checked exposure, removed an ND4, checked again.
Sat my ass on the dead grass and shot a few dozen, adjusting exposure and CP filter orientation a little but mainly just enjoying the experience.
At this point I know it's going to turn out nicely, I'm just living in-the-moment and letting the clouds move across behind the scene since you never know when they might improve or detract by minor differences in placement.

It got almost Zen-like.

Then I shot some color photos just in case...
They stink compared to the infrared/black and white versions.

I spent another hour or so in various places before going home, and got some more nice views, but the whole time the power plant experience was Tingling in my head.
It's easy to recognize this feeling now because every other time I bagged a possible portfolio-worthy shot the same thing happened.
A feeling that I can't wait to see them onscreen but have to force myself to forget about it and make the best use of my time on-location in good conditions.

I sincerely hope we all Tingle a few times in 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Infrared capture of an abandoned industrial building--possibly contaminated.

Here's a 1024x768 version--making the smaller one above was a headache due to moire patterns being created in the ribbed area. I finally tried resizing with IrfanView for the 800x600 version and it worked. Irfan's lanczos filter is different from Photoshop's bicubic resizer.
You can even see different poire patterns in the two thumbnails!
After a very brief flirtation with colored infrared photos I've gotten bored and gone back to strict black and white conversions of my IR photos.
The Mission photos and the ones I shot today (more coming to Views Of Texas soon) have convinced me that this is where I need to spend my time and energy.
Getting good B&W from digital is problematic at best, and I'm really enjoying the way my latest conversions are coming out so I think I'll forget about color/IR.
Besides, everyone else is doing them now and better than I ever could so I'll stand out more by sticking to monochrome.

My new flash and radio triggers shipped Friday. I expect the flash Monday or Wednesday but the triggers will take longer, coming from Hong Kong. I have a giftcard waiting so I can buy new batteries for the Cactus V2s, and will charge the new AA's for the flash tomorrow. I also have an old cellphone that's going to 'donate' it's antenna to the transmitter, for more range. I've been a Strobist wannabe for over a year--it'll be great to finally put all the knowledge and ideas to use. And then I'll be wanting another flash and receiver...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Drill Press Action, With Lasers

Actual test drilling after assembly.
Slave flash/umbrella camera-right, triggered by hotshoe flash aimed sideways. Tungsten shop light on background, shutter adjusted for high key and leftside yellowish specular highlights from garage overhead light.
Two lasers project a squashed X where the bit will contact the material, as seen on the wood above.
620rpm is the slowest it goes--moving the belt to different pulleys gives me 5 speeds that reach 3200rpm.

It's a Craftsman®.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Orders have been placed.
Shipping will soon commence.


I've been doing pretty well with my current flash system if you judge by the results, but you have no idea how difficult it's been. And some shots had to be abandoned because there was no way to make everything work.
Frustration is an understatement.
Things are about to get really interesting around here...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bowl Of Valley Lemons

Shot for a gift print.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Ornaments

Both of these are posing on the new silver tree in our front window, but normally it only wears the cool pastel thread-covered ornaments.
Rudolph inside an actual snow globe shaped like an Xmas light bulb.

Prancing Santa!
Possibly the best ornament ever.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nativity Scene

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Selection Of Ornaments

The best guitar on the tree.

A wind-up toy looking blimp, and I also enjoy little pinecones.

This 'sliding' Santa was new last year, and it cracks me up.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Foggy Highway

I always believed that this was a good photo deep down in my heart.
After waiting a week or so it turns out that I was correct according to Flickr's Explore feature.
Last night a half-dozen people claimed it as a 'Favorite' and that was enough to push it into the exalted zone.

To my way of thinking it's just another addition to my series of highway photos for better or worse, but it doesn't suck to be in the top 500 photos out of the millions that get uploaded to Flickr every day.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Big Red® & Barbacoa

The new sign painted on the side of Tommy's Restaurant #3, on Wurzback @ Gardendale.
Much better than the old sign.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mission Concepcion

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Christmas Lights 2

Friday, December 07, 2007

San Antonio Christmas Lights

A sampling of what there is to see downtown.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Quick Sunset

After several days of complete overcast skies with rain, it was time for a change.
On the way home from running errands, we could see some interesting cloud shapes on the western horizon that might be worth a picture or two. Getting closer revealed a thin strip of clear sky signalling an end to our current weather.

Stopping at a place I know that has a rare clear view to the west (lots of hills around here) we saw that the sun was no longer high enough above the interesting clouds, so they weren't back-lit the way they were before.
Instead I concentrated on the tall grasses, using flash as shown above.

That's when this happened.
This is Sylvia's very first published photo using her new camera, a Sony T-70
Two other people driving by stopped to take pictures at this time--the light was that amazing.
And short-lived.

At one point I turned around and got this example of just how red the sunlight was for the two or three minutes it was visible that day.

Since we were on the edge of a field there really wasn't anything worth shooting besides the grass, so here's some lit by the setting sun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Zoo Two

This grizzly bear was hidden from view on our first pass, so I insisted we try again later.
After a few frames he decided to mess with me--always walking away so I only had a shot of his butt.
I would anticipate and run ahead but he would turn around and walk the other way, over and over.
Grizzly bears are big (up to 1500 pounds and 8 feet tall) and fast (35 mph) and very smart.
I had a sudden moment of fear that turned to respect when I realized that this huge and dangerous animal was playing with me--and winning.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The SA Zoo

It's been almost three years since we went to the excellent San Antonio Zoo. The upgrades since then are nice, and the works-in-progress are better still.
Sleepy kangaroo--kind of redundant or something since all I ever see them do is lay around snoozing and scratching.

Desert Iguanas, from the desert southwest USA.

A pair of juvenile Komodo Dragons. We're lucky to have bred Komodos in captivity--a testament to our fine zoo staff.

A misconception I keep hearing is that it's impossible to get the kind of selective-focus I got in the last two pictures using cameras with small sensors.
Not only doesn't this claim make any sense, it's an outright lie.
And these were perfect situations for using iso200 and my new monopod, as the shutter speeds were in the danger zone--from 1/60 to 1/5 in the reptile house is to be expected.
Also, shooting through glass meant (to me, anyway) using a rubber lens hood that I could mash againt the window to eliminate reflections and help steady my camera. I went to the zoo prepared and all of my theories were proven correct. This is one of those gratifying times that makes up for all those other occasions when I was dead wrong about how to handle a difficult situation.

More to come.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For Lisa

Lisa's dog Caesar visited again recently and sat still for some portraits.

He's my buddy.

The palm at the end of her driveway, at night.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another Ramp Photo

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Three Freaking Years

It's been three years since we bought my Sony F717 digital camera.
I set some goals 365 days ago and most of them have been met.
Tonight I decided to shoot something with a new/old feel--similar to previous photos but with more crustiness that's due to being too new and unfinished instead of old.

Web browser version

It took freaking forever to get here!
The last mile consumed an hour--which equals 1 mph on a major highway due to an accident (thanks a lot, dumbass!).

1024x768 Wallpaper version

This was literally the first frame I exposed on-location, and there isn't any rotation or cropping, either.
I guess I had my usual Anniversary PhotoMojo™ working overtime.

This picture is already one of my all-time favorites, much like "Waiting To Cross Over" from last November 17th.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Waiting For A Train To Pass

Two lucky snapshots.
I wasn't even going to shoot this train, but at the last second changed my mind.
Then this guy shows up on his bike, and acts all impatient for the train to get out of his way.
Almost midnight--I would want to get home, too.

It's also lucky that he didn't move much during these 8-second exposures.
In fact, they were the only times he wasn't riding around in circles or standing/sitting/standing/ then riding forward and back.

A few more of these and I'll have enough for a photo-essay I've been planning about the strange behaviors of people at RR crossings.
(I'll post a link when it's published).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Halloween 2007

At the second Halloween party on a hectic Saturday night I was surprised by this scene. More and more people own prints of my work, but this was the first time I have ever walked into someone's home and seen one of mine framed on the wall.
I like everything about this display.
Thanks, Holly--you made my day!

As you may have guessed, there was a Halloween party at Holly's house.
Here's a view towards the rear of the property.

Graveyard out front.

Her most excellent firepit that makes mine look like a joke, although I enjoy portablility.

Hope you enjoy this one, H.

Some of the action at our house. Smoke and strobes of course.
Two flashing strobelights serve to disorient the trick-or-treaters, as does the bubblewrap under a rug on the sidewalk that pops and makes some of them scream--parents included.

This half-dummy I made is a new addition to the team.
Many kids of all ages never made it to the door this year. We cracked a front window and listened to their sobbing and screaming.
Their loss, since we give a good selection of treats.

I never got around to carving these fake pumpkins. My plans for them include internal strobes, possibly smoke, and animated movement. I should have them ready for next year.

A handful of kids--those without costumes or the ones who won't say "trick or treat" but are old enough to know better--got tricked instead of treated again this year.
It's our standard practice to drop packets of TacoBell sauce into their bags instead of candy.
They are colorful, the right shape and size, and make the correct 'plop' when they hit the bottom of the bag. (Ketchup packets aren't funny--it has to be TacoBell sauce).
Our porch is dark and my witches are skilled so they never know what we've done until it's time to inventory the loot at home. We love to imagine the look on their faces.

Halloween has rules.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For The Veterans

Thank You

Friday, November 09, 2007

Falling Water 3 (x2): My Favorite(s)

Buz and I had a blast shooting at Hemisfair last Sunday night. Despite multiple trips it never gets old to me and I always seem to find a new favorite photo here.
Like this one.
It combines many of my favorite aspects of both the place and my photographic techniques.
The smooth water is among the best I've ever captured, if I do say so myself.

On the other hand, some rare birds aren't enchanted by smooth long-exposure water.
They've told me so, and are 100% entitled to feel that way.
For them, I have added a little handheld flash mid-way through the exposure to freeze enough of the waterfall and spray to make things look more realistic.

I don't dislike this version at all.
In fact, it's far superior to using flash alone on water at night because the long-exposure part of the equation adds color and density that simply don't exist in flash-only photos.
Trust me, I've tried many times in many places using many methods and the results are just too thin and weak looking, and don't do a credible good job of conveying what the eye/brain/heart actually see at night.

Both of these are uploaded for you at 1024x768 resolution so you can really dig into the details.
(Hit F11 on your keyboard's top row to take your browser into full-screen mode. F11 again will return to normal.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Falling Water 2