Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The New Convention Center

Click on the photos, please
Well...not exactly new, since it's been open for over a year, but newer than the one that was torn down to make room for it.

I like the design, and there's plenty of public art to enjoy on the grounds.

In other old news, the fountains are back on in HemisFair Plaza around the Tower Of The Americas.
The drought of 2005-6 caused all decorative water in the city to be shut off--a move that set a good example for our citizens but disappointed a lot of tourists. I definitely question the wisdom of this decision, as I overheard many angry remarks from people who came to SA and spent a lot of money.

Since becoming interested in night photography coincided with dry fountains, it was lucky for me that I remembered last night that the H2O was flowing again.
And I'm also glad I went because the lack of rain in February means that water restrictions may be back sooner than we think.

More-Better photos of the fountains in the next post.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Staind Plays At The Rodeo

Click on the photos
The heaviest band to ever play the annual Stock Show And Rodeo, Staind surprised the organizers with how big and enthusiastic the crowds they attract are. Hopefully this means next year we'll have even more rocking bands to complement the country and classic rock acts.
As soon as the dust settled from the rodeo, the crew started setting up the concert.
The stage came first.

Here's the band's techs with guitars and monitors, waving to one of their crew and his camera because it was probably the first time they ever entered a venue behind a tractor.

Unfolding the circular stage. At the bottom you can see the casters that the stage revolves upon.

Running a followspot is fun, unless you're afraid of heights. The operator is in constant radio contact with the band's lighting director who gives them their cues for color, who to light and when, etc.

from left to right: Mike Mushok on lead guitar, drummer Jon Wysocki, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Aaron Lewis, and Johnny April on bass.
Behind the band, the four instrument techs tune guitars, adjust and maintain the amps, fetch water and towels and drumsticks, swap instruments onstage between songs, and whatever else their band members need done.
Notice that Mike likes to play on a carpet, which has to be duct-taped to the stage.

Video screens are standard at concerts these days--wish they were around years ago. This is one of four that show replays at Spurs games here in the ATT Center. When they show a bad foul, someone will get booed, either opposing player or the ref.

We were pretty high up. I wonder how that guy's cellphone-camera photo came out?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Rodeo Action

Click to enlarge
You may personally disagree with the way animals are treated at a rodeo. Nothing you can say will change my mind, and vice-versa, so let's not see a bunch of nasty comments, okay?

Parts of it bother me, too, but I must say that tradition is something that should be respected.
Here in South Texas, rodeo is a tradition that keeps us in touch with our roots, and with the hardships faced by the early inhabitants.
Life wasn't pretty then, and it isn't pretty now.

Several million dollars in college scholarship funds were raised this year. Education is good.

Some of the program was quite beautiful to watch, like this couple who have long practiced the skills of the Charreada.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rodeo Carnival

Click on the photos
These semi-abstract views of the rides were the reason I brought a tripod with me.

As soon as the sun set it turned bitter cold with high winds. I rushed to get these shots so we could get inside the ATT Center for the Rodeo action.

After a 26-day absence, The Spurs were able to play a home game last night, beating Denver senseless. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson were rendered useless by our defense.

This photo is very popular at an internet forum.

Horses, cowboys, lassos and flying dirt coming up next.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo 2007

The Rodeo visit this year was too much fun, and I got a huge batch of photos that I want to share. We were there for almost nine hours, and I'll be taking you through the day in strict chronological order as we enjoyed all of the sights and sounds and smells.

As always, please click on the little photos below to see them much bigger
This young bull (bulls have teats, too) was among the fine animals raised, shown and sold by high school kids hoping to earn scholarship money.
These youngsters work hard all year learning the fine points of animal care and the entire South Texas community shows support by purchasing their fine livestock both for food and breeding stock, and even pets.
This one showed a lot of personality, but also plenty of butthole which I thoughtfully cropped out.

The Auction raises huge amounts of cash that goes towards college tuition. One steer was sold for $104,000 this year.
When I first saw these shaved sheep I thought I was seeing goats with boots.
The light was dim, and getting a good white balance was very difficult since I accidentally left my home-made ExpoDisc™ at home.

A shot that updates one from last year. Please see the Feb. 2006 archives.

Now we're heading inside to see the vast amount of goods for sale. Everything from western clothes and hats to jewelry and home decor is for sale, and the prices aren't what I would call attractive. Renting space must cost a pretty penny. I liked the Aussie flavor that was prevalent, since there are probably more real live cowboys down-under today than there are in Texas.

A collection of little decorative castings that could grace your shelves if you had more money than sense. Very Texas-ish and worth a photo, though.

Do you think the vendor adjusted the apron like this on purpose?

Piglet Racing!!!
What's better than that?
Kids of all ages love it, and here's proof.

That's all for now.
Check back in a day or two for a bunch of photos taken as day turned into night and the cold turned even more bitter.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Has It Been Two Years?

Yes, today is the 2-Year Anniversary here at Views Of Texas.
315 posts with 546 photos.
Over 18,546 page views.
And at least ten times the word-count of your average photoblog, maybe more.
I want to extend a big thank-you to all of my visitors, especially those who take the time and trouble to leave comments.
If the counter at the bottom didn't keep climbing so fast I would have axed this site long ago.

Please click on the photo to enlarge it
This will be the last tree post for a while, I promise.
This pine is in a local park, and can't be more than four or five feet tall.
I don't recall exactly because for most of the time I spent with it, I was laying on the ground trying to get the best angle and exposure.
The clouds were moving and changing very quickly due to high altitude winds, so photos taken even a minute apart are completely different.
This one had the best sky, but some of the others are pretty cool, too.
It was a tough choice to make.

I was in manual mode and using a polarizing filter.
The exposure was set at a -2EV underexposure metered for the sky, with the underside of the tree brought up using fill flash.
Not much of a message with this, except that even a naturally pretty scene can be improved with some creative camera work, so it's more of a showcase for technique than anything else.
Good practice for when something really interesting is happening under similar conditions.

The Rodeo was great yesterday, and I got a ton of pictures.
So many in fact that I'll need to break it up into at least three posts, starting tomorrow night.

Have a good weekend, and thanks again for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Tale Of Two Trees

This is all that's left of the tree in this post.
Some jackass probably needed more firewood.

Lately I have been fascinated with some very small pine trees in the area.
This one is at the UT Health Science Center, just down the street from where I took the photo in the post below, on the same night.
I have another dwarf pine photo from yesterday afternoon that will be here shortly.

Going to the SA Stock Show and Rodeo tomorrow.
Hopefully the weather will allow a few photos at the carnival, as last year's were among my favorites.
This time we're going to see some actual rodeo action, with the bulls and cowboys and dirt flying and clowns.
Staind plays a concert afterwards, and cameras are allowed unlike most shows.
Stay tuned....

The rodeo's website

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Rising Steam

Click to enlarge

University Hospital's heating and cooling building, at night.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Maury Maverick Jr. Branch Library

Please excuse the look of the text/photo relationships, as I'm just guessing...
Google's Blogger, which hosts all of my sites, underwent an upgrade several months ago.
I was among the very first members to be invited to switch over during the beta testing period but that's not of interest to me--being a guinea pig--so I have resisted the change long after I should have.
Tonight when I tried to make this post I was informed that I could ignore the 'invitation' to switch only one more time before it was forced upon me, so since I have a few more beers in the fridge it made sense to handle the process now.
So I won't get all mad if things don't work right.

Anyway, above is the front of our newest local library branch.
I shot it from as far away as I could get to keep the sides straight, then went inside for a library card.
My first two books were a biography of Ansel Adams and a book he wrote describing exactly how he made a bunch of his legendary photos.
Font Change: A detail shot from close-up.
This building won an architectural award of some kind. I would research this info for you but am too concerned with using the new blogger interface right now.
The fire station next-door shares the same architecture, so they saved money by ordering extra materials that are the same, in higher quantities. It's actually nice the way they match when you see it.
A detail shot of the pierced-steel screening on the front of the buildings.
I like how the dots make it look like the picture isn't cropped square at the top edge.
Optical illusions are cool.

So now I'm going to hit the "Publish" button and see just how jacked-up the new blogger interface really is.....
Wish me luck?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Overcast: Conquered

click to enlarge
As anyone can tell by looking through my archives, I'm not a fan of making photographs on overcast days.
Full sun gives better color, partly cloudy adds "sky drama", harsh shadows--to me--means added contrast and texture.
Stormy weather is wonderful.

Grey overcast has always meant....bleah.

But this image had such strong compositional elements that I let it sit onscreen for a couple of days before committing myself to the final version.
Every time I opened Photoshop I would take another stab at it, looking for the best edit I could make so I can actually enjoy looking at it, while remaining faithful to what the photo actually is before I started futzing with it.

Finally, I came up with a method that emphasizes the crappy light, making it work for the photo rather than against it.
Long ago I gave up on forcing an image to be something it isn't.
The difference now is that I'll keep at it rather than just give up and blame the light.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Went For A Hike

click to enlarge
After getting screwed by weathercasters who got things wrong all week, on Friday the stars aligned and I got to go on the hike I had been planning.
It was a beautiful day with temps in the mid 60s.

Besides the (occupied) homeless camp I stumbled onto, a pack of wild dogs, and drunken speed freaks in a pickup doing who knows what way out in the woods--it was a fun little excursion.

Next time: No tripod (makes running difficult), a much bigger knife, and maybe a friend to go along with me.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

McAllister Park

A couple of infrared shots from around the pond in SA's biggest park.

I don't have anything much to say about them beyond the fact that they're a little 'soft', but handheld IR in high winds will do that.
The infrared experiments continue...

I just had a friend call me today with an offer to print a 36" x 48" poster of whatever shot of mine I wanted to email him.
Because he got some free glossy photo paper that fit his company's printer, we had to get it done right away--if you get my meaning--and it was hard to pick something quickly that might look good at that size.
'Waiting To Cross Over' was our first choice of course, but even NeatImage couldn't clean it up enough to suit me. It will make a nice 8x10 but the noise after cropping is too big.
Making it harder to choose, my external harddrive was offline while I worked on ripping mp3s and putting them on the Sansa. The time needed to search through my archive CDs wasn't there, so I just picked a relatively clean file of an outtake sunset from South Padre.
It was a ten-second exposure with stacked ND4s and a CP filter taken at dusk, as compared to 8 seconds for WTCO, but even with a strong levels push the file was still three+ times as clean.
And it was from the old sensor.
At 3mp instead of 5mp.

Since WTCO was taken when full dark, maybe even a small amount of light from the sky is enough to overpower noise? (The old signal to noise ratio thing matters in music recording, too.)
My dusk shots from Christmas were only 2 second exposures, and their skies were smooooth!!

As much as I enjoy shooting for hours at a time at night, I'm constantly reminded that results are best between 20 and 40 minutes after sundown.
Unfortunately, the light changes fast at this time, so wandering around looking for a shot will never beat being prepared and already knowing what you want.

I can't wait to see my poster-sized print!