Monday, July 30, 2007

Group Night Shoot?

A few members of my local Flickr club had planned to meet somewhere downtown and shoot some stuff at night. As a long-time night enthusiast with experience and tips and tricks to share I was eager to help any beginners get up to speed, but nobody showed.
Oh well, I got a few things worth sharing and maybe they'll make it next time.
And maybe I'll stay home.

I was in Hemisfair Plaza again, and refined some of my earlier shots while improving my technique.
But then the overcast broke up and the full moon rose, playing peek-a-boo from behind the clouds.
The shot above is called "Tower Of The Am..."

I quickly moved to a higher location so I could get the clouds/moon textures behind one of the four spires that help anchor the AlamoDome.

Word on the street is that my birthday party yesterday was a great success, and that towards the end I got a little obnoxious. I never drink before midnight, but since it was a party...anyway, I apologize for any ruffled feathers although I'm hoping that nobody else remembers, either. If you're curious, today (the 30th) I reached the age that works well with the initialisms RPM and ACP both. Also a nice even yet odd number of angular degrees.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Night Of The Living Snails

For some reason these big snails don't live in my neighborhood, but I know where to find them.
While this one was munching on a fallen hibiscus blossom, I was munching on trout.

It was too dark to go without using flash, and I prefer the way these look over sunlight any day.

My favorite, a portrait of a snail on a blue trash bin.

I guess I'm lucky we don't have these things eating our plants, but I do enjoy hanging out with them and taking their pictures.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Texas Rain

It's starting to make everyone a little crazy, all this rain.
Off-camera flash freezes the drops, but you need a camera that will synch the shutter & flash at a very fast setting--1/800th of a second here.

The difference between a light rain and a downpour is whether or not our patio gets two inches of standing water.

1/1000 shutter keeps the drops from streaking. DSLRs need to be tricked into going that fast with a flash--look in your manuals and menus.

It's raining again right now. We've reached our average yearly amount already, and it's starting to gush out of the sewers and springs--the aquifer is close to a record, meaning it's full.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


As different insects mature or migrate through town I keep getting new photo-ops.
This katydid was facing the ground on our patio screen door one night this week, and I popped flashes at close range for quite awhile.
After looking at results on the computer, I felt that bright and 'correct' exposure didn't do anything for me so I crossed my fingers and went back for another round.
Sure enough, this big stubborn jumper was still there and I was able to get a photo I liked.

Well I'll be damned. About an hour ago, none other than The Strobist himself picked this photo as one of his favorites from the Strobist Flickr Group.
He collects his faves from the pool every week or so, and puts them here, and I recommend clicking that link if you want to see some awesome flash photography.
When you consider that the group has 11,672 members, with many many incredibly talented professionals among them, you can see why I'm excited.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Roma & Bell

Looks tasty, right? They were.

I'll soon have to finish the workbench I've been building, which means losing a great place to do studio photos. A smooth white surface with no scratches at a nice height.
Forgive me, but I'm going to get a few out of my system while I can.
Off-camera flash requires mucho practice, but it's been paying off because I've been getting decent results in less time than ever before.

Damn yellowjackets have returned to my back yard, and I got stung twice today trying to cut the grass. Hurts like hell. Around midnight I'll be going commando on them.

I went to the playground in the previous post today looking to expand the series of photos, and everything was gone. All of the equipment had been torn out, and I'm sure they'll replace it with the overly safe crap the new parks have. Heaven forbid a child gets a booboo and learns to be more careful. Blame the lawyers and the parents who sue rather than watch their kids. Glad I got the picture while I could, since it was the last merry-go-round on this side of town.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Playground

My goal was to capture what it was like to be a child at play, spinning and swinging without a care in the world.

Getting a playground all to myself on a nice day had been impossible since I first attempted this project in February.
Then last week I noticed that conditions were perfect, but once I got to work on these photos I quickly found out why--when it's in the upper 90s and sunny the metal on a merry-go-round or swing chain will burn your skin.

For the photographers: The merry-go-round is really spinning--it's not Photoshop. I used 2 ND4s and a CP filter to get the shutter speed slow enough to blur the background. I was also really swinging. Getting effects with camera techniques are preferable both for the challenge and for authenticity, in my opinion.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Marina: After The Fireworks

These two are the same yet much different, and are probably the last photos from South Padre Island until next summer.
All of the boats visiting this marina for the fireworks show are in the process of heading back to wherever they belong.

Objects in motion during long exposures fascinates me.
Photos like this can represent movement and the passage of time, unlike the 'frozen split-second' that you get during the day.

But long exposures and daylight are not mutually exclusive...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Island Fireworks

Click to enlarge the photos, please
We timed our vacation to be there on the night of the fourth, but it had nothing to do with my taking pictures.
Time-off just works better this way.

Online research told us that the fireworks show would be good, and it was. Long and loud with the added bonus of being over the water.
I moved my equipment a few times until we ended up at the marina shown here.

I don't want to talk about the traffic jam afterwards, but I will.
It took us two hours to make it back to our hotel which was only a mile away.
Only one main road on the narrow island combined with springbreak-fratboy-fighter cops meant that traffic control was a joke.
Those of you who know me might be surprised to learn that I wasn't the one who lost their temper.

Two Final Fotos Coming Up Next...

Thursday, July 12, 2007


This beauty would be my niece if I was married.
Her mother's birthday was right after our beach trip, so we snuck Danielle away for a half-hour portrait session.
I used this shot for an 8x10" framed print that made a nice gift (I hope).

This was my first attempt at using off-camera flash for portraits and I learned a few things I can definitely use in the future, once I invest in some better equipment.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mudflats Infrared

Behind the convention center on South Padre Island is a large mudflat with short vegetation.
The stormy weather made IR a logical choice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

SPI Convention Center & Nature Walk

Our 2nd day was overcast and it rained a little, so I had an idea and went to the nature walk behind the convention center.
My third visit over the years and I have yet to spot an alligator in the thick grove of cattails where they are supposed to live.
No matter, I saw plenty of nature including an egret and a heron that I caught in the same photo.
(Side note: After decades of rumors about alligators in San Antonio which most residents vigorously deny, we had one walk across a highway last month and another that was killed by law enforcement after getting aggressive in a residential area. I have always kept my eyes peeled for them hoping to obtain proof. Now I'll have to switch to jaguars, black panthers and the chupacabra.)

The footbridge shown above quickly splits into two, one that stays over the marsh and this one that extends out a fair piece over the waters of the Laguna Madre.

I like the diagonality of it, and the storm clouds.

Just as a tease, I wanted to point out that I was on the island on the 4th, and spent several hours that night at a marina.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Hotel Next Door

Cocktails and a tripod strike again.
Palm trees, and mixed light types for color.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


A sand dune between our hotel and the beach, at night.

The beach wasn't as well lit as this long exposure would suggest.

A railroad vine reaches across the dune, trying to expand the plant's territory. In a few weeks it will blossom with many purple/pink flowers.
This is an infrared photo from our second day, when storm clouds threatened rain but didn't deliver much.
It was nice and cool for a change, so I spent over an hour on the beach, which is rare for me.
As a teen I spent altogether too much time at the beach during summer vacations, so I'm still sick of sand and sunburns to this day.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Palm At Night

As the other guests and our family get their vacation partying going, I explore alone the hotel property looking for photo ops.
I'm armed with camera-on-tripod and a cold vodka cocktail in a huge San Antonio Spurs cup, among other things.

It was very hot and humid, so condensation on my lens was a bit of a problem.
As long as five minutes outside with the lens cap off was needed to get the glass warm enough to bother cleaning it, but then the Zeiss pre-moistened lens cloths really shined. The alcohol in them displaced the water very nicely giving me clear optics.
I guess what I'm saying is that alcohol in several forms is required for night photography at the beach.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Another Palm Tree Photo

And this isn't going to be the last one, either.
Looks like "normal" exposures bore me to death these days.
I find that if I'm not using some flash, doing long exposures at night, or shooting IR, I just don't feel inspired and don't like the results.

Maybe it's just a temporary madness.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

South Padre Island 2007

These palms in my favorite spot will start this year's visit to South Padre Island and Port Isabel.
Didn't shoot much due to bad weather and a desire to just relax and get my drinks down, but I have a few goodies to show off.

I think I'll be posting single photos every day--when I tried that on Flickr after my recent Corpus Christi trip it was more fun that way.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gotta Clean House!

A huge beetle that I later learned was an Ox had crash-landed on the patio. Trying to get a decent photo of it at night meant using my big flash in one hand and a camera in the other.
Getting a good focus-lock wasn't easy, especially since the big bastard kept walking towards me, cruising right through my selected depth-of-focus.
Taking the "shotgun" approach I made as many exposures as possible before the mosquitoes stung my ass up for good and drove me back inside.
Imagine my surprise and delight at finding this photo that not only had the best focus on the Ox Beetle but also included one of those suck-up pillbugs and a mosquito frozen in flight by the flash.

It seems strange to me that there aren't any big snails here, yet I have no trouble finding plenty of them a few miles away in the yards of family and friends.
I guess they just haven't made their way this far northwest yet.

We're going to South Padre Island again, and not only will this be the longest visit ever but I also have three times the camera memory as last year and a few other surprises.
It's looking like the photo-trip to end all photo-trips so far.
When you consider how many posts got squeezed out of a mere 21 hours in Corpus Christi recently you can probably count on seeing seagulls and sunsets until November.

I think i just jinxed myself. Either catastrophic equipment failure or a freak hurricane are waiting for me.