Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I Can Keep This Up for Weeks, People

Click to enlarge all photos, please
It's starting to look like I have a never-ending supply of Corpus Christi night photos, but I think these three are the last ones.

The marina was cool and quiet and calm, an inspiring place to take pictures and I tried to make the most of my time there.
It was one of the more rewarding night shoots of my life, and I'm glad the results have been enjoyed so much here, on Flickr and at Shuttertalk Forums where I have just started showing them off.
The picture above is one of the very few that needed more than minimal post-processing and I almost didn't bother, but am glad I took a second hard look at it.
Most of the rest are pretty much straight from the camera--it's all about unlearning daytime exposure methods and "rules" and treating the night with the care and respect it deserves.
Forget cranking iso and thinking too much about DOF, it's all about jamming as much light onto the sensor as fast as the situation requires to stay far above the noise-floor, and be sure to have NeatImage or NoiseNinja, too.
Signal-to-noise ratio is king at night.

Finally some life among all the inanimate stuff I usually feature.
This sea bird (what is it Bruce?) had an unusual way of moving.
It would freeze, then back up a step and freeze, back up and freeze.
Otherwise this photo would have been a blurry mess, so thanks Mr Bird.

Coming up next is either a break in the action or I might just finish out the Corpus trip with photos from the USS Lexington.

Corpus Omni

Two views of the Omni Hotels, from close by...

...and from afar.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Corpus Christi's Seawall

Please click on the photos
The seawall in Corpus is constructed to double as bleachers facing the bay.

The benches on top face both directions.
Normally I fight lens flare at night by tweaking camera position or just giving up on shots that are this bad. For some photos with minimal flare I'll clone them out in Photoshop, but it's not easy or quick and I prefer careful camera work over spending hours doing tedious digital processing.

There's something about the result here that I rather like, so I kept the flares and the photo.
I am reminded of two '80s movies--The Final Countdown and The Philadelphia Experiment, although I'm not sure why.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Corpus Christi Marina With Selena

click to enlarge, please
Selena was a big deal here in South Texas, before and after her fan-club president shot her to death in a motel room after being confronted with evidence of embezzlement.
Google for the rest of the story--my main point is that Corpus Christi was her hometown so there's a memorial for Selena on the waterfront.
People leave all sorts of mementos and messages. Our favorite was the one we saw a few years ago that said "Selena We Still Love You And Miss You OK?" because you always want to ask dead people for permission to love and miss them, OK?
They might say no, so you would have to stop.

Getting the kids involved in City-Funded Arts and NecroCrafts™ is cool.

A nice relaxing View Of Texas, marina-style.
Lots of little sailboat masts sticking up. Yuck. I like the expensive and empty section better.

The entire downtown bayfront in Corpus is lined by these concrete bleachers, so untold thousands can partake of whatever events are held. It looks like an effective breakwater if the outer two aren't enough some day.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Corpus Christi Part 2

I forgot to mention in the previous post that the first thing we did after arriving in Corpus was check-in at our hotel and then be forced to kill time waiting for our room to be ready. This was painful because the plan all along was to get into the room ASAP and watch the San Antonio Spurs versus the Utah Jazz in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals. The sailboat photo was taken during our wait, but it was the only thing that turned out OK because I was in a state of high anxiety. The TV picture was really crappy, so it was hard to see exactly what was happening. The Spurs won, and then we drove the rest of the way to the coast in a much better mood for the rest of the photos I posted on Monday.

An A-4 Skyhawk painted in Blue Angels livery is a teaser at the entrance to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, on permanent display in Corpus Christi Bay.

A pair of the Lex's anti-aircraft guns were also on shore display. We had just eaten a seafood (and chicken-fried steak) dinner in a restaurant right next to the Lexington, and I was getting anxious as the sun went down.

Here's the Lex at night. It's nickname is The Blue Ghost because it was the only big ship to wear it's particular blue shade of paint during WWII, and the nighttime lighting plays on that theme.
The access pier is silhouetted against the ship--you enter on the hangar deck well below the flight deck.

This bridge spans the ship channel that leads to Corpus Christi's port facilities. It doesn't look as big as it really is--the largest ocean cargo vessels can pass under it with ease, and when you're driving over it don't look down.
The high winds typical of Corpus Christi were the worst on this photo. For the others I had my tripod on solid ground (parking lots and concrete walkways) and could hold it down against the 30mph gusts. This time I was in a grassy field and my previous technique would only sink the legs into the earth. This picture isn't sharp at all, but was the best of seven.

Looking back towards downtown CC from the same spot where I shot the Lex.

It's a curious phenomena that acceptable depth of focus changes at night.
Shooting this same scene during the day I would stop down the aperture for max depth, but at night when I need as much light as possible to combat digital "noise" I never hesitate to open it up, and I don't think the results suffer as much as one would think from a purely theoretical viewpoint versus actual experience.
Possibly, softer focus is more acceptable at night since there are already items in the frame that are blurring from motion, like the water and clouds in this shot.
I will entertain other theories.

Whatever the reasons, I'm not complaining.
Shooting at night has a huge range of technical problems and physical dangers that I gladly accept to get photos like this and the ones that will appear here in a few days.

Corpus Christi

We took a 24-hour vacation at the coast Sunday/Monday.
Corpus Christi (Body Of Christ) is on a large bay 2 hours away on the Gulf Of Mexico.
Despite Chicago's nickname, CC is the true "Windy City" with the highest average sustained winds in the continental US--18mph I believe.
This sailboat is passing one of the marinas that are protected by two breakwaters.

At a fishing pier on the coast of Padre Island we came upon this fisherman who had just landed a baby hammerhead shark. He didn't have pliers to remove the hook, but since I am always prepared (my camera bag has all sorts of things in it) he was able to borrow my folding multi-tool while I snapped this picture.
Everyone was catching these little hammerheads, and tossing them back.
Too small.

Barnacles and swirling water around the legs of the pier. We were about 200 yards from the beach.

A surfer dude and his chick. She was scared, and he wasn't very good.

I have a ton of material from the trip--next up is night photos from the marina.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Walker Ranch Park

A new trend in SA is to buy old ranches and turn them into parks.
What were once huge tracts of land visible from city streets only in the form of a gate across a driveway, and thus unknown to the public it terms of size and topography, these hidden treasures make excellent parks.

Located at West Ave and Nakoma, Walker Ranch Park has the usual playground, walking and hiking trails and benches. The parking lot is too small, but there's a second "secret" lot to be found across this long footbridge that spans Salado Creek. This lot is at the end of Rhapsody.

I had been catching glimpses of the zigzag bridge through the trees for over a year, but had no idea of it's size. Very cool.

The wildflowers were amazing, but since it was cloudy I used off-camera flash to shoot this Indian Blanket.

The ranch's windmill was kept to add flavor.
I highly recommend this park, and will return often to explore the other trails and seasonal variations.
Voelker Ranch (Blanco and Old Blanco) has been purchased and will get similar treatment. I have explored it already and hope the limestone cliff will fall within the park's boundaries. We'll know in a few years.

Blogger is giving Opera problems again, so I have to use Firefox once more.

Going to Corpus Christi tomorrow and Monday.
You can expect city and marina night photos, beach stuff, and the USS Lexington aircraft carrier--both the onboard tour and nightshots from the beach.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Rest Of 1st Friday

In the alley--sometimes the pop-up flash is exactly what you want to use.
Usually not, but I like what it did here partly because it was coming in from the side due to portrait orientation.
Only slightly from the side, so it makes a slight difference.

Cut-out metal lamps, shot through the shop's window.

Outside a small store.

As we left I saw the reflection of fireworks in a window. They weren't for 1st Friday--we think they were for the architects convention we heard about from two different people that night. One of the visiting architects was chitchatting with us while I was shooting these photos. He liked San Antonio very much.

After the finale I noticed the top of the tower shouded in smoke, and got my favorite photo of the night.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

First Friday

Clickable Thumbnails Below
The 1st Friday of every month means all of the art galleries, photo studios and related places on South Alamo Street in "SouthTown" are open at night, free, in a block party type atmosphere.
Food and jewelry booths line the street, live music and art is performed, and thousands of people roam around soaking up the vibe.

The west end is anchored by the Blue Star Art Complex, where I shot these first photos.
Multi-media is the norm, so you never know what you'll see or how it'll be presented.
I think of this piece as "twisty bits on white" since I didn't bother to learn the name or artist--sorry. I liked the shadows. Other twisty bits were on the floor beneath it, hopefully on purpose and not through destructive audience interaction.

These two are from a piece called "A Minor Gesture".

I was always a fan of the intricate and repetitive art the speedfreaks in San Francisco used to make in the '60s and '70s. I got the feeling a similar inspiration was responsible for this, but what do I know about art? Not much, beyond the old saying that ends with "...but I know what I like".
I preferred the twisty bits.

The room with it's art displayed on computer monitors had the biggest crowd, staying for the longest time.
Big surprise in this era of TV and computers ruling the masses.
I wasn't sure about the rules regarding photography here; since I was the only person with a camera I tried to be stealthy but when I saw this scene I busted out my big flash and bounced it off the ceiling and the wall on the left.
To be honest, I was feeling a little smugness and contempt, and was in the mood to turn the viewing of "art" into a bit of my own art.
I feel like I succeeded not because this photo is great or anything, but because it was the 2nd exposure and I don't think a single person tore their eyes from the screens after my flash lit the hell out of the whole room the 1st time.

LCD screens rule the earth, and if nukes started dropping people would respond by searching for video footage on YouTube.

More on 1st Friday soon.
Recently Views Of Texas passed the 20,000 hits milestone.
Scroll down to the bottom and see the counter for yourself.
I figure I get around 30 visits a day, about half from search engines and the rest from a few dozen repeat visitors who check-in daily/weekly/monthly.
My tracking service (StatCounter) tells me a lot about you regulars, from your OS and browser choices to your screen resolution and ISP.
Just so you know, I use Win2000, Opera 9 and 1024x768.
Thanks for taking the time to visit.
I appreciate it very much.

Please feel free to take this opportunity to spam my readers with your website or blog's URL.
Just leave a comment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Heading For Home

After the Charreada was shut down by a thunderstorm, we were heading home and I noticed that the sun was shining on Mission San Jose, but there were black clouds behind it. As I got into position a huge lightning bolt hit the ground very close-by.
Unfortunately, the photo ended up with the dark clouds looking not unlike blue sky. Strange...
I like it anyway, even if it's not what I was after.

About a mile down the road and the storms are nowhere to be seen, but the old Mission 4 drive-in was looking good.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Into Each Rodeo A Little Rain Must Fall

A sudden downpour, lightning and thunder, dirt turning to mud.

I gave up my prime location to make space for the cowboys, as we all hoped that the storm would pass quickly and the show would continue.

Surrounded by people milling about I noticed this charro watching the rain, drinking a cold cerveza.
I wanted this shot.
I needed this shot.

It finishes the story so perfectly, but it took time.
Someone with an uncanny ability to block me every single time the scene was "right" and a horse who kept poking his head in the window ruined five attempts.
Per my usual habit (and temper) I had actually quit trying at one point, but the photo above kept calling me back. (Plus, it was raining too hard to go anywhere)
I could see it, and all I needed to do was catch it.

Bad art, unexpected fireworks, flowers and foot-bridges and maybe a windmill--coming soon to a photoblog near you.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Charros

Click to enlarge
By this point in the day, one of the senior charros took a liking to me and Sylvia and we were brought through some gates into a room right behind the wall of the ring, so we were much closer to the action than any other spectator or photographer.

I could reach out and touch the animals as they passed by, if I were stupid enough to try it.

Passing bulls and horses threw dirt on me, a rush of wind would blow my hair--I could smell them and feel the ground shake. It was dangerous and exciting!

My final two photos in the next post.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Charreada: The Girls

Click on the photos, please
Warming-up before the opening ceremony, the young girls show off their skills at handling horses.

Typical of the escaramuza part of the show, criss-crossing patterns and near misses show that the girls are as brave as the men.
Remember, they're riding side-saddle in big traditional dresses!

A lucky catch for me; not so lucky for the girl who is just now falling from her horse. The spectators and other riders are just starting to realize what has happened.
Looking through the viewfinder it was hard for me to tell if there was a collision, but it may have been that her mount reared-up to avoid one. I definitely saw the horse jump and twist, throwing her off the saddle. You can see a hand grab the mane as she tries to keep from falling.

Some help arrives in a timely manner, and all is well.
Smiles and applause--and the show resumes.

This portrait is proving to be popular, and I'm very proud of it.
I caught her in a moment when she's at once serious and graceful and cute, which somehow manages to completely overshadow the fact that there's dirt and horseshit behind her.

The Charros are next!