Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Parties

A typical Christmas for my family as far as what we did, yet it somehow manages to get more wonderful every year. We all grow older and wiser, and the love grows sweeter.
The kids in our extended family are now a married man, a college senior, a HS senior, and a 'tween--and they've merely become older and taller and smarter versions of how they were as soon as they could string a sentence together.
Bless them for keeping unnecessary drama to a minimum, but nobody's perfect so I get plenty of chuckles out of what they do.
Even when my vodka was "borrowed" last year. We found out and replaced the alcohol in the water bottle with...water!
I love how every generation thinks it has new ideas.

This is an overview of the party at my house on Christmas Night.
My fire pit is in the center, but instead of the fancy and pretty and expensive ones you can buy at Target this is just an old galvanized washtub set on cinderblocks, which are on a pallet. My brother welded together a grate to hold up the wood using expanded steel mesh, rebar framing, and railroad spike legs.
He's a genius and a rocket scientist and a clever dick who I love dearly, and I was overjoyed that he and his GF were able to attend our annual party this year.
2007 saw many potential guests knocked down by the flu. Most of those who were AWOL this year had much crappier excuses.
On the right is Sylvia's new chiminea--a truly perfect gift from Julie and Eddie who also brought some nicely seasoned wood to burn and some fine chili.

Last year my closest friends and family were sick--not so in '08.
Not only did Mike & Amie make it along with Ken & Deri, but the musicians in Bliss also stopped by and in fact Rikk and Steve were the last to leave. I love being in a band that has a "family vibe". (A slightly drunk family...)
The photo above shows the amazing multi-instrumentalist Florin Sanchez playing my guitar and singing for everyone's enjoyment. It was enough of a treat for me that he even showed up, let alone provided some entertainment. It was a relaxed and special moment that surely set a high mark that'll be hard to beat in parties to come.
The very best musician I have worked with during my 28 years in the music business.

Never one to be outdone by some youngster, the family patriarch takes his turn on my guitar and amp. This is the very first time that Jesus Cantu ever played an electric guitar, and I was honored that a man in his 70's would entertain my guests with his lovely songs.
He'll tell you that he sang better as a boy, but my band members (and everyone else) preferred him as he is now--a man who's lived a long and sometimes difficult life who put family above all else and can now sit back and enjoy.
The compliments on the authenticity and style and tone of his voice keep coming in.

This is the middle generation of sisters who all have names starting with S.
Mine is on the left.
Somehow we managed to shoot this without the matriarch catching-on, just before Christmas Eve Mass (with bonus Children's Nativity Play).
I warned them to be dressed up and ready when we arrived and used a wireless flash hand-held.
Their mother was so busy making sure everyone was ready to go to church that we got away with it in only a few minutes.
Giving her the framed 8x10" print on Sunday night--there was a point when we all choked-up and tears were issuing threats, much like the photo of her grandkids in 2007.
Having some technical skills and an occasional idea when it comes to photography can be extremely rewarding when you concentrate hard on what your audience might want.

And it was good...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas card picture, with some added type just for this site.

I was thrilled to be able to combine my loves of night photography featuring both architecture and fountains, as well as fulfill my goal this year of combining religious with secular holiday imagery.
A year ago this shot wasn't possible because main plaza was being renovated to it's current state, thanks to Mayor Hardberger's vision. Despite widespread skepticism, (some people were saying he was ramming a terrible idea down our throats) I have to admit he was dead right--the results are wonderful even though the designers 'forgot' to comply with the disabilities act. (What's an extra quarter million dollars when we have a city manager that has saved us close to a quarter billion in the last few years?)
Before the renovation you couldn't shoot San Fernando Cathedral in a clean and direct manner like this because of the big old (diseased) red elm trees blocking the view.
Now there are fountains and restrooms and space to hang out.
Love It!!!
When Main Plaza is truly finished I'll be bringing you more views, as there are many interesting photo-ops and we've figured out free parking nearby.

I wish you all a Happy Holiday, and thanks for visiting my humble little corner of the interwebs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Wallpaper

This is an alternate picture from our Christmas card photo shoot.
Everyone probably has received their cards by now, so I hope I'm not spoiling anyone's surprise--the card is totally different even though it's from the same location.

Click on it for a 1024x768 pixel version that makes a nice desktop.
Hope you like it. If so, send a link to your friends!
(Yes, sometimes I pimp my pics a little...)

Including random strangers in my photos is something I'm trying to do more often, but they have to cooperate by standing still during long shutter speeds like this.
And they must be unrecognizeable so there's no need for model release forms, which would mean I'd have to strike up a conversation and politely ask permission to use their likeness in print and on the internet--yuck!
This couple turned out to be perfect for my needs, and it's great that pictures are silent so you can't tell they were in the middle of a fight.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Hole In The Clouds

Hand-held, in a nightclub parking lot at 3am.

I thought this was a throw-away until it got a strong response elsewhere on the 'net.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Incarnate Word Christmas Lights

I've grown to really love this building, and am glad to finally have a reason to photograph it in color and show off the copper roof, which is pretty shades of green during the day but rendered blue here due to the lighting and subsequent camera white balance choice I had to make.
My previous views were shot in infrared, then converted to black and white.

I have been holding this photo back for two weeks because it was the leading candidate for our Christmas card picture, but we agreed that a photo I just took on Sunday night is the new winner.
This was only a 'test' version that relies on PhotoShop to partially simulate the look I was after--there's a 10 minute window right after sunset when the sky looks much better than this, so not only do you have to be on location at the right time but also praying to Saint Veronica for partly-cloudy skies.
If Sunday's target hadn't worked, a re-shoot of this would have been needed.

If you're on our card list you'll see the winner soon.
If not, check back here on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Miscellaneous Info

It rained at last!
Good slow rain for several hours with bonus sleet and hail and possibly snow.
Kind of weird yesterday--it was 85f (a record high temp) around 3pm before the cold front came and delivered the news. It never got below 38 last night, which was also good.

Some idiot crashed his car on the slick streets nearby and killed our electricity for a little while this morning, which is why I'm awake right now.
When it doesn't rain for months the roadways get slippery from all the leaked oil and gassy exhaust deposits near intersections. Please be careful out there.
CPS did a great job fixing it quick--Syl's recon uncovered that they were already on the job and probably turned us off for a short while in order to complete the repair.
I have been informed that drying one's hair at work isn't the preferred method.
And was promised a sausage/egg McMuffin with hashbrowns for being woken up this early--say what you want about McD's but their breakfast doesn't suck hardly at all.

If you bother to scroll all the way to the bottom of this page, I have a surprise for you.
Useless Facts, updated every time you visit!
So if you're ever disappointed in my lack of new content, at least there's a chance to learn something you didn't know before--and often it's the kind of info that's good for quizzing your friends and coworkers, but NOT your spouses!

I used a handheld flash to add some light to the tree on the right side of my new header photo up top--a small amount of extra light to be sure, but it definitely helped compared to the versions without.

When did Views Of Texas pass 30,000 hits?
I totally missed it.
Thanks for your continued support.

That is all--have a nice day.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Riverwalk Stuff

Arneson River Theater.

Just around the bend from the previous shot.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Another Shot At Getting Our Card Picture

It was just cold enough (40-ish) to give us that wintery flavor while keeping most of the thugs and ho's at home and out of my way. The ones that braved the cold weren't dressed for it.

Not that people matter much--there were several in this shot but as long as they kept moving the magic of long exposures rendered them invisible.
The search continues...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Riverwalk With Lights In The Trees

One of our favorites, but like most Riverwalk photos featuring Xmas lights it's just too busy and also un-focused--there's no clear subject popping out of a 4x6" print.
It's pretty cool filling the screen of a big CRT monitor, but that wasn't my goal.

I'll also admit to some slight plagiarism here.
A very similar daytime pic was in the newspaper a few days before shooting this, and I liked the other photographer's angle enough to try and copy it at night.
For this reason alone I'll have to disqualify it from the race to be Our Christmas Card Photo For 2008.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Some Holiday Pics

Now that Thanksgiving is over and the Riverwalk is lit up, it's time to get into the Christmas Spirit around here.

A holiday version of my Rivets photo--Presa Street Bridge.

The Nix Hospital.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spurs Fan Photo Contest--Didn't Win

This young couple are admiring our 4 Championship Trophies--the photo I had in mind as soon as the contest was announced.

Two of The Spurs's "Baseline Bums". These are ultimate fans who will do anything and everything for their team. They are LOUD both sonically and visually.

See voting results here

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Autumnal Imagery

It was a long, hot and dry summer.
Despite the hurricanes and flooding on all sides of us, San Antonio went into year two of the latest drought.
And so "Fall" was late.

Our bougainvillea finally bloomed--most of the ones around here have purple or pink or orange flowers: we like the red just to be different.

Sycamore leaves turning.

Sex parts of the same tree.

Our lemon tree has a few little fruits with zero chance at maturity before a freeze kills them.

A neighbor's whatchacallit.

All photos were taken within a few minutes of each other two weeks ago when I got a sudden bug up my ass to record how odd the autumn here has turned out.
Absolutely nothing has changed since then, besides the odd pepper maturing enough to eat and the temperature dropping.
It's like we're stuck in the slow lane of life and everyone else is passing us by, getting snow and rain and life and death while we struggle to detect whether or not the grass is any browner than last month...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Rest Of The Marathon

Finish Line Action.

The coveted Media Pass means you get to sit on top of a ladder for 8 hours. I would have loved it but climbed down after 30 minutes.

Part of the centerpiece on our table in the VIP area.

Car dealer Rick Cavender's band plays on the main stage.

Makes me glad I cut my long hair in the '90s. Beyond a certain age it just looks dumb on most men.

A tear-stained face in the crowd.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

San Antonio's First Rock & Roll Marathon

The last marathon in SA only brought out around 5000 athletes.
Adding dozens of bands along the route (and more national and international advertising and organization) made our very first Rock and Roll Marathon a huge success with 30,000 entries purchased (Sold Out!) although realistically only 20-25,000 actually ran.

If you are going to an event like this, having a set of "gold" passes is worth every penny.
I got mine for free because I'm uber-cool and hang with some awesome people, although I'm sure they like Sylvia more than they like me. (Thanks, Rikk!!)
Free parking in the closest lot to all the action, free food and drinks served by a slick black-tie staff, private bleachers ON the finish line, free The CULT concert admission and backstage VIP access.
On top is the medal each finisher is awarded, and I've been witness to the fact that the one in the photo was earned with hours/days/weeks/months of hard work and discipline.

"The Gladiator" (as the crowd around me named him) was going back and forth in the finish area, urging others on and getting maximum camera time.

Less than 100 yards before the finish line a runner collapsed and died right in front of me.
They defribbed and got a pulse before wheeling him through the time-chipped finish line, which was a major concern in the crowd.
I assume he survived since there was no mention of deaths on the TV news.
It's the second time this year that someone has dropped dead in my presence.

The most important shot(s) of the day and I screwed the pooch with serious focus issues.
Not happy at all, but I think I know what went wrong.

Sylvia finished the 13.1 mile half-marathon in 2 hours 30 minutes, and it's very sweet that she and her friend/running partner Meredith stayed together from beginning to end.
It's the farthest Syl has ever run, and I'm very proud of her!

If you visit the marathon's website and find video of noisy fans with a guy pointing a black Sony back at the videographer, this is the opposite view.

UPS loaned the event a fleet of brown trucks and volunteers to carry everyone's personal effects from the park and ride at ATT Center to the race finish area. It was tortureously disorganized and slow at truck #4, but by cutting the line and doing some strategic winking we got Sylvia's stuff before going postal.

It was a lot of fun and very inspiring.
The many runners and fans from outside San Antonio were naturally charmed by our city and it's great people.
A nice side-effect is that all of the clothing the runners peeled-off and threw away while the temps quickly climbed from 34 to 60-ish will benefit homeless shelters and/or other worthy causes. (Un-Confirmed Assumption Alert!)

Operating on three hours of sleep after working my butt off the night before, I was stiff and sore and not as effective as I could have been. Still, it was a great experience that I wouldn't have missed for anything.

I got a sunburn and am pinker than I let myself get after 3 days at South Padre.

More photos soon.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

I Got Teased

On a whim, I just powered-up my dead Sony F717.
To my astonishment, it worked!
Knowing I was on borrowed time, I ran outside and shot one of our late-season serrano peppers.

And then my old camera died again.

It was a magic moment, and a bit strange.
Definitely have to get it fixed, since macros and IRs are styles that the new camera doesn't handle as well as the old.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rivets (And A Weld)

Rivets are a favorite subject of mine due to their ability to cast tiny shadows as well as display "primitive" technology from the first half of the 20th century. This is an extreme crop from a zoomed-in version of the AC-47 Spooky Gunship photo seen here recently.

Photographer Section:
This is the first time I've tried a crop that threw away the majority of a file, and am very impressed with the Sony Alpha300's detail and resolution.
With my old F717, an edit like this wouldn't have been as crisp and textured by a long shot.
This would be even more startling when you consider I was shooting handheld at just over 200mm-e, but then I received help from in-body IS and a fast 1/1250 shutter.
Iso 200 helped rather than hurt.

The new camera endears itself to me a little more every time I use it, even with the 2 budget lenses it came bundled with.
The widely extended range of apertures, shutter speeds and iso ratings are all positives with no apparent weaknesses in their ranges so far.
But I'll keep pushing the envelope until it disappoints, then back off and add light just like in the old days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Airshow Favorites--Blue Angels

Flying very slowly directly right-to-left with their noses high in the air, this shot of two Blue Angels screamed for the silhouette treatment.

The one above is the most popular, but it reminds me of this Thunderbirds shot from 2006:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More Air Show Goodness

The Blue Angel's show is fairly long, so I have a ton of pictures do choose from.

The new camera generally kicked the old one's ass at this task, although my autofocus made more than a dozen huge errors.
At least it made the errors very quickly!
Time to read the manual again.
Last time I switched my old camera to manual focus and locked it at infinity which worked very well since the planes are so far away, but the longer focal length lens and faster frame rate of the Alpha300 were great as was the physically much larger sensor with twice the pixels.

Civil Air Patrol Cadets(?) put on some rifle drills using flashy but completely fake M1 Garands.

Makes you wonder where the nickname came from.
It was an F-5, the 3rd-world fighter version of our '50s-era T-38 supersonic trainer that still flies today.

I have my two favorites still to show you, and will look through the folder for any overlooked items of interest.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Air Fest 2008 At Lackland AFB

It was a great show, as always.
Two years ago The Thunderbirds performed, so having The Blue Angels this year was a nice change.

Back in the late '90s I partied with some Blue Angel pilots at a club in Corpus Christi--they even sent the band an autographed picture.

More to come...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A New Season Begins

Tonight is Game #1 of the SPURS 2008-2009 Season.
We tend to win the Championship in odd-numbered years, so hopes among the superstitious/numerology crowd are high.

Photos are mine, but old...

Win or lose, I just want to watch some basketball.