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.