Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A New Link!

This is a rarity at Views Of Texas--a picture-free post.

But I wanted to bring your attention to a website that's had me laughing (quietly) for the past hour.
Not Always Right compiles reader submissions of instances when customers turned out to be morons, thieves, or crazies.
It highlights the sense of entitlement so many people mistakenly have, plus a big dose of dumbass.

Take a look and see if it appeals to you.
I'll be adding this site to my links so it'll be easy to find.

Anyone who has worked in close proximity to the general public (or shopped at WalMart) can relate to this stuff.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I've lived in Texas for most of my life and never heard an outhouse called a thunderbox.
Sound like something made up by a bad Hollywood screenwriter working on his first western--"I don't need to go heeled to get the bulge on a tub like you. Skin that smoke wagon and they'll bury you behind a thunderbox!"
(For the record, I like Tombstone and watch it at least once a year but awkward euphemisms are a distraction. Watch carefully for when Val Kilmer stabs Frank Stallone in the arm. And what's up with the fat Billy Bob Thornton?)

I saw these arty crappers at the rodeo, and thought they were cool.
If you really want to impress me, add a working sink and one of those compact DVD players.
And an air conditioner.
And a lock on the door.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Most Violent Rodeo Event

Sure, the cowboys who try to ride bucking and twisting horses and bulls are tough, and take their share of bruises and scrapes.
Not disputing that.

All I'm saying is that the competitors below are on another level entirely.

More dangerous for participants and spectators than a monkey knife fight.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Rodeo Again

We hit the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo every year.
In 2007 we even watched the actual rodeo part of things, then a concert by Staind.
Last year I worked at it, taking pictures for a band performing there.
This year we went on the cheap--Monday was "Dollar Day".
The weather was gloomy, but photographically speaking I did okay.

I wonder why there's a painting of Ernest Borgnine behind this singing cowboy?

The Vlasic Pickle Stork's picture was better than the Pillsbury Doughboy's.

When you shear a sheep it's cruel to parade them around in the cold all naked, so they wear little coats.

We ate free ice cream cones, a funnel cake, and chicken fried bacon.
Yes, fried bacon! Pretty good stuff.

Looked at all the merchandise but didn't buy anything.
Strolled through the livestock barns and educational displays.
Avoided the petting zoo because of a tragic incident in 2006 involving sweater-eating goats.
Rides? Nahh.
Games of chance? Hell no.

From the Archives:
2007 Miscellaneous
2007 Carnival Rides

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recent Projects

Anyone who also visits the MySpace page that I reluctantly maintain might have noticed that over the last few weeks I have been "Building Things" and my mood has been "Productive".

Here are the things I've been building:

First--a black straw grid for my second flash:

I'm not really showing-off the device in these photos because it's just a simple and boring box that fits over the flash and holds a grid pattern of black straws in front of the light-emitting part.
This restricts the light, so instead of going all over the place it's forced into a narrow beam.

Beam of light seen here:

I built one for my main flash a year ago, but needed to solve some design problems because this particular optical slave flash has an unusual shape.
It was a success.

Another flash accessory I'll be needing soon (to shoot a couple of weddings) is a flash bracket.
Simple versions can be had for under $20.
Good ones for $50.
Pro ones for $350 and up.

I made mine for $5, plus some parts I had laying around.

The main thing is that it puts the flash above and to one side of your lens, while also being convenient to carry everything around.
It eliminates everything that makes a typical snapshot of people look bad, from the flat light with bad shadows to the dreaded red-eye effect.

A wooden dowel, a 1/4"-20 anchor with extra threaded section to grab more epoxy, a flash mounting shoe donated by a junk camera, some paint, a piece of steel with proper holes that I already had...
Works great, plus it comes apart and the two pieces slip into the front pocket of my camera bag, whereas "real" flash brackets are big and bulky to carry around.

A full article on this build was requested of me, and is being published on a photography website next week.

This is a test of both projects at once.
The main light is coming from the strobe on top of my flash bracket.
No monkey red-eye!

(Yes, I'm kidding. I tested for red-eye on humans and never found any).
The other flash with grid is coming in from behind and to the left of Nanners, used as a hairlight or rimlight which is it's intended purpose.
This technique helps keep a person's hair from blending into the background and adds some spice.

Friday, February 06, 2009

On The Road Again

Tonight was an attempt to get back to my roots--drop-off books at the library, grab some tacos, take a few night photos, do a quick grocery run, get my Vodka & PhotoShop on, blog about it.
Felt good.

This is an attempt to update an old favorite from 2007, taken on the 3rd anniversary of buying my late great F717.
As far as the subject, I'll just mention that it took them forever to finish painting this section of new ramps and they didn't do a great job, but I was also waiting for a night with minimal humidity combined with low-level clouds moving fairly fast across the sky.
I'm excited by the Alpha300's resolution and other advanced technology, but the cheap lens that it comes with is more prone to flare than had been revealed in any of my earlier night testing.
To be honest, it kinda sucks and isn't really fixable using PhotoShop, but I now have a worst-case scenario to measure all future projects against.
The superb Zeiss lens on my last camera also had a problem with this scene, just not as bad, so it's not like I'm completely surprised by a few problems.
The main thing is that the worst weakness is identified and I can avoid it, so as a learning experience tonight was a major success.

There's nothing I dislike about this one except for the sloppy paint job on the ramp supports.
In-camera noise reduction seems a bit aggressive to me, but it might just be that this scene would look the same from a Nikon or Olympus or Pentax or Panasonic or Canon camera--I have no way to tell right now without further testing.

What's most important is that I really like these photos and learned a lot from them.
Pushing your camera gear to the point of disappointment is never a waste of time or effort.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

SuperBowl Sunday

Lots of food and drinks, plus relaxing and quiet Hill Country views.
A great game, even though our team lost.

I wasn't consciously trying to shoot prickly-pear cactii, it just happened that they were in my favorite shots.