Saturday, January 31, 2009

Southern Wine Country - Spicewood, TX

Another Napa photo, nope not at all. This shot is from our little Texas Hill Country secret. We love to make wine out here. Why we are not quite to the Napa level yet. There are several vineyards sprinkled across the hill country. The explosion started about 10 years ago when it was realized that the soil in the hill country is very similar to the northern California wine country. The problem and challenge with making wine in Texas though is our unpredictable weather. From what I know which is very little grapes grow best in consistent weather, and that is something we definitely do not have. However these determined vinters are making it work and a trip to these wineries makes for a great weekend trip. This photo was taken in the spring as a storm was rolling in. As soon as I loaded the tripod and camera in the car the rain started falling. As for right now I think I will go pour a nice glass of Texas wine.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Above Longhorn Cavern - Longhorn Cavern State Park, TX

This is a photo of the building above Longhorn Cavern. I loved how this park was natively landscaped. All the stones and plants are native to this area and this is how much of the Hill country looks in its native form. I can only imagine the fun the early settlers had trying to navigate through the endless cactus fields and I bet the horses loved brushing up against the yuccas that can easily pierce your skin when you bump into them. The building in the background looks nice in this photo but in reality is nothing more than a really cool bathroom house. I wish there was a better story about it…Have a great weekend everyone. The weather should be nice here this weekend so I hope to have several new photos to go through!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

East Texas Farm - Trinity, Texas

One thing photography has done for me is taught me to see a beautiful scene where I once may not have. Old tractor parts, farm buildings, cloudy skies, to many these may be an eye sore but for me I see a chance to make something people will enjoy looking at. The photo below is from the same East Texas farm I photograph often. I am amazed at how I always seem to be able to capture something new every time I visit. I used a new post process on this photo called texturing. It combines a photo of a texture with your original to add a little artistic flair to certain photos. I think what interest me in this almost as much as the cool effect is how so many things you see everyday can make for a great photo texture. In this photo I used some photos of some concrete textures. This is still a learning process for me so I know I can make these photos better and I plan on continuing to work with this process to see what I can accomplish! Tell me what you think?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pier 39 - San Francisco, CA

Sticking with the California theme, here is another shot from the same trip. I think I got lucky with the fog bank and how it added another element to this photo. This is a scene which probably has been shot by millions of people but I feel as if I caught it at a unique moment. If you look close you can see the golden gate bridge sticking up behind the fog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rolling Vineyards - Napa Valley, CA

In honor of the wonderful work our great state legislature does every day, I bring to you a shot from Napa Valley California. State Representative Mark Strama thinks it is in Texas’ s best interest to adopt whatever legislation California passes regarding the new state by state vehicle emission law that has been proposed by our new administration. So if California only wants to sell vehicles that get on average 38 mpg then so to should Texas. Come on Mark… We are Texas, home of the 2 ton truck and the SUV that doesn’t fit in the garage. We were our own country at one point. Can’t we make up our mind for ourselves so Texas decides what is in the best interest of Texas not California. OK I promise no more politics. I just got a good laugh out of this when I heard about it. This shot from was from a trip last year to Napa Valley. I loved the way the lines on the vineyards intersected with the hills to keep my eye constantly moving. You will notice the panoramic crop that was applied. The reason I did this was the shot was originally shot with the sky. However the sky was quite boring with little interest. It also distracted from the lines of the vineyards and hills so I took a look at removing it and presto. The photograph was 10X better. So I admit sometimes when composing a shot in camera I don’t achieve ultimate results so let the crop tool be your friend in post processing. It is the easiest way to improve a photograph. Talk to you soon!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Disappearing River - Liberty Hill, TX

I wrote a few days ago about the central Texas drought and how dire it was. Our rivers are literally driving up and cattle are starting to die. For a while I have wanted to capture a photo that can show people outside of Texas what we are facing. This afternoon I went down to the San Gabriel River and what my eyes saw really surprised me. The river is disappearing. I was in a section called the North Fork and the only water here is the occasional pools which are probably no more then a ft deep. There are sections of the riverbed that are bone dry from bank to bank. Standing in the river bed you could see very visible signs of the normal water level and it amazed me that there was no water where I was standing. I saw some rain in the forecast for this week, lets hope they were right!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Underground Speakeasy - Longhorn Cavern State Park, TX

I think one thing that can really add to a photograph is a great story behind the photograph. This photo is from Longhorn Cavern in Texas. The room in this photo is a part of the cave that was once used as a speakeasy during prohibition. There was everything you needed to escape, beer liquor, a piano, madams, and even a small church around the corner for those who awoke on the cave floor on Sunday. Sitting in this room I could almost here the music playing, the glasses clinking and the rowdy patrons laughing and cursing through the night. I am sure I was amongst many ghost as I sat here taking this photo. Legend has it that in this same cave the outlaw Sam Bass has hidden his treasure. So far it has not been found.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Simple Things - Cedar Park, TX

During times like this almost everyone I know is making adjustments, tightening down the budget spending less and figuring out ways to make every dollar stretch further. For many, it is the simple things that pull them through. The smile on a son or daughters face, a kiss from a loved one, a magical sunset on a cool evening by a fire, or like the photo below spending the evening as father and son waiting for the monster fish to stretch the line. Regardless of whether that monster fish ever shows up I am confident about one thing. The father in this photo will always remember moments like this regardless of what else may lie in his and the rest of our future.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sky Over Lake Buchannan - Burnet, TX

Today's weather reminded me of the 1st weekend of the year. Yet again we are blessed with 80 degree temperatures. Even in Texas this is unusual. The shot below was shot at Lake Buchannan Texas on Jan 2nd. The sky can make or break photos and to me the sky was what made this photo unique and therefore I composed the shot primarily of the sky. All the water really does is give the viewer a point of reference. Talk to you all later!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wait for Me! - Trinity, TX

Here is another black and white I shot from a while back. I intentionally processed this photo to give it more of a timeless appearance. The elements that made this photo stand out to me to make it unique were the reflection on the water, the fog, the backlighting created by the early morning sun, and a simple action component of the calf following the mother through the pasture. These all together make for a pleasing photograph that is very enjoyable to view. I hope you all like it as well.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Germany and Texas Collide - Walburg, TX

The photo below is of The Walburg Restaurant. This is another one of those great places we found close to our new home we probably never would have come across if we had not moved. It is probably just too far away for most folks that live in Austin to drive out to, but if you can drive to BFE for barbeque out in Driftwood ( place will remain nameless ) You should try to drive out to Walburg to this place. Somehow some way the owners of this place were able to transform this old mercantile in the small town of Walburg into a German restaurant and biergarten that is hopping every weekend night until the beer runs out. Spring is the best time to visit as the temperatures are perfect and they open their outside biergarten. There are many great German places scattered througought Central Texas because many Germans migrated to this area during the Texas land grant program. Inside these small towns you can sometimes find wonderful places that stay true to their heritage and are just a treat to go visit and spend time. We are going back this spring so give me a holler if you want to relax on a Saturday afternoon in beautiful Walburg Texas with a plate of wienerschnitzel and pitcher of Shiner to mix the best of both German and Texas cultures.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The 2007 Flood; Mansfield Dam - Austin, TX

It seems like just a little while ago that major floods ripped through central texas causing major damage along the highland lakes. 2 years later we are in a severe drought. Pray for rain everyone! We need it desperately. The shot below was taken after the floods. This is the most flood gates that have ever been opened on Mansfield Dam.
Just as I posted this the following story popped up on MSNBC about the severity of our drought.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Symbols of Texas - Burton, TX

Every now and again I go through old photographs to see if I missed or forgot about anything. Last night I came across this shot from last spring taken at a festival called the Cotton Gin Festival. It is held annually in Burton, TX. We were in the middle of moving and so this shot got archived on my computer and I guess I forgot about it. So last night I spent some time touching it up and here is the result. To me this photo symbolizes Texas in everyway. Behind Bevo is the historic Burton Cotton Gin. These two symbols together speak to me of an early era of cotton and cattle. Two of the most important aspects of the Texas economy in the 19th and early 20th century until Oil became the dominant player. I am definitely glad I came back across this photo. Enjoy!
For More information on the Cotton Gin you can visit

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Light Through the Window - Georgetown, TX

I recently was emailed by someone asking me what I look for in an HDR. I was flattered that someone would ask my advice on the subject so I spent quite a bit of time composing my response. In writing back to this individual I used the below shot as an example in my response. Why this photo? Because to me this photo is the perfect example of the two things I look for…”LIGHT and SPACE.” When I was first learning photography I was on a Canon website listening to one of their tutorials. A photographer there called it “seeing the light.” He said once you can do this you understand photography. Your eyes constantly process different light levels and your eye is constantly adjusting to let different amounts of light in and out. The camera however only changes when you tell it to. So you have to train your eye to tell the camera how to see the light. You then add the HDR technique into your process and a new world opens up. This scene had all the beautiful elements I wanted and great color and contrast. The problem was that the back lit sun would not let my camera capture the picture in one frame. No matter how I shot it one frame could never expose this image correctly throughout the frame. The second piece that made me use this image was the way I used the “Space” to compose the shot. I told the individual you must first have a pleasing image. Something boring or flat or with distracting elements is not going to look any better no matter how well you process your image. If the space in your frame is not filled correctly look for something else or a different angle. I use the word “space” as opposed to composition because to me when you use the word composition in the photography world people get all caught up in the rules they learned in high school photography class. While the rules have their merit and I do use them when looking at my “space” I feel the more important rule is utilizing the space to draw viewers eyes where you want them without getting them lost along the way. This image was taken in the middle of a county park. Kids, cars, playgrounds, light post; you name something you see in a park it was there. My challenge was to find a composition pleasing to the eye and at the same time eliminating elements that distract or remove the viewer from the scene, creating my “space” I wanted this shot to appear as if I spent hours wondering through the back country till I found the perfect abandoned building to shoot, but it no secret anymore, I didn’t. J I accomplished this by making sure elements that would not be in the back country or an old small town was not in my frame. I made sure you could not see the parking lot or cars or the bathroom house just behind this building. By taking the time to visually create a pleasing space I was able to put my viewers where I wanted them as opposed to them going somewhere I didn’t want them. To me this shot worked on many levels and I hope you enjoy it as well!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hee Hawing Around - Georgetown, TX

"Hee Hawing Around" I had never heard this phrase until I met my wife. Her family uses it all the time to describe just going around doing a whole lot of nothing. I though of this phrase immediately when I finished processing this photo. I thought what a great title. The fam and I were just Hee Hawing around on Sunday afternoon when I saw the opportunity for this photo. It was taken at the Berry Springs Park and Preserve. Sometimes getting the right photo takes a little getting dirty! These donkeys were behind a rail fence and I composed the shot laying on my back looking up through the bottom rail surrounded by Donkey stuff (family version of the word). The donkeys were probably thinking this guy is CRAZY lets go check him out so they walked over and looked at me funny stood for a little while and left. I picked the spot I was laying because the tree blocked just enough of the sun to give a great backlight effect without being too strong. I hope you all like the way it turned out!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hidden Falls - Austin, TX

This shot is from a few years ago and is one of my very first HDR shots and remains one of my favorites. If I showed this to a 100 people in Austin I doubt 5 people would know where this was shot and even believe me when I told them right here in Austin. This scene is tucked away right off hwy 360 and immediately removes you from the sounds of the cars and construction from the city and puts you somewhere far away from the city even though you are right in the middle of it. While here all the city sounds were drowned out by the sound of the water coming down the rocks. While I have not been back here in a few years I highly doubt you will see the same thing upon a return trip today. Central Texas is in the middle of a severe drought and many of the once flowing creeks are bone dry. To add some light to the rocks in the front I added a fill flash. Using the flash and then blending the exposures really helped me get a much broader dynamic range. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Loretto Chapel - Santa Fe, NM

This is the outside of the small yet magnificent Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe. I think what makes this chapel so photographed is how it stands out from the rest of the architecture in Santa Fe. The inside of the chapel is just as beautiful as the outside and is home to the miraculous staircase.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Most Beautiful Beaches in the World - St. John, U.S.V.I.

This photo is taken overlooking Hawksnest Beach in St. John USVI. The beaches along the north shore of this island rank among the most beautiful beaches in the world. St. John is the perfect place for someone wanting to relax on a beach with a good book or perfect for the adventure who wants to hike through historic landmarks and along old trader routes used by sugar traders and pirates alike I am one of the later. St. John is the smallest of the three US Virgin Islands but has to be the most beautiful. Most of the island is part of a US National Park and therefore remains vastly unspoiled by commercialism. In the middle of January I like looking through the photos I took here as it immediately send me back.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Forgotten Highland Lake - Inks Lake, TX

Everyone knows about Lake Travis and Lake Austin. Fewer may know about LBJ but still quite a few. The real hidden gem, Inks Lake. Inks Lake is in-between Lake LBJ to the south and Lake Buchannan to the North on the Highland Lakes chain. The smallest of the lakes but could be the most beautiful! If you get a chance to visit central Texas go check out this hidden gem. You can kayak into Devil’s Hole, drop a line in for a monster bass, or just sit along the shore soaking in the beauty. I hope this phot does the lake the justice it deservers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Face in the Rocks - Longhorn Cavern State Park, TX

So after you adjust your eyes this photo may look a little better. What I like about this photo is the complex texture and lines. It looks like the world's most difficult maze puzzle. At the same time it has some very subtle and some strong contrasting colors. I think that sometime a close up shot can be just as powerful as the wide vast landscape photo. Let me know what you think?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Canyon of the Eagles Sunset - Canyon of the Eagles Park, TX

This is my favorite photo from our Jan 2nd day trip. My wife wanted to drive up and look at the Canyon of the Eagles Lodge. We ended up hanging around all the way through sunset. They have a beautiful view of Lake Buchannan and as the sun set I captured this scene on their patio overlooking the lake. All we needed to top it off was a glass of wine to help soak in the view. From studying HDR I have found that you don’t have to be afraid of shooting into the sun any longer. While still a challenge to get it just right these type shots can produce very magical results with the way the lens flare creates the light rays from the sun. I hope you enjoy and next time we go we are going to bring a bottle of wine!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Way Down - Longhorn Cavern State Park, TX

Well I knew the warm weather would not last. I will reflect in the great weather we had over the last two days by posting another picture from Longhorn Cavern. This is the steps leading down to the cave. We are going to head back out in February for a music series inside the cave so if you want to join us let me know. In the 20s this same cave was used as a speakeasy during prohibition.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hidden Hill Country Treasure - Longhorn Cavern State Park, TX

Wow what a great start to 2009! The weather here in central Texas has been wonderful. I spent some time working around the house today but also spent a great deal of time working on processing some of the many photos from our day trip we took yesterday. The trip was one of those unplanned spur of the moment deals that was dictated by the wonderful weather. It started with putting in my hometown in goggle maps and then just scanning the map in a direction I had not been before. After doing this I found a little triangle in-between Lake LBJ, Inks Lake, and Lake Buchanan that was full of places to go. We spent the whole day visiting three great places and topped the night off having some great Mexican food. The photo below was taken inside Longhorn State Park inside the cavern. I highly recommend a trip out here because the history of the cave alone makes the trip worth it. To start it is quite humbling standing 7 stories below ground surrounded by rock that predates the prehistoric era. Then knowing that Indians, Civil War soldiers, outlaws, bootleggers, and preachers all used the cave at one point. It is then you know you are truly standing in a historic place. This is truly a hidden gem. Oh yeah and so is the Mexican restaurant we ate at.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The State Flower - Burton, TX

How about today in Central Texas! Jan 2nd and 80 degrees. The family took advantage of having the day off and headed out to the hill country to do some exploring. We arrived home after dark and I can’t wait to share some of the photos with everyone. In honor of the great spring like weather today, I present the great state flower of Texas, the Bluebonnet. I am sure it will be freezing tomorrow but today was wonderful!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cold Front - Georgetown, TX - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is another shot from Lake Georgetown as a cold front was blowing in. Just as the front blew in so does 2009. So HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone and may it bring good fortune to everyone. For now I am going to sit down on my couch and enjoy the great New Year's Day tradition of watching college football bowl games.