Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Small Town Religion - Novack, TX

Driving east through Texas on a small winding county road I saw these black steeples standing tall up on a hill in the distance. When I finally came near I saw this small beautiful Lutheran church. These small white wooden churches are commonly seen in small towns in Texas. They all seem to have the same basic architecture type with white rectangular box like walls with pitched roofs adorned with steeples. They are almost always painted white with black roofs and stained glass windows. The cloudy weather provided for the perfect backdrop and dramatic effect for this photograph of Christ Lutheran Church in Novack.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dime Box Dodge - Dimebox, TX

I think in the last few years this may be one of the better photos I have in my gallery. To me it worked on so many different levels. The composition came together very well for me. It combined some dramatic color contrast, and every section of the image has something new to find, from the writing in the dust on the window all the way to the train running on the tracks in the background. I sometimes get asked where I find all these locations and the answer is quite simple. If I have the time on the way somewhere I always take the county roads if possible. It may take a little longer but the good images are seldom along highways or interstates. the county roads take you through towns with names like Dime Box or Shiloh all of which have their own stories and photographs to share. These towns also force you to slow down as was the case in this photo as I slowed down to make my way through Dime Box Texas. On the left near the center of the old town the parked bright blue Dodge pickup caught my eye as it stood in stark contrast to the old buildings that surrounded it. I quickly pulled to the side of the road to set up and make my picture. that is when I heard the train horn. I quickly recomposed to encompasses the train in the shot which also brought the road and power lines into the image which in the end and very nice compositional lines to the image. Do you have an image shot off the back roads let me know about it in the comments and share a link to your image. I would love to see and hear your story.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Small Town, Big Wedding - Burton, TX

Sorry about very few post this week. I had a busy first half of the week followed by an awful stomach virus that put me down for the count. I however did recover enough though to refill some of my picture files with some new work. So I have some processing ahead of me and will share some new works in the coming weeks. This photograph was taken last night at a family wedding in Burton Texas. The venue is a century old dance hall on the outskirts of Burton called La Bahia Hall. this hall was built along the early La Bahia Wagon Trail. It has been home to many boot stomping occasions for over a hundred years. This beautiful hall was transformed into an amazing wedding reception last night. Chock full of all the things that make a great Texas Wedding celebration. Cold beer and chicken fried steak were severed followed by some serious boot stomping by all that attended. The wood floors boomed through the night as revelers kicked and stomped their heels to the sounds of some good Texas country music late into the evening. My wife and I enjoyed our rehearsal dinner at this exact same dance hall almost 8 years ago. It was nice to be back and I look forward to visiting again.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Black and White Sunset - Georgetown, TX

I don't do all that many black and white photos so this is a bit of an oddity for me. Black and white photographs are about tone and contrast. Making sure there is a broad spectrum moving from black to white. If an image has too much black too much white or no black or no true white the image will appear dull and faded. So when you make a black and white photograph don't simply desaturate your image. Take some time to do some spot toning where you darken some spots and lighten others so you have a full range of blacks and whites throughout the image. This image was shot along the Goodwater Loop about a mile from the Cedar Breaks trail head on lake Georgetown. This area has some beautiful views of the lake and is perfect for a sunset rest on a cool spring evening.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Coral Reef of Waco - Waco, TX

I did not take many HDR photographs at the Cameron Park Zoo at all. However when we went inside the new Brazos River Country exhibit you enter under a sunken galleon. Once inside you find an aquarium created to replicate the flower garden coral reef that lays several miles off the coast of Texas. Who would of thought in Waco Texas? This situation is a perfect HDR photograph. I wanted to capture both the wood grain and the aquarium and this required multiple exposures. I think exhibits like this prove that next time you fly by Waco on your way down Interstate 35. Stop in Waco at this zoo you will be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm Watching You - Waco, TX

This is another photograph from the Waco Zoo. I really like how this image came out as it highlights the goals I set out when attempting to shoot animals in a zoo and making the image look natural. This image highlights the effect of shooting with your lowest aperture setting. In this case it was f2.8. This allowed me to shoot through the chain link fence that surrounded the exhibit. By using this setting I was able to make the fence disappear!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Edge of the Falls - Georgetown, TX

I titled this entry edge of the falls not because of the falls themselves but where I had to stand to get this picture. I walked down a small path that takes you right down to the mid level of the falls to look around to see if there was a good composition from this vantage point. From where I was standing I saw this tree on the other side that had some very cool mushroom growing on it. This is where I wanted to compose my shot. However there was very little room because this tree was literally right on the edge of the rock wall. Below me about a 15' drop. For some reason I told myself this shot won't work unless I get these mushrooms in the foreground. So getting down on my knees with my camera bag hanging off my back and over the side of the cliff and only two legs of my tripod on sturdy rock I just set the camera where I thought it should be. There was no way I could look through the view finder without falling down the other side. I set the timer and fired 3 shots. I noticed the sun was starting to go behind the rocks but had no idea I captured it just at the peak moment where it flares before disappearing behind an object. I viewed it after the shot and new that I got lucky on this one.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sam Jack, King of Cameron Park Zoo - Waco, TX

I have gotten quite a bit of feedback on my zoo shots so I will post a full size one today and spread some more out throughout the coming weeks. We will start with this photograph of Sam Jack the male Lion at Cameron Park. When we first walked by the Lion exhibit we saw three Lions all taking a late morning nap way in the back corner of the exhibit. They looked quite content but for a photograph there was nothing there. So we left and I was disappointed that I was not going to get a good photograph of the Lions. On our way back to the exit we decided to stop by one last time to see if they had moved. Sam Jack was on the move and coming into perfect shooting range from the open non glassed side of the exhibit. He decided to take his seat right on top of a hill with a nice rock backdrop. He decided to look up and gaze with those huge eyes towards me and I had my shot.

When going to a zoo to photograph animals I have 5 tips I would like to share that I think will help you make better photos on your trip.
  1. Backgrounds - Do you see people fences or unnatural objects? If so move around and recompose. You have to have nice clean natural looking backgrounds or else you photos screams "hey look I went to the zoo and here is an animal in a cage." If the animal isn't cooperating well then the second most important thing is...
  2. Be patient! The animal will most likely move. As I did with Sam Jack don't be afraid to pass up on a photo and come back later or wait a few minutes to see what happens. If you simply want a snap shot go for it, fire away and move on. If you want a photograph be patient.
  3. Eyes! Get in tight and make sure you get that focal point on the eyes. This also helps to achieve the clean background. They eyes give the animal a personality and make any animal photograph. Set your focal point on center achieve your focus then recompose for composition.
  4. Wide open. Shoot in your lowest possible aperture. This helps for many reasons. It gives you your fastest shutter speed, it will allow you to blur distracting backgrounds, (make fake rocks or wood look real ) and it can allow you to shoot through chain link fence. With a low aperture in most cases you can shoot right through a fence and the fence in the foreground simply disappears making the image look like it was shot inside the cage.
  5. Long lens. Bring the longest lens you have. Zoos do a great job keeping you away from the animals so the longer the lens you have the better. At a minimum be sure you have a lens that reaches the 200mm range.

I hope these tips help and if you visit a zoo be sure to share your photos with me.