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Archive for May, 2011

Fuzzy Flowers

On my trip to Johnson City, on my never ending quest for things to photograph, I stopped in on the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Wildlife Reserve. Ladybird Johnson had a thing for wild flowers and on this reserve there were fields of wild flowers despite the lack of rain this year. This was shot at sunset, with the sun low on the horizon. As a result it was providing a great deal of light down low. This along with the wind provided a bright and fuzzy flower.

Fuzzy Flowers

Fuzzy Flowers

There is nothing particularly special about this shot. No prep, no lights, no reflectors. Just me, my D700 and my Nikkor 105mm f2.8. I shot this about 3.75 inches from the flower with a very narry DOF to really kick the bokeh up. Knowing I cant get tack sharp in the field, going for more abstract form and minimal detail was the right approach. Unlike many digital photographers, no effort was placed in removing or taming the grain in the shot. This is intentional. It adds to the bokeh effect and to me is a compositional element as it provides texture to the image. This look and technique reminds me of my film days when you could push Tri-X and get this look. In an age when detail is king, there are times when soft and fuzzy are a good thing.

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Architecture in Texas – (Updated)

I have blogged for a bit on the issues I have been having “finding my eye” with regard to taking pictures. Having been spoiled for the last 10 years with living in the Pacific Northwest I have found coming back home to Texas hard for me with regard to my photography. I miss the majestic landscapes of Washington and Oregon. As a result, I have had to find new things to shoot. The other issue I have with the greater Austin area other than a lack of mountains is that this is “BIG Sky Country” and usually there isn’t a darn thing in it. To put it bluntly there is nothing more boring that a flat landscape and a never ending EMPTY blue sky.

Lately, I have been in luck. It has been raining in Austin off and on which means we get thunderstorms and clouds. Being that I work downtown, I am literally blocks from the Texas State Capital. Being that my first degree is in architecture, I can always seem to fall back to my first professional love and enjoy shooting building. Yesterday, the sky was nice, the sun set at the golden hour was warm and the reflection off the building and how it was lit was perfect. Luckily for me I have been carrying my camera bag on potential cloud days. So, at the end of the day, coming up on 7:30 I went over to the capital and grabbed this shot.

The Texas State Capital, Austin Texas

The Texas State Capital, Austin Texas

This is a single image shot with my Nikon D700 and my 14-28mm Nikkor wide angle lens. I set up with my tripod and waited for an hour for the light to get just right to grab the series of shots that resulted in this image. The final print once cropped is 27″ wide x 13″ tall. Shot like a panoramic, the cropping was to eliminate an underground gazebo that is in the picture but distracted from the overall composition. This is an HDR shot processed in Photoshop CS5 using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro. The full size image looks really nice. The Nik Software is excellent. For the record I did try this image in HDR Darkroom, Dynamic HRD, Photomatix and Nik’s HDR Efex Pro. Consistently the Nik Software outperforms the others in terms of look, ease of use and general operation.

My search for more things to shoot continues, but I think this was a good addition.

 

UPDATE (5/29/2011) – Ok… so I hated the first image. I spent awhile playing with it, changing the tone map and looking for a series I shot with better sky. This was the result. Since I didn’t wait for the sun to drop farther, I was dealing with a harsh glow on the building. Most people don’t know that the Texas Capital is made from Sunset Red Granite from Marble Falls Texas. This means the building basically looks pink and at sunset, it throws a serious cast of red. So there was some clean up that I neglected in the original image that this one clears up.  CS5 was my weapon of choice for this editing and I wasn’t disappointed. Having just recently upgraded my digital darkroom to a monster of a machine, I added new software as well which included my CS5 upgrade (worth every penny).

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Home is where the heart is…

College is a funny thing. People are very devoted to their respective schools and I am no different. In my 40 some odd years I have lived in every major city in Texas and three other states. In all my time across Texas and around the country, Lubbock has always been home. I spent 5 years there, and shy or Oregon, Lubbock has been the place I have spent the most time in since I left home. So, you can say that I am attached to the place. While I was in Lubbock, I shot for the Texas Tech Year Book and school newspaper. In all the years there with a camera, I really never sat out to shoot the Administration building,  the most dominant piece of architecture on the campus. So, when I was moving back to Texas from Seattle, I stopped in Lubbock and took some pictures. This shot is of the oldest building on campus.

Texas Tech Administration Building

Texas Tech Administration Building

The Administration Building is a structure on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. It was one of the original buildings on the campus, and is modeled after La Universidad de Alcala de Hernales in Alcalá de Henares, Spain.[1] The Admin building has three floors and a basement and includes twin bell towers, double wings, and a courtyard. Some of the offices housed in the building include the Chancellor’s Office, President’s Office and Board of Regents Office.

I was pretty happy with how this came out. Its a decent B&W shot and has that sentimental feel to it for me. Its nice being closer to home and the school. One day I hope to move back to Lubbock.

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Johnson City

As mentioned in my post from earlier today, I am still on the hunt for new subject matter to shoot. This shot is as scenic as I can find within 90 miles of my house (so far). This shot was taken in Johnson City, on the ranch that President Johnson grew up on. Spot metered on the horse. this shot turned out better than expected. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and this shot was taken at about 4:30 pm. So, it was bright and the sky is some what blown out. I never thought I would miss the clouds of Seattle, but I would give anything for some clouds in the sky to tone down the light and to break up the sky a bit. This shot works because of the tree. Had it not been in the foreground the framing of the image would be off and bland.

Johnson City, Texas

Johnson City, Texas

I did a black and white conversion of this image that turned out ok. It lacks a bit of contrast as there is little in the image to give off a pure white. The blacks are rich, but the lack of white makes the image looked washed. So, I think I will stick with the color image for now.

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Details of West Texas

As many have noticed, I haven’t been shooting as much as I normally do and the vast landscape shots have all but disappeared. While I am a native Texan, I am missing (terribly I might add) the landscape of the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver. While I am a HUGE fan of the desert of West Texas, I am not a huge fan of the Austin landscape.  Here its largely flat,Plateau Live Oak and Hackberry Trees are the dominant species here though several sites claim there are over 100 different species in the area. Suffice to say, while an Oak is great for a lynch mob, they aren’t really great when compared to the majestic 120′ tall trees found in Washington.

As a result, I have tried to find other things to shoot. With my background in Architecture, I am always drawn to images and details of structures. Texas has a ton of old ranches and farms. This particular shot was taken in Johnson City, at a historical landmark where President Johnson grew up.  The ranch was in amazing shape without signs of over preservation. The wood, nails and paints that were used them are still in place. I really liked the way this site was tended to. It was authentic in every

Details of West Texas

Details of West Texas

aspect. This shot of a 40′ tall windmill was one of my favorite details. The texture of the blades is what caught my eye. I am still looking for a “theme” or set of things I can focus on to shoot. Its hard. nothing here really appeals to me artistically so I am searching for my “eye” again. Things just don’t jump out at me like they used to. I largely attribute this to not shooting as much as opposed to the local scenery. Either way I need to fix it…. soon

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Walk on the WeIrD side

Tonight a friend of mine and I went into Downtown Austin to try and shoot a panoramic of the skyline. (Yes, Austin has a skyline… kinda). We looked for over an hour for a place to shoot and couldn’t get the right location. As we were about to give up we decided that since we were there, we may as well shoot down the famous Congress Street bridge. This is the bridge that the bats live under. The problem with this angle is that the capital of Texas is at the end of congress lit like a Christmas tree. With long exposures on a bridge, with a bright capital building meant the scene in the middle would be bright to say the least.

Despite all of these issues and concerns we went ahead and shot the panoramic. Naturally, once we were done we decided on where a much better shot would be made. So, both of us decide we would go back and give this another go from a better location. Until then, this is what I got. Not quite as dramatic as my Seattle Panoramic (17″ tall and 6′-00″ long) but its not a terrible image either.

Austin, Texas as seen from the Congress Street Bridge
   Austin, Texas as seen from the Congress Street Bridge

We managed to have a good time despite having to run around looking for a good spot and the harsh light. Its always good to get out and shoot even when you don’t get exactly what you were after. Next time we know exactly where to go.

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