Sunday, November 06, 2016

Yellow Clouds/My Backyard

A while back one of my good friends, Helen, challenged me to shoot something in my own backyard. I had the best intentions of doing it at the time, so I had written down what I was supposed to do and then, as life gets in the way, I had forgotten about it. Going over some old notes, I was reminded of the assignment and so I thought I would participate. Apologies to Helen for taking all but an eternity to get this done but this, Helen, is my take on what my backyard looks like.

Now, I realize some of you might be saying, "but...but...I can't see anything!" I never promised I would craft an image of something you "can see" rather I promised I would take a shot. There's an actual difference between those two tasks. As a photographer, I've always felt I don't have to limit myself to the "real" world, although there is an element of the "real" in every image we take. To put this another way, just because we bear the albatross of reality doesn't mean we have to constrain ourselves by it. Ive always felt our vision should know no boundaries. Because somebody is expected to see what something "looks like" doesn't mean we have to craft a reality that's close to what they might be expecting. Apologies, but that's just not the way art works (well, the way I practice it anyway.) To put it bluntly, you get what I'm dreaming, not what you think you want to see.

Another interesting thing about the assignment "shoot in your own backyard" was that it was, quite literally, the very first assignment I was given as a photographer. It's also an assignment I always love doing. There is this notion out there that in order to be a photographer, one has to travel to the ends of the earth and bring back shots from outer Mongolia, otherwise, well, it just isn't shooting. While I love traveling and would love nothing more than to traverse the world several times over and over again, it is entirely within the realm of the possible to craft wonderful images just sitting on your own couch. Now, it might require some imagination, some vision, some craft, but, truth be told, going on that trip to outer Mongolia and coming back with great shots also requires same. It's just that, you know, outer Mongolia might have a touch of "oh, that's what it looks like!" which may, or may not, be lost on the home couch. I guess you could call this "the away court advantage." It doesn't really make for better images, although, at first glance, they might look like better images, they really are only the same images just taken "over there" as it were.

Now, those of you who know me know that I live in a very boring part of suburbia. It's quite dull actually, although it's close to town and allows for ease in terms of getting rations and the like, not to mention it provides me ample space to be able to participate in activities such as painting in the garage or setting up a small studio in an extra bedroom. Yes, my home looks boring and dull and, well, quite suburban in nature but I'm ok with that. It's my little comfort zone and, when I'm not out trying to find outer Mongolia, I enjoy it as best I can. I try to, you know, make the most of it and all. Had I shot what you might have been expecting, why you'd see a tree or two, maybe a rooftop, a back porch, quite possibly the dog sitting in the yard, you know, the typical suburban stuff. But, I ask of you, why should my world be limited to that? Again, to put it bluntly, that's your vision, not mine.

Today, my world is filled with yellow clouds. I was going to head over to the water gardens to shoot but I got rained out so I managed to stay at home in an attempt at catching up with the piles of things on my plate right now. Nevertheless, the yellow clouds remind me of my own backyard, how I might see it anyway. I hope you enjoy them.

Until next time...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dia De Los Muertos/Day of the Dead - Viva la Vida

Went to Viva La Vida today, which is the Dia de los Muertos parade in downtown Austin. One of the photo groups in town sponsored a photo walk there and they were invited to shoot in what was called the "staging area" or the place where the parade participants all setup and put on the makeup and such. It was a lot of fun. Lots of interesting shots, met a lot of fun people, had a good time. Weather was perfect today too, a bit hot at times (the sun! the sun! Will autumn ever get here?) and we had some of that blasted out Texas light at times, in between the clouds but, overall, a really great day.

It's a very family oriented event and so I wound up shooting a lot of kids. Those of you who know me know I don't always shoot kids. Well, sometimes, but I'm not any kind of "Mommy blogger" type. I like kids that are doing funky things, or kids, like this, that are wearing costumes or are just sore of more "colorful" than your average rug rat. All well and good, as the parade and it's corresponding "staging area" provided me with a lot of that. Lots of color, lots of hats, makeup, fun stuff to go around.

I hadn't planned on going to this event but wound up getting invited and decided to go at the last minutes. Those of you who know my work know that I've shot a little bit of Day of the Dead themed work before-I shot some in Santa Fe a long time ago. Didn't do much work but wound up getting paid for some of it as I got promptly contacted by a news organization and wound up selling some of it. Eh, that's old news. This year, I just enjoyed myself and added to the "muerto" pile as it were.

More dia shots to follow but that's the basics. I hope you have a wonderful Halloween, a glorious Day of the Dead, a fantastic All Saint's Day, and you happily enjoy whatever else it is you might celebrate this time of year.

Until next time...

PS This was the 5DS with the walkabout lens. Lots of walking about today so used only that. Oh, and some iPhone work but that's different.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Bless This House - No Actually Run, I'm Doing a Remodel

Bless this house and those who've sinned in it. Did I mention I live alone? Well, unless you count the dog and he's not talking. (Actually, come to think of it, there is this big white girl dog next door who barks incessantly at him. Maybe I'm not the only sinner in the house? Ah, we'll just chalk that up to the garbage men being overly loud and move on.) Pray for me, I'm remodeling. Though I know it's a brutal path, a path many stronger men have forged before me and lost (by the way-the insane asylum is filled with more than one person who lost the good fight here, I'm sure.) I'm forging ahead. Onward, faithful remodelers! Into the abyss we go!

So far, I've gotten a new roof, replaced the insinkerator, gotten a new fence, and replaced the shower head. Did I mention *I* replaced the shower head? That's *I* as in little old me. Yes, horror of horrors, I actually did something and it worked. Will the world ever survive? Eh, probably not but I can take a shower once again. Hooray!

Next up, I'm working in the master bath. A place where few dare to tread. Since I've replaced the roof, I have to now work on the inside of the house, the place where the roof leaked, and through the wonders of gravity, that would be the master bathroom. (As luck would have it, the leaking roof leaked right into the jacuzzi tub.) Now, to fix the previous leak, I am getting some new sheet rock installed over the tub, and, since I have to paint anyway, I've decided to replace the towel bar with a shelf and replace the lighting with some spiffy newfangled LED lighting. And, since it follows that we have to have painters into the house, it also naturally follows that I'm going to ask the painters to fix up the studio, to actually help me move some of my art shelving so I can get it up off the floor and use the newfound space for a home studio.

Yes, you read that right. Brought to you by convoluted Carol logic, but there it is. I'm in the midst of setting up (actually finishing the setup) of my home studio. Wish me luck, oh great and wise Internets, for I am going to need all of the luck, skill, prayers, sacrificial farm animals, voodoo dolls and chicken casseroles you can muster. I'm going in! It's going to be deep. It's going to be big. I may not come out the other side. If you happen upon me walking downtown somewhere, in a daze, complete stupor on my face with like a toilet plunger stuck to my head why, you can say you knew me when, and you can probably laugh at what happened. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

I'm probably going to be a mixed bag over the next couple of weeks in terms of getting back to you, responding to emails, and the like. I did mention this is deep, yes? And I seriously need to finish it. It's been going on for a while now, half finished projects, things all over the place that need work, little things that just add up. Yes, it's time to fix it, finish it, get 'er done as they say here in Texas. So, while you may be missing me in the near future, look on the bright side. I'm sure I'll have some funny stories to tell should I happen to make it out the other side of this. Imagine the blog posts that will come after this! I can hardly fathom the chaos that's sure to follow. Look on the bright side of life as well. Better me than you, right?

I've already had my share of funny stories and we're not that deep into this. I mentioned the new shower head, yes? A few weeks ago I went to take a shower and I happened to notice the water was hitting the wall and my head? Well, not so much. Upon closer inspection, I came to realize that my (now old) shower head had a hole in the line leading from the wand part to the wall. A hole? You know the type of thing that water leaks through? Yeah, that. So, I decided it was time for a replacement. I mustered up the courage to head into my local Lowe's hardware store and asked the clerk what to do. I told him I wanted a hand held shower head since I liked to feet. You see, I use one of those fancy pull-down shower heads that allows you to spray off your feet should you happen to get stuck in the mud. For some reason, the nice clerk at Lowe's thought it was pretty funny that I had stinky feet. I ended up getting a nice Moen shower head that has a magnet on it, so it snaps back into place automagically once you're done, you know, cleaning said feet and all. Nice. And, did I mention I installed it myself? By God, I've done something! Mic drop, world ends, film at 11! OK, so maybe it's not that bad but, still, you know, it feels like I never do anything anymore other than complain. And, I guess, install shower heads.

Now, I've got a lot to do before the remodeling crew comes to visit on the 19th and I'm very far behind in doing it so, again, I ask that you please tolerate my absence while this is going down. I'll be back soon enough with expensive tales of woe and plumber's crack the likes of which...well, let's just say it's going to be an adventure and leave it at that, ok?

All this and the shower head is just a start. Did I mention I was remodeling? What, did I get hit in the head with a falling brick or something? Somebody save me, please, I think I need a brain transplant stat!

Until next time...

This image from recent Peru trip, taken in Lima with the Canon 5DS and the walkabout lens. Miraflores district somewhere on a lost, forgotten wall. Oh, the house was being remodeled too (I feel their pain!)

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Notes from Lima, Peru

Back from Lima, Peru and I thought I would check-in. Had a wonderful trip. Really liked Lima, will have to go back again someday, if nothing else to photograph from the fantastic Mirabus. Was a lot of fun.

I started out traveling through Houston, which was eventful in and of itself. The flight from Austin to Houston was full, full, full and so the self-proclaimed "baggage Nazi" tried to get us to check every form of luggage we could possibly think of and even some that did not yet exist. I swear, she was just about to ask me if I wanted to check my left arm because, you know, "it's free! And so much more convenient!" Um, I don't think so. Managed to get on the plane with my laptop and camera gear. Of course, there were like six people traveling with guitars. Did they ask them to check these? Oh no! Only camera gear. The airlines seem to hate photographers for some reason. The flight to Lima was not so bad. It's about six or seven hours from Houston and a late afternoon flight which is fun, although I have a hard time falling asleep sometimes on the planes. I managed to stay up and watch a couple of movies, Creed with Sylvester Stallone and The Big Lebowski which was an event in and of itself. I swear, if I had done nothing else but watch The Big Lebowski, the entire trip would have been worth it. I don't know how but, somehow, I managed to never see that film, yet I heard a lot about it. It's one of those movies I have always wanted to see but somehow always just seemed to miss. Miss it no more, as I now can say that, as part of this trip, I not only visited South America (first time) crossed the equator (first time too) and finally got to see The Big Lebowski. What a trip even before it started. Big Lebowski aside, we landed in Lima, got stuck in customs, wrangled our baggage back from the hoarders, and made the drive to our hotels. Driving in Lima can be quite the adventure but we made it to our hotel without any excitement and the hotel was nice, photos of the bed to follow at some point.

Lima is know for it's food. It's a culinary capital and well-deserved. The restaurants we visited were all very good and the food and drink quite tasty. I tried my first pisco sour which was wonderful, almost like a margarita, very refreshing. They also have ceviche which was wonderful and I enjoyed a drink they called an "herba buena" which is kind of like a lemonade only more like a limeade but actually made with key limes. Since I love just about anything key lime, I had a lot of these herba buenas. They are bright green and make for interesting late night tweets if you are so inclined (I was.) I would imagine they Instagram quite well too, if you are into that.

I stayed in the Miraflores section of Lima which is kind of the arts district. It has very pretty houses that I got to walk about and photograph some. Really very interesting place. I could do a lot with that kind of architecture photographically. Managed to touch upon it some and it reminded me of my early days, shooting with Barbara and the crew, lots of windows and doors, careful with corners and edges, trying to optimize colors. Reminded me of my early days back when I first started shooting, not to mention I love colonial architecture. One of the the things that struck me the most about Lima was how the colonial architecture was sort of "mixed in" with the rest of the styles found in the city. It was not uncommon to see a very modern building right next to a colonial building, quickly followed by another modern building then two or three colonials right in a row. Most of the cities I've visited featuring any kind of abundance of colonial architecture have sort of sections where the colonial architecture is preserved. In Lima, not so much, it's all sort of mixed in across the city. This really made for interesting shots and was just fascinating to walk about and enjoy.

On Saturday, we took something called the "Mirabus" which is an open air double deck bus which rides through Lima. We managed to get a long tour on the Mirabus (somehow the shorter one was sold out) and wound up taking a 2 hour tour through downtown Lima. It was really very wonderful. We visited the older part of Lima, saw the presidential buildings, the fountains, and visited the catacombs in the church of San Francisco. Although they did not allow photographs, that was really something to visit. The catacombs were really fascinating and the building itself was a well-preserved example of colonial architecture. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to go back to visit again someday.

The return from Lima itself was interesting. I met a teacher from my hometown on the plane and we chatted for a while and then, of course, the flight from Houston was a disaster and a half. For starters, I had to clear customs in Houston which is not that bad, although I was reminded of how Houston has all of these long hallways. It's like a bowling alley in there, I swear. It's like hallway after hallway, with signs that say things like "United States next left." I swear, what a trip! If that were not bad enough, I get on the plane which was sort of half empty, and try to sleep but, nope, not happening this flight. Right after takeoff, almost *during* takeoff really, some lady gets up and starts screaming at one of the flight attendants. When I say "screaming" I mean like I actually thought they were going to come to blows, it was that bad. Seriously, I thought they were going to turn around the plane of force us to land somewhere like College Station (half way between Austin and Houston.) In the days post 9-11 they can do this now, as we're supposed to take our seats when the little seat belt light is on and they can actually turn the plane around if a passenger becomes too out of control.

The flight itself is less than an hour but, man, what an eventful forty minutes that was! If the screaming passenger from Hell (nay, San Francisco) were not enough, the pilot came on and announced that we were expecting turbulence for most of the flight so they would not be serving beverages. Now, I can live without my free orange juice for forty minutes, no problem, but what I didn't expect, what none of us expected, was that the bouncy flight somehow combined itself with an overhead bin that was not quite closed all the way. End result? Just as the screaming demon lady was doing her thing the plane hit what felt like a large "bump," the bin was forced open and stuff started flying out. Some poor young girl was almost taken out by some flying debris and the cabin was filled with that "joyous" crashing sound nobody ever wants to hear on a plane. Lucky for us the pangs and screams of the demon lady drowned out the din of the bins crashing. Oh, what a flight! Almost makes me wish I'd hitchhiked home from Houston, really that did.

Last leg from Houston aside, Lima really was wonderful. This trip was "The Big Lebowski. Here's your food!" of trips and I hope I get to go back again someday. I recommend you visit Lima if you ever get the chance, although I might recommend you avoid a connection in Houston if at all possible. Oh, and it goes without saying really but watch out for some screaming demon like lady en route to San Francisco. What a trip!

Until next time...

Friday, August 12, 2016

Another Day, Another Bed

Realizing I owe you a bed from the last trip, I thought it wise to post before I go off and make more beds. At least I thought I should post a bed from my last trip before I head off onto my next one. This bed is in North Dakota, in downtown Minot to be precise. We were wise and got a suite which was wonderful. The bed was quite fluffy but firm. I have to say, as far as beds go, I really liked it. Now, I may not get to do a bed in Peru but we shall see. It would be kind of nice to go off and get a South American bed but I might not have the time or energy to pull it off. We shall see.

I'm gearing up and packing out so expect some possible notes from the road or at least a few tweets from the airport. Again, we shall see. This is not my usual trip. Not going crazy with the photo gear but will try to bring back something other than cookies.

In other, completely unrelated news. I hear the cookies are really good in Lima. At least, I've been told to bring back some. Again, we shall see, if time and tide permits, eh?

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your bed, wherever it might happen to be.

As we photographers sometimes say, here's wishing you safe travels and good light.

Until next time...

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Enter Froggy Friend

This weekend I got to tour the Willow City historic schoolhouse as part of the Friends of Gillespie County Country Schools Tour. Willow City is a small town located out near Fredericksburg, Texas, about an hour and a half from my current home. The school itself is an historic building, dating back to 1905. It's a two story brick structure with several rooms downstairs and a large auditorium style room upstairs, which served as a classroom for the high school students. Inside one of the downstairs rooms there was something called a "sand table" which is sort of like a giant sandbox, elevated on a tabletop like setting. That's what you see pictured here. This is a close up detail of some toys in the sand table. I guess they used the sand table when it was raining or too hot for the children to play outside. Another interesting tidbit about the Willow City school was that it was actually a replacement school. The original school, dating back to the early to mid-1800's washed away in a flood and in 1905 they built the two story brick replacement structure which stands today, included as part of the historic schoolhouse tour. I was enamored with the little toys and especially liked the expression on the little "frog man face" so I setup and took this shot while I was touring the building. They had a very interesting piano in the upstairs room so look for some shots of that to follow as well.

It was great to get to tour the old building, although I have to say it was a bit hot. I wasn't too hot inside the building itself, as they have some mighty ceiling fans going and, being a brick building and all, it's out of the sun, but, dang, it was over 100 degrees this weekend. It was hot. I've jokingly been saying that Hell called and they want their weather back! Yes, it really does get all that hot in central Texas in August. I suppose I should have grown to expect this but, somehow, when you are out in it and the sweat starts pouring off the back of your neck and your boots get filled with puddles of sweat from it rolling down your leg, why, it just kind of feels especially hot and sticky.

Even with the heat, it was a nice weekend. The trip out there is nice. It's an actual drive out in the country and I must confess that part of central Texas is a bit more green than the Austin area. More cows (real cows, not just the ones you see here in small form,) especially longhorns, more green, more open roads, more space, less traffic, and fewer people. Oh, and a lot of wineries. When I say "a lot" I mean we must have crossed paths with about 50 of them. Seriously. There is even one called "Fat Ass Winery" (I can't make this stuff up!) Who knew there was a whole "Tuscany in Texas" movement complete with wineries and fake Italian style castles out in the hill country? (I sure didn't!)

All in all it was happy but hot shooting. And I got to introduce you to my nice little froggy friend who's probably still out stuck in the sandbox. It's not easy being green, well, not in this heat anyway.

Until next time...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Little Houses

Been busy but wanted to check in. I've been playing with the iPhone a bit and came up with a couple that look like this one. Funny thing about that house, it was cold the day we were there and it actually started to snow a little bit, like flurries. I managed to take a couple of shots with the big girl camera but ended up somehow liking what the iPhone churned out instead. Go figure. It was 27 and snowing so, heck, I'm happy I got something out of it.

I'm up resizing some images to submit to something so I figured I would post and let everybody know I'm still here. Been busy but managing. I'll be getting a new roof on the house hopefully this week, so that's good, and I have a shoot lined up this week as well. Might be some travel in the near future too but it's early and I don't want to jinx it so I'll just say, "don't be surprised." And, yeah, this one involves a passport so lucky me, mine didn't expire just yet.

Still haven't processed all of the Dakota images but it's all good. They have been coming off the stack little by little and I have a couple that I like so all good, right?

Until next time...