Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chairs and Train

Well, with the price of gas ever increasing with no end in site, I thought it might be time to start taking the train to work on a regular basis.  I haven't been riding it in the past because the train doesn't run from Georgetown to Austin for my convenience.  I wonder when Capital Metro will figure out that it's all about me?  Haha, just kidding, of course.  I do work for them and am happy that they provide this service.  Anyway, there is a station about 10 miles from my house in Leander that I can take.  However, it's kind of in the opposite direction from my route to work, but it's the closest one. 

So, this past Friday, my wife and were going to attend a happy hour with some friends after work in Austin. That's quite a ways from Georgetown and since Eileen works close to home, there was no reason for her to drive me in to work then drive all the way back up near Georgetown to again come back in to pick me up and go to the happy hour.  And, it didn't make sense for me to do the opposite.  So, I decided to try the train.  The only problem with the train is that it takes me an about an hour and a half to get to work versus my usual 35 - 40 minutes.  But, like I said, with the price of gas going skyward, what the heck? 

I must say, I was quite pleased with the ride.  Therefore, I'm going to experiment with taking it once or twice a week for a while and see how it goes.

I took this shot while waiting to get on the train at the Leander Station.  I got there quite early so I had plenty of time to shoot a few shots.  I have a couple more that I'll put out in a few days.

I hope you enjoy it and thanks for stopping by!

Oh, and if you are interested, check out the schedule for the train.  Maybe you'll find you can take it to work as well! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ski Patrol Shack

Near the top Blackcomb Mountain at the Whister - Blackcomb ski resort lies a building that the Ski Patrol uses.  I'm not exactly what for, but I imagine it is a combination of rest, administration and command and control.  Other than that, not sure.  I wanted to get a shot of it because of the style of building it is - log cabin looking - and because of how the snow looked on it.  I also wanted to shoot it because right in the foreground of the shot is the sled that the ski patrol uses to transport injured skiers down the mountain when a snowmobile won't do.  For those of you who aren't skiers, the Ski Patrol basically makes sure everyone on the mountain skis safely and help those who get hurt.  They're sort of like the lifeguards of the slopes.  They are all great skiers and good at what they do.

Also, I rode up a chairlift with a member of the ski patrol while I was there and we struck up a conversation about photography.  Turns out, the guy I was riding up with was a videographer who did a lot of the training videos for the ski patrol there at Whistler.  He said if I wanted, I could go down with them during the sweep of the mountain at the end of the day and take any kind of sunset photos I wanted.  (The sweep is when they close the mountain down for the day and make sure all skiers are down off the mountain.)  I thought that would've been awesome, but I had enough shots by then and besides, by the time they do the sweeps, I'm pretty beat from a full day of skiing.  So, if any of you ever make it out there, get with the ski patrol and see if you can go down during a sweep.  The ski patrol member who told me this said they kind of even encourage it because it's more publicity for them.  Pretty cool I must say!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Cloudy Mountains

Well, for lack of getting any other shots for the blog lately, I thought it might be time to put up another one of my black and white mountain shots from Whistler, Canada. I think from all of the ones I've taken, this is probably my favorite. I just really like how it turned out. With the clouds in the valley and the clouds in the background, it just really makes a cool shot.

I also decided to use Scott Kelby's blog post on how to make a poster with your name and stuff on it and applied it to this shot. It's pretty easy and kinda cool. However, if you go to his blog and watch the video, the HD is turned off so it's kind of hard to see him do everything. But, you can hear him talk about it and you can get the idea for the most part. Here's how mine turned out below:

I think if you click on it you can see a larger size to get a better idea of how it turned out.  Check out Scott's post and give it a try.  I really like the look of it.

Hope you like it and thanks for visiting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

7th Heaven

Davids Tea

If you like tea, Davids Tea is a cool little store my wife Eileen discovered while at Whistler. They sell some great tea and have a ton of flavors. They have lots of great doodads to make tea with as well. We bought these tea cups that have a little strainers that fit inside of them to make one cup of tea perfectly. According to the person who waited on us there, the store in Whistler has only been open a few weeks and apparently the company has only been around a year or two. I think it will go over big. If you like tea, check it out!

7th Heaven

This is the sign that you see once you get off the 7th Heaven lift on Blackcomb Mountain. There is a lot of skiing to be had on this side because it seems that side of the mountain has hardly any trees which means there is a ton of real estate to ski on. However, I found that lift quite busy so I didn't spend a whole lot of time there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cloudy Mountain

Yet another black and white shot of some of the views from Whistler. Again, I can't say how much fun I had shooting all of the outstanding views that day. I really had to discipline myself. I love to both ski and take photos so I was in nirvana this particular day. It seemed like as soon as I put all of the gear back into my backpack and started down the slopes, I would see another grand scene. Then I would stop, take all of my stuff back out and set up for the shot. I finally had to tell myself, "Stop with the picture taking and enjoy the skiing!" Of course, another part of me would say, "Yes, but you may never be here again and the shots are amazing!" I finally got enough of the same stuff, I think, and I'm very happy with what I have. I hope you like them too and I thank you for visiting.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mountain Shack Off Glacier Express Lift

Here's another mountain shot I took on my recent trip to Whistler.  My previous shots have been in black and white, so I thought I should mix it up a little with this color one (although I do have a couple more black and whites to put out).  This shot is basically what you see when you get off the "Glacier Express" chairlift and then hang a left.  If you look here, you can check out their trail map.  Glacier Express is on the far left side of the left mountain which is Blackcomb Mountain.  I found that I had the best skiing over in this area BTW.  I'm not sure what the shack is for but it added a nice element to the shot.

I like the overall look of this shot, but it really doesn't follow a lot of the rules of photography, i.e., leading lines, rule of thirds, etc.  But, I like how you see how the sunlight illuminates the snow and rocks in the foreground and yet the background is dark due to the clouds in the valley over the village.  That sums up the weather during most of our trip.  Sunny at the top, yet cloudy and dark down below.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


This shot below was one I took during David Nightingale's (aka @chromasia) HDR Crash Course here in Austin last week.  It was a one day course that primarily went over the use of Photomatix.  I attended mainly to find out ways to reduce noise in my shots without losing detail.  I think/I hope I was succesful here.  I used no noise reduction in this shot whatsoever.  Now the colors and stuff may not be quite right, but I'm working on that.

I also tried out one of David's sample tutorials - the "Tonal range and the Curves tool" one to be precise - on his website at  He really explains the powerful Curves tool quite well.  From what I've heard, he taught Curves as well as other stuff in the subsequent Creating Dramatic Images portion of his workshop that I could not attend.  I really wish I could have, but maybe next time.

In this particular shot I used two curves adjustment layers to help with the color and the detail.  However, I did have a hard time getting the saturation of the color in the background a bit so I used a saturation adjustment layer for that.  I'm sure if I gave the brackets to David, he could make something extraordinary out of this, but I'm pleased with what I have here.  The thing I'm amazed about the most is again, no noise reduction was needed on this as far as I could see. So, it made the course worth it for me.  I did sharpen it a little with Nik Sharpener, however.

Now, should I spend the cash for his other tutorials?  Hmmmm....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

American Airlines

On our way back from Canada, like everyone else flying American Airlines, we connected through Dallas before getting to our last stop in Austin. Our friends Doug and Tricia had access to the "Admirals Lounges" at American terminals so we got to enjoy our layover in style! You haven't lived until you done your business in those lovely washrooms (as the Canucks call them). Plus, you get free well drinks and snacks!

While in the Admirals Lounge, we had a great view of some of the aircraft at their respective gates and I thought this would be a great time for a shot. This here is a 757 - I think - at gate D23. It wasn't ours but we flew one just like it. I guess as far as anyone has to know, it WAS ours!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Chairlift Below Mountain

Congrats to the Packers

As much as I can't stand to say it, congratulations must go out to the Green Bay Packers. They beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a great Super Bowl. I can't stand the Packers, but I have some good friends who are Packers fans, so I'm happy for them. Otherwise, screw it. Also, the other reason I'm upset is now I have to slog through 7 months or so of no NFL or college football. The horror... the horror...!

Chairlift Under Mountain

Here's another in my Mountains of Whistler series. I took this on one of the peaks, either Blackcomb or Whistler, I can't remember which, while enjoying a nice day of skiing. I really like how the scale is represented here with the size of the mountain in the background versus the size of the chairlift in the lower left corner. It really gives you a sense of the magnitude of the mountains there.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An American Holiday!

Super Bowl Sunday!

As usual, I'm a little late in posting something relevant to the day's events, but this non-secular American holiday known as Super Bowl Sunday cannot go unnoticed!  Personally, I don't have a dog in this hunt.  I hate the Packers because they always beat my lowly Dee-troit Lions (Losing Is Our Name, Sir) plus, I think the Steelers have way too many Super Bowl wins.  BTW... I didn't like the Steelers back when they used to beat the Cowboys all the time in the '70s super bowls.  So, I really don't care who wins.  I just hope it's a good game.  Good luck to whomever.

Bald Eagle

With that mention of the American holiday, I thought I should throw in a picture I took on my recent trip to Canada.  It doesn't get more American than  bald eagle does it?  It's not the greatest shot in the world, but I like it.  If only I had a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VRII to shoot this with instead of an 18-200 3.5 - 5.6.  This would've been quite a bit better.  Oh well.  Anyone know where I can get one.... for free? ;-)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inside the Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Weather and HDR Crash Course with David Nightingale

Yesterday was an interesting day.  I scheduled time off work to attend the HDR Crash Course workshop by David Nightingale.  It was an awesome, quick, down and dirty intro to Photomatix.  I've been using Photomatix for about a year and a half, but still did not know what all of the sliders and controls were for.  He really explained those quite well.  He even gave some tips on clearing up noise, how to better read histograms and a few other things. I also met some other photographers interested in HDR taking the course. They all were very talented and I enjoyed talking with them. Dave Wilson organized this whole thing and he did a great job!  Thanks to both Daves!  Today and tomorrow, David Nightingale is putting on his advanced two-day post-processing course with instruction in Photoshop.  I would've really liked to have attended this as well, but it didn't work out this time.  If he comes back, I will have to find a way to get to it.

Another thing about yesterday was that our class was supposed to start at 9:00am.  However, we received a little snow here the night before and the course had to be pushed back a couple of hours.  No biggee because a portion of the time was allotted for heading to the capitol and shooting there.  We ended up shooting just across the street from where the course was located.  This made it really a crash course.  However, I don't feel as though I missed out on anything.  It was still worth it!  One good thing about the snow is that it closed down a LOT of businesses including mine, so it looks as though I didn't have to take time off after all!  Pretty cool!

Inside the Peak 2 Peak Gondola

This shot here is from the inside of the "Peak 2 Peak" gondola that spans Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains in Whistler, BC, CA.  It's a huge gondola holding upwards of 28 people or so and holds all kinds of records.  You don't even have to ski to ride it.  I think it was made for the Olympics in 2010 so it's still quite new!  The views from this thing are spectacular as well.  Also, once in a while, when the clouds are low, you can end up going through clouds which makes you unable to see anything and gives a weird sensation of floating.  Oh, and one other thing... they have a couple glass bottom gondolas that allow you to see everything below as you are riding.  Some friends that went with us to Canada took it and really loved it.  If you ever get out there, I highly recommend trying it out!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mountains of Whistler

You should've seen me on this day... My third day of skiing I decided to haul my camera gear up on the mountain.  I did this for my Inuksuk shot as well, but I forgot to mention it in that post.  Anyway, skiing is hard enough when you don't do it on a regular basis, but skiing while hauling a backpack full of camera gear is another thing entirely.  Ahh, the things we do to get THE shot. 

This is one of the many views from the top of either Whistler or Blackcomb Mountains.  I think it's Whistler Mountain that I took this one from.  Either way, this is a shot of the mountains behind it.  It's a great place to shoot from because I think the whole time we were there, there were always clouds above and below the mountains... for the most part.  Have to watch out for the wind though.. pretty breezy up there!  Some spectacular vistas for sure, though. 

Here I tried to channel my inner Ansel Adams and converted this one to black and white.  The final shot was pretty monochrome to begin with due to the gray skies and the white snow.  I don't think it comes close to what Mr. Adams might get, but I like it nonetheless.  What do you think?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Inuksuk On Whistler Mountain, BC, Canada

Last week, my wife, some friends and I took a ski trip to Whistler, Canada, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. What a beautiful place!

Whistler resides about 2.5 hours north of Vancouver by road in the temperate part of western Canada. As a matter of fact, the road that takes you to Whistler from Vancouver was recently expanded for the Olympics and came in at a cost of about $1 billion. It's a very scenic drive, that's for sure!

This area is also known for it's native populace... the Squamish and Lil'wat nations. They have a great cultural center there that tells you everything you need to know about these indigenous peoples. Some of these Native Americans used reference points on their routes to help navigate long distances which are called "Inuksuks" (plural inuksuit).  That's what you see here.  According to Wikipedia, "The inuksuk may have been used for navigation, as a point of reference, a marker for travel routes, fishing places, camps, hunting grounds, places of veneration, drift fences used in hunting or as a food cache. The Inupiat in northern Alaska used inuksuit to assist in the herding of caribou into contained areas for slaughter. Varying in shape and size, the inuksuit have longtime roots in the Inuit culture."  This was also used as the symbol for the 2010 Winter Olympics.  This particular one is located behind the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain.

All in all, the scenery is great there and the town has lots to do, but I'm not sure I would recommend anyone go there, at least right now.  Everything was expensive due to the weakness of the American dollar and the weather didn't cooperate for us.  Of course, it's hard to do anything about the weather.  We had two good days of skiing and two or three not so good.  As you can see in this picture, the clouds were below us, but that's also where some of the runs were.  So, it made it hard skiing through the fog.  The other thing is that there was a lot of rain while we were there.  Mostly in the lower elevations, but that didn't make it too fun either.  I imagine now that we're back, they are probably having wonderful skiing there!  Isn't that the way it always works?  However, we did like it enough to maybe go back in the springtime since the bears will be out and apparently they have some great springtime foliage!

Lastly, since  that's where we've been for the last week, that's what I mostly have pictures of now. So, the next few posts on this blog will be shots from there.  I hope that you enjoy them and I hope you enjoyed looking at and reading about this one.  Thanks for stopping by!

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