Friday, June 29, 2012

Austin Skyline 2012

The skyline of Austin, Texas is constantly changing.  From some of the recent local news programs, it sounds like there will be more new high-rise condos and office buildings going up soon.  As Austin grows, it's nice to keep up with the times.  Therefore, I thought it appropriate to post another shot of downtown.  This is one I took back in February during the "blue hour", shot over "Lady Bird Lake".  It's an HDR but it's not a panorama.  However, it does have the same dimensions as the previous photo I posted which was a panorama.  Someday I will take a panorama at this location using the techniques outlined in my previous post.  I think that might provide more detail and be a little more interesting.  Until then, I hope you enjoy this shot and thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Between Bands

If you read my last post, you'll know that my wife and I went down to San Antonio last Friday night to see Van Halen play at the AT&T Center.  It was a great show and I think I got some OK shots of the band.  Another type of shot I like to get whenever we go to a venue such as this is a panorama.  This is the first time I've taken one at a concert.  Usually I get shots from football or baseball stadiums.  Not this time.  I took this shot from our seats after Kool and the Gang played and before VH took the stage.  You can see that on the stage the road crew is removing the last of the drum risers from Kool's set and prepping for VH to take over.  I thought it was a good time for a shot.  I tried working one during the shows, but they really didn't turn out.  Click the shot below to see a larger version.



The camera I used for this was my little Sony DSC-HX9V compact point and shoot.  It has a built-in Panorama mode that makes taking these shots a snap.  They turn out pretty good also.  However, the shots come out VERY wide and NOT VERY tall because you can only do these shots with a landscape orientation.  That's what panorama's are supposed to be, right?  But, I like my panos to be a little taller to capture more in the shot. They usually end up with a fish-eye effect. So, instead of letting the camera do the work, I flip it to a portrait orientation and take several shots, being careful to make sure each one overlaps a little bit.  Then I stitch them together in Photoshop's "Bridge" using the Tools | Photomerge function and taking the defaults after that.  Wa-la!  It's a little more work, but I like the results a lot better.  Click here if you would like to check out some of my other panos.  (Sung to Van Halen's "Panama") "Pan-o-ram, dun duhhh, dun-deh-dunn, Pan-o-rama!!"  Yeah, that's bad..  I know...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Van Halen Heats Up San Antonio!!!


My favorite rock band in the world, Van Halen (along with special guests "Kool and the Gang"), played at the very hot AT&T Center in San Antonio on Friday, June 22nd. I couldn't wait to go for a couple of reasons... As I stated before, they are my favorite band and the other reason is that the band does not mind at all if you want to bring a camera.  As a matter of fact, David Lee Roth stated in a video on their website that, "If you can carry it in, you can bring it!"  However, the AT&T Center has a policy that cameras with detachable lenses are not allowed.  Otherwise, they have no problem either.  I brought along my little Sony P&S, but a new ILC with an APS-C sensor and a decent zoom would've been perfect.  You could stuff those into the pockets of some cargo shorts and you could get some awesome shots, even if it is a detachable lens camera.  You see, security didn't frisk for a change, so it would've worked.  But my little camera did a pretty good job, so those are the shots you see here; straight from the camera no less, with no post-processing other than either cropping or lens corrections.  Give it try sometime!  I also want to pass along my thoughts of the show as well.  So here we go!

It was a typical VH show in that all of the guitar virtuosity of Eddie along with the showmanship of Diamond Dave were on display just as the rock gods intended!  VH didn't have the pyrotechnics one would see at say a KISS concert, but those weren't needed.  Their talent provided all the fireworks and man, were there fireworks!




The crowd got warmed up with a raucous performance by opening act, "Kool and the Gang".  I originally thought that was a weird pick as the opening act for a huge rock and roll band, but "the Gang" really got the party started.  Not knowing many of their songs, I really had no idea what they opened up with.  I'm guessing it was some pretty new stuff.  It had a great beat and watching about 10 or so guys on stage grooving and dancing was pretty fun.  The crowd sort of liked it a bit, but I got the feeling they were just trying to be polite.  Then, as the lead singer said, they went "back to the '70s" and busted out some old hits such as "Ladies Night", "Get Down On It", "Jungle Boogie" and ended with the crowd favorite, "Celebration".  I was skeptical when it started, but at the end of their set the whole venue was jamming with them!  Those guys can put on a show!  It turned out to be a great idea having those guys open and I'm glad I saw them!

After a quick removal of "the Gang's"stuff from the stage, it was Van Halen's time.  Back when I saw them in the 1980's, there would be a PA announcer that would introduce the band by screaming, "Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome THE MIGHTY... VAN HALEN!"  I was ready for that announcement this time!  Instead, the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and Alex Van Halen took his seat behind the drums and fired away with a machine gun-like assault of epic proportions!  Then we heard a high-pitched squeal and some rapid fire notes coming from Eddie Van Halen's guitar as he, lead singer David Lee Roth and Eddie's son Wolfgang Van Halen took to the stage.  It wasn't the same intro as I remember, but it was awesome in its own way.  After about 30 seconds, they jumped into perhaps the best opening song they have in their catalog with "Unchained!"




The show just got better from there.  After "Unchained", the boys played "Running With the Devil" with Wolfgang banging out the opening notes while standing on the riser to the left of the drums.  This is something that the previous bass player, Michael Anthony used to do with his teeth, but to be honest, I didn't miss that.  Wolfie did a great job filling Anthony's shoes throughout the whole show that dare I say, I think he's a better player at the age of 21 than Anthony is in his 50s.  I guess the music gene is well ingrained in this next generation of Van Halen.



After "Devil", they played a song called "She's the Woman" off their new album, "A Different Kind of Truth".  It's a good song, one that you can tell was written in their heyday, but to me isn't the best one from that album.  However, it was still fun to watch them play it!  During the night they played three other songs from the new album as well; "Chinatown", "Tattoo" and "The Trouble With Never".  I must say, I like them all OK, but if they would've played "As Is", "Outta Space" or "Stay Frosty", I would've been ecstatic.  Oh well, can't have everything. They are probably saving those for the next leg of the tour.



The rest of the setlist included stuff from the first six studio albums with Roth, thank God!  No Hagar material on this tour!  Whew!  The other songs that they played were as follows, but in not any particular order:

Pretty Woman
You Really Got Me
And the Cradle Will Rock
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
Hear About it Later
Everybody Wants Some
I'll Wait
Hot for Teacher
Panama
Jump
Women In Love
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Romeo Delight
Somebody Get me a Doctor
Dance the Night Away

At least those are the ones that I can remember for sure.  You know, at my age, if I don't write stuff down, I might lose it after a night of sleep!


As good as the band members are when they play together, each of them other than Wolfie had his own moment in the spotlight.  The first was the drum solo by Alex.  He showed that he's as good a rock drummer as any out there.  Not necessarily better than some, but as good as for sure.  And it really wasn't a typical solo because he played with some jazz-like accompaniment.  His solo was good and it was quick. It only lasted maybe 3 or 4 minutes.  One thing that always cracks me up about drum solos, no matter who the band is, when they start, there's always a mass exodus for the bathrooms.  This solo was no exception.  Kind of funny to see that.  Better to miss some drumming than a certain song, I guess.


Then there's Dave!


The next "solo" was by lead singer, David Lee Roth.  He plays the acoustic guitar during the opening bit of "Ice Cream Man".  Before this song, Dave came out with a guitar while the massive video screen behind the stage showed some black and white clips of Dave with his two herding dogs, Mike and Bennie. At least I think that's what he said their names were.  Anyway, he spoke about going to different shepherding competitions and the logistics of those.  He also spouted off some great one-liners.. One was, "Nothing like two dogs in a pickup to get that new car smell out!"  That cracked me up!  They then rocked into "Ice Cream Man"! Fantastic!


Speaking of one-liners, during one point in the show, Dave gave Wolfgang a little advice about women.  While gearing up to play "Everybody Wants Some", Dave said to Wolf not to do what he did when he was in San Antonio a long time ago.  He said he had a girlfriend named Evelyn.  One night when he took her to dinner, "I meant to say to her, 'Honey, please pass the salsa', but what I accidentally said was, 'Bitch, you f***ed my whole life up!'"  He brought the house down with that and I was rolling!  Wolf was laughing and so was Eddie!  It was hilarious! Check it out... Dave even said that was "the first time he introduced a song properly" on this tour.  Usually one can't believe Dave when he says these kinds of things because he has a certain schtick for every show, such as forgetting the words and so on.  But, I believed him this time!  It was great!




Finally it was time for Eddie's guitar solo.  Prior to this tour, Eddie used to drink before every show.  It helped him get over stage fright.  He recently said it started when he was 12 years old when he asked his dad what to do to get over feeling nervous before going onstage.  His dad gave him a shot of vodka and the rest is history.  Well, this tour is the first one he's doing totally sober.  And, it showed in his playing, especially his solo.  He practically burned up his guitar with his "patented" two-hand tapping technique, a flawless version of "Cathedral" and the crowd favorite, "Eruption."  I think he is faster on the guitar now in his late 50s than he was in his 20s.  I guess that's what alcohol will do.  Also, when it came time for Eddie's solo, the arena seemed like it was 90 degrees in there.  My wife and I and probably the rest of the crowd were burning up.  However, we didn't mind and it didn't look like it affected Eddie during his solo or the rest of the band during the show.  Thank goodness!

After Eddie's solo, the band went into one of my all time favorites, "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love".  This song is just meant to be played live, from the guitar intro to the main riff and to the crowd-rousing "Hey, Hey, Hey's" just before the coda, you just can't beat it!

The last song they've typically played during this tour has been "Jump" and that was no exception during this show.  "Jump" is not a big fave of mine, so we left when it started to beat the traffic.  I was OK with that.  I don't know if they played anymore after that, but I highly doubt it!  I saw everything I wanted to see!

I saw Alex Van Halen tear up the drums and hold his own as one of the most solid drummers in rock history.  I saw a new up and coming/very talented bass player in Wolfgang Van Halen, who from what I understand can play other instruments just as well.  I saw Diamond David Lee Roth strut up and down the stage with his cock-of the-walk assured-ness that just commands the stage as well as all of his dance moves, kicks and comic one liners that should keep his reputation as "Entertainer-In-Chief"  of all of Rock and Roll (I made that up :-)) totally secure, even if he can't quite sing songs live like he does in the studio.  And lastly, I saw probably the most innovative guitarist in rock and roll history since Jimi Hendrix play better than he's played in decades.  And sober!

It's been 28 years since I've seen this line-up and I can't believe it's over.  If there were any lingering issues between Dave and the rest of the band that broke them up 28 years ago, I could not see it on this night.  I hope it lasts and I hope they keep entertaining me and all of the other fans out there for years to come!  Now I can't wait for the 4th of July although Van Halen should be the the show on the National Mall along with a little fireworks show. But, rumor has it that they will be the halftime show at the Super Bowl.  We'll see!

One final thought I want to pass along to all of you has to do with my wife Eileen..  She really didn't want to go to this show, but because she knew I wanted to go so badly, decided to go with me!  She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I'm so lucky to have her.  Thanks for coming along honey and I hope you enjoyed yourself a little bit! I love you!

Update: I just read from the write-up at http://www.examiner.com/review/van-halen-kool-the-gang-celebrate-a-different-kind-of-truth that the reason it was so hot in there was that the air conditioning malfunctioned during "Kool and the Gang's" set.  No wonder! I thought it was Eddie's playing! ;-)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ferrari Engine

As you can see from the recent shots I've posted from the Formula 1 Expo, you could say I have a love affair with the Ferrari automobile.  What red-blooded male wouldn't?  That's like a fantasy car for most of the human race!  One of the reasons is because of the great V12 engines they put in those cars!  I mean, seriously?  Just to drive around in?  Man, I'd love that!  You know what would be cool to do?  Maybe put one of these babies in a Toyota Prius!  Then blow the doors off of just about anyone on the road.  Well, that'll never happen.  If you can afford the engine, you can probably afford the body that it should go in.

I must say one thing about this particular engine, however... It was in a white Ferrari on display at the show and I've got to say, it looked like some sort of hatchback or something.  I don't know the model of it, but I can't say it had that classic Ferrari look to it.  Oh, I'd take it if someone gave it to me, but not sure I'd buy it if at all possible..

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shot and thanks for dropping by...


UPDATE: I just found out from looking at Top Gear's 50 Shades of Grey page that this is from a Ferrari FF.  Kind of a goofy-looking car for a Ferrari, wouldn't you say?  I'd still take one though if it was given to me! :-D

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ferrari Caliper

If you have some time, go to one of my fellow Austinite HDR photographers - Dave Wilson's - website.  Dave also went the the Formula 1 Expo this past weekend and he came back with some excellent detail shots of some of the exotic cars.

I've seen some of Dave's auto detail work in the past and thought while I was at the Expo, I would try my hand at it.  It didn't work out too well for me.  I got a couple here and there, but I think this shot of a Ferrari's brake caliper as seen through its wheel was about as good as I could do.  I would love to go back and try some more but alas, the Expo is over.  Well, I'm sure there will be other opportunities.

Until then, I would love to see your thoughts and thanks for dropping by!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Mario Andretti's JPS

When I saw the Detroit Grand Prix Formula 1 race as a kid in the early 1980s, I was enamored with the John Player Special Lotus race car.  I'm not really sure why.  I didn't know JPS were cigarettes or anything like that. I didn't even know who the driver was and really didn't care.  I just liked the looks of the car.  As a matter of fact, I liked the looks of the race car so much that I actually bought a JPS windbreaker-style jacket from the race!  I thought it was so cool!  It was black with gold trim just like the car and had a big "John Player Special" patch on the back of it.  It was awesome!  "Members Only" be damned! ;-)

So, seeing this car at the Formula 1 Expo at the Austin Convention Center brought back a lot of memories.  I don't know if it's the same car I saw, but it is from that era. I also just noticed that it has the name "Mario" near the roll bar.  After a little Googling, apparently this is a 1979 Lotus that Mario Andretti drove.  Maybe that's why I liked it!  Anyway, I just had to get a shot of it! Now, to find a new jacket...


Renault Or Lotus?

This is another shot of an F1 race car that I took during the Formula 1 Expo held at the Austin Convention Center this past weekend.  It may be a French made Renault racer or it could be a Lotus.  I guess I need to pay more attention to the signs by the cars. I don't think Renault makes F1 racers anymore and from what I've seen on the internet, Renault has their name on Lotus cars.  Hell, I don't know..  All I know is that Renault is a French car maker and its name is on this car.  Maybe some of my European friends out there can help me out here. I don't know a lot about F1 racing, but I do know that it is exciting and that the cars that zip around the track are the best in the world. And, you have to admit, it's a pretty cool looking racer!  I DO know they are bigger than Indy cars which is surprising.  I always thought everything in America was bigger, but Europe has us beat in the race car size "arena".


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ferraris

Oh to be rich and carefree.. If I was, I'd either drive or own one of these.  Is there a better car in the world than a Ferrari?  There may be comparable ones, but better would definitely be up for debate.

These cars are displayed at the Formula 1 Expo that took place at the Austin Convention Center here in Austin, TX.  You see, in November, Austin will host a Formula 1 race at the new "Circuit of the Americas", the only Formula 1 or "F1" track in the States!  It's pretty cool, I think.  There will be Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Lotuses, McLarens and all sorts of other cars competing in the race.  And to inaugurate the event, Austin held what they called the Formula 1 Expo this past weekend.  There were all kinds of F1 race cars on display as well as production cars that the makers I mentioned previously displayed as part of the event.  It was really cool to see all of those great European cars.  Americans make great cars, but the Europeans have a certain design and class that really stands out.

F1 racing holds a special place in my heart as well.  You see, today is Father's Day and one of the great memories I have of my Dad is that he took my brothers and I down to Detroit back in the early '80s to see an F1 race though the streets of Detroit.  It was awesome seeing those cars go so fast through downtown!  Plus, seeing the exotic teams such as John Player Special, Marlboro and others was totally awesome!  Little did I know that those were cigarette makers, but I digress (I knew Marlboro was, but not JPS, hehe)...  So, seeing the F1 Expo brought back a lot of memories, especially of my Dad, who's no longer with us.  He's in a better place now, and he's always in my heart.  I will never forget those days in Detroit or the other memories of the great man I call Dad.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shot and thanks for dropping by!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Tower and Stadium

Behind the LBJ Library sits a big fountain and a view of the University of Texas Longhorns football stadium along with a view of the UT Tower.  I happened to get a shot one morning a while back during a dark and overcast morning on my way to work.  I like this shot because of the reflections from the pool where the fountain sits and the way the lights from the tower shine on the clouds above...



Maybe this is what I'll buy...

Yesterday I posted a big dilemma about Nikon putting out a new lens and how this kind of stuff upsets me 'cause just when I have figured out what I want to buy with money I've saved, new stuff comes out.  Oh well, this shouldn't surprise me. I work in the tech industry and new stuff comes out every minute.  Now, Nikon Rumors has just put out some leaked photos of Nikon's newest full-frame camera called the D600 which is supposed to have a more consumer-friendly price.  I may just have to wait for it!

Sorry, no pic for today, but I will probably have one up sometime this weekend!  Thanks for dropping by!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mission San Jose Exterior

Nikon Intros new 18-300mm DX Lens

Dammit... Just when I thought I had things figured out on what to spend my money on, Nikon goes and does this.  They just came out with a new Nikon AF-S Nikkor DX 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens today for their DX (cropped sensor) DSLRs.  I've been wanting to get something that could reach out to 300mm, but I was thinking of getting a 28-300 FX lens in case I ever decide to go full frame someday.  I've also been thinking of saving for a new mirrorless camera and even a Canon S95 or S100 compact because of it's size and versatility for certain situations. Crap!  Now I also hear that Nikon may be coming out with a new DX camera that could have up to 24 MP!  Well, I guess I'll just hold onto my money and see how all this unfolds.  Sheesh!

Mission San Jose Exterior

Today's photo has been pulled from the massive vault inside the Evan's Expo compound and dusted off for your perusal.  This is a shot I took back in 2010 at Mission San Jose in San Antonio.  It's a great place to shoot if you ever get a chance to go down there.  However, it's usually full of people so I'm not sure when the best time to go is.  I just got lucky with this shot because most people were either in the church or wandering about elsewhere.


You can click here to see more of my Mission San Jose shots if you wish.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Imitation

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.... At least I hope my photographer friends Andy Atmtx and Mike Connell think so.  The reason I say this is because a few weeks ago, I went on a photowalk of the University of Texas campus in Austin with them and they took some great black and white photos.  Mike took strictly black and white for the whole walk and Andy mixed it up with both color and black and whites.  I on the other hand just took regular color snaps while meandering about the campus and most of what I came back with was crap, IMHO.  However, being a fan of black and white photography myself, I decided to imitate Andy's and Mike's ideas and converted a few of the shots I got to black and white.  I think I like them a bit better this way I think.  Maybe sometime on a subsequent walk, I will go the strict black and white route myself and see what happens.

I hope you enjoy the shots below and thanks for dropping by. I may post a few more sometime, so stay tuned!

Oh and to see the results Mike and Andy got from the walks, click the links below:


Andy's black and whites from UT


Mike's black and whites from UT

PS. The last shot below is obviously not a total black and white as I took some liberties with selective color of the door.  Red doors are cool and I just wanted to emphasize it a little...







Friday, June 8, 2012

Austin Abstract

"And now for something completely different...", as they used to say on Monty Python.  This is a shot of Austin, Texas taken from Lou Neff Point at Zilker Park.  It's my version of an abstract.  You can see the buildings that make up the skyline of Austin such as the Frost Bank Building in the middle and the Austonian on the far right. I tried to make an abstract by moving the camera straight down after I hit the shutter and after a few attempts, this is the best of the lot.  Once I found the right one, I tried to process it to make it a little more interesting by emphasizing the lines of the buildings through a bold contrast.  I also tried to make the colors a little more interesting via the dark blue sky and the gold hue of the reflections from the buildings.  It's something different and as a photographer, I want to try different things.  Whether I succeed or not is up for debate. ;-)



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fokker Triplane

This here is another shot I took at the Pioneer Flight Museum located at the Kingsbury Aerodrome in Kingsbury, Texas.  It is a Fokker Dr.I Triplane.  According to the Pioneer Flight Museum's website, "The Fokker Dr.I was one of the most famous fighter planes of World War I due to its association with the feared German ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen."  It's a cool looking plane up close and I bet it is a fun one to fly.  That's something I would like to learn, but it will probably have to happen in another lifetime.  Anyway, you can read more about it on the link.

As far as the picture goes, I took a few liberties with it.  It's an HDR of course (speaking of which, you should read my friend Dave Wilson's article entitled "Why HDR Sucks".  Awesome read...), and I tried to subdue some of the colors and fade it a little bit using various presets in Nik's Color Efex to give it a slightly dated/old look.  I also added a vignette to draw your eye to the aircraft.  Hope it worked.  Let me know what you think!


Disqus for Evan's Expo