Monday, April 30, 2012

Texas Capitol Extension

The Texas Capitol is so full of great photo opportunities that sometimes I think I post too much from that place.  Even the thought of going out there again to take more pictures almost seems like I'm giving in to my non-creative side.  It's just too easy to go there and shoot if I'm at a loss for another subject.  But, sometimes it's still a good standby.  I took this shot last year while getting ready to watch the motorcycles from the huge annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally rumble down Congress Ave.  I liked the symmetry of it.  Also, it was nice and cool in the Capitol while psyching myself up to get ready for the summer heat during the rally.  This part of the Capitol is a portion of the "Extension" which is underground on the north side of the complex.  I's another nice part of the building to see if you ever make it to the Capitol.

I guess that's about it.  Thanks for dropping by and any comment is welcome!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


You know, it's a jungle out there.  Even in our own backyard.  I found these guys making their homes in various parts of our yard over the years.  I'm sure you have similar creatures in yours as well.  We even had a 3 foot long brown snake crawl into our house using the line running from our air conditioner compressor to the air handling unit a couple of years ago.  He came into the house through the return vent and freaked Eileen and I out.  Eileen saw him first and I didn't believe her.  She screamed bloody murder the first time, but the second time I saw him too and shooed him out of the house, chopped his head off with a shovel and left him in the drainage ditch for the buzzards.  I should've gotten a picture of him.  Anyway, that's the critter story even if the ones pictured here aren't as imposing as a snake!

Hope you enjoy the shots and thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Miniature New York City

This is a shot I took from the top of the Empire State Building in New York City a few years ago. Everyone who goes up there gets this shot, if they have a camera that is. However, I wanted to do something a little different with it. So, I thought I'd miniaturize it. Read below how I did that.

One cool effect that seems to be getting more and more popular is the "miniaturization" effect you can get from tilt-shift lenses.  The effect can make subjects such as landscapes or cityscapes taken from above look as though they are much smaller, like you were looking at say, a miniature mock-up of a city on a table.  Kind of like if you had a toy train set and took a picture of it with your aperture wide open.  It's an effect I've been wanting to get for a long time.  As a matter of fact, the new Canon PowerShot S100 has this effect built-in.  It's a camera I've been looking at for a while now and that I would like to get. I could use it as an addition to my Sony DSC-HX9V (longer zoom than the S100) and as a backup to my Nikon D300s due to the S100's many controls such as aperture and shutter priorities, raw file capture and many other effects.  Ah, I can keep dreaming.  Anyway, until that time comes, I wondered if there was a way to get the miniaturization effect in Photoshop.  After a bit of research and tinkering, I have found out how to do it.  It's not too hard, but you do need to know your way around Photoshop a little bit.

First, pick a shot that would work for you.  I selected this shot from the Empire State Building because it's really the only one I have shot from a high level that would work.  

Open it up in Photoshop and click the letter "Q" for the Quick Mask.

Then select the "Gradient Tool" as seen below:

After you select the "Gradient Tool", go the the toolbar just below the menu bar and select the "Reflected Gradient" as seen below:

Now, here is where you select the area that you want to keep in focus.  At this point your cursor should look like a little pointer or dot on the screen.  Select the point you wish to be in focus and draw a line straight up.  I picked the "Flatiron Building" in the middle of the shot below.  It's kind of hard to see, but the line is there.

After the line is drawn, you should see an area in the middle of your photo shaded in red as seen below:

Now, hit the "Q" key again to get you to selection mode and you should see two boxes of "marching ants" as seen below:

Go to Filter | Blur | Lens Blur so you get the Lens Blur window.  Start playing with the sliders until you get the effect you want.  I basically took the Radius slider and raised it from 15 to about 37.  That's all I fussed with and then I hit the "OK" button:

That's basically it.  Below, I added a Curves Adjustment Layer mask with the standard S curve adjustment as well as a Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer mask to brighten it up a little making the light look a little less natural:

Then I flattened and saved the image.  That's it!

Again, that's all there is to "miniaturizing" something.  It's lots cheaper than a tilt-shift lens or a new camera with that effect in it, don't you think?  I hope to get some more shots some day to try it out more.

Oh, by the way, if you know of some place where I can get a good used Canon S95 or S100, let me know.  I'm very interested!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Fenway!

I know I recently published a couple of photos of Fenway Park, but since today marked the "official" 100th birthday of Fenway Park, I thought it appropriate for one last recognition with no less than TWO panoramas I took while touring the stadium last year. The Red Sox celebrated the 100th birthday in style today.  For one thing, they played the New York Yankees in throwback uniforms even though the Yankees were known as the New York Highlanders then.  And, the Red Sox invited all of the surviving Red Sox players to the stadium. I think there were 212 invited players in all. It looked like it was an historic celebration indeed.  I'm not sure my words can express what it all means, but an article my wife Eileen found from Stephen Cannella on Sports Illustrated/CNN sums it up quite well.  I reprinted it below the shots.

By the way, for you photographers out there, both of these shots are handheld HDR panoramas from a point and shoot Sony DSC-HX9V.  Not too shabby, eh?  OK, maybe a little, hehe..  Enjoy the read below and thanks again for dropping by.

Baseball's newest venue is officially open, and it's impossible to look at Marlins Park in Miami without thinking, That place looks like fun. The fish swimming in the backstop, the Jacques-Cousteau-meets-Timothy-Leary home run sculpture, the South Beach nightclub satellite behind the bullpen, the pop art installations scattered on the courses: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn't kidding when he says the ballpark he helped conceive and build "is meant to make you smile." Loria spent enough on free agents this winter to sound believable when he says he wants fans to focus on the game and the team. But, just in case your mind wanders, he made sure that baseball is not the only entertainment option at Marlins Park.

Baseball's oldest venue is about to open for its 100th anniversary season, and it's easy to look at Fenway Park and think, What's so fun about that place? At first glance, there's little at Fenway to make the casual visitor smile. It's not easy to find in the labyrinth Boston calls a city plan. If you manage to get there by car, it's nearly impossible to park. If you tune in for the Red Sox' April 13 home opener, you'll see fans bundled up like it's a playoff game at Lambeau Field. They'll be crammed into seats made for 1912-sized derrieres, and most of their heads will be twisted at 70-degree angles to glimpse home plate. Anyone looking for fish will have to flip over to Wicked Tuna.

The first game at Fenway, on April 20, 1912, set the tone for the next 100 years: The Red Sox didn't even hold an opening ceremony -- "the real-down-to-the-book official dedication with the music stuff, the flowers and the flags," as the Boston Globe wrote then -- until May 17. The implicit message from the new Fenway to its fans: This is a baseball park. You are here to watch baseball.

Fenway has been dressed up over the years, particularly in the decade since John Henry and friends bought the Red Sox and committed to staying in the old yard rather than building a replacement. There are seats above the Green Monster, a bar on the right field roof, a food court beneath the bleachers. But the creature comforts still lag behind what can be found at the wave of mallparks that have sprung up around the majors over the last two decades. Forget aquariums and swimming pools and steakhouses. The main attraction at Fenway is the same as it was the day it opened: baseball.

In 2012, that simplicity, that purity of purpose, is as much of a novelty on the major league landscape as Loria's psychedelic sculpture. As much as the famous proximity of its seats to the field, it's what makes Fenway baseball's most intimate ballpark, and what connects fans there to the sport in a way that isn't possible anyplace else. In some ways, the experience of taking in a game at Fenway mirrors the experience of playing there. Fans who navigate narrow concourses to get to seats with too little legroom are watching players who dress in a cramped clubhouse, work out in a tiny (by big-league standards) weight room and are bedeviled by the strange hops and caroms created by the field's many nooks and crannies. Playing baseball is difficult, and requires a special commitment. At Fenway, the same goes for watching it.
Over the next six months we'll hear a century's worth of hosannas to Fenway Park, but the place hasn't always been beloved. Over the years pitchers fed up with its cozy dimensions and players and managers frustrated with its substandard facilities have taking turns suggesting that it be burned down (Sparky Anderson's choice) or blown up (Mo Vaughn, David Wells, John Lackey). Until the current ownership group spruced up the place with a series of renovations, there were strident calls from Boston fans and media for a new stadium to be built.

And yet, Fenway endured and now, on its 100th birthday, it thrives, a shrine to the game and to a simpler sports era. Ballpark fads come and go. Fenway has outlasted concrete contemporaries like Tigers Stadium and the original Yankee Stadium. It has surpassed the life spans of domed wonders of the earth and cookie-cutter, multipurpose ovals. And its allure will hold strong long after the novelty of retro chic and rightfield shopping districts and in-house marine life fades. For 100 years, the joy of Fenway has been the unadorned, uncomplicated joy of the game itself -- a joy that connects us to the thread of history like little else. Over the next few weeks, as 30 major league parks open for another season, cries of "Play ball!" will ring out in parks across the country. The message will be at its purest in Fenway.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Palace Entrance

I was looking though some of my older photos and found this shot I took a couple of years ago. This is the front doors to the Palace Theater in Georgetown.  It's a nice place to see local Broadway-style shows.  Eileen and I have seen a couple there and it was fun!  Not a bad seat in the house.  I'm not too sure why I didn't publish this shot before.  Maybe because I didn't get enough of the marquee?  I don't know, but I kind of like it now.  I hope you do as well!  Thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

View from the "Mawnsta"

When we took the tour of Fenway Park, we stopped at the seats from atop the "Green Monster" (or "mawnsta" as the locals might say it).  The view is great and there are tables there for you to dine on.  It's got to be one of the best views in all of sports.  It's hard to get tickets though.  Apparently there is some sort of lottery that's held to get these tickets.  I guess they usually go for $150 or more.  We tried to buy tickets from an online outlet and we couldn't find any under $450.  Obviously we bought tix for different seats..  I must say I envy those that get to see a game from this spot.  Oh and the other thing is, those with tickets to the Green Monster are allowed to go the seats early during batting practice and keep any balls that are hit up there.  Gotta duck a lot though because there a ton of dents up there!

Caddy Chrome

When shooting cars at Dick's Classic Garage, I tried to get a shot of all the great chrome on this old Cadillac and the reflections it gave off.  What I attempted in another shot was to get the reflections of a car next to it along with one of the Caddy's from wheels.  However, it all turned out to be out of focus and no good.  So, I found this shot and I liked all of the chrome in it.  Not quite what I was shooting for, but after some removal of a lot of busy background stuff, I'm OK with it.  This is one of those shots that after I let cook, it turns out that some of the car, esp part of the bumper and the hood ornament are cutoff.  But, after all of the work I did getting rid of the background, I didn't want to try it on another version.  I also did a couple of other things.. I converted it to black and white, but left in the color of the Cadillac symbol on the hood and the color of the car next to it in the bumper's reflection.  I thought it gave the overall shot a little different look. What do you think?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Texas Capitol From SoCo

Ahh, the things I do for getting a nice shot...  Well, I guess "nice" is relative, but I digress..  This shot was taken from South Congress Ave looking north through downtown Austin to the Capitol Building.  As you can see I stood in the middle of the road to get the shot.  "What a death-defying feat of uncommon bravery," you must be thinking to yourself..  Well, stupid maybe, but not that brave.  Really there wasn't a lot of traffic on this morning so it was pretty easy and non-eventful to get this shot. Here it is..

Also, South Congress Ave or SoCo as it's known in these parts has some eclectic (aka weird) shops and boutiques that the trendy patronize.  It's an interesting area.  Click here to see some examples to which I refer...

Enjoy the shot and thanks for dropping by!

Capitol From South Congress Ave

Saturday, April 14, 2012

End of the Riverwalk

Last year, my sister Elizabeth came to visit.  She is an optometrist and there was a convention in San Antonio that she attended.  So, she came up to Georgetown to see us and then Eileen and I went down to San Antonio to spend time with her.  It was awesome!  We stayed at the Westin Hotel on the Riverwalk right downtown.  It's within walking distance of everything.  Of course when you stay on the Riverwalk, you are always within walking distance of everything.  Anyway, that's where this shot comes in to play.  This was taken from the balcony of our room and it's pretty much at the end of the Riverwalk.  I especially like it because of the light streaks made by the cars on the bridge and in the parking lot in the background as well as the streak made by the little tourist boat on the river.

This is a companion piece to my other shot of the Tower Life Building I posted last year.

Thanks for taking a look at my little venture.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Austin From The 1st Street Bridge

Here's another take of downtown Austin that I shot from the 1st Street Bridge.  I took this shot after having driven in to Austin for work that evening.  When I was through working, I thought I would shoot it up in the city a little bit before coming home.  While I was on the bridge, I met another photographer by the name of Jennifer who was taking some shots of the Hyatt on the river for her marketing firm.  She was dressed to the nines as she came out from a party at the Hyatt.  She said she wanted to get some shots of the building and the city for the occasion.  It was a nice little visit.  She also told me that as I was taking this shot, a little rat ran right by my feet!  Thank God I didn't see that because I may have wound up in the water below! ;-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hill Country Misty Morning

When Eileen and I went out to the Hill Country a couple of weeks ago to shoot wildflowers, this view appeared while driving on Farm to Market Road 1431.  It was one of those views that made me think, "Wow, I need to capture that!"  Not sure exactly where on 1431, but I think it was around the Jonestown/Lago Vista area.

It's funny, when I go out to shoot things such as wildflowers, my mind is also running around the landscapes I can see trying to find that "great shot".  Sometimes it drives me crazy looking for a shot where ever I am because I feel it takes away from just enjoying what I'm seeing.  Any of you have that dilemma?  Don't get me wrong, I like to shoot photos, but once in a while it's just nice to enjoy where you are.

With that said, I hope you enjoy this shot and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baseball Season!

This is basically the opening weekend of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. So to commemorate the occasion I thought I'd post a panorama of Fenway Park taken during the Red Sox's last home game of last season.  At the time of this shot, the Red Sox were fighting for a playoff spot and they were playing the Orioles with Josh Beckett pitching.  The Red Sox pretty much had a playoff spot locked up but they had a horrible September and ended up not going.  This was one of those games they lost.  They finished the season so poorly, that their manager, Terry Francona, quit along with allegations of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the locker rooms during games among other things.  Not good...

Speaking of the Red Sox losing, they opened this season against my Detroit Tigers in Detroit and lost the first three games!  Woohoo!  I guess the new manager of the Red Sox, Bobby Valentine, hasn't quite done the trick yet!

I will say this about the Red Sox... I can understand why people love them, especially those in the Boston area..  Their stadium is great!  There is so much history there and there are a lot of great stories about it.  We took a tour of the place after we saw this game and it was incredible.  And this year, it will turn 100 years old and become recognized as a national historic landmark.  That means that from now on, no changes can be made to the stadium other than safety issues and the like.  No more seats can be added, no changes to the dugouts or anything else you can think of can be done to it.  That's pretty exceptional when you think about it!  If you ever get a chance to see a game there, I highly recommend it!

Oh and one other thing.. If you do go, eat at the Bleacher Bar.  It is a restaurant that sits behind the wall in left-center field and during practice, they have the windows open and you can see and hear the payers as if you were in the outfield yourself.  During games, they close the windows, but you can still see the goings-on of the game!  Awesome!  You can see it in this shot..  It is the first opening in the wall to the right of the Hyundai sign.  It's directly below the "m" and the "e" in the Bank of America sign and it's right down there on the field.  If you click on the picture, you will get a larger shot and you'll be able to see it better.

PS.. I'm not real happy with how the sky turned out in this one, but it was the best pano of the night!  Enjoy and thanks for dropping by!

Friday, April 6, 2012


Wouldn't it be cool to be able to click a button in your car and move into "hyper-drive" or "warp-drive" to get to work if you were running late? I'm not usually late for work, but there are times when I would like to leave a few minutes later than usual, but yet get to work on time.  That was sort of the inspiration for this shot.  But, how would I do it?  Aha! The gift I received a few months ago just might do the trick...

I got a GorillaPod for Christmas last year from my in-laws (thanks Paul and Barb!) and I finally put it to good use because of the idea above.  For those of you who don't know, a GorillaPod is a sort of mini-tripod that you can use to stabilize a camera in one position, except the legs are flexible enough to bend, yet firm enough that they can hold onto almost anything once they are put in place.  That's probably not a good explanation.  I guess a better explanation is that it can allow you to attach a camera to a stationary object quite easily and it's easier to carry around than a traditional tripod.  Check out their website for a better idea. Anyway, I attached the GorillaPod to the headrest on the passenger's seat of my car and shot a few pictures on the way to work using a remote trigger.

So here you have it.. I'm entering "hyper-drive" on the lower deck of IH-35 in Austin, Texas on my way to work!

Of course this shot wasn't quite that easy... I'll leave most of it to your imagination, but let's suffice it to say that yes, all of the shots were taken on this morning, it was a bit of a bumpy ride on the way in, and no, I don't really have a hyper-drive built into my car.  But, maybe some day!

What do you think?

I hope you enjoy the photo and thanks for dropping by!  (Click on the photo for a larger size.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

'57 Chevy Bel Air Interior

This is another shot from "Dick's Classic Garage" in San Marcos, TX.  It is the interior of a 1957 Chevy Bel Air.  This car was known as basically the first muscle car.  It had everything one could want; good looks, big motor and a cool interior. What's not to like?

Not much more to say other than hope you like the shot and thanks for dropping by! (click on the photo for the large version)

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