Posts tagged “Texas

Dallas: Bright Lights, Big City


Some people love the recent explosion of light in downtown Dallas. Some people hate it – it isn’t likely to matter. Some buildings are adorned with subtle white crowns, others bright stripes and other flashy designs. One of the most prominent is the Omni Hotel which is covered in LEDS which constantly change colors, textures throughout the evening. The recent trend appears to have begun with the completion of the One Arts Plaza and Hunt Oil Tower in 2007 and touched public consciousness with the more extravagant Omni with its myriad of Vegas style LED stripes. Meanwhile, such venerable buildings as the Chase Bank and Thanksgiving Tower have added color highlights. And Reunion Tower, which for 30-some years twinkled with white light, has been conducting color tests.

Dallas has gone through such periods before. Elm Street during the ’20s and ’30s, had a row of theaters there that really showed off the power of neon. Office buildings have also sported light through the decades. The Pegasus sign, outlined in red neon, dominated the Magnolia building beginning in the 1930s. The Republic office towers had a beacon at the tip of its idealized rocket ship in the 1960s, The Nations Bank Plaza (now the Bank of America building) was outlined in green neon soon after its completion in 1986. Its neighbor, the older Renaissance Tower, got its signature crisscross lighting during a remake a year later. But such buildings remained the exception in a largely darkened downtown. The lighting itself was usually an incidental feature. What is new is not just the recent proliferation of lighting, but designs that are increasingly bold and colorful.vThe trend has been driven by the development of light-emitting diodes as a decorative light source. Although more expensive than incandescent or neon lighting, LED is far brighter, more programmable, more energy-efficient and longer-lasting.

Here are some tips for shooting Cityscapes at night:

Some Preparations: If possible, scout the location in advance during the day keeping an eye open for traffic patterns (light trails at night) and good vantage points. Make sure you are familiar with your camera and its operation as you will likely be making adjustments in the dark – bring a small LED flashlight with you so you can look at your controls and setup. Any camera that allow Manual operation and focussing will be fine. Having a stable support such as a tripod is essential. Using a remote shutter release trigger is a lot easier than using the cameras self timer – touching the camera can cause vibrations which will cause the image to blur. In some more advanced DSLRs, one can also use the Mirror Up setting, which locks the mirror in its open position in front of the sensor as the movement of the mirror itself can cause vibrations. Also, make sure you have a spare set of batteries – nothing more frustrating than running out of power once you have found the best location and composed your shot!

Your Camera: Set your camera to Manual Mode, turn off out focus if possible and image stabilization. Set your camera’s ISO to its lowest setting in order to get the finest “grain”. If possible, shoot in camera RAW format (or NEFF for Nikon users). This allows you to make important exposure and white balance adjustments later. JPG is a compressive format and severely limits what can be done later once to shoot is over. The RAW files may be large, but today, memory is cheap. Start with a shutter speed of 10 seconds and aperture of f8 and check the image after the shot  and make adjustments by looking at the Histogram (if you can) or just eyeball the exposure. If your camera can shoot brackets (several shots with varying exposures) do so – night lighting is tricky and sometimes even the farthest light can result in blown out highlights.

Tricks: If there are interesting moving lights like cars, use a slower shutter speed to capture a nice blur, and adjust the aperture for correct exposure. Tail lights of cars paint a nice image without blown out highlights that you will get from bright headlights. You can also use your LED flashlight to “paint” objects in the foreground with light. When the shutter is open, just shine your light on whatever the object is – experiment and shoot a few frames. If you have a portable flash with you, you can “pop” this off at any object or close by scene to light it up. Be creative – run into the scene yourself and pop the flash on yourself or your assistant or perhaps some subtle lighting with the LED flashlight. Multiple images are easy, just move, pop, move, pop when the shutter is open. Experimentation is the key and discovery of what worked and did not when looking at the results later is half the fun. Always be safe and if at all possible, shoot with a Buddy, especially in some sketchy urban locations… and have fun. As you practice this technique you will refine your images and be surprised by what is possible shooting at night – it is magic!




Don’t Mess with Texas

...and what about my Bike?

This continues our Series from the Lone Star State, Texas where we recently spent a wonderful weekend of fun and exploration. Sunday was dedicated to Family. In the afternoon we hooked up with Kathleen’s Brother and his lovely Wife, ate some steak (OK, you have to in Texas) and tried to keep up with them as they sped away on their Harley. We wanted to capture some shots of Bro, so we set him up at his home and used natural light – it was close to Golden Hour so it was perfect. he wanted us to capture his Tattoo, w wanted to catch a bit of Texas Attitude…I think we got both! Shot with a Nikon D7000, handheld, 70-200mm f2.8mm – a great lens for shooting Wide Open!

Of course, everyone can instantly spot/hear a Harley due to its unique sound (I like to call it “potato, potato potato”), but did you know that On February 1, 1994, the company filed a sound trademark application for the distinctive sound of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine: “The mark consists of the exhaust sound of applicant’s motorcycles, produced by V-twin, common crankpin motorcycle engines when the goods are in use”.

Nine of Harley-Davidson’s competitors filed comments opposing the application, arguing that cruiser-style motorcycles of various brands use a single-crankpin V-twin engine which produce a similar sound. These objections were followed by litigation. In June 2000, the company dropped efforts to federally register its trademark! Crazy, eh?

These Boots Were Made for Walkin’

Hmm...if only I were a milipede... so many cool boots!

This continues our series of shots from our trip to Fort Worth, Texas. This was inside one of the largest Western Apparel stores in the area, Cavenders. You may recall a previous post of the Ford Pickup outside, well this is inside. I personally, have never seen such an amazingly enormous selection of Boots ranging from the run of the mill pointy toed ones (We called them Shit Kickers in Canada), through to supple Ostrich Skin beauties. These are Ladies Boots, and they seemed to go on for ever, row after row. The store was packed and Folks were testing the fit left and right. The most popular boots only have the right foot out and one must ask for the left from the employees. They said, “They tend to walk out of the store otherwise”

Naturally, Kathleen and I equipped ourselves with new boots. I passed on the Ostrich skinned ones (they were great but did not fit my Hobbit-like feet) and went for comfort. Kathleen found a superb pair as well. They will take a while to break in, but afterwards (or so is said), they will be the most comfortable and enduring footwear ever. People love their boots so much that after many years wear and tear, they have them re-soled!

Warning: Do Not wear new boots on an airplane! Your feet will swell during the high altitude flight causing you to jump out of your seat and try to yank them off due to, well, pain. If you did not bring your boot fork (don’t know what they are really called, but you put your boot’s heel into it and pull), then you may look somewhat weird to fellow passengers as you gesticulate in the aisle, tugging, cursing and apologizing. Then, departing the plane in socks, carrying your treasures in hand (The aircraft’s Stewards smiled with a knowing grin and mentioned their own woes with shoes at 28,00 ft).

The modern-day cowboy boot is one of the most recognizable facets of American culture, and is dominated by the big five companies-Justin, Tony Lama, Nocona, Hyer, and Acme. Cattle ranching in the United States existed as early as 1767 in California, but did not begin until the 1820s in Texas. However, what most people think of when they picture the legendary cowboy lifestyle of the “hard-working man,” did not begin until 1867 with the construction of the transcontinental railroad.

The look of the nineteenth-century cowboy boot has three important components: the high heel, the below-the-knee cut, and the side seams on the legs. Justin cowboy boots have had a strong hold in the market as the true leader because of their reputation for quality craftsmanship and materials and their uniquely superb appearance. H.J. “joe” Justin, who was born in Layfayette, Indiana in 1859, moved to Texas in 1879, having established himself at Spanish Fort. While working at a barber shop, he learned how to repair boots and soon after he completed his first pair at home. He then opened a shoe repair and boot shop in which cowboys passing though town could place orders and pick

Joe’s new wife, Annie Allen, created the made-to-measure boot mail-order kit, a brand new idea for this market. The kit included a twenty-inch ruler, a chart diagramming foot and boot parts and a hand-written letter stating the prices of the few leathers that were available at that time: black calf, retan, and kangaroo. The business began to boom after the Justin family moved it to Nocona, Texas, whereupon Joe added his two sons John and Earl as partners in 1908, creating H.J. Justin & Sons. In 1910, the real growth began, with Justin boots being sold in 26 states, Canada, Mexico, and Cuba for $11 a pair.

“Boots grow on you. They are habit-forming. I tell people, that if they don’t want to become addicted, they’d better not wear them” – John Justin, quoted at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas

Hats Off to Texas

I'll take mine Black, steamed please!

During our recent trip to Forth Worth, Texas, we stopped by The Stock Show to take in the multitude of sights, spectacles, rides (and smells) of this famous event. We began by visiting some of the livestock exhibitions where we found finely groomed and manicured Happy Cows. They looked like they just came back from a Day Spa! We then proceeded to the Bunnies, where we found seemingly hundreds of breeds, large, small, spotted, fat, lazy, perky…perhaps the numbers grow as the show goes on (Rabbits, you know)

The show also features an Exhibition Hall where Vendors showcase their wares, ranging from John Deer Tractors,  A-Frame Cabins, Texas Fishing Adventures, Red-Neck Spill Proof Wine Glasses (Mason Jar mounted on a Wine Glass Stem, sealing top included to prevent spills!) to Cowboys boots and of course Hats. We were fascinated by this Wall of Hats that seemed to go on forever. These are the highest quality and are steam fitted on location – very cool!

The Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show, known commonly as the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is the oldest continual running livestock show and rodeo. It has been held annually in Fort Worth since 1896. In 1918, the Stock Show held the world’s first indoor rodeo, and in subsequent years has been responsible for several milestones in the sport of rodeo. The Stock Show has provided millions of dollars in grants and scholarships from in its tenure and continues to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to assist the future of agriculture and livestock leaders.

It is now held every year between January and February. The event lasts 23 days and is home to the World’s Original Indoor Rodeo, displaying 36 performances of professional rodeo annually. In addition, the exposition offers a carnival/midway, live music and entertainment in the Rodeo Roadhouse, multiple kid friendly exhibits, over 22,000 head of livestock and over four acres of commercial exhibits.

Annually, the event generates an estimated 1.5 million for the local economy drawing exhibitors and contestants from all over to the Fort Worth locale. An average of over 900,000 people attend the Show annually, representing more than 80 foreign countries as well as most U.S. states. Eighty-five percent of the show’s events take place under roof, reducing the effect of the Winter weather known to local Fort Worthians as “Stock Show Weather.” On average, the modern Stock Show has an economic impact of over $100 million for the Fort Worth area.

Initial Stock Show prizes consisted of gifts donated by Fort Worth area merchants. While this practice is no longer utilized, tremendous support from numerous breed associations, local Fort Worth businesses and many volunteer assist in raising cash amounts for livestock premiums. In 2009, a record $210,000 was awarded to Ricki Buckalew and her prize-winning European Cross Market Steer during the Sale of Champions. Millions of dollars are awarded annually to livestock and rodeo champions and participants.

This is a Must See if you are ever in the area!

Thanks for Visiting our Humble Photoblog and we hope to see you again soon – Subscribe to the Blog so as not to miss our next Post!

Thanks All Y’all

(Kathleen and Erik)

Let’s Roll

Unlike any other Motorcycle

During our recent trip to Texas, on the way home to San Diego, we stopped by Kathleen’s brother’s home and posed him on his Harley Davidson. We were experimenting with a few ideas that we will perfect for a photo shoot in San Diego this weekend. We will be using some off camera flash techniques using our powerful Quantum Q-Flash, perhaps an SB-600 Speedlight for background fill, some light modifiers and all on location close to Coronado Bridge. We have found that most Biker Shots are against garage doors, boring backgrounds (mostly Non-Pro), or in a full-blown Studio with complex lighting and often with a scantily dressed Models straddling the Bike. (Our Mother of will be doing our Security Detail)…..We will be doing something different!

Now a bit about this Bike, the venerable Harley and its universally recognizable sound!

The classic Harley-Davidson engines are V-Twin Engines, each with a 45° angle between the cylinders. The crankshaft has a single pin, and both pistons are connected to this pin through their connecting rods. This 45° angle is covered under several US Patents and is an engineering tradeoff that allows a large, high-torque engine in a relatively small space. It causes the cylinders to fire at uneven intervals and produces the choppy “potato-potato” sound so strongly linked to the Harley-Davidson brand.

To simplify the engine and reduce costs, the V-twin ignition was designed to operate with a single set of points and no distributor. This is known as a dual fire ignition system, causing both spark plugs to fire regardless of which cylinder was on its compression stroke, with the other spark plug firing on its cylinder’s exhaust stroke, effectively “wasting a spark”. The exhaust note is basically a throaty growling sound with some popping. The 45° design of the engine thus creates a plug firing sequencing as such: The first cylinder fires, the second (rear) cylinder fires 315° later, then there is a 405° gap until the first cylinder fires again, giving the engine its unique sound. Cool. eh?

Thanks for visiting our humble Photoblog and please, if you have any questions, just drop us an email at

Kathleen and Erik

FORD – Built Tough!

FORD - Built Tough

During a recent weekend visit to Fort Worth, Texas, we dropped by Cavender’s to check out their amazing selection of boots. Their inventory is beyond compare and of the finest quality. We both ended up with a new pair, and for Erik, his first ever. We also found this vintage truck on the front lawn and it just called out – do me in HDR (High Dynamic Range Photography). This was hand-held with a high-speed bracketted burst from the trusty Nikon D7000. Usually we always use a Tripod and remote shutter release, but sometime that is just not an option (did not pack a Tripod). Not too shabby I would say!

Now a bit about this fine establishment! In 1957, founder James R. Cavender started Cavender’s Dairy Mart in Pittsburg, Texas. Eventually, in 1965, he decided to open a new business which featured the latest fashion trends in western clothing. The store was so popular that the chain grew to over 50 stores, located in 6 states.

Cavender’s busiest times of year fall during rodeo season and at back-to-school. In Fort Worth, Texas, the rodeo is held in January, while in Houston, it occurs in late February and early March. In San Antonio, the rodeo comes to town in February.

Often the stores carry the same general merchandise at each location depending on size of the location. Brands which you can see in most any Cavender’s location are Wrangler, Cinch/Cruel Girl, Justin Boot Company, Lucchese Boot Company, Anderson Bean Boot Company, Stetson Hat Company, Resistol Hat Company, Ariat Boot and Clothing company, and many others. Cavender’s is the exclusive outlet for Larry Mahan Clothing.

Ford Bonus Built

This is a continuation of the “Adventures of Kathleen” in deep Texas. On the expanse of her Uncle’s Ranch she discovered the rusty beauty…ready to go Camping, complete with Frying Pans and Portable Toilet! This one was also equipped with a “See Clear Windshield”. She dared not get closer…one must be aware of Rattlesnakes! Now a bit about the Truck!

The first F-Series truck (known as the Ford Bonus-Built) was introduced in 1948, replacing the company’s previous car-based pickup line. It was a modern-looking truck with a flat, one-piece windshield and integrated headlights. Options were the “See-Clear” windshield washer (operated by foot plunger), passenger side windshield wiper & sun visor, and passenger side tail light. The F-1 truck was also available with additional chrome and two horns as an option.

Design of the F-Series truck changed little from 1948 to 1952. From 1948 to 1950, the grill was a series of horizontal bars and the headlights were set into the fenders. For 1951 and 1952, the headlights were connected by a wide aerodynamic cross-piece with three similarly aerodynamic supports. The rear window was wider in the later trucks and the dashboard was redesigned.

Texas Blues

She's My Pride and Joy

This is a continuation of Kathleen’s Adventures in Texas. She discovered this vintage Chevy Truck at her Uncle Richard’s expansive spread during a recent visit. Chiggers, grasshoppers, and rattle snakes did not impede her in search of her photographic vision! When I saw this, I was immediately struck by how sad the Pickup looked and then I thought of the wonderful tradition of Texas Blues! Perhaps the Chevy would appreciate a bit of Stevie Ray to cheer her up?

Texas Blues began to appear in the early 1900s among African-Americans who worked in oilfields, ranches and lumber camps. In the 1920s, Blind Lemon Jefferson innovated the style by using jazz-like improvisation and single string accompaniment on a guitar; Jefferson’s influence defined the field and inspired later performers, like Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, many bluesmen moved to cities like Galveston, Houston and Dallas.

Later, in the late 1960s and early 1970s the Texas electric blues scene began to flourish, influenced by country music and blues-rock, particularly in the clubs of Austin. The diverse style often featured instruments like keyboards and horns, but placed particular emphasis on powerful lead guitar breaks. The most prominent artists to emerge in this era were the brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter (I recall the song, “Frankenstein”, one of my High School “when the Parents are out crank the Stereo” faves), who combined traditional and southern styles. In the 1970s, Jimmy Vaughan formed The Fabulous Thunderbirds and in the 1980’s his brother Stevie Ray Vaughan broke through to mainstream success with his virtuoso guitar playing, not to mention the long bearded trio, ZZ Top! I had the fortune to see Stevie in Edmonton, Alberta when he opened for, of all bands, Iron Maiden. I swear it was like watching Jimmie Hendrix (didn’t care too much for the Metal Show that followed but the animatronics puppet was creepy fine).

You’ve got Mail

You've Got Mail

Kathleen’s Texas adventures led her to find this awesome vintage US Post Mailbox. She was reluctant to look inside…you know, Rattle Snakes!

The USPS traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, where Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Post Master General. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin’s operation and transformed into its current form in 1971 under the Postal Reorganization Act.

The first postal service in America arose in February 1692, when a grant from King William and Queen Mary empowered Thomas Neale “to erect, settle and establish within the chief parts of their majesties’ colonies and plantations in America, an office or offices for the receiving and dispatching letters and paxkets  and to receive, send and deliver the same under such rates and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, and to hold and enjoy the same for the term of twenty-one years.”The United States Post Office (USPO) was created in Philadelphia under Benjamin Franklin on Wednesday, July 26, 1775.

Built Ford Tough

Continuing the adventures of Kathleen in Texas, avoiding Chiggers, Grasshoppers, June Bugs and Rattlesnakes, she found this vintage tractor on her Uncle Richard’s property. This harkens back to the day when Ford used cursive fonts on their vehicles – just classic! The title of this picture is actually about Bull Riding and not so much Ford. A Bull Rider need to have clear focus…somewhat analagous to this shot of the tractor’s headlight!

The Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) is the “major league” tour of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) competitions. It is a 30-city event series culminating in the PBR World Finals every year in Las Vegas, Nevada. The top 45 riders of the PBR compete in the BFTS with the rankings determined by points and money won. Only the top 45 riders in the points standings can achieve seeded positions on the tour, while riders below that standard may need to ride on one of the PBR’s minor league tours in order to earn his way back onto the BFTS tour. However, the PBR’s World Finals will only invite the top 45 riders based on the money they earned. In terms of the top 45 riders (in points), only the top 35 can actually stay on tour, while positions 36-45 can get cut from the tour after every 5 events, making way for any new entries or alternates.

Bootleg Mobile

Dale Earnhardt's Old Ride?

As a continuation of Kathleen’s Texas Adventures, she came across this Vintage Chevy “Special Deluxe” painted with Stars and Stripes. The owner (Kathy’s Uncle Richard) decorated it for a Parade in downtown Dallas for the Bi-Centennial. He was also cast for the TV show, “Walker, Texas Ranger’ but when he heard that Chuck Norris was going to come in to “clean up” the mob scene he claimed, “I don’t throw a fight for anybody!” Perhaps Chuck would have had a surprise? These type of vehicles were often used in Bootlegging moonshine (not that this one was) but a bit of History!

Stock car racing in the United States has its origins in bootlegging during Prohibition, when drivers ran bootleg whiskey and moonshine made primarily in the Appalachian region of the United States. Bootleggers needed to distribute their illicit products, and they typically used small, fast vehicles to better evade the police. Many of the drivers would modify their cars for speed and handling, as well as increased cargo capacity, and some of them came to love the fast-paced driving down twisty mountain roads.

The repeal of Prohibition in 1933 dried up some of their business, but by then Southerners had developed a taste for moonshine, and a number of the drivers continued “runnin’ shine”, this time evading the “revenuers” who were attempting to tax their operations. The cars continued to improve, and by the late 1940s, races featuring these cars were being run for pride and profit. These races were popular entertainment in the rural Southern United States, where, unsurprisingly, many of today’s NASCAR Legends are from!

Bootleggers and Baptists

And so NASCAR was Born

My adventuresome Wife was drawn to this location deep in backwoods Texas – she said it looked like a Moonshiners Shack, complete with a “Sittin Chair” and empty container. I imagine that someone might have been sitting there, shotgun in hand by the light of the moon, guarding against unwary interlopers and having a sip or two. Notice the mysterious shack in the background!

Bootleggers and Baptists, is a model of politics in which opposite moral positions lead to the same vote. Specifically, preachers demand prohibition to make alcohol illegal while the criminal bootlegger wants it to stay illegal so he can stay in business!

One version begins with preachers in a rural county demanding the government ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays. “Alcohol”, they say, “is a vile drink and efforts should be made to restrict its spread through society, especially on the Lord’s Day.” The Baptists’ electorate votes the county dry.

But the demand for alcohol does not disappear with the supply. People still want to drink on Sundays and so the bootleggers step up and illegally sell alcohol. And because the supply is restricted because far fewer people are selling liquor, one day a week the bootlegger gains monopoly power and the lucrative market that goes with it. The Baptists, in their turn, point to the widespread use of alcohol on Sunday as evidence that laws need to be tightened further, and propose to ban sale of alcohol on Saturday as well. This causes a spiral of tougher and tougher laws that are enforced less and less.



Not Everything is Bigger in Texas

Cowgirl Up!

This a bit of an unsual picture. Kathleen just returned from Fort Worth Texas where she had an exuberant time visiting Family catching up with old school friends. This shows that some “Facilities” are just not Texas Large. This was also the idea of the Cowgirl to whom these boots were attached. The night was filled with loud music, cold cocktails and lots of laughter – a typical night in The Stockyards!

The Fort Worth Stockyards is a historic district that is located in Fort Worth, Texas. The Fort Worth Stockyards now celebrates Fort Worth’s long tradition as a part of the cattle industry and was listed on the National Register as a historical district in 1976. The listing included 46 contributing buildings.

The Stockyards consist of mainly entertainment and shopping venues that capitalize on the “Cowtown” image of Fort Worth. Home to the famous boot making company M.L. Leddy’s which is located in the heart of the Stockyards. The city of Fort Worth is often referred to as “Where the West Begins.”  Many Bars and Nightclubs (including Billy Bob’s Texas) are located in the vicinity. There is also an Opry and a Rodeo. The Fort Worth Stockyards are the last standing stockyards in the United States.

(This also kicks off a Series highlighting some of the more unusual traits of this area…stay tuned!)