Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Friends, Family and the Dog Days of Summer

I have had an incredible Summer. No major family road trip or ostentatious vacation. Just us...Ms. C, Miss E and me. And some very special friends.Nothing else was needed...nothing else required.

Miss E had a multitude of camp experiences that will be the envy of her friends when the teacher asks her to present to the theme of "How I spent my summer vacation..." She will no doubt tell stories of the splendours of life during the reign of King Arthur (as she learned in her camp that taught the Science of the Round Table). She will regale her friends with tales of her riding skills developed during her one week camp at the All Heart Horse Farm.

And she will most certainly tell her new 4th grade running buddies about how to build a water filtration unit from a coke bottle and some rocks and a certain kind of dirt as she learned in her Survivor Camp. And I am sure that she will be among many who were able to see...and smell ... the mysterious, and ultimately disappointing spectacle that was the bloom of the rare Corpse Flower (Lois to her millions of admirers!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Son...The Russki's don't take a dump without a plan!!!

Well, you may have noticed that I took the month of June off from the blog. Not that I am ever that prolific to begin with...it just always seemed that I had other stuff to do. I was getting ready for the annual summer visit with Ms.E. Then her pseudo big sister/cousin/very good friend that we refer to as Big E had a horrendous accident that nearly (but thankfully, only nearly) cost her her foot. Then I had a little business travel to deal with. Finally, I began making some ...plans...for an upcoming couple of shoots at the end of the summer. First up was the Fourth of July...

Ms. C pushed me to go out this year and take my annual Independence Day fireworks photos without the company of herself and Ms. E. She knows that when I have the two of them in tow, I tend to focus more on the girls than I do on my photography and, though she will never say it, both efforts end up suffering in the process. She offered to drop me off near my desired vantage point and  pick me up afterwards at the same rendezvous point. I then proceeded to the location I had selected and I got my gear set up. I set myself down in my chair and enjoyed the cold sports drink that I had brought along with me while I waited for the show to start. I was the first one there...and I had about an hour to kill before the show was to start. So I just relaxed and let my thoughts drift along with the warm night breeze.

Another photgrapher came along. He introduced himself as Wayne Wendel. He told me that he had taken a photo of me that I would probably enjoy and that he wanted to send it to me. We exchanged business cards and chatted each other up about equipment, photography in general, travel and our lives in general. I didn't give the remark about the picture another thought.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

It is the end of May again. That time when the beauty of Spring begins to wilt under the onslaught of heat and humidity that is Summer in Houston. That time when school kids begin to map out their activities for the ever shortening Summer vacation. That time whe I realize that one of those children...my daughter...has passed one more milestone on her way to adulthood.

I watched her walk toward me last week and realized that she is in the midst of another growth spurt. She is becoming a tall and skinny mixture of her mother's bone structure and my coloration and texture. I hope this recipe holds, because it is a beautiful thing to behold in her current form. I have nightmares imagining a teenage version of this creature and the effect she will have on the less developed gender of her species...and the troubles that are likely to follow as a result. Such is the folly of fatherhood...you want your child to grow into a beautiful gregarious version of yourself...until they develop hormones...and then you want to take it back!!!

She has become much more independent in the last year...and much more confident in her own skin. This is both welcome and sad. I love that she is becoming more engaged in life, rather than being a spectator all the time. I do miss the fact that this new independence and confidence is coming at the expense of her apparent "need" for my help. I guess this is not an unusual dichotomy for a father to go through. But it is the first time for both of us, so I will ask your indulgence.

When she was younger, I read to her all the time. Now she reads to herself, blissfully unaware that I steal a glance every chance I get. I love  to watch her create her own view of the world through the readings of her favorite authors. I also know that her adventures, just like mine before her , will be based on the stories she derives for herself from these sources. And those adventures are just beginning...

Now, as she is nearing her ninth birthday, and matriculating from the already boring world of a 3rd grader to that unexplored cosmos that only a 4th grade girl can understand, I have one wish to offer her (using the words of one of my favorite childhood authors, Ted Geisel - the inimitable Dr. Seuss)
Oh...the places you will go, my Princess. The places you will go , indeed.

I love you, Cupcake.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

So...this is what it is like to be a Pro

I haven't posted a blog entry for about 4-6 weeks. It isn't that I have been hiding...I have actually been having the time of my life filling my supposed "free" time with working photography gigs. These have ranged in scope from my first time "studio" work with a family looking to get some quality family portraits to covering events for customers to shooting events that are seasonal in nature for myself. And of course, I did my annual wildflower shoot with Ms. E  - nothing truly spectacular this year but I did get one or two pretty cool shots of my darling daughter.

I found myself working my day job for the average 10 or so hours a day and then coming home to spend 3-4 hours a night  to get my photo editing out of the way so that I could be ready for the next outing. In one stretch of 10 days, I had 5 different gigs to shoot and process. It was a blast, but this whole period just reinforced to me that, if I ever intend to do this job professionally, then I am going to have to devote myself to it full time. To do it any other way would mean compromising on quality in one of the two jobs, and I couldn't deal with that.

So , hear are some samples from the multiple events that I shot over the last 6 weeks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I love it in the country

We are in wildflower country this weekend visiting family. We have come up here for multiple reasons this time...It is Andi's birthday...It is Easter...and I am going to get to take some photos in beautiful surroundings with three of my favorite models.

As I sit here this morning, I am watching some whitetail deer graze alongside the cattle in the north pasture while Andi and her girls make a breakfast of waffles and sausage for the slowly waking crowd. The light on the dew covered fields is amazing this morning, and the weather looks like it is going to be ...well, in a word ... awesome for the rest of the day.

Ms. C is resting upstairs. My beautiful daughter E is slowly waking up into the loving arms of her pseudo big sisters. I have orange juice at my side and the wonderful smell of Jimmy Dean sausage sizzling on the grill.

And you think you have it good?

I love springtime in Texas!

Keep the faith.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not at all what I had hoped for

To say that this workshop experience in Santa Fe with the DLWS group has been a disappointment would be an understatement. I had some concerns going in...there were supposed to be 32 students...and that is what occurred. I rationalized that this would be OK because there were to be 4 lead instructors, 2 assistants and 1-2 photography oriented sponsors who would be there to help out with the students. As you will see - these folks only made the group size problem worse.

As it turned out, each of the staff actually planned to be shooting right along side all of the students rather than guiding them. They had professed that they would be glad to look through your viewfinder and give you suggestions - they left out the part about as long as you bring your viewfinder to where they were! Sometimes that was difficult to achieve when they were halfway up a goat trail taking pictures of a fabulous rock formation. My car mate (who was three months post-open heart surgery...and doing awesome!) and I nearly had a heart attack trying to get to "where all the staff was going to be" for that one. We figured our health was more important than any damned picture that we might take with them and we cut our trek short at a manageable level.

Then there was the planning. Theoretically there were to be 6 shooting sessions. When we got to the opening session to get our schedule, there were only 5 sessions identified, with one TBD. The weather started to turn, so there was understandably some concern, but we were assured that this group shot in all kinds of weather. That would not be the case.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


About 4 years ago I started getting somewhat serious about this photography thing. I had just completed my first workshop, and I came away with a much greater understanding of my camera and my own vision. I had created some good work, but I was still having to do a lot of things after I pressed the shutter in order to turn what I thought I had captured into what I had actually seen.

Over the next couple of years I took a few more photography centric trips on my own to see what I could learn and what I could generate. More surprises occurred, and most of them were very positive. I knew that I would want to continue my education with professionals who were going to not only open my eyes behind the shutter, but also who would show me how to take a wonderful capture from "wow" to "Oh My Gawd!" by finessing my post processing skills.

So I did what I usually do...I researched. I love the internet...you can cast out as large a net as you want to on a given topic and then slowly whittle it down until you have found the right solution to the problem you are trying to solve. About three years ago I began looking for that next workshop that I could take that was going to give me the opportunity to take my photography to the next level. I came across a group run by Moose Peterson called the Digital Landscape Workshop Series.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Never Underestimate the Power of the Big Camera!!!

I had the enormous pleasure yesterday of heading down the road to welcome in the trail riders, who make the annual journey from their respective starting points (some of which are as much as 200 miles away!),  to downtown H-town for the start of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

It appeals to the kid in me. A lot that we learned as kids shapes the way we see and react to the world as adults. For example, as a kid I was always taught to respect my "elders and betters".  I got a good lesson in how that teaching can manifest itself in the behavior of well healed adults while I was out at the parade today.

I was out on the parade route with my camera gear to see if I could capture a few special moments. I had the whole rig out there...a backpack full of lenses and accessories, and my trusty Nikon D3 with the 80-200mm lens attached. It is a formidable rig - but hey...I am a formidable guy! I was down there with a couple of friends, and a couple of folks that I met who were taking photos of this event for the first time. They all had very nice camera gear, which I am sure generated photos as good or better than anything that I could generate.

It's just that these cameras were ...smaller.

I am not braggin'...I'm just sayin'.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photography on the Rise

Well... a long cold Texas winter is starting to wane and the first big local photography opportunity is upon us. Tomorrow the many trail riders who give up their annual vacations to be a part of our history leading into the future converge on downtown Houston from their final bivouac at Memorial Park. They, and their horses and wagons will be dressed up for the big party that is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade. I usually go down there with my camera to welcome them in to town. I have a sweet location to shoot from that affords great views of the road travelled and the road ahead. It is a blast - I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Reaching 50

I am not a black balloon kind of guy. I am usually a "glass is half full" kind of guy. I have drunk gallons of lemonade made from lemons tossed at me by LIFE. And I really do believe that...just like today...the sun will come up tomorrow.

I have been fortunate to live on this Earth for 50 years. I was born in Texas, made by Texans, and by the grace of some higher order (you take your pick)...I am a Texas Aggie.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A busy time of year

I am heading into what will most likely be the craziest part of my year. My day job is consuming more than its usual 55 hours per week, and it seems that everything that can go wrong is going wrong. I am heading the major project delivery organization for a $1B business segment. It certainly keeps me hopping. In this job you are never quite good, fast or cheap enough... and that is just the start of the stresses you come across in the course of an average day.

Add to this mix the fact that I am going to be doing some things over the next month to take my hobby to the next level. First amongst those will be spending four days with Moose Peterson, Joe McNally and the rest of the Digital Landscape Workshop Series gang. This is my first photo workshop in about 4 years - And I took a long time pulling the trigger on this one. I am looking forward as much to the training in Photoshop processing techniques as I am in the shoots themselves. When I saw that this workshop was going to be held in Santa Fe, I just couldn't resist. Santa Fe is about my favorite town outside of Texas!!! The light there is magical on its own...I can only imagine what it is going to look like once McNally gets done with it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Oh-fer January

It has been a full month since I last posted. Not that I didn't have anything to say...I just didn't feel like I had done anything blog-worthy. And, it seemed at the time like I hadn't done anything with my camera worth sharing either. However, in a wave of sentiency, born in the boredom of a staff meeting, I realized that I had done much to advance the state of my photography this past month. And I thought that anyone reading this space (all four of you) might actually pick up a nuggett or two.

Over the last several years, January was like any other month in what we call winter around these parts. Cooler than summer, but not cold by any stretch of the imagination. Cold is snow in winter...ponds freezing over... weather forecasts where the terms "life threatening" are frequently used... and that just isn't us. This year has been different though. In December and January it has snowed here. And we had enough cold weather here for every body of water in my yard - A spa, a pool and a landscaping water feature - to freeze over. The waterfall created some very interesting ice sculpture - and when I saw it, the photographer in me saw it as an opportunity to try out a few techniques that I had been studying related to off camera flash (OCF). There I was ...running around in the front yard positioning a couple of speedlights with CTO gels positioned across the lens  to make it look like sunlight was reflecting off the ice sculpture.