Tuesday, November 30, 2010


On the high plains there is a lot of nothing. Nothing can be good sometimes because there’s nothing to block the flow of air pumping over those plains. That flow of air has been powering windmills for generations as I learned on a visit to the American Wind Power Museum in Lubbock, Texas.

There is definitely a certain kind of beauty whenever form meets function. In this case, the windmills’ designs are obviously optimized to take full advantage of the blowing wind even in very light breezes. Less obvious design features help to control and balnce the windmill. If the windmill is allowed to spin up as fast as it wants in very blustery conditions then the windmill would litterally come apart in a centrifical explosion. On the other hand, if it is pointing in the wrong direction then it would not spin at all. The design experiments used to control and balance the windmills have led to some interesting shapes over time.

The windmill museum is interesting because they explain and display a lot of those shapes all together. Some of the windmills displayed only exist in America here. I’m talking most notably about the Dutch design. The Dutch windmill looked authentic to me. It had careful, unusual wood and metal craftsmanship that looks unlikely to have been fabricated here.

The people who run the museum definitely appreciate art. In the covered outside area of the museum there is a very large wall. There was an artist in a portable lift probably about 60 feet off of the ground working on the mural in the room. The mural was a landscape devoted to farm and windmill life. It was quite obviously a major undertaking.

Some of these photos were taken while the museum was open but, most were before and after hours "through the fence" shots.

See some more of the photos that I took here or click below.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Horse and Rider

One of the things that I enjoy so much about photography is that the camera gives me license to see sides of people’s lives that I never would have otherwise. My job as the photographer is not just to make pretty pictures but to try and capture the essence of someone and to tell a story with images. They pay me to visually present them in photographs.

I knew almost nothing about horses and the people that ride and care for them until recently when I did my first horse and rider shoot. I really didn’t appreciate the relationship that the horse people have with their horses. In my mind, the subject of the photos was the rider and the horse was there as a prop. I could not have been more wrong. It is horse AND rider together as partners. They are both equally important in their own ways.

It is absolutely not like photographing someone next to a lamppost. The lamppost just happens to be there and does not have feelings. It just is what it is, end of story. The horse very much has a mood, just like the rider and a feeling that is important and comes across in the images. If the horse is uncomfortable or agitated or worried then you can see it in the eyes and ears and posture. The horse and the rider have a connection that has to be respected and appreciated.

We got really lucky with the weather. I prepared by getting my subjects ready right during the best part of the light in the evening. We had just come off of a long spat of oppressively hot North Texas summer temperatures. This night was warm but, not too much so. The wind was also happily calm that evening in late July. The sky was also very clear. So, everything was falling in place for a good shoot.

It went off well. We squeezed a lot posed shots in including a wardrobe change from dress to jeans and shirt and from bareback to saddled. I don’t know if the sun sets quicker towards the end of the summer or if it just seems that way when you are trying to compose a scene and click away like a mad man but, I felt like my window of opportunity was really small and it was all over in a lot less time than I would have liked.

At the end of the session, I let Alyssa run Bailey around and I just shot them having fun. I think that both of them really liked the opportunity to stretch their legs out. I think that these were probably some of the best images from the shoot. It happens a lot that the best shots come when you just catch people doing what they love to do best. I count Bailey as a people, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Joy of Photography in Arlington

I recently went on another photo walk with a bunch of other photographers. This time I hooked up with a group in Arlington, Texas. The goal is simple, it is just to go out as a group and photograph whatever and/or whoever we come across. There is a plan for where to meet, the route to walk and where to meet-up again at the end but, that's it.

It’s fun to hook up with people who you don’t have to explain why you like to capture images then spend hours culling the many frames and editing the keepers to appear the way we imagined it when we took the frame in the first place.

Another one of the things that separates just anyone with a camera snapping pictures from those of us that are a bit more serious is our willingness to twist and climb and crawl to the right spot to get the angle on a shot that we have in mind. I had fun on this walk observing other photographers taking their pictures. Some folks did contort themselves a bit. It’s funny to watch only because I know that I do the same exact thing sometimes. I’ve ruined shirts and pants doing this. This time I didn’t ruin any clothes but did risk my neck standing on a wall probably 20 feet off of the sidewalk taking some shots of a waterfall at the University of Texas – Arlington.

I took some images of a few of the students who were out and about on a Saturday morning during the summertime. They were surprisingly very pleasant and agreeable to having their pictures taken at that hour.

There was one guy in a pickup truck that saw us and was telling us to take a picture of him. The photo that I got looked like he was angry and yelling at me but, he really wasn’t.

One of the photogs with us had a thing for photographing trash. What was even funnier was that he would shoot a trash can then other people would just join in and give it a try for the heck of it. I photographed them shooting a boring trash can. I have to admit that I’m as guilty as them though. I took one shot of an outdoor cigarette ash tray that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

A shout-out goes to Michael at Arlington’s Main Street School of Music for being cool and letting us get cool inside his school and letting us shoot him there.

Check out the whole slide-show here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shooting People

Last year I went on a local photoshoot in Grapevine, Texas with a bunch of other photographers doing some street photography. It was part of a world-wide photoshoot. Photographers from around the world got together in local groups and we all went out and shot together. Sometimes we even shot each other. It was a lot of fun.

One thing that I noticed is that most of the photogs that I met were really shy about approaching any people. They'd rather take photos of shadows and streetlights. I'll include myself in this category as well about being timid. One area that I wanted to push myself on was in taking pictures of people; compete strangers literally off of the street.

It takes a bit of moxie to muster up the courage to ask someone if you can take their picture. One of my secret fears is that because I identify myself as a photographer, I never want to do anything that might cause someone to think of me as the creepy guy behind the lens. Some of this probably comes from the fact that as a father of two daughters, I take a lot of photos of them but also their friends. At least these kids and sometimes their parents know me. Asking to take a picture of a complete stranger is a whole different story.

I had some relief because an army of about thirty of us swarmed over the North Texas town all at once. We were pretty obvious. Everyone had an expensive camera, camera bags, tripods and all of the other stuff that you would expect. A few people asked me what we were up to. I got photos of four sets of folks that I was pretty proud of. Terry the biker dude rode up to a popular biker's watering hole, Willhoites. I asked if I could snap a few photos and he said sure and asked if it would be okay if he smoked a cigarette. Super nice, super cool dude.

There was a girl sweeping the sidewalk in front of a restaurant and I asked her the same thing. My creepiness fear kicked in but it was unnecessary. She was really nice and asked if I wanted her to do anything different. What she was doing already was perfect.

There was another biker dude with the full face helmet and full leathers on who himself was snapping a photo of the street with a tiny point and shoot. I asked him and he said "go for it."

There were a couple of guys on break from their manufacturing job just relaxing on a bench. I didn't speak Spanish and they didn't speak English but, with some pointing and waving we communicated and they let me shoot them. I think that they actually enjoyed the attention.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jai Ho

Sir Ken Robinson describes “the element” as:
“the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.”  

The girls of the Northwest High School Sidekicks were in my opinion certainly in their element when I photographed them performing their Spring Show.

One dance routine in particular, "Jai Ho” really came together well.  The song was from the movie from India, "Slumdog Millionaire" where the cast at the end of the movie were all dancing.  The dance was likewise Ballywood inspired; very difficult choreography.  They all moved in very fast, fluid motion together.  The moves were complicated and physically demanding but, they made it look easy.

The fact that my daughter was one of the dancers brought me a special kind of pride.  I honestly had a hard time staying dry-eyed watching her and her tribe perform their magic.  All those years of her bouncing and twirling around the house seemed to really mean something now that she'd brought it to this level.

A tip of the hat also goes to whoever designed the stage lighting for this performance.  They really did a good job of using effective back lighting for silhouettes and for choosing the right colors for the right mood and to coordinate with the costumes.

I hope that you enjoy the video as much as I do.

See for yourself here. (For best results turn "HQ" on and "Stretch" off.

Check out the stills by clicking below.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MetLife Blimp

The MetLife Blimp was passing through town recently and I had the opportunity to photograph it over three days.  Each morning I went go out there before having to check in at the office while the morning light was still right.

The Blimp was moored on one of the large grass areas on the Alliance Airport property which was also in full view from my office window. So, I got to watch its daily activities as the blimp folks would take it out for rides during the day then a small army of deck hands would scamper after the lines hanging from its nose to bring the ship back in for the evening.

I chatted with a couple of the very knowledgeable ground crew guys. The technology is as old as aviation itself.  Basically, if you fill a large envelope with gas that is lighter than air then it will cause the ship to rise. Inside the large envelope was another smaller envelope that they pump regular air; the same air that we breathe into. The more regular air that you pump into that smaller envelope, the heavier the ship as a whole becomes and then it sinks.

It was interesting that the power to pump the air into the smaller envelopes when it is in flight comes from the twin Rotax 912 engines that also give it forward and reverse thrust. When the 912's aren't on then they have two leaf blowers pumping air into the scat tubes; an electric blower on one side and a gas powered one on the other.  Nothing fancy.  These were units that could have come from the Home Depot up the road and were held on with $0.75 hose clamps that probably also came from Home Depot.

The term "ship" really seems fitting. The early morning air seemed very still. But, like the way a ship in the water will gently tug at its mooring lines as the almost imperceptible water currents move that kind of ship, the airship would also pivot and bob gently around its bull-nose mooring point as the wind was waking up.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cotton and Cannons

I was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee last fall. The fall leaves were turning and the weather was just starting to turn cool.

The Stones River Civil War battlefield was fairly close to my hotel. I decided to get up early and catch the morning light and see what was worth photographing.

You definitely get the sense that something important had happened here by the way the pristine chunk of meadow and woods was carved out of what is now Suburban America. Somehow the impact of the place is a little bit tempered by the sites of strip malls just beyond the 1860’s stone walls.

It’s sobering to think of all of the blood that was spilled here in stark contrast to the natural beauty of the morning light hitting the cotton and straw fields in 2009. I wonder if the people out for their morning jogs this morning ever even think about it. It would have been the same sun but a completely different scene in December of 1862 when the Union Army met the Confederate Army here.

There was a placard marking the Parsons Battery of the 4th US Artillery Companies “H” and “M” which explains why there were three cannons posing among the cotton plants.

This wasn’t my first time photographing cannons. Civil War cannons seem quaint and benign by today’s standards but, in their day they were the high-tech tools of war. I wonder what the people a hundred years from now will think of our now high tech lives.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bovine in the Mist

I regularly drive past some fields where cows and bison are kept. I've often thought, y'know, I aught to photograph those bison while they are still in the fields and not sitting on my burger bun or the land is converted into yet more housing.

One of them in particular usually has bison and it is on a slope facing up towards the sun rising in the east.  The long shadows during the "golden hour" in the morning sometimes provides some cool situations to photograph. 

I got lucky this past Wednesday morning.  The bison were where they belonged, the sun was in the right position, I was going into work early, so I had time and there was a neat fog on the ground.  Ground fog might not sound like much but, we don't get that condition here a lot.  It's kind of like finding longhorn cattle in Connecticut.  It might happen, but not often.

There is something noble about the American Bison.  They remind me of a sports car in that some sports cars look fast standing still.  The American Bison just looks important just standing there.  It has a powerful profile and powerful features.  It's also damned large.