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Saturday, January 31, 2009

On the road again!

I have had a busy week getting everything ready for my first shows of the year. I leave later today for three weekends in a row in Arizona. I hope to post new images and reports from the shows while I am on the road. Since I still have quite a bit to do before leaving today, I am going to keep this short. Todays image is another version of the old ranch house I took while in New Mexico. Hopefully I will get some more interesting images as I photograph my way to Arizona.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Who turned the lights on?

Palomino Motel

I got an email from Gary yesterday afternoon which included his version of the Palomino Motel. The lights on the horse and Palomino were not on or working, but he had turned on the lights with some sort of Photoshop technique. I had yet to do any work on my shots of the Motel so I opened one up in camera raw and started to consider the possibilities. The new adjustment brush in CS4 is really neat and may be just the tool to turn on the lights. I sized the brush to the same size as one of the lights and feathered the edge. I set it to increase the exposure, brightness, and the saturation until it gave the right look. Now I didn't say it was quick and easy. I still had to click the brush on every bulb. Sometimes two clicks worked better. I also hit the neon around the horse. It looks pretty good but so many bulbs are missing that some of the letters are a little incomplete looking. I still had to combine the "lights on" version with 2 other exposures in Photomatix. Numerous other adjustments were made after that. I spent quite a bit of time getting this image the way it looks now. I looked at it again this morning and thought "You could clone in lights where they are missing and then light them up too." I will save that for another day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Abstract from the "Bug Farm"

On our journey down Route 66 last week we stopped in Conway, Texas and took a look at the Bug Farm. Much like the Cadillac Ranch but not as neat. Five old Volkswagon beetles buried in the dirt next to the Trading Post. They have been painted many times and parts of them get interesting when the many layers of color begin to peal and crack. This image is a section of the interior of a door which has been attacked with spray paint numerous times.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A mural of "The Legendary Road"

Tucumcari Mural

While in Tucaumcari, New Mexico last week we came upon this mural which was painted on the side of a building. I estimate the length of it to be around 100 feet and the height around 17 feet. I have stitched images together before but not quite the way I did this one. Instead of shooting 7 images from a tripod and rotating the head each time, I hand held the images and moved about 12 feet to the side after each exposure. This kept the perspective from getting way out of control as it would have if they were all shot from a stationary tripod. After the 7 images were stitched together in Photoshop it still needed a ton of work. It was still not very square. I had to blend the overlaps better so they wouldn't show, and I also had to clone in some stuff to finish out the areas above and below the mural. The file size is quite large, about 640MB after the layers were flattened. It was over 2 gig before that.
The Artists

This is down in the bottom left corner of the mural. I assume that this is the artists that painted and did such a wonderful job on it. My own work is copyright protected and I'm sure their murals are too. Therefore, I would never try and sell this image without the artists permission. If you need a big mural painted though, give them a call.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Another old gas station!

Apco Station

The first night of my recent trip was spent photographing this old abandoned station. It was after dark when we got to this spot which is out in the middle of nowhere about 20 miles from El Reno, Oklahoma. Occasionally a car would drive by and I suppose they wondered what we were doing. I gave this image a pop from a flash with a red gel over it. It perked up the gas pumps nicely. The next shot was taken the next morning. It was one of the last taken. We got there before sun-up and had already taken quite a few images. With the light still low and warm I finally got some decent clouds to go with the old neglected gas station.
Apco Station #2

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another shot of the Conoco Tower!

Here is another view of the Conoco Tower in Shamrock, Texas. Unlike some of the evening shots I have been showing lately, it is from one exposure. There is a very small window of time where the natural light and the artificial light are perfectly balanced. That is when this was captured. Back when I was shooting film I would shoot many exposures and would space them out every few minutes as the scene gradually got darker and darker. When I reviewed the film after being processed I would have a few exposures that captured the scene during this perfect balance of light. Even though I am shooting digitally, I still do much the same thing today. Early and late in the day the light changes quite rapidly. It also changes the feel of an image as it changes. I always have the dilemma of whether to shoot many different compositions or shoot what I think is my favorite composition as the light changes. Many times the best image is one where I have fine tuned the composition a little as I shot the scene. The last shots in a series are many times the best composition. Hopefully the best light and best composition come together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

One of my images gets "BetterPhoto Photo of the Day"

Well, I just checked my email this morning and in it was a congratulatory email from BetterPhoto.com. They chose my image "Sandstone Swirls" as their "Photo of the Day". You can see it at http://www.betterphoto.com/POTDarchive2.asp?ID=1589 . I also have a gallery of images on this web site which can be seen at http://www.betterphoto.com/Premium/Default.aspx?id=111011&mp=V1
"Sandstone Swirls" is also the same image on my web site which is called "Coyote Buttes Sunset". You are probably wondering the same thing that I am sitting here wondering...why didn't you just call it the same thing on both web sites? I don't know. Senior moment I guess.
I had a couple of images from my recent road trip I was ready to put here today. So here they are.

This was taken where Route 66 crosses the South Canadian River west of El Reno, Oklahoma. A sign says the bridge is 3944.33 feet long. It was completed July 1, 1933. We shot the bridge from both ends but the light and the sky seemed a little better from this end. We stopped the car just on the other side of the bridge and pulled over on the shoulder. Near us was a sign that said "no parking on shoulder" or something to that effect. About 30 yards in front of the car was one of those roadside memorials with the crosses and flowers. I joked to Gary "that is for the last photographers that stopped here".

This was taken in the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma. It contained many of the things you would expect...old cars, signs, pictures of the 40's and 50's. We took our cameras in the museum with us but we left our tripods in the car. To get this image, which required about a 4 second exposure, I set the camera on a counter top and composed the scene. It was as steady as a tripod but not as versatile for aiming and composing.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

A step away from the bright colors!

Old Farmhouse #2

This old farmhouse is off I40 between the Texas border and San Jon, New Mexico. I had seen it before and never had the time or decent conditions to stop and photograph it. It was quite funny getting this image. When we stopped I could see one cow standing in front of the building. He spotted us and started walking towards the fence where I would be setting up my tripod and shooting over. Another dozen or so appeared out of nowhere and all started heading my way. Suddenly I have a whole herd of cows up against the fence and making it hard to compose my shot. I was able to get the image I wanted but I think all the cows were quite disappointed that I didn't throw a bale of hay over the fence to them. I have a full black and white of this but I also thought it was interesting with about 50% of the color desaturated.

Old Car and Windmill

I spotted this scene as Gary drove us through the back roads of Oklahoma. I'm not sure if I could find it again. I converted it to black and white and gave it a little sepia tone.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Safetly back home!

Well, I made it back home last night with quite a few new images. Usually I know immediately which images are the best but sometimes months or even years later I review the work and come up with a few more winners. Sometimes new processing skills or just a little different vision than I initially had will cause me to see the work a little differently at a later date. Only time will tell.

Blue Swallow Motel

This first image was taken in Tucumcari, New Mexico. We decided Thursday to drive there in order to shoot some of the old signs and Motels around sunset. Route 66 goes right through Tucumcari and many of the original businesses are still there and many are still open. About 6:00 pm it was starting to get dark but it seemed that many places did not have their lights on. Several Motels we wanted to shoot were dark. The window of time to get the light I wanted is short, so I ran into the Palamino Motel and asked if the lights were going to be turned on. I was told they weren't working and he was trying to get them fixed. I took some quick shots without the lights and headed to the Blue Swallow. No lights here either. I ran in and asked about the lights. I was told that if you don't stay at the Motel you must make a donation to get the lights turned on. Sure enough there is a jar on the counter that says NEON. I make the comment that I would go broke if I had to pay everytime I took a picture, but I take out all the ones I have in my wallet and put them in the jar. Four bucks! I think that got me about 4 minutes. The lights came on and I set up in the spot that I had already determined to be where I wanted to set my tripod. I composed the image and focused then shot a series of exposures. The next thing I know, the Blue Swallow and the colorful thing on the ground by the mail box is turned off. The "T" on Motel wasn't working either. Fortunately I got the shot I wanted and a little Photoshop magic turned the "T" back on.

Petrified Wood Station
This second location was found Tuesday right after we left Gary's house in Grand Prairie. We were going to drive north and planned to end up in El Reno, Oklahoma. This took us through Decatur, Texas which is about a 45 minute drive from his house. We took a detour which would lead us to the town square. Before we got there I spotted the Petrified Wood Station and said "Stop the Car". We got out and took some photographs but we knew we needed to come back some other day at a time when the light was better. High noon is almost never the best time to photograph anything. After driving quite a distance from Tucumcari on Friday we realized we could make it to Decatur about 5:30pm. We arrive back at the PWS on schedule. The restaurant next door is closed so it has no cars parked in front of it. That's a good thing, but there are not any lights on. At 5:55 still no lights. Suns down and we are running out of light. I have been telling Gary that maybe they are on a timer and come on at 6:00pm. He thinks I'm dreaming. He is putting his tripod back in the car at 5:56 when the small Texas Plaza sign lights up. I'm thinking...YYYYYYYYes!!!!!!! Four minutes later the Texaco, the pumps, and the PWF sign come on. Time to shoot. I have hardly taken a set of exposures when off go the lights again. About five minutes later they come on again for a few minutes and then go back off. We have seen nobody around this place but I wonder if somebody is at the light switch in one of these buildings and is laughing at the torture he is putting us through. A few minutes later the two windows on either side of the door come on plus some over head lights in the carport. I had forgot they were there. Another minute later the rest of the lights come on and stay on until we leave. I have time to shoot more exposures with all the lights on. I also shot the station from the other side. I like that version too, but have not yet processed it. You would be surprised how much time I spent on this one. Photomatix doesn't always blend everything together perfectly and you have to fix it manually somehow. I'm happy with the way it looks. Hope you like it too.
More images from the trip will be coming.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Update from the Econo Lodge in Shamrock, Texas!

Magnolia Station

Here it is the third day of my road trip. So far it has been fairly successful. I took this last night in Shamrock, Texas. We arrived here about 3:30pm with it about 64 degrees. By the time I took this it was 38 degrees. This morning it was down to 13 degrees. That may explain why I am taking a warm break in the motel room and posting to my blog. This next image was also taken in Shamrock. I will post some more images later but right now Gary is sitting here telling me we need to get back on the road.

See you later.


Conoco Tower

Monday, January 12, 2009

That elusive sunset!

Sunset January 12, 2009
It seems the best sunsets occur when I am at home. I guess I could have included the tops of my neighbors trees in an effort to add interest to this image but the truth is this...I photographed this from the street out in front of my house and there is nothing very interesting to go with these great sunset clouds. Maybe they will follow me to Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. I leave tomorrow for a four day photo trip. Hopefully the journey will be successful.

Black and white or color or both?

The Plaza and Corner Pocket in Black and White

I converted this image to black and white a few days ago. The color version was posted on Jan 4. I like the bright colors of the original version but I also like this version. Some images work both ways while others only work in either black and white or color.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Off to the Theater again! Or is it Theatre?

Cinemark Theatre

I guess since I have photographed a couple of theaters lately that my eye has gotten into "Theater Mode". The Cinemark is out in Plano, Texas. I noticed it as I drove down 75 last week so I figured I would head over there some evening when it looked like we would have some nice light. Although this theater is not that old it does look similar to some of the ones built in the 40's or 50's. The next two images were taken last night. The Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie was opened in 1950. More info about it here http://www.uptowntheatergp.com/home.htm

Sold Out

Uptown Theater

All of these images were created the same way as some of the previous theater posts by using a combination of multiple exposures. The Uptown images were only 3 exposures where 5 were used on the Cinimark image. I also had to manually combine the SOLD OUT part of the Marquee in Photoshop.
Next week another photographer(Gary Kelly) and myself are going to spend several days in Oklahoma and Texas photographing parts of Route 66. Should be fun and should provide me with some interesting images.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let's do this again!

Lakewood Theater #2

I had lunch with a couple of friends of mine today at the Garden Cafe where I have exhibited my work before. When I mentioned the Lakewood Theater, which is near by, they told me that there was going to be a football watching party there tonight. Hmmmm....It will be 75 degrees today and I going to take advantage of the nice weather and go hit some golf balls, but I could throw the camera gear in the truck and swing by the Lakewood Theater about 5:30. I figure I have about a 30 minute period from 5:45 to 6:15 when the light is at its best. I show up on schedule but at 5:30 they don't have the lights on. At 5:45 they don't have the lights on. Turn the dang lights on! I'm not getting out of the vehicle with the tripod until I can start shooting. At 5:59 they come on and I jump out, set up the tripod, compose and fire off 6 different exposures. I move over the tripod, re-compose and shoot 6 more exposures. These are the images I used. When I started to shoot more images from a slightly different spot, a ladder is quickly put up right in the middle of the entrance. A man climbs up it and begins fiddling with some wires. Then several more men come out and they pull a screen down which soon begins showing football highlights. At 6:15 all I get is black for sky even with the longer exposures. Actually it is black with some unappealing fog and flare from the lights. My 15 minutes of picture taking is over for the day. After getting back home I will spend more time than that on the computer processing this image. Even though I would have liked to have had 3 0r 4 successful compositions, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Should I leave the tripod at home?

Plaza Theater and the Corner Pocket

After seeing a lot of high wispy clouds in the sky today I decided that there should be a good sunset with a lot of pink clouds. I headed back out to the square in Garland but as you can see...no pink clouds. Not much color in the sunset but I got a different composition of the theater which also includes the Corner Pocket, a little sandwich place on the corner across from the theater. I'm starting to like shooting these multiple exposure HDR images. Before the sun went down I took a few photographs at the nearby DART Station. Its getting harder to pull out a big tripod and not get hassled about taking pictures. I hadn't been there 5 minutes and some guy gets out of the train and comes over and asks me if I have a permit from DART. Of course I don't have no stinkin permit from DART and don't plan on getting one. I told the guy I was a fine art photographer and was just out shooting. I think many of these guys are told by their bosses not to allow any commercial photography without a permit. As soon as they see the tripod...here they come. I went through the same BS in San Antonio when I was photographing the missions. I also think since 9/11 there is this paranoia that I may be a terrorist checking the place out. Would I pull out the big tripod and stick out like a sore thumb? No, I would get one of those pocket sized 12 megapixel cameras and they would never know I snapped a single shot. Its all an exersize in futility if you ask me and I think most of the guys that are ordered to come talk to me know it too.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

That special time right after the sun has set!

Garland's Plaza Theater

The Corner Pocket

Wow, its been less than three hours since I took these two images and they are ready for my blog. Both are a combination of six different exposures that were combined and tone mapped in Photomatix Pro 3. I recently read a whole book about HDR photography. It discussed several types of software and the adjustments that they have. Strangely enough I seem to get the most realistic photos by just using the default settings on the tone mapping. Thats fine with me. Right now I'm more interested in getting realistic results instead of the funky looking stuff that most people are doing with this technique. Both of these images were taken on the square of downtown Garland. No pink clouds tonight. I guess the 81 degree temps today burned them all up. And yes, I'm still wishing the lights at the Lakewood Theater had been on.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The last sunset of 2008!

Lakewood Theater
Yesterday afternoon I watched some high clouds roll in. It looked like a good opportunity for some pink clouds at sunset. A good sunset still needs something interesting to go with it...but what. I almost went to White Rock Lake but drove near the old Lakewood Theater which I had never photographed before. The choice was made. I got the pink clouds but the lights were not on. Having the lights on probably would have improved this shot but I am not actually sure how often the lights are on since the theater is rarely used for anything. This image was made from 3 combined exposures. I like it but may go shoot it again some time.