Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Arboretum Photo Shoot

This past Sunday I got together with a friend and took some photos of her and her son.  We went down to the Dallas Arboretum both to do that and to see the Chihuly Blown Glass sculptures.  To say the least, I was blown away.  Some of the sculptures were as tall as 20 feet tall.  All of them were hand blown and very impressive.  Now on to the photography.

In these photos, you can see the excellent work that this artist does.  I had not read a lot about the exhibit before I went.  I was expecting some fairly large pieces, but nothing of this size and scale.

The day was bright and sunny.  There were a few clouds, but mostly a deep blue sky.  I put my polarizer filters on my lenses to make sure that I would be able to capture that blue sky and to also help reduce glare on the lens.  The results were great.  I shot in RAW and with the help of the filter, was able to capture vivid colors from the sky to the sculptures.

I've mentioned before that the Arboretum is very nice.  We shot for about an hour and a half and could have stayed out there longer.  However, it started getting warm, so we decided to call it a day.

That is it for now.  My new website is up and live.  You can check it out at

Until next time...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Next Stage

I just finished the launching of my website.  
You can visit it at

There are still a few tweaks that I need to add to it, such as adding music, but visually, it is ready to go.  I would appreciate any positive feedback you could provide.

The next step is to have a logo created.  I have a friend from high school who is going to help me take care of that.  I've seen her work and she's very good.  Unfortunately for her, she's going to have to work from my horrible drawings to turn it into something beautiful and powerful.

You can check her out here:

She's based out of New Braunfels, but this is the digital age and I am in Dallas, so she can still work with you.  Please help support a small business!

That's it for now.  I'll leave you with a couple of sports photos I took recently at a minor league baseball game.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Been Awhile

It's been a few weeks since my last post.  A lot has been happening in that time frame.  I shot my first wedding.  It was a great learning experience.  The pictures came out very well, but there is always something to learn and improve upon.

As you can see from this picture, there was a fun combination of shade and sun.  My trips to the zoo came in handy.

This past Tuesday, I met my friend at a nature preserve in Farmers Branch, TX and took some photos of her.  This was a funny day where the day was nice and sunny and by the time I met her after work, it was cloudy and started drizzling as we were leaving.  Even so, we were able to get an hour of shooting in.  I just shot tight with my 50mm lens and avoided including the sky.  I got a lot of nice shots.
I also got the full version of NIK Software's Silver Efex Pro 2, in addition to a number of other titles that they offer.  This is by far the most efficient way to convert photos to black and white.  One of the other programs that was included was Color Efex 4.0, which without having a lot of time to get into it, was great at softening and smoothing out skin.  Both programs are incredible easy to use.

This is where I will end for now.  I will get into these shoots, in addition to my sunrise shoots in future posts.  There was a lot of learning and a lot of technical aspects to share.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Laid over

Hello everyone. I'm currently sitting in the airport at Birmingham, AL, waiting for my flight. I got here around 11:30, to find out that the plane had a mechanical problem. I am heading to Baltimore for my cousin's wedding this weekend. I figured since I have some time, I would send a quick blog update on my IPad. The spacing and format will be a bit off, since the program is much different than what it looks liken my computer, but I think we can all live with that. Over the last week, I have been working with a program called Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). It was touted as an amazing black and white conversion software. I downloaded the free trial and it is amazing. You open your picture in photoshop (in my case) and then access SEP2 from the filters tab. You are then given about 20 preset black and white options for hat photo. I would say that 5-6 of them are nailed with no work needed. However, manipulating your photos from there is very easy. I would rate this software a 5 out of 5 stars and I wil definitely be buying the full version. When I get back home next week, I will post some of the conversions using this software. I will also have some wedding photos coming soon as I work on them for my cousin. Until next time...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's been awhile

Time sure does fly when you have a lot on your plate.  This is a picture from this morning's sunrise photoshoot.  I went back out to Crowley Park in Richardson, TX and shot by the water of the pond.

It was nice that the moon was still out as the sun started to come up.  Pretty good color in sky, but not a lot of red until after I had packed up.

As I was finishing up, I decided to pull out two new pieces of gear and give them a test drive.  Those would be my Canon Speedlite 600 EX-RT flash and Gary Fong Cloud flash diffuser.  I bought both to use for my cousin's wedding but haven't really had a chance to try them out yet.  The flash in the reception hall will allow me to be able to use a fast shutter speed in the dim light.  The diffuser will help to soften that light so that it doesn't seem like a white blast on everyone I use it on.

Here are two pictures that I took of myself using my remote control.

On the left is the flash with no diffuser.  You can see that my skin is pretty blown out.  On the right is with the diffuser.  Skin tones come out a little more naturally when they aren't being blasted with light.

I plan to be able to get a little more practice using these two items before the wedding.  I'm actually reading the instruction manual, so I'll have the basics down.  I'll be able to use the rehearsal dinner to get some good real world practice with it.

Before I leave, I'll give you a tip.  When putting your camera bag down in the dark, be sure to not put it down on a fire ant mound.  I missed one by about 5 inches today.  That could have made for a bad morning.

Until next time...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Catching Up

It's been a little while since I've been able to post a blog.  I've been busy shooting and editing, but not blogging.  

Since my last time on here, I have been trying out some new software; ACDSee.  It's a photo editing software that attempts to compete with Photoshop.  It is a pretty user friendly piece of software that allows you to edit and customize pictures, batch process, etc.  So far, I like it.  There are things that it does better than Photoshop and vice versa.

Next, I went down to San Antonio to take some engagement pictures of a friend of mine and her fiance.  This was my second big shoot.  I was a little nervous at first, but not long into it, everything just seemed to fall into place.  I just finished processing them and narrowing down the 5star selections.  The CD is burning now and I should be able to get them in the mail Monday.  It was a lot of fun.

The next day, Sunday, I of course I had my sunrise photo shoot.  I wanted to do something iconic, so I went downtown to the Alamo and set up.  I haven't had a chance to work on those pictures, but I imagine they will turn out nicely.  I also learned that a quarter in a parking meter in San Antonio buys you an hour, whereas it only gets you 20 minutes in Dallas......  Not as much bang for your buck.  lol

Next, I had to break down and buy a new computer.  My laptop is almost 4 years old and just can't handle the demands of processing my pictures.  The RAM wasn't large enough to handle the speed needed for Photoshop and for some reason, the computer doesn't see the CD drive anymore.  I wasn't able to figure that one out.  In addition, I had filled up the hard drive.  It was time.

That's what's been going on in my life recently.  I'll get back on here soon with some more pictures.

Until next time...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mustang Morning

This Sunday's sunrise shoot (6/17/12) marked a milestone in my photo project.  Wednesday June 20 marks the Summer Solstice; the longest day of the year.  That means that I have reached the celestial halfway point of my summer sunrise photo project.  The sunrises will slowly come later and later in the morning.

So this morning, I wanted to head to downtown Dallas and shoot the sun reflecting off the buildings, but I wanted to take some friends with me.  Unfortunately, they couldn't go, so I will put it off a bit.  Therefore, I decided to head over to Las Colinas and see the mustangs.  The mustangs is the largest equestrian statue in the world; about a dozen mustang horses running through a business plaza.  It is an incredible statue.  What made it really cool is that they have spray where the horses' hooves strike the water which make them look like they're actually running.

What made this interesting is that the mustangs evidently sit on private property.  The security guard (who was nice and polite) let me know that commercial photography of the mustangs was by permit only.  When I explained to him about my photo project, he said that was ok and I finished up.  Note to self for the future, make sure I am not shooting on private property.  lol

On to the pictures!!

 As you all know, I love flowing water.  This is the view as you come up to the mustangs.  I did not read about who created the statues, but the designer of this plaza did a fantastic job!  This is a non HDR shot; high aperture, slow shutter speed to capture the flowing water.


These last four shots are all HDR.  above, you can see the mustangs running.  I think they look fantastic in black and white and as I mentioned earlier, the water spouts at the hooves of the horses makes them look like they're running.  I shot them with a longer shutter speed to emphasize the water.  

Behind the plaza is Lake Caroline.  It was very peaceful in the morning and I was able to take advantage of the great color in the sky.  Also, I've always liked the phrase, "Better lucky than good, some times".  If you look at the bottom right picture, you will see a crane flew across my shot as the three HDR pictures were being taken.  I couldn't have planned it better.  lol

That is it for this week.  I have had a great time shooting these sunrises and seeing parts of Dallas that I have never seen before.

Before I go, I wanted to say that I entered a picture that I took in St. Louis, in a photo contest.  The contest is sponsored by Pauline Frommer, a leading writer of travel guide books.  We used her London guidebook and can attest to how great they are.  The winner of the contest among other prizes will get their photo featured on a 2013 guidebook.  I am putting the link for my photo below.  Please take a second to go and vote for it.  You can vote as many times as you like.

As always, thank you for following my blog.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dallas Zoo Days

Last weekend, I rented a Sigma 170-500mm zoo lens and headed down to the Dallas Zoo.  It had been a few since I had been there, so I figured I would head out.   With the heat, I was only able to make it a couple of hours, but it was fun, none the less.  The zoo is very nice.  They have been running their "Giants of the Savannah" promotion for awhile.  It is a section of the zoo dedicated to animals of the African Savannah:  elephants, lions, gazelles, etc.

I plan on going back on the 23rd for a few reasons.  The zoo is holding its first ever Photo Day at the Zoo.  They are playing host to Canon ( and Arlington Camera (  This is great, because I am looking into getting a new external flash for my camera.  I am upgrading to Canon's Speedlite series, but I am not sure which one will suit my needs.  This will give me a great opportunity to speak directly to the manufacturer.

The other reason I am going back is to get some more shots for the zoo's "Feathers, Fur and Scales" photo contest.  My plan is to concentrate on the not as popular animals for a winning shot.

Here are some pictures from last weekend's trip to the zoo.

As you can see, the Dallas Zoo has a lot of photogenic birds.  These are only a few of the shots that I liked from this trip.  I'm still narrowing down which ones I want to submit for the contest, so I'll see what I come up with.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Sunrises

Summer is upon us and the sun comes up earlier and earlier each week.  I am almost half way through the year and it has been hard but fun.  Week after week, I have to be more and more creative about where I go for my sunrises.  Other than that, the knowledge I've gained about my camera throughout this year has been invaluable.  Luckily, June 21 is the longest day of the year and that means the sun starts coming up later and later from that point on.  That means more sleep for me.

This post includes this week's and last week's sunrises.  June 3rd, I went to a DART station underneath the George Bush Turnpike where it crosses U.S. 75.  I chose this area, because of the train that would be going by and the shadows caused by the highways meeting.

The top two pictures are HDR shots.  These columns have ivy growing on them and the contrast of the green against the concrete looked great.  Plus, there was great color in the sky.

As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed the columns in the picture to the left.  The way they seem to disappear is great.  I used a small aperture to keep the distance in focus.  To the right is the DART train going by.  It caught me by surprise.  I wanted to wait for another one, so I could set up a shot, but the next train was 30 minutes away and I needed sleep.  I'll save it for another time.

That brings me to June 10.  I went to a park near my house.  My vision here was to shoot the basketball courts against the sunrise.  Unfortunately, there was a large tree in the way that blocked the sky from that angle.  Luckily there was great color in the sky to make up for it.......

......Unfortunately, my morning was cut short by Mother Nature.  As I was walking to a different area of the park, something flew pretty close to me.  At first I thought it was a bird and that I had gotten too close to its nest.  I got buzzed a couple more times and at that point I realized that there were two or three bats flying around me.  Crazy, but true.  At that point, I realized it was time to pack it up and go home.

So, to date, I have encountered a Bobcat, two Beavers and 3 Bats....  At this rate, I will be meeting 4 Bears before the end of the year.  Hopefully that will NOT happen, but we'll see.  Wish me luck this Sunday.

Until next time...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sea World

In the last part of my vacation blog series, I visited Sea World San Antonio.  Sea World was having its Memorial Day "Here's to the Heroes" event where military personnel were offered free admission to the park.  I can never argue with a company that is willing to go so far for our troops.  Beyond that, I think that Sea World gives you fantastic value for your money.

My personal mission with this visit was to get a great picture of Shamu jumping out of the water.  On previous visits with my point and shoot, I either didn't have the zoom or the shutter speed to get a good shot.  To put it lightly, I had a lot of great pictures of Shamu back in the water after a jump.

First up is "Azul", the dolphin, beluga whale, acrobatics show.  There is a lot of color in this show, from parrots to synchronized swimmers.  I really worked on my exposures after the show to be able to really capture the color.
Here, the trainer was hitching a ride across the pool.  A fast shutter speed and a little luck were needed.  The dolphins kicked up a lot of water and she was "splashed out" in a lot of the pictures.

Next up was the Sea Lion comedy show.  This show has always been a favorite of mine.  Lots of laughs to be had.

If you notice, the sun shining on the light colored ground makes it very bright compared to the set and actors.  It gets pretty tricky when shooting.  What I did to counteract that was to darken the picture using the 'levels' tool, then enhance the lighting by decreasing the brightness.  The ground is still a bit bright, but much better than the beginning.

This is one of my favorite shots of Shamu.  The cloud of water around Shamu was produced with a fast shutter speed.  I had the camera set to burst mode so that I could hold the shutter down and let the camera fire off consecutive pictures.

I think I still have some room to improve on these pictures, so I really want to go back again soon.  We'll see what happens next time.

Finally, we get to the fireworks.  These were preceded by a concert by the Lackland Air Force band.  It was a great show and great fireworks afterward.  The structure in the background is the Steel Eel Roller Coaster.  This is well worth taking the family to see.

Until next time...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sleepy Time at the San Antonio Zoo

This is part 2 of 3 of my San Antonio vacation.  As a lot of you know, I really enjoy going to the zoo.  The unpredictability of the animals combined with the challenge of bright light and shade makes taking photos fun and challenging.

As the name implies, it seemed that the animals were in the middle of their morning naps when we came through.  The Cheetah, Lion, Tiger....
 ...And these things.  I'm no sure what they are, but I have never seen an animal sleep like that.  Also, the one in the front looks like it was really surprised.  lol

One thing that I liked about the zoo is that they have a great selection of animals that I have never seen in other zoos. 
I was shooting today with the Canon 100-400mm lens that I rented from  Again, I love the reach that I got with that lens.  The birds to your left were shot from about 8 or 9 feet away.  Their nest was in a tree, which is not a set up I have seen before at a zoo.  I really liked this guy with the orange head.  It was a nice contrast against his white feathers.
As this cat is showing, it's time to end this post.  A big mouth and sharp teeth sure get my attention. lol

In response to an article that I recently read in Shutterbug Magazine, I plan to take a trip out to the Dallas Zoo.  The point of the article was that the author who works at Zoo Miami photographs animals focusing on eye contact to connect with the animal.  I am going to take my time and wait for that moment.  I sure look forward to it.

 Until next time...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Back From Vacation

My wife and I went out of town last weekend down to San Antonio.  Vacations sure have a way of making you feel very worn out.  It has been about two weeks since my last blog, but I have a few lined up for this week.  Here is the first of 3 blogs from the vacation.

This is the hike I went on in Lower Purgatory Creek Park in San Marcos, TX.  This is about 30 miles north of San Antonio.  Aside from the blazing heat, this was a great 2 hours.  Lots of cacti, wild flowers and the best sky I have ever photographed.
I rented a 100-400mm lens with a 2x teleconverter for this weekend.  It was a great combination, but you'll see more of that later.

 With the telephoto lens combination that I rented, it is hard to shoot landscapes, so my plan was to hike in with the telephoto in hopes of seeing some wildlife and hike out with a smaller lens for landscapes. 

As I said earlier, there was lots of cacti out there.  I have to admit that in all the time I've lived in Texas, I have never seen this many cacti.  Also, cacti is a fun word to say.  lol
This is a photo that I took as I was passing out from the heat.  Just kidding, I thought this would be a nice low angle photo.  The blue sky with clouds was fantastic. 

Also, I'm a fan of Georgian Architecture which emphasizes symmetry, so the flowers, trees and tall grass on either side of the walkway works very well.

I think I will try this in black and white later.

Here is the telephoto part of the fun.  The 2x teleconverter does just what it sounds like.  It doubles the focal length of the lens it is attached to.  So, the lens went from a 100-400 to a 200-800.

There are pros and cons to this set up.  The biggest pro is that this is a much cheaper way to get out to 800mm.  A true 800mm lens runs about $8,000.  This combination is less than $2000.  However, the con is that the teleconverter also doubles the aperture of the lens and because of this, you lose the ability to auto focus.  It definitely is not impossible, but it does make it a bit tougher.  It takes a fair bit of practice.


The bird on the left, I'm guessing, is a Blue Heron.  If anyone knows more about this, I would appreciate a positive ID.  This little guy tested my patience.  I wanted to get a picture of him in flight.  He was really not interested in flying.  I waited for about 30 minutes and caught me off guard.  lol  I got some decent shots, but nothing to write home about.  I decided it was a little too hot to wait for him to fly again.

The bird on the right, I have no idea what it was.  Once again, an ID would be great.  This is a great example of the power of this lens combination.  I can' even imagine how high in the air this bird was, but it had to be at least 6 or 7 stories up.  This is cropped a little in PhotoShop, but not much.  The nice part about this bird is that even though it was so high up, it tended to glide which made it easier to follow and focus.  EASIER, not EASY.  lol  This picture is not the best, focus-wise, but you can see a lot of detail in the feathers, which I really liked.

All in all, I think this was a pretty good test of the lens.  I plan to buy this combination for Christmas, so it was nice to rent it and test it out first.  For those of you who may want to take a look at it, check it out at  Shipping both directions is free, so you really can't beat that.

That's the end of my hike.  You can check out more pictures on my facebook page

Until next time...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

112 MPH Panning

Today was a pretty fun day.  I went out to a drag strip to watch some friends race their mustangs.  This is my first experience with drag racing and it was pretty exciting.  When I was invited, I was pretty excited to try out a technique referred to as panning.  The concept of panning refers to me moving the camera to follow a moving subject, in this case the cars.  By doing this, the cars stay in focus and everything stationary blurs.  It's kind of the opposite of your normal moving photography.

Here are the three muscle cars that I was photographing today.  The red one belongs to my friend Brent.

There were a lot of horses under the hood and the red white and blue kind of lent itself to the term "American Muscle".
 This is Brent doing his burn out.  Fast shutter speed here, both for the stopped action and the bright sun that was out today.  For once, I was kind of excited to have so much sun out.  With fast cars, I was going to need a fast shutter speed.  As you'll see below, it came in handy.
As you can see with these two pictures, the panning causes the moving cars to be in focus while everything behind them blurs.  The power of these cars was amazing as you can see by them raising up as they came off the line.

So, this was a fun experience.  By far, these are the fastest things I've photographed.  I've been wanting to try out panning and I think I did pretty well for my first time.  There is another technique that I want to try out soon.  As soon as I get it done, I'll put it up here and show ya'll.

Until next time...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Longhorn Sunrise

This is a spot that I have been wanting to shoot for some time.  My friend Jill came out with me this past Sunday to stretch our trigger fingers.  The first thing I noticed is that East was completely NOT the direction I thought it was!  The last time I was at this spot, I forgot to check which direction east was, so I looked at my pictures to see which direction the shadows were facing.  I also discovered that there was a HUGE overhead light that was probably causing the shadow.  lol  Oh well.  You roll with the punches and get shooting.

So with the different point of view, I had to change my composition.  I pondered for a couple of months on how I would compose the pictures towards where I though east was.  The funny thing is that with my new east, the composition seemed to just hit me.  I like what I got and here it is.

This is my new east direction.  The cowboy watching over his herd.  The color in the sky was great, but it sure didn't last long.  I would estimate it was there for about 10 minutes before the sky went blue.

 Here's the herd.  I thought this would be the best picture for black and white.  I just wish I had a fan blowing up some dust for special effects.  These statues are located in Pioneer Plaza in downtown Dallas near the convention center.

These are my two favorite shots.
  I like the composition of the water and greenery in the foreground and the cattle in the background.  I think the picture on the right is one of my favorite shots in awhile.

Thank you for your continued viewership.  I am currently working on a website for MarcusDavisPhotography and lining up some portrait sessions of friends to get some practice shooting people and building that aspect of my portfolio.  If you need some photos made, let me know.

Until next time...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sons and Daughters of Scotland

My wife and I went out to the North Texas Scottish Festival today, at the University of Texas - Arlington.  We spent about 3 hours out there before the heat began to take its toll.  It runs through 6pm Sunday the 6th and I highly recommend checking it out.  There is a great combination of bands, dancing, shopping, eating and my favorite, the Highland Games. 

 I don't care what people say.  I think bagpipes sound great.  The combination of the pipes and drums can not be beaten.  I also think that there is nothing more Scottish than this sound.

What I was looking for in the picture below was to show the movement of the mallets of the drummer in the foreground.  The movement was amazing.  He is very good at his craft.

The picture at the left of the fiddler is a band that came on stage as we were watching some of the games.  The fiddler was quite good and really got into the show.  We really enjoyed the couple of songs that we heard them play.

There was a lot of good food there.  I personally had a meat pie, which is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and is similar to a chicken pot pie.  It is stuffed with spiced ground meat and some onions.  It is very light and very delicious.  My wife had shepherds pie, which is similar to what I had, but hers was topped with mashed potatoes.  There was also Scottish and Irish Stew and lots of Scottish inspired beers.

The Highland Games are what I really wanted to see.  These consisted of the Hammer Throw, the Caber Toss, a Kettle Bell Toss and an event similar to the shot put, but with a large stone.  Throughout the weekend, there were going to be competitions for all age groups and this is very fun to watch.  The big photographic element here is a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  Luckily, it was bright and sunny out, so I could almost max out my shutter speed.

So that's it for today.  A fun day over all.  I got to see some culture, see some sport, eat some good food and of course, pull my camera out and shoot.  I hope you get to take some pictures of the "super moon" tonight (5/5/12).  It is supposed to be 14% larger than usual tonight.  Here is my shot.

Until next time...