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...