Archive for March, 2012

Hail!

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Hail! 30mm, f/10, 1/40s, ISO 100

Writing from the friendly skies between Austin and Seattle…

We’ve been getting a lot of rain in Austin lately, which is a huge blessing! I worked from home today and shortly before noon the skies let loose with some hail. Despite the risk of damage to cars, roofs, and whatever else, it’s always fun to have a hailstorm. This one was good. Most of the hail was about marble-sized but for about 30 seconds we got some that was nearly the size of golf balls. It was quite entertaining to watch the large ones sky off the trampoline.

Of course I got the camera out. I realize the scenery isn’t all that interesting but the hail is IMO. You can see hail from the sky (falling right-to-left), from the roof (left-to-right), and bouncing helter-skelter off the trampoline. Using ISO 100 and playing with shutter speed and aperture I attempted to capture streaks of hail stones as opposed to freezing them (no pun intended) in time. While it would’ve been fun to play with a flash and stop the motion, I needed to get back to the job which pays the bills.

One final note: This hail came down at about 11:30am-ish and when my daughter and I left the house at 3:40pm there was still ice in the yard despite the fact that (1) it was March and (2) it had rained all day. It was amazing how much ice came out of the sky.


Textured Flower

Textured Flower

I’ve been experimenting with textures recently.  I’ve seen so many good images using textures and I generally like the effects.  Here’s my latest attempt using a picture of a flower growing in my backyard a couple of years back.  The textures are all courtesy of Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations (check his stuff out — lots of great textures).

I used three textures as follows: “Notaclue-1” in soft light blend mode (100% opacity), “In The Beginning 8-1-2009 #29” in overlay blend mode (36% opacity), and “Retro” in overlay blend mode (30% opacity).  All three texture layers were tweaked for color (mainly some desaturation) and had light masking in the area of the actual flower itself.  Finally, a slight s-curve was added in luminosity blend mode (50%) — slight masking of the flower again.

Think it looks OK?

[Update: Jerry Jones, if you ever happen across this know that I attempted to comment on your site and give you kudos but the robot prevention code thingy always said I entered the wrong letters…which I know isn’t the case.]


Debussy…Practice Makes Perfect

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Practice, practice, practice 95mm, f/2.8, 1/400s, ISO 3200

I recently posted this on Google+ but thought I’d share it here too.

It seems like the piano goes 24/7 in the house, which is a good thing when the music is Debussy, Beethoven Sonatas, incredible arrangements of the Pirates theme, beautifully improvised hymns, etc. Sometimes “The Little Indian Song” can wear on you though (a couple young ones are just starting out) 🙂

Having our own regrets about quitting music lessons and hearing so many others express those same regrets, we’ve always “made” our kids take piano lessons until they were 18 under pain of death and all that (for the record it’s never been a real problem to keep them going). They could learn other instruments too but piano was a must. Without exception our children (age 24 and down) have expressed great gratitude for our rigidness in this. I don’t believe any child actually kept up with lessons until age 18 but that was because proficiency, rather than an arbitrary timeframe, was our goal. All were quite good before age 18 and a couple even played in UT’s Bates Recital Hall. The daughter pictured here requested on her own to start lessons again even after we said she could be done — she enjoys it.


Happy (Belated) Independence Day

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Texas Capitol at Night 65mm, f/22, 1/8s, ISO 400

When we told my sister-in-law — twenty-two-ish years ago — that we were moving to Texas the first thing out of her mouth was, “Oh great, now your kids are going to have big heads!”.  Turns out she was right as most of us pretty much love living in Texas.  Truth be told, we would be happy living anywhere since life is more about the people around you than the place itself.  In fact, not many years ago we passed on an opportunity to move the family to a place my wife had always dreamed of living.  Her words: “This [Austin] is home now.”  The pride of Texans is manifest in many ways.  First, I’ve never been to a state where the state flag flies as much as it does here.  People sport “Native Texan” tattoos and bumper stickers.  Some transplants (not me) display bumper stickers which say “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as quick as I could”.

So, March 2nd was Texas Independence Day and I really didn’t plan on posting anything.  However, in the wee hours of this morning — wide awake after a 2 am run to Walgreens for chicken pox relief potions for my son — I found some unprocessed pictures like the one above that I had taken on the way back to my truck after a recent photowalk on the University of Texas campus.

Some brief tidbits: Six national flags have flown over Texas (the origin of the “Six Flags” amusement park name).  They were the Spanish, French, Mexican, Republic of Texas, Confederate, and now the US flag.

Texas is a huge state in land area — far larger than California which is the next largest in the lower 48.  My big Texas head is not so large that I don’t get a good laugh at an Alaskan saying, “We were going to divide Alaska into two states but we didn’t want to make Texas the third largest”.  That’s a pretty good put-down for too-proud Texans IMO 🙂

Texas also has very distinct geographical areas.  When we lived in Illinois we constantly saw TV ads which used a slogan along the lines of “Texas — It’s like a whole other country.”  Frankly, it’s true in many ways.  We grew up equating Texas with tumbleweeds but I probably lived in Texas 15 years before I ever saw one.  The regions range from plains in the north to hill country in the middle to plains and river valleys in the south.  There are piney forests in the east to mountains in the west.  The coastal plains with their fertile black soil are pretty much like the fields in Illinois.

I think we’ll stay a while.