Sunday, February 22, 2009

Moving Over to Wordpress

Hey, look over there. No, not over here, over there! Yeah, now you got it. I am moving to another blogging site -- Wordpress. Wordpress has many features that I really like that Blogspot does not offer, such as the ability to post much larger photos, a much more user-friendly interface, and more flexibility. I will keep this Blogspot post active (as an archive), simply because it contains a lot of stuff that I do not have time to duplicate. However, I will not be adding any new stuff to the Blogspot version of Roblogs; the Wordpress version of Roblogs is now my working blog site. Hope you like the new format. Here's the link to the Wordpress blog --
Roblogs on Wordpress

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Random Recent Pix

Hope you enjoy this short slideshow that includes random photos I recently took -- some at work, some at church, and some around the house. There's background music, so you may need to adjust the volume.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Up a Tree

So, my buddy Bob & me went camping out at my place in the woods (this happened several years ago when I owned 5 acres of land located in the middle of Davy Crockett National Forest in East Texas). We had a great time -- enjoying the great outdoors, hearing the wind whispering through the giant Loblolly pines, watching squirrels chase each other, listening to the birds, fishing in a natural pond, etc. But, all good things come to an end, and all too soon it was time to pack up and head back to the big city.

So we loaded up our sparse supplies and started hiking back to the car, which was parked about 2 miles away from the place where we were camping. As we walked, it stared getting darker and darker. Out in that vast forest, it gets very dark very quickly once the sun goes down. Soon, it was pitch black and we had to use flashlights to see the trail.

As we wandered along, we heard something trailing us. We figured it had to be some sort of animal. In fact, it sounded like there were probably at least 3 animals, and from the noise they were making, it sounded like it was probably large animals.

You have to remember, Bob & I are city boys. We don't know a lot about the woods, the wilderness, or anything related to nature. So, Bob really starts to panic.

"Rob, that's got to be a pack of wolves on our trail," Bob says, with genuine fear in his voice. "I know there's wolves in these woods, cause I remember overhearing the guy at the store in Apple Springs (the nearest town) talking about them. Man, we've got to climb a tree, and I mean quick. It's our only chance."

Well, one good thing about tramping through the woods, you don't have to search very long to find a good sturdy tree to climb. So, we quickly found a stout-looking oak with low hanging limbs and I led the way up the tree.

I vividly remember Bob pushing on my rump, speaking in a hoarse whisper: "Would you hurry it up, dude. The wolves are getting closer and I'm low enough for them to jump on."

Well, after a considerable amount of struggling, heaving and groaning, we got high enough up that tree so that we felt like we would be safe. The wolf pack was very close, making a lot of noise, and it felt good to be in a safe place, even if it meant we might have to spend a very uncomfortable night up a tree.

Soon, the moon shed some light through the canopy of the trees. Lo and behold, the wolf pack turned out to be nothing but one lone armadillo -- rooting around in the dry leaves foraging for food.

It's amazing how much noise one armadillo can make. Of course, when you're city boys wandering around way out in the woods on a dark night, every little sound is amplified.

Anyway, Bob & I just looked at each other and started laughing. "You big goofus, why did you freak out and panic like that?" I said to Bob as we started to descend from the tree. "Well, you thought it was a pack of wolves, just like I did," he answered. "Nah, I knew it was not wolves, I was just playing along to be a sport," I replied. "Yeah, sure. I know better. You're just a big greenhorn city slicker just like me and you were just as scared as I was." "Nah, not me. I'm telling you, I just climbed the tree because you were in such a big hurry."

And on and on we bantered back and forth until we made it to the safety of the car and started heading back to civilization. Anyway, those of you who have ever come across an armadillo foraging in the woods know how much noise those critters can make. So, please don't be too harsh in your judgment of a couple of city slickers who got treed by a harmless armadillo.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

New & (hopefully) Improved

I recently updated my online photo portfolio with several more recent pix. The portfolio now includes 101 pix, with samples to reflect various styles of photography -- weddings, portraits, sports, floral, candid, etc. PLEASE click on any photo in this post to get a closer view, then press backspace to return to the post. This post displays 5 of the photos from the portfolio, with some background info. A link to the full portfolio is included at the conclusion of the post. The photo above includes members of the cast and crew of "Lorna's Love Lost," a melodrama performed by Theatre San Jacinto College in the fall of 2008. In this post, I will include technical specs of the photos (just because I like this sort of info, and for the edification of any photographers who might view this blog). Tech specs for this pic: Nikon D700 & Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8 lens (shot at 30mm); ISO 500; available light (no flash); 250 shutter speed & 5.6 f-stop; manual mode.

The next pic is perhaps my favorite "Nature" photo. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time -- roaming around Tex & Earline's farm near Bellville, just looking for anything that might lend itself to be photographed. A newly-hatched little grasshopper (about the size of the tip of your little finger) just happened to hop onto a Marigold flower that was in the budding stage. Fortunately, I was rigged out for macro photography at the time, otherwise I would have missed the shot entirely. One thing I find interesting about this photo -- the juxtaposition of 2 opposite forces of nature: the Marigold bud (representing the positive, creative forces of nature; and the grasshopper, representing the negative, destructive forces of nature). Tech specs -- Nikon D70 & Phoenix 100mm Macro lens; ISO 400; aperture mode; 60 sutter speed & 22 f-stop; light provided by 2 sources: 1 SB600 Speedlight firing remotely off camera (behind and to the right of the insect), and light from the pop-up, built-in flash (which also acted as a trigger for the SB600). Light from the SB600 was modified by a small Lumniquest softbox.

The next pic is one of my favorite children photos (I've got thousands of them). The photo was simply a case of serendipity -- it was totally unplanned and candid. I was on a freelance assignment as the event photographer for the 25th anniversary celebration of a local pastor. I was darting from place to place, trying to get the best angles for chronicling the event. As I was walking through a hallway, I spied a young lady holding this precious little boy. I slammed on the brakes and said: "Would it be OK if I take a photo of him. He is just adorable." She said: "Sure, fine, go right ahead." This boy has what I believe is about the closest thing to a perfect complexion. For enhancement, in post-processing I added a vignette effect, and I also added a slight Gaussian blur mask, just to give it a touch of softness. TECH SPECS -- Nikon D700 & a Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens shooting at 85mm in manual mode; 100 shutter speed & f/4.5; ISO 5000; shooting available light (no flash).

The next photo was taken on the beach at Marco Island, Florida. I was on a freelance assignment as the event photographer for the fall convention of Wealth Masters International. It was the first time I've ever had to take a large group photo, and I'm here to tell you, it's no easy task. If you think it is, just try rounding up 250 people for a photo and you will see what I mean. I intentionally placed the group in this position for a planned effect. I wanted to capture not only the ocean, but also something of the surroundings -- the white sands, beach activities, the vibrant blue sky, plush resort facilities -- as a way of giving the group something to remember the area. TECH SPECS -- Nikon D700 & a Tamron 17-35mm f/2.8-4 lens shooting at 17mm in Program mode; 400 shutter speed & f/10; ISO 100; available light.

The final photo in this post features a student in San Jacinto College's firefighter technology program going through the paces during some rigorous training exercises. I had a blast on this photo assignment, even though I got soaking wet. This particular photo was winner of the 2007 National Council of Marketing & Public Relations Medallion Award in the Visual Arts-Color Photography category. Tech Specs -- Nikon D70 & a Nikon 18-135 DX f/3.5-5.6 lens shooting at 135mm in Program mode; 800 shutter speed & f/7.1; ISO 200; available light.

Here's the link to see the complete photo gallery --

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things That Go 'Boom' in the Night

On Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008, our church hosted a regular mid-week service, which was followed by a special family-oriented get-together in the activity center to usher in the 2009 new year. Regular members and lots of visitors enjoyed roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over open fires. Chili, chopped onions, pickle relish and other hot dog toppings were provided, along with soft drinks and deserts. Gym activities included basketball, volleyball, while children (ages 10 and under) enjoyed racing contests, and some of the adults faced off in some serious domino games (in the loft area above the gym). The event culminated with a spectacular fireworks show that got under way shortly before midnight. The photo above is one of the many I took during the fireworks show. (Please click on the photo to see some nice details, & then click the back arrow to return). Things got sort of out of hand about midway through the fireworks display whenever some stray sparks ignited a batch of the fireworks, which caused a large portion of the fireworks to explode on the ground, rather than high up in the air. High powered rockets began shooting off in all directions, causing folks in the crowd to quickly scatter and seek protection. Fortunately, nobody was injured during the mishap. Here's a link to a photo gallery I put together to chronicle the activities, which includes dramatic pix of the fireworks exploding on the ground --

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lost Maples -- a Texas hidden treasure

Lost Maples State Natural Area covers 2174.2 scenic acres in Bandera and Real Counties, north of Vanderpool on the Sabinal River. Acquired by purchase from private owners in 1973 -1974, the site was opened to the public on September 1, 1979. The annual visitation is approximately 200,000 visitors.

The park is an outstanding example of Edwards Plateau flora and fauna. It is a combinations of steep, rugged limestone canyons, springs, plateau grasslands, wooded slopes, and clear streams. It features a large, isolated stand of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maple, whose fall foliage can be spectacular. Generally, the foliage changes the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November. The park is extremely popular during the fall and is often crowded. Parking is limited to 250 cars, so for maximum enjoyment and serenity, we suggest visitors schedule trips during the weekdays, if possible.

Rare species of birds, such as the Green Kingfisher, can be seen year-round. The endangered Black-capped vireo and Golden-cheeked warbler nest and feed in the park in spring and early summer. Wild animals include gray fox, white-tailed deer, armadillo, raccoon, bobcat, rock squirrel, and javelina.

Lost Maples State Natural Area exists as a portal to Texas' primordial past where bigtooth maples and other relict species from the Ice Age have adapted to climate change over the ages and thrive in special riparian and woodland habitats of the Texas Hill Country.

The Sabinal River and its several tributaries have carved limestone canyons through the 2,200-acre park straddling Bandera and Real counties at the western fringes of the Edwards Plateau. Here, the canyons' moist, cool microclimates support a remarkable diversity of plant life found few other places in Texas.

The bigtooth maple tree ranks as the park's marquee species. In late autumn most years, the stands of old-growth maples set the canyons ablaze in a riot of red, orange and gold foliage, drawing upwards of 50,000 leaf-peepers to the state natural area. The western cousin of the eastern sugar maple retained a foothold in the Hill Country canyons after vast sheets of ice advanced southward across North America almost to present-day Texas, and then retreated. (For an explanation of the park's geological history and information about the bigtooth maple and other indigenous plant species, visit the exhibit hall in the park headquarters.)

The park is home to the state's largest known species of the bigtooth, also known as the Uvalde bigtooth maple and canyon maple. The 40-foot tall maple with a 45-foot crown spread stands at the head of the park's most popular trail, the .8-mile Maple Trail, just a few steps from the day-use area parking lot. However, to really appreciate this wondrous arboretum, visitors should park their vehicle and stroll the wooded canyon trails that traverse the upland canyons of the Sabinal River, as well as Can, Hale Hollow and Lane creeks.

But no matter the time of year, Lost Maples SNA - about an hour's drive southwest of Kerrville -- makes a worthwhile destination that will not disappoint. Visitors hoping to enjoy the park under less crowded conditions of late October and early November when the maples' color peaks should consider an early fall visit. Nights tend to cool off and during warm, sunny days, the waters of the Sabinal and spring-fed swimming holes prove tempting spots to take a soothing splash.

Almost 11 miles of well-marked trails lead to scenic overlooks, spring-fed ponds populated by Texas' state fish, the Guadalupe bass, prime birding habitat and 40 primitive backpack camping sites. Composting toilets near several backcountry campsites make the wilderness experience a bit more pleasant.

The Maple Trail provides the easiest access to the park's natural wonders, traversing mostly flat terrain through a moist, shaded Sabinal River canyon. Mature bigtooths share fertile canyon habitat with monstrous chinkapin and Lacey's oaks, Florida basswood, pecan, black willow, green ash and American sycamore. Boulders the size of a subcompact car sit in the middle of the river and at the base of soaring limestone cliffs.

Few people know the state natural area as well as park ranger Jesus Rubio, who grew up in nearby Leakey and has worked for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for 20 years. During a recent hike up the canyon, Rubio pointed out patches of green maidenhair fern and small openings in the canyon walls that leach moisture and cool air.

"You can walk into some of these canyons," Rubio says, "when it's 100 degrees up on the flats and immediately feel the drop in temperature. The maples are very adaptable and prolific.

"This place, for no more than the amount of acreage we have here, is a true showcase of natural beauty," Rubio says. "I'd like to think it's Nature at its best. There's always something to see that will capture your attention."

Because of the canyonlands' microclimate effect, the park contains numerous species of plants and animals of both eastern and western affinity, as well as rare species endemic to the Balcones Escarpment. Found here are the unusual Texas madrone tree, three kinds of buckeye, witch hazel (common in Mississippi), six different kinds of oaks, Texas mock orange and sycamore-leaf snowbell whose white clusters of flowers bloom in late September.

The park's birdlife reflects Lost Maples' location in the North America's central flyway, as well as its diversity of habitat that includes grasslands and scrublands; mixed evergreen and deciduous escarpment woodlands; and streamside woodlands. Birders from around the world visit the park to catch a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo, as well as specialty birds such as the green kingfisher and zone-tailed hawk.

Water-and-electric campsites are at a premium at Lost Maples SNA. The 30 campsites, which also feature in-ground barbecue pits and shaded picnic tables, book up 11 months in advance for the peak fall foliage period. Other times of the year, booking reservations early is recommended.

In keeping with Lost Maples' state natural area designation, the park has limited development and facilities. However, young and old alike can enjoy nature photography, hiking, camping, bird watching, backpacking, fishing and swimming.

The day use-only park entry fees for persons 13 and older are: $5 from December through September and $6 for October and November. Those staying overnight, pay a $3 entry fee. Hike-in campsites are $8 a night and water-electric sites are $15.

Other things to do while visiting the canyon country near Lost Maples State Natural Area include: tour the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum (open Friday-Sunday); drive scenic FM 337 between Vanderpool and Medina and stop at overlooks; visit the Love Creek Cider Mill Store in Medina; eat at the Lost Maples Café in Utopia; and stop at Bandera County's more than 20 wildlife viewing sites along the western branch of the Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail.

Lost Maples State Natural Area is located about an hour's drive southwest of Kerrville and five miles north of Vanderpool on Ranch Road 187. It is one of 112 state parks that make up the Texas State Park system. For more information about the park visit the Lost Maples State Natural Area web site --
Lost Maples

Hill Country Scenes

Here's a slideshow of some photos I took while hiking around recently at Lost Maples State Natural Area, located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. It's a great place to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and quiet and natural, rugged beauty. Here's the link to see a photo gallery that includes more Texas Hill Country photos --
Hill Country

Friday, November 28, 2008

Downtown Houston

Hope you enjoy this slideshow of the dynamic Downtown Houston skyline. Some of the featured buildings are One Shell Plaza, the Conoco Tower, the Bank of America Tower, the Texaco Tower, and City Hall. Most of the panoramic pix of the skyline were taken from the Sabine Street bridge. Here's the link to a photo gallery of these and other skyline pix --

Friday, November 7, 2008

What is it?

Abstract art (noun) -- def. Art that does not attempt to represent external, recognizable reality but seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, forms, colors, and textures.

Walked past an abstract steel sculpture in a park near Downtown Houston, and I noticed that as I looked at the object from different perspectives it called different things to my mind, which is probably what the artist had in mind when he created the work. For example, in the first photo the object resembles a large pistol, or perhaps a rifle being aimed toward the sky. (At least that's what it resembles to me. It may look like something entirely different to you).

To me, the second photo resembles Gumby, the bendable little toy that's been around since the 1950s.

The third photo resembles a rocket ship that's about to blast off from the earth.

The fourth photo (to me) looks sort of like a big dog sitting on its haunches with his nose pointing up in the air.

The fifth photo (to me) sort of resembles a pterodactyl, one of those very odd flying dinosaurs. Speaking of the word "pterodactyl," bet you that's one word that eliminates a lot of contestants in spelling bees around the world.

In the sixth and final photo of this post, there is a person jogging on the trail near the steel sculpture.

There are parallels between the artwork and the human. In some ways a human is sort of like an abstract work of art.

We are ever changing. We can be many things to many different people, manifesting all sorts of traits that depend on what perspective others use when they examine us.

I continually discover different qualities and characteristics in people around me and it all depends on my own perspective.

So, I'm calling an end to this little dive into art appreciation and philosophical rambling because all of this heavy thinking is giving me a headache.

Happy trails to you, until we meet again!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

World of Color

Hope you enjoy this slideshow of some of my butterfly and floral photos. Background music: "Romance Dance" by Govi.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First Real Fish

One of the most vivid memories of my youth was the time I caught my very first big fish.

Must have been about 8 and in the third grade. Went with Dad to a small pond located somewhere near Tomball, which was sure enough out in the country in those days.

We were not having any luck catching anything. Couldn't even get the small perch to bite. I was at that stage when I was just learning how to cast with a rod and reel. I asked Dad if I could borrow his nice Shakespeare rig and practice casting. He said: "Well, since I'm not having any luck, sure go ahead. I'll walk down the shoreline a way with a cane pole and see if I can at least catch some perch."

So, he put a heavy "Devil's Horse" topwater lure on the line of the rod and reel and gave me a few pointers on how to cast it at a distance and how to tug on the line in such a way as to make the lure mimic a small swimming fish.

I remember how fun it was just to watch the wriggling action of the lure as I gently tugged on the line.

I told Dad I would not know what to do if a big bass were to strike because I'd never caught anything larger than a perch.

As Dad walked away he said: "There's not much chance of you catching anything right now because it's about noon and it's hot and bass generally are not feeding at this time of day. So, you don't have to worry about a big bass striking. It will be good practice for you to work on casting."

After practicing on casting for a while I began to get tired of it and had decided to forget about fishing and instead to go find a good place to go swimming.

So, I was reeling the lure back toward the shore, just watching one last time at how the Devil's Horse looked like a real fish swimming along the surface of the water.

Then, all of a sudden something happened that scared the daylights out of me. The lure was only about 6 yards away from the bank, and there was a loud splash as a very large bass attacked the lure and jumped high out of the water.

I was so shocked and surprised that I completely forgot about the rod and reel, which popped right out of my hands.

Fortunately, Dad was returning and saw what was happening. He had enough presence of mind to jump down the bank and grab the rod & reel just before it disappeared into the water.

He handed the rod to me. "Here. You caught him, so it's up to you to bring him in."

I had heard stories about how a large mouth bass can really put up a fight, and I'm here to tell you, those stories are not just "fish tales." That fish literally dragged me into the water. But I stood my ground and landed him, even if it was in the shallow, muddy water. By the time I grabbed him by the lower lip, Dad had a bass net and he jumped in the water and worked the bass into the net.

He was really proud of me, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

When we got home, Mom prepared the fish by lightly dusting it with a corn meal mixture, and she then pan fried it. I've never tasted better fish in my life.

Also, I've caught quite a few fish since then, but I've never quite captured the magic and thrill of the time I caught my very first "real" fish.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wedding Photography

It's been a while since I included a slideshow in a post. Here's an audio slideshow of a wedding that I photographed some time ago. The wedding was the joyful union of Jeff Lopez and Terry Shirley, two very special and talented people. If I enjoyed photographing every wedding as much as I enjoyed photographing theirs, then I would gladly be a full-time wedding photographer. The slideshow includes music, so you may need to adjust your volume.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Austin Showcase

The city of Austin is one of the many great places to visit in the great state of Texas. It's a growing metropolitan city, and yet there are places within the city limits that retain the natural beauty of the Central Texas Hill Country.

The photo above, which I took during a recent vist, shows Downtown Austin reflected in Town Lake.

One must-see place in Austin is The Oasis restaurant, which is considered the "Sundown Capital" of Texas. Time your visit to The Oasis so you can see a sunset, and you will see why the place has the nickname. The sun setting over the lake is one of the most glorious natural wonders you will ever witness. Be sure to take a good camera (not a cellphone camera or a cheapie point-&-shoot), because you will want to take sunset pix.

Another must-see place is the State Capitol building. On most days, the Capitol building is open to the public at no charge and you can freely roam around outside and inside. The Rotunda has some very stunning architecture, both inside and outside.

Also, climb to the top of Mount Bonnell and enjoy a panoramic view of Lake Austin and the nearby upscale neighborhoods. From the summit, you will also be able to view the downtown area and the UT Tower. There are nice, sturdy stone steps leading up to the summit, which make the climb relatively easy. And the views you will see when you reach the top make the effort worthwhile. The photo above is a sample of the panoramic views you can see. Mouse over the photo and click for a closer view.

Please click on the link below if you want to see an Austin photo gallery that I recently created.

Austin Scenes

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cotton Pickin'

Sandy & I recently went to see Memom & Pawpaw Tex (her parents), who live on a farm near Bellville. During our visit we got to see something that a lot of city folks don't have a chance to see -- cotton harvesting.

The top photo shows the harvester (which you could call a Cotton Pickin' Machine). You can click on the photo for a closer view (then press backspace to return to the post). Notice the 8 silver-colored arms in the tractor front (just below the driver). Those act like powerful vacuum cleaners and they neatly whisk the ripe cotton right off of the plant stalks, and then the cotton is quickly blown into a large storage bin behind the driver.

The next photo shows the harvester driving down rows of cotton, harvesting thousands of cotton bolls from 4 rows at a time. If you look carefully, you will notice that the harvester driver is talking on a cell phone.

Whenever the harvester gets a load full of cotton, the driver hauls the load over to the processing area. Once there, the harvester driver dumps the load of cotton into a huge steel-framed compressor bin and another worker begins to tightly pack down the cotton in the bin using a powerful hydraulic compressor. The photos show the driver off-loading the cotton into the steel-framed bin, and then the hydraulic device tamping down the cotton inside the steel casing. You really have to click on the smaller photos and access the larger photos to get a better view of the operation.

When the compressor operator cannot pack any more cotton into the steel case, then the sides of the case are loosened and a tractor moves the large bin to a new location so that the filling and compressing process can start all over again, as illustrated by the photo at left. Tex stated that one large block of the tightly compacted cotton is the equivalent of about 16 standard bales of cotton. The large blocks of compacted cotton are loaded onto big trucks to be hauled away for the wonderful transformation into cotton clothing (the "fabric of our lives" as the advertising slogan so aptly describes it).

The next photo shows some of the very straight rows of cotton as the fluffy stuff ripens in the sun and awaits the harvesting process. And the subsequent photo provides a close-up view of a cotton boll. As we watched the workers harvesting and compressing the cotton, Sandy and I would sing snatches of the familiar song that was a Credence Clearwater Revival hit a few years back:
"When I was a little bitty baby my momma would rock me in the cradle, in them old cotton fields back home.
"It was down in Louisiana, just a half a mile from Texarkana, in them old cotton fields back home.
"Now when them cotton bolls get rotten, you can't pick very much cotton, in them old cotton fields back home.
"It was down in Louisiana, just a half a mile from Texarkana, in them old cotton fields back home."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nikon D700

I recently purchased a Nikon D700, the first truly "pro level" camera I have ever owned. The camera is somewhat on the pricey side, however it is loaded with great features and is already receiving some of the most positive reviews ever awarded to any digital SLR. My main reason for wanting the camera is the way it can take very clean photos with little or no digital noise, shooting available light (no flash) at very high ISO settings (2500 and above). This will be very useful because at work I shoot indoor photography in which using a flash is either prohibited or would be very distracting -- basketball & volleyball games, theatrical performances, etc.

In this post I will include some of the first pix I've taken with the new D700 to demonstrate the versatility of the camera. I will include some technical info and provide some background just because I find such info interesting. If the technical info bores you, then skip it and just enjoy the photos. You can see a larger version of any photo by simply mousing over it and clicking it, then press the "back" button to return to the post.

This first photo was taken at 6400 ISO shooting available light (no flash) with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. The shooting mode was set to Aperture priority and the f/stop was set at 7.1, which produced a shutter speed of 1/125. Notice how the photo is "clean," meaning it has minimal digital noise. This photo has about the same level of digital noise as most other digital cameras produce shooting at about 800 or 1250 ISO. Those who keep up with digital camera technical developments know that such an accomplishment is nothing short of revolutionary.

The next three photos were taken in our Marketing office at work. The three photography nuts, myself, Aaron and Kyle, put together a portable backdrop (light gray, seamless paper). We used a three-light wireless flash setup, to wit -- the primary light was a Nikon SB600 firing into one black-backed silver reflective umbrella. The hairlight behind the backdrop was an SB800 firing through a "homemade" gridspot (fashioned by Rob). The secondary (fill) light was an SB800 equipped with a colored gel filter and firing through a "homemade" snoot (fashioned by Rob, the original "Do-it-Yourself" cheapskate). We did this exercise for several reasons -- to learn how to use some of the new equipment we recently ordered, and to experiment with different lighting effects, and to experiment with different blur-action special effects. We used the D700 coupled with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Another thing I really like about the D700 is that the camera is "full frame," which means that the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 (one of my favorite lenses) is now much more useful. With a D70 (my other Nikon camera) the 50mm lens is actually a 75mm lens, due to the 1.5 crop factor, which means the 50mm is not really a medium focal range general purpose lens, but rather a short telephoto lens. With the D700, the 50mm is now a true 50mm and is ideal for general purpose and everyday photography.

No noise
The next photo is taken of Kyle, shown "slaving away" at work. I shot this photo availabe light (no flash) at ISO 5000 with the in-camera High ISO Noise Reduction option set to the High level. The lens was a Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8. The f/stop was set at 5.6 and the shutter speed was set to 1/100. Even when you take a close-up view of the photo you will notice a very low level of noise. I made an 8x10 print of the photo with our color laser printer at work and was amazed at the detail and minimal amount of noise.

Here's another high ISO photo taken at the Cockrell Butterfly Center, one of my favorite places for photography. Technical specs -- D700 coupled with a Tamron 70-200m f/2.8 lens (outstanding glass just recently released); ISO 5000; aperture set at f/16; shutter speed set at 1/400. I shot the photo hand-held, using available light with no flash. Being able to shoot at ISO 5000 enabled me to crank up the aperture to allow a greater depth of field. It also enabled me to crank up the shutter speed so that the action could be better "frozen." I made an 8x10 print of the photo with our color laser printer at work and was once again amazed at the detail and minimal amount of noise. The bottom line is that I simply would not be able to get this particular photo with any other camera because of ISO limitations.

Here's an action shot to demonstrate focus tracking of fast-moving subjects. Like the high-end D3, the D700 features the Expeed image processor, which provides 51-point 3D tracking to provide responsive coverage of fast action. This photo is one in a series of pix shot in the Contiuous "busrt" mode at 5 frames per second with the AF selector set in the Dynamic mode and the Continuous Focus mode (designed for sports). Specs -- ISO set to 320, matrix metering, shooting in Program mode (the camera chose an f-stop of 9 and a shutter speed of 1/320). The lens used is a Phoenix 100mm f/3.5.

Skin tones
I included the final photo (below) of this little essay to demonstrate how the D700 handles skin tones. Technical stuff -- Sigma 24-60mm f/2.8 lens; 5.6 f/stop; shutter speed of 1/60; ISO set at 320. I used a Nikon SB600 Speedlight with a Joe Demb bounce-type flash diffuser. This is a photo of 3 students at a San Jacinto College cosmetology event. The camera is set at the default saturation level of "Standard" and there was no post-processing. You can click on the photo for a closer view and notice in particular how natural looking the skin tones are of all three subjects. All in all, I'm very pleased with the initial results from the D700 and it's fun to experiment and learn what all can be accomplished with this very versatile and responsive camera.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crossroads in Concert

These photos show Crossroads performing live in a recent concert. The band is very versatile, performing a wide range of soft rock and classic rock songs, mostly from the 1960s and 1970s. They hired me (freelance) to take pix and to put together a photo collage. The collage is the final photo in the slideshow.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Hope you enjoy this tapestry of landscape, plants and animal photos I have taken during some of my ramblings. I try to have a camera handy at all times, because there are always so many beautiful and wondrous images to capture in God's great big wonderful world.

Firefighters in Action

Here's a slideshow of San Jacinto College Fire Technology cadets during "wet" training. They work in teams to attempt to bring a runaway high-pressure hose under control. The hose has the metal nozzle removed to avoid causing injuries. Got soaking wet taking the pix, but I also had a great time. They hoisted me up in a snorkel ladder bucket for the aerial shots.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Firefighters in Action (Part 2)

Recently took photos of San Jacinto College fire protection technology students training at the La Porte VFD training complex. They have to wear hot, heavy protective gear and train inside fiery buildings. (The buildings are specially designed to take the heat without damage). I have a lot of respect and admiration for anyone dedicated enough to go through such strenuous and demanding training.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mikey & Ian

Recently set up a home studio for a photo session of my niece Mikey and her boyfriend Ian. Pix include individual portraits of Ian, followed by portraits of Mikey, and then followed by photos of the 2 together, and then concluding with some carefree, candid photos of Mikey. The slideshow includes background music, so you may need to adjust your volume.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New & Improved

The Central Library in Downtown Houston recently reopened after an extensive renovation project. The library got an extreme makeover and thorough upgrading, featuring new computers, drastic changes in design and services and other changes. Click on the link below to view a photo gallery that showcases some of the changes.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Texas Scenes

Hope you enjoy this slideshow of pix I've taken in my ramblings around the Texas countryside. The slideshow was created in iPhotos, then uploaded to Photobucket, and then embedded into Blogger. There's background music, so you may need to adjust the volume.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What is it?

What is in the photo? Can you tell at first glance?

If you guessed a cell phone, then you would be correct. It is a dis-assembled cell phone and it's placed inside of a sealed jar of rice.


Let me explain.

Like most women, my wife Sandy loves her cell phone and she keeps it with her at all times. During a recent heavy thunderstorm, she rushed from the car to her office and in the process did not realize she had dropped her phone right beside her car in the parking lot.

The phone stayed in the parking lot for a couple of hours, getting fairly wet from the rain. For a while it was dead. Then after the phone began to dry out, the service began to return, sporadic at first and then a little better over time. But some features, such as the phone's ring tone, were not working.

She told her sister Janeen about dropping the phone and how it got wet. Janeen told her that sealing the phone with rice was supposed to help in the drying-out process. So, that's the way the phone came to be sealed up in a jar of rice.

And after an overnight stay in the Rice Hotel, her phone was back to normal with all features working. So, if you ever get your cell phone wet, I recommend trying the rice treatment.

I cooked and ate the rice used to dry out Sandy's cell phone and was amazed at the distinctly flavorful taste. I think it was caused by all the spicy gossip the rice absorbed during the drying-out process.