Dark morning in Austin

I don't get out and shoot enough in Austin, mostly because I get busy with other things and of course am gone at times, traveling for work and photographing some far-flung spot.  But when I do get a little free time to shoot here, I often head over to the Loop 360 Bridge.  It's close to home and one of my favorite places in Austin.  It's just so photogenic. 

On the morning that I shot this one, the clouds were rolling through (barely any rain, though!) and it kept looking like a storm was a-comin'.  Anyways, the bridge is out of frame to the left.  I love this twisted tree and the nice bend of the river in the distance.


Night falls on Austin

Taken on my recent photowalk in downtown Austin with all my Flickr buddies...had a great time.  It is hard to beat taking photos, talking with great people about photography, and a beautiful evening.  We wandered around the edge of the lake (technically the Colorado River) for a bit and snapped a few.  I also did this same scene in HDR, but feel like it didn't give me any benefits over this version, which is a single 5 second exposure at f/5.6.  Sometimes the simple approach is the best, at least for me. 

Dawn breaks in Austin

As I have mentioned previously, I really enjoy looking at the Austin skyline.  Whenever I get a chance to go shoot, I find I am often drawn to downtown and am looking for a different view of the skyline.  In this case, it was reasonably early on a winter morning, and the sun was starting its ascent.  I wound up down on the Hike and Bike Trail around Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake to some; the Colorado River to a few) and walked around until I came to Lou Neff Point.  There is a gazebo there, where I am sure folks sit and enjoy the view when it is a little warmer out.  In this case, I was completely alone, except for all the ducks, which scattered as I approached (you can see some of them in the distance out on the lake).  From the gazebo the shot was slightly blocked due to some trees, so I did what any resourceful person would do and climbed around behind the thing, down to the lake.  There is a small patch of ground there which must have been created just for photographers - it was the right size for me and the tripod.

This image is a 7 exposure HDR, shot at f/11 in the early morning light, with the exposures ranging from -3 to +3.  I merged the exposures in Photomatix, which is a great product by the way, and then made some adjustments in PSE and a light polish at the end in Topaz Adjust.  I experimented with a couple of different looks in this shot.  The first showed a lot more detail in the buildings, etc, but then I changed the contrast a bit and decided I preferred this version, which sort of produced a skyline silhouette of sorts.  Hope you like it!

A happy accident

I have really gotten to love the Austin skyline, as you can probably tell from my various shots of it.  It continues to change, which is fine, and grow, which is also fine, but I still enjoy it.  I am sure that is because I live here, and look at it all the time, and photograph it a lot - but I like to think it is because it is beautiful.  It seems to have its own uniqueness to it.  As you may know, the town motto of Austin is "Keep Austin Weird" which I keep thinking will make its way into the skyline somehow.  I am looking forward to the day when the cranes are gone, so I can get a "clean" shot or two of the skyline.  Who knows when that will be though.

This is a 3 exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0) shot at f/6.3 and ISO 100.  The exposures were 4.5 seconds, 8 seconds, and 18 seconds.  I suspect I should have taken a couple of more shots, but felt like I had enough to work with here and it was already about 9pm.  On my camera, the shots looked ok but not stellar.  After I got home and started processing them, I was pleasantly surprised with how they came out.  It seemed like all the buildings had lights on in just the right places - or at least enough places to make it interesting.  That brings up another thing about our skyline - all the color.  Perhaps this is part of a master plan, or just some happy accident but regardless I think it adds some distinction, beauty and interestingness to the view.  I hope you enjoy the photo as much as I enjoy taking them.

A time to reflect

With 2009 drawing to a close, we all look back upon what has transpired over the last 12 months.  Hopefully you have had a productive and exciting year, full of more of the things you want to do than the opposite.  Looking forward, I wish you a happy, healthy and productive 2010.

My 2009 was fun, interesting, productive, and exciting.  I officially launched this website, which has been great fun, and got serious about my photography.  I am focused on learning as much as I can, and experimenting with different things so as to stretch my range and myself.  The more I learn, the more I realize that I have much more to learn.  I guess it is always that way.  But then again, if you stop learning, you are basically dead anyways.  So, here's to learning more in 2010!

I have written several goals for my photography for the new year, most of which I will spare you having to read about.  But, here are a few of them:

* Quality, not quantity - since I started on Flickr earlier this year, and then launched this website, one of my initial goals was to post a new image every day.  I didn't exactly succeed, but that's ok since I am not getting graded (am I?).  This year though I want to focus on posting what I consider a quality image.  I felt like some of my posts in 2009 were not great shots, and I posted despite that fact because I was trying to get something posted.  In 2010 I intend to focus on producing high quality images and posting them when they are ready.  So, I envision about 4 posts a week, or something like that.

* Focus on the composition - as I mention above, learning about photography is important to me since I want to continue to improve, and composition is a basic element.  I feel like some of my comps are good, some are great, and some are just fair.  I intend to experiment and try things so as to focus (no pun intended) on getting good comps and interesting ones too.

* Slow down - sometimes I get in a hurry while setting up for a shot (doesn't everyone get a little excited now and then?) and either don't check all my camera settings, or miss an important element to the shot that I should have included.  Unless the situation prevents it, I plan to slow down, breathe, and plan my shots this year with the goal of getting it right the first time.

Well, that about covers it.  I hope your 2009 was a wonderful year, and that you experience much health, happiness and prosperity in 2010.

By the way, this was taken under the Lamar Street bridge in Austin (the same bridge from my last post), a few minutes before that last shot.  It is a 5 shot HDR (-3, -2, -1, 0, +1, +2) taken at f/13.  It was combined in Photomatix, then adjusted in PSE (Curves, Contrast) and Topaz Adjust.  Thanks for visiting! 

Austin winter night

The skyline here in Austin is ever-changing.  It seems every time I look, there is a new project getting started.  We have been fortunate that although the economic climate did slow down some things here, the worst of it seems to have passed over us.  The city has continued to grow and prosper, which is both a good thing and a challenging one.  Future growth projections for this area are still strong.  But, at the root of it all, Austin is still a cool, laid-back, hippie sort of town - and that is a wonderful thing.

The project underway that you see on the left (with the 2 cranes) is the W Hotel and Residences, which will also host a new stage for the long-running music show Austin City Limits.  The other project, which literally towers over the rest of town, is The Austonian.  It is nearly complete and will be the largest residential development in Texas (and probably other states too!).  It is a beautiful building.  I am looking forward to these both being finished, so that I can come back and get a shot of the skyline of Austin without any cranes in it.   

This was a 4 exposure HDR (-2, -1, 0, +1), shot at f/6.3.  The exposures were 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, and 28 seconds.  After those 4 it seemed I had enough light to work with.  One of my goals for 2010 regarding my photography is to improve my HDR processing skills, and in particular to ensure that my nighttime HDR shots come out well.  I feel like this shot is a good step in the right direction.

Bridge work

This is the North side of the Lamar Pedestrian bridge (does it have an official name?) that crosses over the lake/river in downtown Austin.  I had a little time to spare, and a camera, and nice weather - so basically I checked out of the natural world for a while.  I am sure all photographers get like that - you get all into the camera and figuring out your settings, and into the scene and what you want to capture and how, and of course focused on the whole experience and what you are doing, then the next thing you know an hour has flown by and you are about to miss something you had scheduled.  You do that too, right?  Ok good.

In this case, I lined up and planned my shot, checking it out from various angles and all that, then finally decided on this one.  Then, I fired off 7 shots in this case (I don't always do that, usually just 3-5) and hoped for the best.  Like a lot of HDR folks (I am totally guessing at this point), the moment of truth comes when you dump them all into Photomatix and hope that the result is something worth keeping.  At least that is my moment of truth because that is the moment that I will know for sure whether the HDR was the answer for that shot. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it just isn't.  As they say - you win some, you lose some, and some get rained out.  Well, I ended up thinking this was a winner.  What do you think?

Austin cityscape from the lake

Austin is a great town.  There are so many cool things about it.  Great food, excellent live music, and a cool funky sort of hippie vibe are the obvious ones that we are well known for.  But there is so much more.  One of our bridges on this fine lake (Lady Bird Lake that you see in this picture) houses about 1 million Mexican free-tailed bats, and at dusk they swarm out of the bridge to go eat their weight in bugs.  That is quite a sight.  Lance Armstrong lives here, if you have heard of that guy (hint: he rides a bike), and Sandra Bullock has a restaurant here (Bess, which I hear is good but haven't been yet).  The author James Michener lived here until his death, upon which many of his collected art works were donated to The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas.  Which reminds me, we have The University of Texas, which has the best football team in the country (Hook 'Em Horns)!  We also have a *few* barbecue joints around here and our Tex-Mex cuisine is the best there is...

This shot was taken while on a touristy boat ride up and down Town Lake, now called Lady Bird Lake in honor of LBJ's late wife, and which is technically the Colorado River.  Which reminds me, we have about 3 names for everything so as to confuse visitors and newbies.  It seems to work.   Our town motto is "Keep Austin Weird", which is both a plea to support local business and a true statement.  Austin is both weird and wonderful!


This is a shot of the Lamar Street bridge, taken from the pedestrian bridge that is next to it in downtown Austin.  The lake is known as Town Lake, or Lady Bird Lake, or the Colorado River, depending on when you moved here.  It was a quiet early weekend morning and I was happy to have this all to myself.  Calm water, great reflections, absolute quiet, and a camera - it was a good morning!

Rocks, roots and Red Bud Isle

This shot was taken from the tip of Red Bud Isle in Austin, which is a nice little off-lease dog park with trails to walk on. This view is looking downriver (Lake Austin is technically a part of the Colorado River) and downtown Austin is just a short canoe ride away.