Piano in Akin

Beautiful Piano!

Pianos in Akin

SONY f/4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO-4000

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of photographing Jordan playing this beautiful Steinway & Sons grand piano in the Akin Auditorium at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

This was part of the photographs I was tasked with working on for our magazine coming out in April. We had a donor donate money for all of these new pianos, and we were creating photos that showed off their beauty. The Auditorium was remodeled recently, so I was able to capture some of the new lighting fixtures as well.

Piano in Akin

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The blue lights gave a glow over the piano’s insides, and I used that to accentuate the detail. Plus, I’m a fan of blue lighting whenever I have the chance to use it.

For this photoshoot, I had a new wide-angle lens bought just for doing this. It was a new Tamron 24mm f/2.8 lens that gave me a unique view of pianos. I also had the 100-400 Sony lens as a backup for other close-up photos. I would tell you how superb the new 24mm is, but I think the images can do the talking.

Piano in Akin

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Hearing Jordan playing the piano as I took the photos, was probably the best part. It’s nice to have a live performance when you’re working.

For the settings, I stuck with a medium ISO limit, allowing the SONY A7riii to do most of the work, and then using larger f-stops to capture the limited light. The light was focused on Jordan and the piano, so I wasn’t worried too much about not having enough light.

Cello in Akin

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I also included a photo from a concert I photographed early in February to show when the hall looks like under the spotlight with some blue lighting spread around the stage. This was during a cello and piano concert featuring Julie Albers & Orion Weiss. These two could really play, but back to piano photos.

Piano in Akin

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With a magazine, you want to take a variety of photographs to have lots of choices. I probably took about 900 photos before I was done. When faced with low lighting, but spotlights strategically placed around the stage, I allow the shutter to photograph multiple pictures per second to have every detail appear while I’m moving around.

I liken it too when I have to photograph sports. With music, the hands are moving fast, just like an athlete is moving fast and in action. So when shooting music, make sure you have a large memory card.

Piano in Akin

SONY f/4.5, 1/125 sec, ISO-2000

The Auditorium is one of our oldest buildings on campus. I tried to take advantage of the former upstairs area to show the broad flooring and how big a grand piano really is. Akin Auditorium is over 80 years old and has been taken care of very well over the years. With no one in the Auditorium, but the two of us. It made it look like a live performance to just the auditorium ghosts.

Piano in Akin

SONY f/4.5, 1/160 sec, ISO-4000

Jordan knew what he was doing with the grand piano too. He’s a natural and everything sounded and looked amazing. The way he played the keys gave me a variety of angles to use. He’ll be well prepared for his next concert, and I can’t wait to see him performing to an audience. Thanks again for helping Jordan.

Piano in Akin

SONY f/2.8, 1/200 sec, ISO-2000

Wichita Mountains

Crossing the border into OK!

Wichita Mountains

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My latest work trip took my staff and me across the Texas border and into Oklahoma. Working on our newest YouTube show, we’re focusing on the outdoors and what students can do in the Wichita Mountains.

You would think going in the Winter when all the plant life is dead would be the worst time, but the place was gorgeous, including an overcast sky that had the clouds surrounding the mountains.

The only bad part about the day was the rain that was off and on throughout the day. We had covers on the cameras, but that doesn’t make it easy trying to hike the terrain and keeping your balance on a cold and slippery day. So I kept my ISO high and had shutter speed quick. The pictures were worth it.

Wichita Mountains

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We even had some fun in the mountains trying to pull off our best Frozen 2 echoes from these cliffs.

Wichita Mountains

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Some hikers nearby heard the call and echoed back, and it was awesome. We didn’t expect it, and it just made our day better.

You can see in these pictures, the clouds were either on top of the mountains or covering parts of it. We climbed quite a bit and went through multiple trails.

Wichita Mountains

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The Wichita Mountains is also a Wildlife Refuge with buffalo, longhorn, deer, elk, and a lot of other animals that make this place their home. Since it was a cold day and raining, we barely saw animals. Except for one longhorn, most of them were taking shelter. There is grazing land for the animals to roam and places to hike all over the mountains. We were just happy not to see any rattlesnakes.

Wichita Mountains

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We climbed all over the place, including hiking on the sides of rocks, trying to look for the local waterfalls. My student assistants are in the picture above and are the hosts of YouTube shows. They also help me in running the university social media. I couldn’t do all of this without all of them.

Wichita Mountains

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The picture above was a good mile of hiking through brush and rocks to find this place where the river was running. We picked the right time when the brush was still low before Spring hits to hike this trail.

We also visited the Holy City, a place in the mountains that is home to an annual Easter play that is one of the biggest shows in the area. The place has a castle feel to it. The place is also home to a chapel with Sunday services.

Wichita Mountains

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This room was probably my favorite from the area because of the character it had. The place has seen some better days, but it still is a solemn place for people to pray and reflect.

Meers Restaurant

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We ended the trip with a visit to Meers, a restaurant at the bottom of the Wichita Mountains. The place is known for their burgers.

Meers Restaurant

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The Meers Burger is a lot of meat and a lot of bread, and a lot of everything served on a silver platter. The burger was great, and the atmosphere was fun. Just remember to bring cash. The place is part of an old post office that was converted into a restaurant. It has the Americano decor throughout the place, including a roof full of license plates from all over the country.

Meers Restaurant

SONY f/3.5, 1/80 sec, ISO-5000

If you’re visiting the Oklahoma area near Lawton, make a stop at the Wichita Mountains. It’s free to explore the wildlife refuge, and it’s well worth it too!

 

Boys fishing in Corpus Christi

Fishing after the holidays on the Nueces River

Boys Fishing in Corpus Christi

SONY f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO-400

For the holidays, the family and I went down to the Corpus Christi area, where we visited my family that lives in the area. While there, the boys wanted to go fishing. My dad and youngest brother, Julian, go fishing a lot, so they wanted to join them one afternoon. On an overcast day, we traveled down the Joe Fulton corridor to find a small park along the Nueces River.

Boys fishing in Corpus Christi

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Since the boys have never been fishing, this was a new experience for them. As you can see in this photo above of how my youngest son, Manu, was holding his fishing rod as he reeled in nothing on the line. This would be his last time because his attention span was taken over by his surroundings and went to go play with the sand instead.

Sand throwing in Corpus Christi

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My oldest son, Jay, had been the one adamantly asking about fishing and was really trying to reel some fish in. There was nothing on the line, but he waited for about 30 minutes before he realized how much fun his brother was having playing with the sand and abandoned his fishing pole.

In the above photo, you can see Manu and Julian tossing the sand while they leave their fishing poles in the ground, waiting for a bite on the line. The images I tried to capture were of the calm skies and trying to recreate those old fishing days I remember from when I was their age. The overcast day allowed me to keep the natural colors, and I sparsely had to change my camera settings.

Dad fishing in Corpus Christi

SONY f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO-400

Fish in a bucket

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The only difference is my Dad in the first photo, is now older than when we first started going fishing together back in the day. So the fish weren’t biting at all. Maybe it was the time of day, or perhaps the fish were away for the holidays. Fishing is a patient sport and growing up near the ocean, it’s one of the best ways to pass the time. We do know there were fish there. Another fisherman near us caught a medium-sized catfish.

Before we arrived, they had already caught some small fish to use as bait after throwing a large net near their fishing spot. I was working on some close-up photography, so I thought I’d share an image of the only fish we saw that day.

We spent about an hour out there with the boys. They were starting to become grouchier without a nap and throw sand in the water, scaring whatever fish that may have been near us. Ask the boys about the fishing trip, and they’ll tell you about all the fish they caught. Fishing teaches you how to tell tall tales.

Boys fishing in Corpus Christi

SONY f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO-400

Triceratops Skull

Dinosaurs down in Seymour!

Dimetrodon Sculpture at Whiteside Museum

SONY f/4.5, 1/1000 sec, ISO-400

This past Saturday, the boys and I traveled down to Seymour, TX, to visit the Whiteside Museum of Natural History or as it’s best known around here as the dinosaur museum.

Seymour is a town that has almost 2000 people in it. This place is true small-town Texas. So when you tell people there is a dinosaur museum down here, it really baffles them. The closest big city, Wichita Falls, is about 40 minutes away.

Once you realize this is literally the middle of nowhere, you come to a gravel parking lot with huge animals painted on the side of a building. This is the Whiteside Museum and home to the North Texas dinosaurs. The museum features animals in this area, including the dinosaurs that once roamed this area millions of years ago. You’re greeted by a Dimetrodon sculpture, the local dinosaur that made this place famous for paleontology digs. Don’t forget to take a picture with it, because it was made to be shared on social media.

Dimetrodon exhibit

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Most museums I’ve seen with dinosaurs have favorites like the Stegosaurus or Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils. This museum had only the locals, which was surprising to me, that at one time, Tyrannosaurs Rex did roam this area. There is a giant skull located inside the exhibit as well as a replica head of how big they would have been.

Tyrannosaurus Rex Eye

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I think what most impressed me was how the exhibits were set up. Everything looked state-of-the-art without being state-of-the-art. Small lighting tricks and great use of space make this place look bigger than it is. This doesn’t take away from the experience either. The amount of fossils available to you to view is astounding. Some stuff you’d only expect to see in a major museum, but here they were right in front of you.

There are also models of the dinosaurs, with many having hair to emphasize the newer interpretations of these giants beasts. Personally, my favorite was looking at the Triceratops skull.

Tyrannosaurus Rex and other dinosaurs

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The place is great for kids too. Both of my boys enjoyed the experience. My oldest son is really into dinosaurs right now, so he was in a trance the whole time he was there.

We went on a weekend, and there were a couple of places that looked closed, such as the area where they clean up after the digs. There is glass around there, so you can watch them working, but no one was there on a Saturday. They’re also working on a new exhibit that will be about skulls.

Triceratops Skull

SONY f/1.8, 1/250 sec, ISO-5000

Aside from the dinosaurs, they also have local animals like iguanas, horned lizards, and turtles in exhibits to see what real-life reptiles look like. Walking into another exhibition are animals from Texas. You start at the front of the museum with the dinosaurs and then travel through time to the current animals that are alive in our time. 

If you do go, you can see everything in about an hour. There are admission prices, so keep that in mind as well. There is also a gift shop in the front that has a lot of hard-to-find dinosaurs. Overall, it was fun to learn about dinosaurs that roamed around the North Texas area, the boys, and I call home.

Triceratops Skull

SONY f/2.5, 1/250 sec, ISO-5000

Aztec Dancer

Day of the Dead in the Falls!

Dia De Los Muertos Ofrenda

SONY f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO-20000

I didn’t have to travel to Mexico to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. While that is still on my bucket list, I was able to enjoy it in my backyard right here in downtown Wichita Falls. It was a fun celebration all-around, and I’m happy to see it continue growing in its third year here in Wichita Falls.

Fire Twirler

SONY f/5.6, 1/400. sec, ISO-16000

The latest lens in my photography arsenal is the Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6, which I use when I need to be farther away. In this case, for the parade and the small spaces, it came in handy. Combined with the Sony A7riii, it allows me to photograph in low-light. The picture above allowed me to be far enough away, but still snag the action.

Parade Spirit

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Aside from the parade, there were ofrendas set up in the middle of the festival. Ofrendas are offerings that are made to our ancestors during Day of the Dead. We place a photo on the ofrenda, hoping they come back and spend time with the family celebrating their life. It’s a way for us to remember our loved ones and what made them special. The food we offer is usually stuff they enjoyed when they were living with us.

In the photo from the beginning, you can see how beautifully these ofrendas are made. With lights for the night and marigold flowers to guide the spirits back to their family.

Catrina

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You would also find Catrins and Catrinas all around the festival. The one above was in the ofrenda area. People will also paint their faces as a Catrin to celebrate loved ones. Yes, in Hispanic cultures, skulls are a big part of the Day of the Dead festivities.

There were big Catrins for people to take pictures with. All around were booths selling food and merchandise. Music played on the big stage for the night. In the middle, in front of the ofrenda area, a circle had formed to see all the performances scheduled.

Aztec Dance

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Something that the festival had last year was the Aztec Dancers. They recently were in the Dallas Day of the Dead celebration and then made their way to Wichita Falls, where they performed last year.

They did a blessing for ofrendas and also did the celebratory dances that span 200 years of family generations. They originate from the heart of Mexico in Mexico City. It was fun watching the dances and the colorful costumes. It gave authority to the festival and made it feel like we had gone to Mexico if only for a night.

Catrina

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Parade

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Catrin

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Aztec Dancer

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London Underground

What I saw overseas!

Keble College

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I’ve been back in the states for about a month, and I’m still pouring through thousands of photographs. See all the photos from the United Kingdom makes me want to go back, if only for a weekend.

One place that was probably one of the most gorgeous places I visited in the UK was Keble College in Oxford. This place has that college look you always think about when going overseas. It has the old traditional-architecture and the stained-glass in every building. The grass is also immaculate, and you are discouraged from walking on it.

I was able to attend Keble with the business class, which takes a trip to Oxford to learn about the Mini-Cooper plant. Because it’s a long day, we stay in Oxford and use the college as a place to sleep for the night. Everything about Keble reminded me of the Harry Potter movies. Ironically, the college was used as inspiration for the film. You can see that in the Great Hall photograph below where we were able to enjoy an excellent breakfast buffet. The bacon they have in the UK is tasty.

Keble College Great Hall

SONY f/5.6, 1/800 sec, ISO-400

Just sitting in the Great Hall, I felt like Dumbledore was about to come and give me points for just waking up early. The students enjoyed it and were snapping pictures everywhere. You could tell we were tourists because we wouldn’t stop snapping pictures in what felt like a sacred building. It was just a cafeteria with great architecture and servers. I wouldn’t mind going back to Keble and photograph more of Oxford.

Millennium Bridge

SONY f/13, 1/320 sec, ISO-400

Back in London, we saw more sights, including the Millennium Bridge. There were quite a few photographers also on the bridge. It was hard to show the right shape of the bridge while on it, so I had to wait until I was quite a bit away to take a decent photograph. My favorite part was being able to show the older St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background with the new futuristic Millennium Bridge. For my Harry Potter fans. This bridge is in the first part of the movie Half-Blood Prince.

London Pride Parade

SONY f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO-400

The first Saturday of my time in London, we took a trip to Trafalgar Square. We were just passing through, but I, along with some students, found ourselves lost in the crowd. I was busy taking pictures, and the students were just enjoying the festivities. I tried to capture how big the groups of people were, but there was just no way with how packed it was. I went to Trafalgar Square a few times after that Saturday, and I never saw it packed liked it was for the London Pride Parade. With crowds everywhere, I tried to focus on couples and then let everything in the background fade out.

London Southbank Stake Space

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The South Bank Skate Park was full of creativity. From the skateboarders learning new tricks to the graffiti art, to the small market. There was something for everyone, and colors were popping everywhere. Each graffiti piece was so detailed, I tried to focus on the more significant parts. The girl in the painting above had a striking pose and was in just enough sunlight to give me some good exposure. It was a cloudy day, so I did my best to adjust to the ever-changing sun patterns.

Piccadilly Circus

SONY f/9, 1/800 sec, ISO-400

In the Piccadilly Circus, we saw street performers and crowds all over. I just tried to concentrate on emotion while taking these photos. The architecture was great, but when there are so many crowds of people. You just try and photograph emotions to tell the story of the area and what people are doing there.

Globe Theatre Balcony

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I posted about the Globe Theatre and my experience sitting in what would have been in their time, the luxury boxes. This was at eye level before the performance began. It gives you a better view of what I saw for most of the night. The detail in this place is impressive. I did some highlight compensation in Lightroom to try and bring out the lighting in the statues on the orchestra balcony. Doing this, I had to put the color back in the hanging pillars of fabric that made the show so colorful.

If you ever have the chance to visit London. Make sure to stop by and catch a show here. You won’t regret it and don’t forget to sit in the middle sections to experience the show from a new point-of-view.

London Underground

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I’m wrapping up my time from London in this blog, but I hope to go again. I fit a lot of adventures with photography into two-weeks. Until next time. Cheerio!

Louvre

A couple of nights in Paris…

Louvre

SONY f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO-800

I’m back in the states, but I still have a lot of photographs I’m pouring through. On a free weekend during my trip to the United Kingdom, I decided to make a trip to Paris, France. Unlike living in Texas, everything is only a few hours away in Europe. Two and a half hours on a train and going underwater through a dark tunnel was all I needed to find myself in Paris.

I always dreamed about taking photos of this place, but never did I think I’d actually be able too. I had to force myself to just enjoy the sights and not look at everything through the lens of my camera. As a photographer in a new place. The first thing you want to do is photograph everything. Sometimes it’s best to just take it all in the first time.

The photo above was from my first night there and exploring the outside of the Louvre Museum. The Louvre, of course, is the most famous museum in the world. At night the glass pyramid that rests in the middle of this once fortress lights up in the Paris night.

That night, there was a concert, so I also was able to photograph rows of people watching the musicians performing.

Paris Streets

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The Louvre lights up everywhere at night, and you don’t even need a tripod majority of the time. A tripod will help, but there is so much light around the area, just adjust your settings accordingly and be still while you photograph the city. You’ll see some excellent photographs come out of your camera, like the one I took above, of a small restaurant. There are small restaurants everywhere, so enjoy the culinary experience that is Paris. I could do a blog on just the food I tasted.

Louvre

SONY f/2.5, 1/60 sec, ISO-800

The lighting at night at the Louvre and everywhere in Paris is spectacular. During the summer, the blue skies stretched out into the late night, and I still saw brilliant skies well past 10 p.m. It’s more like a golden two to three hour in the city of lights.

Paris Streets

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While I could have stayed out all night, I did need to get some rest before starting my journey to actually take in the sights of Paris. The incredible architecture photograph above is one example of the buildings found around the city. This was near their art district.

Louvre

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The Louvre was surrounded with statues inside, outside, and even sitting on the ledge. Since they didn’t allow visitors to go on the balcony, I had to take this one from a window and do some editing to make the water spots on the window disappear. This statue just looks down and stares at the hoards of people that visit this museum every hour of the day.

Louvre

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Hanging out near those windows on the top floors gave me an elegant look around the Louvre. The area used to be a fortress back in the day, but over time it has become a mecca of art.

I know I’ve mentioned the Louvre a lot, but I did spend most of my time there. I even had a hotel nearby called the Hotel Prince Albert Louvre.

Hotel Key

SONY f/7.1, 1/125 sec, ISO-400

This is a quick reminder that a lot of places in Paris, as well as Europe, do not have air-conditioning units in their rooms. After a week in Europe, I was already used to not having it. All I did was open the big windows and let the air circulate. The hotel was quaint and resembled something from the 1900s. My favorite part was the key in the photo above. No card key at this hotel. It gave me that old-world feeling.

Next on my list was the iconic Eiffel Tower. I was only there for a couple of days, so I did the most touristy things I could.

Locks at the Eiffel Tower

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The locks were everywhere, and not just near the Eiffel Tower. I initially couldn’t find many of them on the bridges, but I did find them everywhere else. I snuck in this photo on stairs that led to the bottom of a deck before another couple obscured my view by placing another lock on the railing.

Eiffel Tower

SONY f/9, 1/200 sec, ISO-400

The Eiffel Tower is large and impressive, but I believe the view is better faraway. This is a personal preference, but I was able to do more with the Eiffel Tower and skies when I was farther away. I lined up the Eiffel Tower and managed this shot as the sun was going down. If you are photographing the Eiffel Tower, remember that at night it has to be pitch-black before the lights start to sparkle on it. It really doesn’t feel like Paris until you do visit the Eiffel Tower.

If you ever have a chance to visit this city, remember to take a bunch of camera cards. You’ll have an excellent photograph on every corner.