Chilling on the Frio River…

Jay-at-concan-6-9-20

After a crazy last three months of work, the family and I made our way down to Concan, Texas. Located in Uvalde County and in one of the most remote parts of Texas, we stayed in cabins along the Frio River for a few days.

Since I was actually relaxing, I did put the camera down for extended periods, but I managed to get some fun photos on the first couple of days we were there with the overcast skies. In the picture above, you see Jay shooting water out of his toy, trying to hit the tall Concan trees. Just a side note. The water is really that clear.

concan-bus-6-12-20

Concan is in the middle of this valley that has a river in between it. It’s known as an excellent place to come down and enjoy or float the river with family and friends. This year the river was about halfway up, versus the last time we were here, and it was really high. The Frio river receives its name from how cold it is. With all that rushing water, it feels cold the first time you dip your toe in. Eventually, you either warm up to the water, or the sun comes out long enough to keep you toasty. Don’t forget your sunscreen.

In the photo above, you can see where we were from the small road that leads into Concan. It’s made perfect for floaters and those wanting to cross the river without having to go over the busy street. It sits in the middle of a couple giant trees. One day I’ll remember to take a few pictures of them. They are a site, and you immediately know you’re in Concan. The Frio Bus is always bringing people from this bridge area and loading them up with floats and dropping them off a few miles up the river for a small fee. Beats walking.

Ace-at-Concan-6-9-20

So when I mean the whole family, even Ace, our black lab can come down with us. Of course, he likes to hunt for rocks we throw into the river as well as laying down and enjoying the cold water. The stones do a number on his feet, so do remember to boot up your dogs when bringing them out on the rocks. The best part is that he’s able to swim as much as he wants.

I wish I had more photos to show you, but this is always a relaxing time for me, and a chance to put the camera away for a few days and enjoy the memories. It is pitch black at night, and you can easily see the stars. During the summer, the fireflies are always out. If you do need a place to eat. Remember to check out Neal’s Dining Room that is nearby the river. They have some of the best chicken fried chicken around Texas. Other small shops are starting to pop up around this area, including a new Frio Float, which is an ice cream parlor with an assortment of other snacks.

Last I leave you with a photo of Manu and his cousins’ tubing down the Frio River. You’re never too young to learn about these Texas traditions.

manu-at-concan-6-9-20

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

SONY f/4.5, 1/125 sec, ISO-4000

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

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

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

SONY f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO-10000

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

SONY f/5, 1/160 sec, ISO-4000

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

SONY f/4, 1/2500 sec, ISO-1250

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO-1250

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

Wichita Mountains

SONY f/5, 1/1600 sec, ISO-1250

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

SONY f/5, 1/1000 sec, ISO-1250

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/2000 sec, ISO-1250

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/1000 sec, ISO-1250

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

SONY f/2.8, 1/250 sec, ISO-2000

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

SONY f/3.5, 1/125 sec, ISO-5000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SONY f/2.5, 1/400 sec, ISO-5000

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

SONY f/2.5, 1/640 sec, ISO-5000

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

SONY f/2.5, 1/640 sec, ISO-5000

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