Packed streets at the Wichita Falls Art Walk!

An artists spray-painting a car.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-4000

Festivals are starting to return after a year in the pandemic. It includes theย Art Walk, which is known as Wichita Falls’ premier event. I’ve gone to a few already this year, but this was the first one I went with precisely to capture photographs of the Art Walk.

The Art Walk is always packed and on a calm and relaxed day in June. It’s the best formula for people and fun. In the above photograph, an artist paints an authentic and drivable car with spray paint. You would do a double-take because usually, you don’t see someone spray-painting a vehicle. However, there was another artist spray-painting a truck right next to the car. In the background was loud music by these guys in the following photograph.

An artist singing at Art Walk.
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They were singing modern songs, and his partner would do a rap between sets. He also was burning wood carvings with pictures of famous people. This street was part of a high trafficked area for the Art Walk, and I saw a lot of the action on 8th street. Just go down the block, and you’ll find more artists set up.

A vendor makes a sale at Art Walk.
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In the above photograph, you can see a booth with plenty of art to admire and purchase. The art quality has sure gone up at each Art Walk, and it’s nice to see more and more artists taking advantage of this unique event downtown.

A vendor smiles as people walk by her booth.
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A vendor searches for something a buyer is needing.
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Down the street in the Farmers Market where vendors set up selling both art and homemade goods. The easiest way to find it is by locating the large Kona Ice truck that’s typically parked right outside of it. Just go inside and check it out. The Farmers Market is also open up on Saturdays throughout most of the year.

Heading west and back to the rest of the Art Walk, I spotted people who lived in the apartments above Maniac’s Mansion near where the artist was spray-painting the car, just enjoying the sights. You can learn more about the video game mansion in one of my past blog posts.

People peer out a window to see what's going on at Art Walk.
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It was nice to see the community out. I’ve seen downtown empty, so it was a pleasure to see so much activity, and as a street photographer, it made it a joy to capture so much fun in the crowd.

People cross the street during Art Walk.
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People sit outside the Gypsy Kit restaurant.
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Some of the places didn’t even feel like Wichita Falls when I started to edit the photos. One of my favorites is of all these people hanging out outside of Gypsy Kit. This restaurant is at the center of 8th street. People were going in and out of the local food and bar-restaurant the whole time. As far as recommendations, if you’re in the area. Make sure you stop by and try their Kimche Burgers. They have a great menu, but that’s my go-to meal for lunch! It made for a huge town, downtown feel. I wonder how it would look if the street were closed to cars. I had to time everything since there were always cars passing through this street. 

A painting of dancers near some Central American flags.
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A few blocks over, Zavala had a whole block closed for their mini-festival in the Art Walk. Each Art Walk features a different country from Latin or Central America. This time it was a fusion of Cuba and Puerto Rico. Colors everywhere and a photographer’s dream environment. Old buildings with dancers and art and vendors surrounding the block. 

A dancer moves to some music.
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Zavala dance groups were taking over the middle, and classic cars were on the side. If you didn’t have a chance to catch the dancers, Cabezudos were mingling around like in the photo below. They are known as giant-headed costumes and were probably one of my favorite parts of the evening. They play a considerable part in Latin American countries, mostly seen at festivals like the Art Walk. So seeing them in the Wichita Falls area gave a splash of culture for the town. Everyone was lining up to take a picture with them. I’m anxious to see what will be at the next Art Walk in July.

A big-headed costume is seen at the center of the celebration.
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Discovering Dallas!

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Over the weekend, we traveled to Dallas, Texas, for a birthday weekend with my better half, Teresa. We tried to squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible, but we’ll need to make another trip sometime to see the rest of this city. I’ve been here many times, but I always find more to do.

The above photo is from the Sweet Tooth Hotel, with a new art exhibit that had just opened up dedicated to yarn. Partnering up with the Craft Yarn Council, they’ve created this masterpiece that you can walk through and photograph.

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For any photographer, these pop-up art installations are excellent. At the end was a place to eat, which you could see in the bartender through the underwater room’s portholes. The colors and light are for anyone with a camera. Your only limited by your imagination. Plenty of photographers were there taking photos of their muses to make their photo art. The place had multiple objects made of yarn, including a giant pink cat. You were even able to check out drawers to see food made out of yarn. The talent here is unmatched, and I look forward to their next exhibit we can see and photograph. Some added elements to the experience, like scavenger hunts, ended with us taking home a yarn souvenir.

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We stayed mostly in the downtown area of Dallas. It was easy to navigate, and we took an Uber or Lyft now and then after our feet were tired. While I didn’t have any photos of the food, we found some great places to try nearby the Sweet Tooth Hotel. I’d suggest Mio Nonno Trattoria, a lovely dress place across from the Italian basketball arena. Nearby is the Imoto if you need some fabulous sushi.

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The Magnolia Hotel is one of the oldest in the city. I had stayed here about eight years ago on business, but it was nice to stay here for fun. The hotel is known for the famous red Pegasus that adorns the top of the hotel. I only used my wide-angle lens when I was there, or I would have tried to photograph the top of the hotel where the Pegasus glows red at night. As far as hotels, it’s nice but still has that classic architecture with it. If you’re planning to visit, I’d recommend staying here for a few nights.

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Since eight years have passed, a new park has is now in the area. In front of the Magnolia hotel is now the AT&T Discovery District. The park is unique, and it looks fabulous. It lights up at night, and with the giant LED TV shining on the park, it felt like having my own giant strobe to use for my photography subjects. The TV lit up the area so well, and I was able to photograph at a lower ISO than I usually have to. It had plenty of art around and even had an HBO Max area filled with an AT&T Experience Store, where you could see all this Wonder Woman memorabilia from the newest movie and shop for AT&T gear.

The good thing about being spread out and having a lot of space in the park is that it helped people give each other space since we’re in a pandemic. Around the area were lots of restaurants and places to grab a beer or play some cornhole.

Of course, my favorite part of the park was the dome that lit up different colors that people took pictures of the whole time. It was always busy, but it pulled the park together and is the signature art piece inside it. Probably one of my new favorite pictures is the one below. You’ll see why with all the colors that it creates in the park.

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After spending the night at Discovery Park, we had to visit Deep Ellum. The last time we saw the area, we spent most of our night time here. It glows at night, but with the pandemic, a few things are closed up. So we spent the day exploring some of our favorite places, such as Rocket Fizz.

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This place has so much soda and candy; they have it stacked everywhere. We always go in to find some hard-to-find candy that is rarely available in stores. We also got some chocolate soda and mucus punch for the boys to try when we got back home. Always make a stop at this place. You’ll find something you didn’t know you were looking for when you visit.

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Yes, there is a pandemic going on, and yes, you should take precautions. We were always masked up and socially distanced as much as we could. These stickers were all over Deep Ellum, and like the place, they made them look artsy. If you ever have the chance to visit, please go. This place is always fun and always has a lot of stuff going on, even during a pandemic.

We enjoyed our time in Dallas. The city has become a place that glows with photo opportunities around each corner. Just look at this place I found that was near the American Airlines Center. The colors, clouds, and reflections make this photo, but hundreds of sites made this kind of imagery.

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One of the last places we visited was a place I learned about a long time ago in a photo book. Until seeing a random TikTok video a few months ago, I realized this place was in Dallas. For some reason, I just assumed this was a European chapel, but it wasn’t, and only a couple of hours from where I lived.

The Thanks-Giving Square sits downtown between skyscrapers, all alone amongst a large garden and water sculpture. The place was beautiful and serene. Even on a day when it was not sunny, this place still shined with its many stained-glass windows that spiraled down. I took hundreds of pictures of this place, and even with the wide-angle, it was hard to have the whole thing in one frame. I laid down to fit as much as I could of the windows in my camera.

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I have hundreds of photos from different angles and even straight-on, but I chose this to include in my blog because it showed how big this chapel felt. It looks small, but it creates silent beauty in the glass. I would have stayed there forever taking photos, but there were plenty of people going in and out, and for a few minutes, Teresa and I were alone to enjoy some peace in the chapel to ourselves.

These are just a few things in Dallas that you can do, but we fit this along with many great restaurants into two-days worth of fun and exploration. I’d suggest a wide-angle when visiting Dallas. With little room to back-up for photos in the city, it did shine.

Spending the holidays at the Port Aransas Beach

Manu and Jay running in the ocean.
SONY f/8, 1/500 sec, ISO-200

Over the holidays the family decided to take some time to explore Port Aransas. The boys really wanted to see the beach and since we were staying about 20 minutes away in my hometown, it was an easy trip after crossing the ferry.

The boys are no stranger to water, but since it was an overcast day, I was able to snap a lot of pictures with some clouds in the background and some great reflections in the sand.

The Port Aransas Pier extending out into the ocean.
SONY f/8, 1/400 sec, ISO-200

Played around with different angles and since I only brought the wide-angle lens with me, it meant a lot of wide shots. When there is nothing, but ocean and sky. This can be a little bit of a challenge. One of the biggest things to remember when doing wide-angle landscape is to make sure your sky is leveled and lined up. If you ever print your images and frame them, you’ll want a straight line, or it’ll really be noticeable when you hang your piece up.

Manu running fast on the sand.
SONY f/8, 1/500 sec, ISO-200

The boys enjoyed the ocean and loved that they could see the water for miles. A little bit of fog rolled in, so I had to pay attention to the edge of the pier to make sure it didn’t soften too much being in the background. With the wide-angle, I waited until the boys ran as close to me as possible and snapped away. I had already focused on the boys from the first couple of times they ran by, so I just was ready for a nice composed shot when they came around again.

We visited the different areas around Port Aransas and ate at the local MacDaddy’s Family Kitchen for lunch. I wish I brought my camera around for more of the day, but sometimes you just have to put it away and enjoy the little moments.

And don’t forget that if you’re driving on the beach you’ll need a beach permit that you can find at the local gas stations for a small fee. There are areas you can park that have designated parking spots. We parked in these black-top paved areas since we didn’t have a permit and only visit a couple of times a year.

Of course, I had to crouch down and wait for the waves to come in for this photograph below. The pier was in my foreground so I just waited for the nicest waves I saw. Wide-angle is all about the waiting game. It was a nice outing and great 78-degree weather out in the quiet town of Port Aransas. Check them out next time you’re out along the gulf coast.

The pier extending out into the ocean as the waves come in.
SONY f/8, 1/640 sec, ISO-200

Chilling on the Frio River…

Jay shooting water into the sky in the Frio River.

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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.

Float the Frio bus crossing the bridge over the Frio River.

SONY f/5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO-2000

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 sitting in the Frio River

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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 in the raft floating down the Frio River.

SONY f/5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO-400

Piano in Akin

Beautiful Piano!

Pianos in Akin

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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

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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

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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

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