Going Down to Georgia

Athens Rocks painted on a colorful fire hydrant.
SONY f/3.5, 1/125 sec, ISO-1600

Welcome to Athens! For my first time visiting Georgia, I didn’t realize that Athens was an hour and a half away from Atlanta, but after the plane ride and a two-hour shuttle, I made it to the University of Georgia. This is where my UPAA Symposium conference was for the week. Located in downtown Athens, the university was a hilly area with many picturesque spots. I can see why this was chosen for the photography conference.

The top image was a random hydrant we found when walking around. Thought it was an excellent reflection of how downtown Athens felt.

Georgia Theatre sign
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The Georgia nightlife was rocking, and after a few days at the conference, we finally did a thorough look at the nightlife for ourselves on a Thursday night. The downtown was colorful and lit up, giving an excellent backdrop for photos. It was the perfect ambiance for young college students with an active downtown nightlife.

Girls smiling at a selfie camera.
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Gave me a great chance to practice more of my street photography in a lively downtown. The photo above was in a bar called the Church that was created after a nun left the convent and came down to Athens. Inside, these girls were taking photographs in the photo booth. With the pink lighting and some fun expressions, I lined up the photo for a great snapshot.

I had the 85 Zeiss lens on my Sony A7riii, so I could aim for some low light by not sacrificing a low shutter speed. Taking the lens down to F/1.8, I had to hold very still and aim my focus at the correct spot.

Football Player tossing ball around.
SONY f/4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO-800

Aside from the downtown nightlife, the conference had a lot of great photo opportunities at our workshops. One day, we were able to learn from Kevin Liles about sports photography. He had a UGA football player modeling at an empty Sanford Stadium. Focusing on him tossing the football around, I took a series of photos and landed one with the UGA logo straight on the football.

We also were able to visit the locker room, and it was gorgeously lit.

University of Georgia Bulldogs jerseys
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During the photography conference, we had our Nikon Shootout. The annual competition was to see if we could produce a photo in-camera, with no editing. My entry below was the first one. I’ve since edited it, but imagine this photo with less color and some shadows in the middle of the bikers.

Bikers coming down the road in downtown Athens.
SONY f/3.2, 1/1250 sec, ISO-1000

Most of my photos that night were a lot of action photos. I was low for this photo, at the slowest stoplight in all of Athens. I crouched down and checked my settings as they waited for the light to turn green. As they took off, I focused on the first wheel in the middle while lining the background up with the top of the stoplight.

A guy skateboarding and high-fiving his friend.
SONY f/3.2, 1/320 sec, ISO-1000

The next photo above was a random guy who told me I had a great smile. This opened the opportunity to ask him if he’d help me with a photo. The rules didn’t say we couldn’t stage the photos, so I did just that. I asked him if he could ride his skateboard toward me, but it wasn’t enough. So I asked him to high-five his friend, who was also in the pink hat. I lined up the lights in the background and focused on her hand that was already out. Everything lined up, and the focus stayed on their hands and his face for a fun action photo.

I almost entered this photo, but it was too dark for me when I saw it. I edited the darkness out and adjusted the shadows and highlights to make the subjects pop.

Busy restaurant in downtown Athens called The Place.
SONY f/1.4, 1/500 sec, ISO-10000

The last photo I tried taking at a restaurant called The Place with my 35mm lens. It was a spur of the moment, and the lighting was a glowing yellow in the place. Luckily the young woman looked up, which made the photo come together. The place was very homey, and there was a lot of activity.

The last picture was during the previous day I’d be in Athens. Friends had a Graphix camera with them, and we’re testing it out by focusing on me. While they were setting this up, I took out my camera and pointed at the lens to pull the focus there. The others leaning over his shoulder made for a great candid photo.

Old camera left in focus.
SONY f/1.8, 1/500 sec, ISO-400

These are only a few photos from my time in Athens. Every day was a new adventure, and I haven’t even mentioned the other conference classes and activities I was able to participate in. It was a nice break from the real world, but I’m back in Texas, refreshed and ready to implement all the things I learned.

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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 theĀ 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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-4000

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.
SONY f/4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO-800

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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-1000
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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-1250

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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-1600
People sit outside the Gypsy Kit restaurant.
SONY f/4.5, 1/500 sec, ISO-1600

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.
SONY f/5, 1/500 sec, ISO-1000

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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-1600

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.
SONY f/5.6, 1/500 sec, ISO-1000
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

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

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

SONY f/5.6, 1/125 sec, ISO-8000

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO-4000

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

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

Parade

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

Catrin

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

Aztec Dancer

SONY f/7.1, 1/400 sec, ISO-4000

View from the Hoxton hotel rooftop

Conference time in Portland!

Dragon Boats in Portland, Oregon

SONY f/10, 1/160 sec, ISO-100

This past week I was able to spend some time in Portland, Oregon, for my CASE Social Media & Community Conference. The conference was a lot of fun, and it allowed me the opportunity to enjoy Portland and everything it has to offer.

I saw Dragon Boat racing, a Pixar exhibit and photographed places from rooftops.

Wall-E

SONY f/6.3, 1/100 sec, ISO-1000

The Pixar exhibit was part of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It was a separate exhibit brought in to show the science behind the Pixar movies. There were plenty of places to do photo-ops, and you were also able to experiment with the movie-creating method.

Toy Story sketches

SONY f/6.3, 1/125 sec, ISO-2000

The rest of the museum had a lot of activities for kids, and then you were able to see the back part of the museum outside, which included a submarine you could climb into. We didn’t have time for the submarine, but I snapped some pictures of the Dragon boats practicing and the bikers going around the museum trail.

Portland Bike Trail

SONY f/7.1, 1/640 sec, ISO-100

I also made time to visit Voodoo Doughnuts and a lot of food trucks. We went to Revolution Hall and caught a show titled “Terrible, Thanks For Asking” about a podcaster and some of her stories. It was funny and personal. I’ll need to start taking in Nora McInerny’s podcast now that I know of her.

Voodoo Doughnut Courtyard

SONY f/8, 1/125 sec, ISO-200

I didn’t just stay in the downtown city but also went for a morning hike at the Hoyt Aborterum. I’m not used to seeing such tall trees or being in a forest, so it was all a new experience. Was able to walk through a mini-bamboo forest too.

Hoyt Arboretum trees

SONY f/6.3, 1/100 sec, ISO-200

Other places I was able to experience was the Saturday Market, where I found a lot of great art pieces for my house. The arcade bar, known as Ground Kontrol, had $7 free play nights on Wednesday. I played pinball for over an hour. I also visited Powell’s book, a three-story bookstore that I could stay in forever.

Chinese Gate

SONY f/6.3, 1/160 sec, ISO-200

This city is known for rooftop views, and it wasn’t hard to find any. Staying at the Hoxton hotel gave me easy access to a rooftop. The guest service from the Hoxton was superb, and the views from the windows and roof gave me a great view of the city from any viewpoint. The famous Chinese Portland gate is also outside of this place for another great photo opportunity of an iconic landmark. Portland is not weird, but it is a lot of fun. Plus, it feels like the 90s never did leave it, and I’m glad that it hasn’t.

View from the Hoxton hotel rooftop

SONY f/7.1, 2 sec, ISO-100