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
SONY f/2.8, 1/1000 sec, ISO-800

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.
SONY f/1.8, 1/200 sec, ISO-6400

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
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

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

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

SONY f/2.5, 1/80 sec, ISO-800

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

SONY f/10, 1/1600 sec, ISO-400

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/1250 sec, ISO-400

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

SONY f/7.1, 1/1250 sec, ISO-400

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

SONY f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO-400

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.

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

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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