July 4, 2018

OK... so today is the 4th of July 2018! So why am I posting this image I made LAST year on the 4th of July. I mean a fireworks display isn't really time sensitive. Fireworks are fireworks. Most fireworks displays are pretty much the same. A rather slow start and then gradually building to the "grand finale"! See one... seen them all.

Please don't get me wrong. I enjoy a rousing 4th of July fireworks display as much as anyone. And I will be out there this evening probably making photographs. But nothing I shoot tonight can match the photo below.

Like I said, I made this photo last year. How can you tell? Sadly... it's easy. In the lower right corner of this image you can see the Rockport Beach Park bandstand.  it was a painted semi-circle structure with a Great Blue Heron wading in the bay and emblazoned with ROCKPORT TEXAS! You had to drive by it as you made your way down the park. It was an iconic piece of this town.

It's gone! One of many victims of Hurricane Harvey. I miss seeing the old bandstand. By tonight the fireworks display will light up Little Bay one more time. It'll be a classic fireworks display. But... there won't be any images of the bandstand this year...

The Fourth of July 2017

 

 

Still At It!

Things are getting better and better here every day... in EVERY way! I just need to get back out there shooting...

Honestly... I just haven't felt very creative or motivated lately. Sure, we've had lots of rain here in Rockport. We needed it so bad that I can't even complain about it. But... thats just another one of many excuses! I'm not the guy who makes images just to make images. I want to make art! And to do that, I need to feel creative. 

It's coming back! I can feel it. I'm thinking about images I want to make, and even more important, how to make them. I wish I could just posh a button or flip a switch. It's not that easy for me. 

Give me a week and lets see what happens...

( I made this image several years ago here in Rockport on Water Street. I used to go there and shoot 3 or 4 times a week. It was beautiful then, and I'm sure it's just as beautiful today. I'll go there this week for sure...)

 

"Water Street #3   Rockport, TX

I Can See The Light...

It's taken me quite a while, but I feel  I'm coming out of the darkness. I don't think many of us fully appreciate the impact a natural disaster like a hurricane has on every aspect of lives. I didn't. It does... trust me! They say 'time heals"... and it does. I'm officially moving on. This will be the very last time I look back. I'm not lying to myself this time...

I went to one of my favorite sunrise locations this morning. I was excited. I was eager to see what Mother Nature was going to give me this morning. She was very generous... and I'm thankful! 

I think I'm OK. Aransas Bay and Estes Flats are better than OK. Let's do this...

 

Estes Flats #7   Aransas County, TX

Healing...

It's been 9 months since Hurricane Harvey tried to destroy my home town. Rockport, TX was severely wounded. Many homes were lost... and lives were changed on August 25, 2017.

I stopped making landscapes of Rockport until yesterday. I took a few images of the damage right after the storm... and then I just couldn't do it any more. It didn't seem right to me. No... It's not that I didn't love this place anymore. It's just that I didn't want to show it hurt.

A few days ago I started to feel it. I felt a change here in Rockport. Things were getting better faster. Attitudes were becoming much more positive.. We were healing...

I wanted to shoot my neighborhood again. I went out yesterday morning and made some images from my neighbors deck out across Estes Flats and Aransas Bay. All of the reasons that I chose Rockport as my home came rushing back to me.

It's only going to get better and better...

 

"Islands of Rockport #4"  Aransas County, TX

Finally!

This is an image I've dreamed for years about making! And finally I have it...

I was watching an Alan Murphy video several years and saw a similar shot he made. His original setup was different, but the Meadowlark singing his heart out is similar. I wanted to reproduce his shot, tried several times on my own, and never got it right. 

So last month I was up on Galveston Island doing an Alan Murphy migrating songbird workshop. One morning he asked us if we'd like to shoot a meadowlark. YES I would! Alan had been scouting the area and knew where there were a pod of meadowlarks working a beautiful field. I couldn't wait...

It took Alan maybe 5 minutes to get the setup prepped for the meadowlark. It took probably another 2 minutes for this handsome bird to climb up on the perch and begin to sing and sing and sing. 

So now I have my version of this shot. It was worth the wait...

 

Eastern Meadowlark  Galveston County, TX

A Great Experience...

Yesterday I returned to Rockport after spending almost a week up on Galveston Island. I went there to participate in a photography workshop... as a student.  Well I know how to use my camera, and have been a "full-time" shooter for almost 10 years. Why would I spend the money going to someone else's workshop? Lots of reasons...

I wanted to photograph songbirds migrating north for the spring/summer. This is an annual event and I wanted to be in the perfect place at the perfect time to do this. I could have gone there on my own, but wouldn't have had access to the best place on Galveston Island to see these birds.

I would have also missed out on the workshop leader's years and years of experience studying these birds during their migration.  These guys know the set-ups needed to get some amazing images of a LOT of different species... right in front of you. Their knowledge of the habits of each species really shortened the learning curve for me. Why reinvent the wheel?

And then theres the fellowship of being with 4 other expert photographers wanting exactly what you want. We were all there for basically the same reason. Sharing experiences with like-minded people is a good feeling. I made friends that I will definitely keep in touch with on a regular basis. 

Was it worth it? You bet! Will I do it again? You bet!

This is a bird I would have NEVER found on my own. It's a Seaside Sparrow. This sparrow does't migrate... living all year in the salt marshes of Texas. We hiked out in the marsh to find this handsome small bird perching on tall shoots of marsh grasses and singing his heart out. We had to kneel in the wet and muddy marsh to wait... but it was a treat.

 

Seaside Sparrow  Galveston Island, TX

Make The Time...

As usual, I've been a bit busier than I'd like to be. What I need to do is make some time to work my journal...

Things are a bit different for me since I became a partner at Studio C Gallery in Corpus Christi. I have to be in the gallery one day a week. At first I thought that would be not a good thing for me. I'm just not a stay inside person. But I actually enjoy the time I spend in the gallery. We're trying some different things there... and it's fun.

Teaching is something else I've worked into my life. My monthly "Photography Boot Camp" courses at the Rockport Center for the Arts are a treat for me. I find it rewarding in a lot of ways. I'm getting a lot of requests for private lessons, so I'll probably add that to my schedule.

I'm leaving today for Houston, and then on to Galveston Island to photograph the Spring Songbird Migration. I'll be up there until next Tuesday... and can't wait to see what species "fall out". These migratory birds leave the Yucatan peninsula at dusk and fly over the Gulf of Mexico all night. Galveston Island is the first landfall they find, and they literally fall out of the sky from exhaustion. After eating and drinking for a few days, they're back on their way. Can't wait...

This is an image of a Northern Mockingbird and Great Kiskadee having a heated moment.I made it down in the Rio Grande Valley in January. Now that was a great trip...

 

Angry Birds #2

Wow!

Both of my "lives" have been crazy lately... crazy good!

It feels good to sit here and start to journal this morning. Looking over at my postings, I see I haven't done this since February 16... over a month. I've missed this! It's therapy time for me...

I did go ahead and buy into the Studio C Gallery. Studio C is a nice private art gallery located inside of the Art Center of Corpus Christi. I have 4 nice partners and I seem to be enjoying this experience. I have to work in the gallery 1 day a week... and in exchange I get some nice wall space to show my art. This will be a good deal for me.

I offered an Introduction to Digital Photography course in February at the Rockport Center For The Arts. We had about 12 great students who were enthusiastically interested in improving their photography. I plan on doing a course there monthly or at least bi-monthly. 

Last week I participated as a Guide in the first annual Brush Country Photo Safari in Beeville, TX. I did several landscape "safaris" in the field and gave a presentation on Landscape Photography. We had a big turnout, and I think all of the attendees had fun. I believe this program has the opportunity to grow into a well-attended annual event. 

My "non-photography" life is also moving forward. We're making progress on repairing all of the effects Hurricane Harvey bestowed on our properties here in Rockport. It's amazing how those "small victories" can add up. Slowly but surely we are getting our lives back in order. 

This Northern Mockingbird and Great Kiskadee "scrapping" image resulted from an Alan Murphy workshop I attended down in the Rio Grande Valley. I had wanted to shoot with Alan for years, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

More later...

Angry Birds #7  Hildago County, TX

Still Busy...

I guess being busy is the new norm for me. All of a sudden, my professional life is taking me in directions that I had never considered... and wasn't looking for! I think that's a good thing...

More later! I'm busy...

Northern Cardinal #6   Hidalgo County, TX

Busy... Busy... Busy!

Things are happening fast right now! And for a change they're all good things...

I just picked up a new gallery association up in Old Town Spring, TX. The two nice ladies who own the Spring Cottage Gallery have asked to represent my art up in the Metro Houston area. This is a new market for me, and I'm thankful for the opportunity. Fingers crossed...

I'm also in the process of buying in to a gallery in Corpus Christi, TX. We haven't officially finalized everything, so I'll hold back on some of the details. We're looking for a March 1st start. and I'm very excited to be working with these friends again as a partner/artist. More soon...

On Tuesday of this week I started teaching a 4-week photography course at the Rockport Center For The Arts in Rockport, TX. We had 12 brave souls sign up and if I don't mind saying so myself... we had fun! I'm asking these students to "hit the reset button" on their photography and to approach it from a new perspective. I hope they come back for more next Tuesday!

More later! I have lots of things to do...

Great Kiskadee   Hidalgo County, TX

Skip Ahead A Year...

This time last year the 2017 Wildlife In Focus Photography Contest had just started... and I was optimistic. My thoughts were maybe... just maybe... I could pull together a great portfolio of 100 images. Hmmm...

Well... Here we are in 2018. It's an "off year" for this biennial competition. Thank God! If it was a contest year, I don't think I would be entered. By the time the 5 months of shooting this contest is over, I'm usually pretty burned out. It's a grinder...

But I do have a year to rethink and reassess the pros and cons of doing the 2019 competition. And if history is any indication, the closer we get the more motivated I become. We'll see...

OK...This is an image I just loved. It did make my 2017 portfolio in the Water category. I thought I would be a genius and have some birds in the scene. This is the resaca on the River Ranch in Refugio County, TX. It's filled with overflow from the Mission River. I've spent a lot of time here over the last 6 or 7 years. 

I still love this image! Unfortunately the judges didn't. I understand thats the way the system works. But...

Mission River Resaca   River Ranch   Refugio County, TX

Catching Up...

It's been a while since I've posted here in my journal. A lot has been going on... and most of it is good!

I just spent a week down in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas photographing birds. Alan Murphy is arguably one of the best avian photographers in the world. I've always drooled over his work and have had attending one of his workshops on my bucket list for years. It was everything I expected... and more!

I think attending a workshop is good for photographers of all levels. These workshop leaders have been going to these places for years. They know the right times and the right places to get you on whatever subject matter you want. My workshop was all about birds... and we saw plenty.

I made over 15,000 clicks during this workshop. After being home for a couple of weeks, I've paired this down to about 2,500 files. I was concentrating on shooting birds in flight and bird interactions. I wasn't disappointed. I'll be shocked if I don't find at least 100 portfolio quality images.

This workshop was limited to 5 participants. I really enjoyed shooting with these guys. All were seasoned shooters who lived, breathed, and dreamed about birds for 5 days. It was a great experience for me and I plan to do another workshop soon. 

This image is a pair of Red-wing Blackbirds interacting. It was the first file I fully processed, and I wanted to share it with you today. I like it... but I have many more that I feel are much better.

 

Red-Wing Blackbirds  Hidalgo County, TX

Happy New Year!

I'm SO glad 2017 is over! There's no need to dwell or reflect on it. I'm moving on...

Sharon and I always spend three days at the Crane House Retreat (http://www.cranehouseretreat.com)   every year when the Whooping Cranes are here on the Coastal Bend. It usually happens on the weekend after Thanksgiving. This year we had the wonderful opportunity to spend New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and the next day out there... and it was perfect. 

The weather was COLD! It was OVERCAST! Everything else there was just perfect. There was a mating pair of Whooping Cranes there just about all day every day. They didn't have a colt with them this year. There was also a pair of Sand Hill Cranes with them most of the time. We'd bundle up and sit in the screen porch and watch all of the action. There were also 30 or 40 feral hogs and plenty of deer always right there in front of us. It was very "aquarium-like"!

The weather kept me from making too many photographs. It was just to cold and windy. But we had a perfect time. The Crane House is so special for us. Having the chance to welcome in 2018 there was a dream come true...

"Out Of The Fog"  Johnson Ranch  Lamar, TX

 

 

 

The Ranch...

I still haven't gone back out there. The contest ended on June 11, 2017. Hurricane Harvey came on August 25, 2017. Two significant events... two separate reasons!

I fell in love with the Ranch the very first time I went out there in 2012! It was beautiful... 3000 acres of diverse South Texas land. It has fields, hills, streams, lakes, forests, barns, fences, and even a river with a resaca. Truly a "little slice of Heaven right here on Earth!"

I was pretty burned out when the contest ended. I had a lot of "shooting days", and it took a toll on me. As much as I loved driving through the gate and being "OTR" (on the ranch), I was tired. It felt like going to work... and it was work. I needed a break...

And then Hurricane Harvey came in August. My life and the Ranch will never be the same for going through that experience. I'm bouncing back and have returned to a more or less normal life. Yes... they're putting a new roof on my house as I write this. And yes... there is still a LOT of hurricane evidence remaining all over this town. But I can see things getting better every day.

Wade (owner of the Ranch) tells me how bad it is out there on the Ranch. The hundreds of very old oak trees that have been growing out there forever took a real beating. Two barns and a house were lost. It's bad. I need to get out here and see it for myself. I'm just not ready...

This is an image of one of my favorite places on the Ranch. These Live Oaks have provided canopy from the hot sun for both humans and animals. I haven't the slightest idea of how it looks today. All I know is that on this morning when I stood there and watched the rising sun cast those long shadows I knew I needed to make this image. I'm glad I have it...

The Ranch  Refugio County, TX

First Step...

Yesterday was a very important day for me, the local art community, and the entire city of Rockport. 

The Rockport Center for the Arts has reopened in a small building at 106 S. Austin Street. And even more exciting, yesterday was "Exchange Day" in the Member's Gallery. It actually wasn't an exchange day because the old RCA building was lost to Hurricane Harvey. 

Building Front with logo small _003_.jpg

Every year the RCA hosts a big exhibit for it's members. It called Currents 2017: The All Member's Show. Yesterday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, artists took their art to this quaint little building and registered to display in the exhibit. A juror will select 5 artists to be the Merit Artists for the year. A 6th artist will be chosen by the public as the People's Choice. It's a big deal...

It was so much fun seeing how excited everyone was there. The RCA Staff and volunteers wee there receiving the art from the artists. In a day or 2, everything will be hung and hopefully open to the public for viewing. This will be a huge step forward in getting our community back to a bit of normalcy.

OK... Here's my entry. It's an image of a Redhead drake that I made for the Wildlife In Focus contest. It will be published in the next book. I like this image a LOT, and hope it continues to be good to me...

"Redhead"  Refugio County, TX

It's Really Time This Time...

This is really hard for me to admit. I'm really not sure why... but it is.

I know I'm not alone feeling this way, but I'm a bit depressed. It's been almost 12 weeks since Hurricane Harvey changed our lives and town... and I just guess I'm feeling and acknowledging the mental effects of that experience. 

No... I'm not sitting in the corner in a fetal position. But I feel different than normal. I'm not sure I have a "normal" setting... but what I'm feeling isn't right. It's almost like I'm ready for all of this to be over. It's NOT! And honestly... it's going to take a LONG time for things to get dramatically better here in Rockport. 

I'm not alone. Almost everyone I know thats even remotely in my life is feeling the same way. We want our town and our lives back to a kinder and more gentle time. Thats my heart speaking. My mind knows differently. This is our reality...

I can do only what I can do to help myself. I have been shooting more in the last few weeks... and that helps a lot. I'm beginning to feel more creative and hungry to make fine art photographs again. Just journaling about this is good for me. 

Today is the day I stop grieving and get on with my life. There are so many things that I need to be doing right now. I will not be a victim. I will be a survivor...

This is a female Red-winged Blackbird I photographed during the contest. She was feeding on some of the grasses that grow near the banks of the resaca. The wind was howling that morning and I was mesmerized by watching her try to eat. I like this image a LOT. Enjoy...

Female Red-winged Blackbird   Refugio County, TX

"Estes Flats Magic"

It WAS a magical morning! I had forgotten how much I enjoy setting up my gear in the darkness of night. Just me and a million mosquitos... alone!

It's always exciting to wait for the shutter to close during a long exposure. Most of the time I can get it right on the second or third try. Not this morning. I made one exposure for this shot. This is a 30 second exposure at f/4 with an ISO of 800. Of course I used a tripod... and of course I used a shutter release. 

It was 5:30 in the morning and I couldn't see much except for some lights over on Port Aransas. I knew it was cloudy because squalls of rain had been rolling over Estes Flats for over an hour. Without my flashlight, I couldn't even see this fishing pier. But I knew it was there... and I knew where I wanted it in my frame. 

It feels so good to be back doing what I love. It takes me away from dealing with insurance claims and scheduling contractors. It's MY time... just me alone with the mosquitos!

 

"Estes Flats Magic"  Aransas County, Texas

 

 

Starting Over

My life is different now. I feel differently about some things. My priorities have changed...

Hurricane Harvey made a direct hit on Rockport, Texas on Friday, August 25, 2017. I've lived here almost 10 years... and it broke my heart to drive back into Rockport on Monday, August 28. You can't imagine what this town looked like that day... and I want to forget. But I never will!

We went almost three weeks without electricity here where I live. The internet was restored yesterday. Slowly... ever so slowly... it's getting better. People are putting their lives back together. Every day something good happens here to give people hope. A store or restaurant reopens. A huge pile of debris gets hauled off. it's the little victories like these that keep lifting your spirit. 

I just didn't feel like making art for the last month. I wasn't inspired. I tried to direct myself in other areas. Areas much more important than brand or self promotion. Sometimes it's good to realize that you personally are not the center of the universe. Actually... it's ALWAYS good to feel that way!

Everyone deals with a life event of this magnitude differently. For me it provided the opportunity to reassess whats really important in my life. My family... my neighbors and friends... my community... and my God are now MUCH more important to me. I'm not saying that they weren't important before August 25, but it's different now. I'm slowing down and smelling the roses. I'm going to be more thankful for what I have. 

I hope that I will be a better photographer going forward. That would be nice. I love being an artist and bringing joy to others through my art. But more importantly, I want to be a better husband... a better friend... and a MUCH better citizen of this wonderful town. 

This is an image of Water Street in Rockport that I made before the hurricane. Sadly, it doesn't look this way any longer. It'll come back some day... but not today!

 

Water Street   Rockport, TX

Here We Go...

I've been doing a lot of good things over the last three weeks. I just haven't had time to journal about it...

Most of my gear was filthy after shooting the Wildlife In Focus contest. Even though I take really good care of my bodies and lenses, they took a real beating this year. I've cleaned everything I can, and will be sending a Canon 1Dx and a Canon 5DsR body back to Canon Professional Services for a thorough cleaning and inspection. They always return my gear in perfect condition. I've actually checked serial numbers to make sure they didn't send me NEW product back. 

One of the things on my to-do list is to get more active with my drone. One of the problems I've always had was the glare on my iPad screen as I flew my Phantom 3. I recently found... and ordered... a hood that should be perfect. I plan to give it a try this week and will let you know how it works.

No interest on my part to try and photograph the eclipse happening later today. I guess I don't understand why so many folks want to photograph this event. Yes... it will be cool to safely observe the eclipse. But setting everything up and trying to memorialize this escapes me. That's just me...

OK... time to get to work organizing things!

Cattle Egret  Refugio County, TX

 

 

The Time Has Come Today

I just haven't done much with my photography since finishing up the Wildlife In Focus contest. Honestly... the 2017 contest was a real grind on me. But i'm starting to feel like I'm ready to grab my gear and start shooting again. It's time...

So here is my plan. Wednesday morning I'll set up and see if I can get a decent sunrise. I'm not going far from home... maybe 500 yards as the proverbial crow flies. It's a great spot that I've used a lot over the years. It's nurturing...

I think I'm a better photographer now. We'll see on Wednesday...