Monthly Archives: March 2012

Puny

I finished reading one of the photo blogs I follow titled “In The Pink”.  My immediate thought was to create a short post titled “In The Pink…..I Don’t Think”.  Or maybe “In The Pink….Not Really”.  In the end, I came up with the original title you see here.

For the past two weeks, I have been down and out for the count with a nasty little bug that started with three days of scratchy throat, followed by what felt like a full-blown cold, followed by a return of the sore throat, altered hearing, and completely no sense of taste except for differentiation between sweet, sour, and salty.  If you blindfolded me and then fed me a piece of chicken, it would be the same as if you were feeding me a piece of alligator….or ostrich….or tofu….well, OK, I would figure that one out just from the mouth-feel.

Anyway, I’ve not been up to par, but I am incrementally improving, which is a good thing since I will be on a plane to Washington State next week, visiting Seattle, Mt. Rainier, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and celebrating my and my brother-in-law’s birthdays in eastern Washington.

I like to try and post something once a week, and this was pretty much all I could come up with.  Dad took this shot of me when I was, oh, maybe two or three years old, zonked out on the swing set in our postage-stamp back yard in Montana.  I’ve been in a state of “zonked-outedness” now for two weeks and am ready to wake up…..but, well, not tonight;  I’ve taken my Nyquil (which still tastes bad even when I don’t have any taste buds).

Hope all of you out there are in a better frame of health.

Asleep On The Swing

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Filed under Black & White, Humor, Photography

Spring Has Sprung

6081_Little Purple Flowers

I wrote a post awhile back about Brazos Bend State Park  in the winter.  This post is about Brazos Bend State Park in the spring – well, almost spring – I visited 3 days prior to the official first day of spring (March 20).  I wanted to see if anything had  changed since my winter visit.  Plus, I didn’t have to return the Canon 100-400mm rental lens for two more days.

First thing I noticed:  water.  More of it.  In all the places that had been high and dry before.  In case you were not aware, Texas has been experiencing a horrendous drought.  Everything that should be wet and swampy, instead was dull  brown dirt covered over with  clumps of green dry slime that reminded me of  nori (seaweed).  For this visit, everything looked as it should look in a swampland.

5206_SwampGreenREV

5122_Swamp Flora CROP

5293_SwampVeg

5561_Spanish Moss

5490_Swampland

I saw more spring flowers, like these primroses,

5387_Primrose CROP

and this herbertia,

5571_trefoil

and these spider lilies,

5009_Spider Lilies

and this sweet little purple flower which I can’t identify (I’m not very good with wildflower identification, even with two Texas wildflower books in my possession).  Anybody know what this flower is?  The photo at the very beginning of this post is a wider-angle shot.

6040-2_Fuschia

I saw Indian paintbrush, blowing in the wind.

6095_Indian Paintbrush

And these yellow flowers (which I can’t identify, either), in the swamp waters.

5659_Yellow

There were more alligators.  I overheard one set of walkers tell another set of walkers that during the mating season in April, the alligators get quite aggressive and can sometimes be seen clamped to each other’s necks, rolling over and over in the water or even along the pathway.  Now that would be a photograph!  All I saw were alligators lounging in the still, reflective swamp waters, posing for the tourists and looking menacing; it really doesn’t take much for an alligator to look menacing, and woe betide the person who so close as to elicit  a low, rumbling growl from deep within, as the alligator’s jaws gape open to warn the hapless visitor to back off.

5640_Alligator Reflection

5339-3_Eyes On You

5354-3_Alligator Eye

5871_Toothy Grin

6019-2_Lurking

I saw lots more birds.  It’s ironic that my photos of the alligators turned out better than my photos of the birds, since the birds were  the main reason I drove to the park that day  (0f course, alligators don’t’ move much, while birds move  a lot).  I saw three different little blue herons (you can tell they are the little blues by their brilliant blue beak),

5751_Herons Reflection

5797_Little Blue Heron

Spying lunch:

5926_Spying The Prey

Taking the plunge.

5927_In For The Kill

Crawfish catch of the day:

5928_Catch Of The Day

Lunch!

5929_Catch Of The Day2

I saw a number of snowy egrets,

5418_Snowy Egret

5447_Snowy Egret

roseate spoonbills (way off in the distance, so it’s not exactly a stellar image),

5399_Spoonbill

cardinals,

5889_Redbird

5849_Cardinal

red-winged blackbirds,

5283_Red Wing Blackbird

white ibis,

5362_Ibis

5254-2_Ibis Eye

American coots,

5156_American Coot

5168_HelloThere

turtles,

5697-2_Turtle On Log

5714-2_Turtle Head

one moorhen in its breeding plumage (none of my photos turned out very well), and a number of other little birds that I could not identify nor could I photograph very well (they just won’t stand still for me, dammit!).

The next time I visit will be later in the summer.  We’ll see what other changes (if any) have occurred during that season.

5815_The Wide Path

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, flowers, Parks, Photography, Seasons, Spring

Happy First Day of Spring!

Little Blue Flowers

An interesting little image of some lovely blue flowers taken while wandering around Brazos Bend State Park, Texas.

Sometimes, an image doesn’t have to be “tac sharp” to evoke a mood or a feeling.

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Filed under flowers, Photography, Spring

Eyes On You!

Eyes on You!

Here’s a testament to a full-frame camera and a good telephoto lens that allows for a decent crop.

I took a break from working on the rodeo photos for my previous blog to travel out to Brazos Bend State Park. Wildflowers, birdlife, and quite a few alligators.

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Filed under alligators, Brazos Bend State Park, Photography, wildlife

Yee Haw! Houston Rodeo 2012

4270_Fancy Saddle

Actually, it’s the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but we just call it “the rodeo” or the “Houston Rodeo”.  I won a sort of departmental lottery drawing and scored a free ticket to my company’s suite at the rodeo.  It was during a weekday, so I took a half day off and left the office before noon.

The Houston Rodeo is a popular venue as it is one of the biggest and most well-known rodeos in the world.  I love it!  My favorite part is the riding and roping, but there is so much more to the rodeo than just that, as you will see from my photos in this post.

On this particular day that I attended, the place was PACKED!  Of course, it was during the Texas schools’ Spring Break  and it was also Family Day at the rodeo; discounts on tickets and various other items were offered and pretty much the entire city of Houston decided to take advantage.

The first thing I like to do is visit Reliant Arena, where the demonstrations (weaving, bee keeping, milking), shopping, and most of the food is selling.   Wall-to-wall people and kids.  Barely room to move.  Got a few shots, but not as many as I might have captured had I arrived first thing in the morning.  I love the birthing area, but naturally that was slammed.  People can watch cows, sheep, pigs, and goats give birth before their very eyes.  With commentary.  It’s quite educational, and great for city folks who don’t normally spend much time around real live farm animals.

3670_Hand-Yarn-Spindle

3679_Yarn

3695_Feeding Time

3709_Little Lamb

3725_Hats

I never noticed this before, so I assume this is a new thing – flower arrangement competitions.  I could never get a really nice shot – too many people around – so I had to opt for close ups.  Orchids were a huge theme in a number of these arrangements.

3754_Flower Arrangement

4216_Flower Arrangement

4234_Orchid Arrangement

4256_Yellow Orchids

And of course, I always stop by my favorite bronze statue (there are a number of bronze sculptures right next to the stadium).  This year, I was kicked out by a guy at the wine garden because this sculpture is located smack-dab in the midst of the seating, and the wine garden would not open to the public for another 3 hours or so.

3780_Bronze Statue

After an extended period of walking around with no place to sit, my poor feet began hurting.  I do this every year; I like to “rodeo up” and wear cowboy boots, but with the exception of people actually participating in some shape or form at the rodeo, everybody else (i.e. the general public) wears comfortable jogging or tennis shoes (aka “trainers”).  I need to remember to do that next year, rather than try to look “western”.

I wandered through the carnival.

3647_Carousel

3873_Rides

3854_Guitars

4199_Euro Slide

4190_Euro Slide

I bought 10 tickets for $5 (it takes more than one ticket for a ride, folks) and took a nice little ride on the sky chairs  (that uses up 8 tickets) across the length of the carnival.   At one point, the ride stopped while I was at the top – I wonder if they did that just for me so I could get some great shots Winking smile

3878_Sky Chair View

3126_Headed Up

3902_Sky Chair View

3164_View From My Seat

3170_At the Top

3211_The Ride Down

3227_Looking Down

3237_Heading Down

Some of those rides make me nauseous just watching them. It takes an iron stomach to handle them and I just don’t  have an iron stomach.

3844_Wheee

4160_Upside Down

3919_Disko

3930_Wheee

4213_Way Up There

After the sky chair ride, I decided to opt for some quiet time and made my way across the carnival to the horse arena, where a small horse show was taking place.  I don’t know what the judges look for exactly, but this understated  competition required riders (mainly women but there was one young man) to get their horses to walk-jog-lope-walk backward-maneuver around a sort of semi-obstacle course.  I saw some beautiful horses out there (and some pretty fancy riding outfits).

4125_Show Horses

4092_Fancy Mane

4083_Fancy Saddle

4134_Stirrups

From there, I wound my way back to the stadium to wait for the moment they opened the and I could find my seat.  You see, at the time, I didn’t realize I had a ticket to my company’s suite; I just thought I had a ticket to a decent seat on the 2nd level.  Lemme tell ya – that suite is sweet!  Awesome view of the arena, food, drink, in-suite bathroom, a full-time attendant, plus little extras that make life good while watching the rodeo.

3249_View From Suite

3267_View From the Suite

Naturally, I was all about the photography.  For these arena shots, I used my Canon 16-35mm for the wide angle, and the rented Canon 100-400mm for the close ups (love that 100-400; it’s next on my “to buy” list).  Considering I was up in the 2nd level and not right down where the action occurred, I was pleased with the results.  I bumped the ISO up to between 1250 and 4000, so I could get some nice shutter speeds for the action.  Naturally, I had to use a little noise-reduction software on some of these shots (but not all of them).

Before the ridin’, ropin’, calf scramble, barrel racing, and live music performance take place, the Grand Procession parade wends its way around the stadium.

4277_Purty Cowgirl

4356_Grand Procession

4325_Rodeo Flags

No event is complete without a mascot.  I don’t know what his name is, but he’s the “H” symbol for Rodeo Houston.

4319_Rodeo Mascot

And what event is complete without cotton candy (aka candy floss).

4334_Cotton Candy

Then the lights go off and we all stand for the National Anthem.  This evening, it was sung beautifully by a local boys choir.  While the anthem is played, a lovely young lady (usually a blonde) races around the stadium riding bareback and holding the American flag from which spew fireworks near the end of the Anthem.

4387_American Flag

3285_Star Spangled Banner

3286_The Fireworks Begin

“….and the rockets’ red glare….”

3289_The Fireworks Begin

3304_Rodeo Fireworks

And now the action begins.

First:  Bareback Bronco Riding

4451_Bareback Bronco Riding

4457_Bronco Riding

4547_Bronco Busting

I would have loved to have been one of those photographers down there.

4588_Photographing The Bronco

After the bareback bronco busting came  the  calf roping.

4579_Calf Roping

I only got one shot of this because I got into a conversation with one of the other suite attendees and I didn’t want to be rude.  Sigh.  Unless you are a photographer, you can’t realize the pull and desire to have it be all about the photography; to try and capture every moment that you are able to with your camera.  Oh, this is not a “forest for the trees kind of thing” – the camera wasn’t up to my eye for every single move – I did remember to take the viewfinder away from my eye and just watch the action.  But, I did want to make as much use of the situation as possible, and that precluded conversation, for the most part.   That’s just the way I am.

After the calf roping came the bronco busting (with saddle ).  The events alternated ends of the arena, with the bareback bronco riding, the saddle bronco riding, and the bull riding taking place on my end, while the calf roping and steer wrestling took place at the other end of the field.

FYI, for the bronco busting, they specifically train these horses for their role.

4593_BroncoBustin

4605_Buckin Bronco

4611_Hanging On

4613_Bucking Bronco

Steer wrestling.

4640_Steer Wrestling

4646_Steer Wrestling

4649_Steer Wrestling

Clowning around – this particular rodeo clown is a fixture out there and has been working the Houston Rodeo since God was a little boy.

4651_Clowning Around

Now comes the bull riding, which is when you see those rodeo clowns.  In addition to being entertaining and even acrobatic, the role of the rodeo clown is very important, and pretty dangerous.  Once the bull rider is finished – be it by falling off, or actually making it through the entire timed event – it’s the job of the clown to pull the bull’s attention away from that bothersome human who was riding on his back, and guide the bull back to its stall (although usually the bull seems to know where its stall is and it goes there on its own without any help).

These bulls are BIG and MAD.

4658_Over The Top

Send in the clowns!

4667_Send In The Clowns

4690_Bull Rider

4704_On Camera

Next comes the calf scramble, which everybody loves to watch.  Thirty high-school-aged young men and women are out there to try and catch one of 15 calves.  They then have to harness the calf and walk (drag) it back within the white square.  If they manage to do that, then they are given a calf to care for during the year and enter in competition the next time the Houston rodeo roles around.  It’s chaos out there, and very entertaining.

3357_Calf Scramble

4729_Calf Scramble Chaos

The final event before the scheduled music for the evening is the barrel racing.  This is an awesome competition to watch.  Women riding their horses ninety-to-nothing come racing out of the gate, circle around three barrels (trying not to knock them down) and then race back through the gate in a timed event.  The riders and horses act like a single unit, and must be able to round corners on an extremely small turning radius in order to make the best time.

4735_Barrel Racing

4759_Barrel Racing

4782_Rounding The Barrel

4793_Rounding The Barrel

4819_Action Shot

After the competitions, the music performance gears up.  Big names – and smaller venues – perform at the rodeo, including Reba McIntire and ZZ Top.  That evening, it was a sibling group called The Band Perry.  They don’t like people to photograph the entertainment (especially with big lenses like the one I used), so I put my camera away.  I left shortly after the performance began because I have a long drive home, it was late, and I had to go to work the next morning.

Got home at 11PM, got to bed at 11:15, fell immediately asleep and was rudely awakened at 4AM to start my work day (keeping my eyes open was a little tough that day).  Needless to say, I didn’t start working in earnest on these photos until Friday.

Once again, I had a fantastic time at the rodeo.  If any of you are ever in the area during the last week in February and the first three weeks in March, you ought to try to attend this event, for the sheer experience and – if you love using a camera – for the multitude of photo ops.

Yeeeee Haw!!!

YeeHaw_Profile

(Note – different hair color, different year – it just made a good ending photo for this post) Winking smile

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Filed under Events, Houston, Photography, rodeo

The Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

I attended the 2012 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo last night and had an awesome time! My very favorite part of the rodeo is the ridin’, ropin’, calf scramble, and barrel racing. This photo is just a taste of a longer post I’ll be writing about the photos and photography at a venue like this. For now, though, I’m plain tuckered out. Came home late from the rodeo, got 5 hours of sleep, had to get up at 4AM for work, and now am just too tired to work on any more photos.

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Filed under Photography, rodeo

Go Green On The 17th, Baby!

2353_Clover

Ok, I lied.  To myself.  I told myself I would wait until Friday the 16th or Saturday the 17th of March to post these images.  Then I realized that I will, on the 17th – hopefully despite the forecasted weather – be out somewhere like Brazos Bend State Park, or even in Austin at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, taking photos of birds/wildflowers/whatever catches my camera’s fancy.

So, here are some photos I took recently with the upcoming St. Paddy’s Day in mind.   I used my Canon 5D Mark II and either the 50mm f1.4 lens or my favorite all-purpose lens the 24-105mm (which does a much better job at capturing macro-like images at full-zoom). I increased the ISO between 640 – 1000, depending upon the light source at the time, and I actually used my tiny little Canon Speedlite 270EX, which I bounced off the ceiling – for the horizontal shots – it’s limited in its positions so it doesn’t work for verticals.

My themes were green and alcohol (the meds I take for my rheumatoid arthritis prohibit me from overdoing, but a drink or two now and then is a very nice thing in which to indulge) Smile

My Irish Whiskey of choice is Redbreast.

2602_Irish Whiskey

2413_Irish Whiskey

2454_Irish Whiskey

2339_Irish Whiskey

2650_Irish Whiskey

My mother and father collected Depression and Elegant glass.  This lovely lady is called a (an?) ivy bowl and was my father’s favorite glass possession.  When he died, I asked Mom if I could have it, and she said yes.

2733_The Lady and the Whiskey Glasses

2723_The Lady and the Whiskey Glasses

The “Greening” of the beer (ok, not an Irish beer  – in this case, I used Coors Light because there was no Harp’s around at the grocery store, and you need a pale beer to get the green coloring to really show up).  And that glass beer stein has special meaning for me – I received it from some good friends on my 19th birthday – some 32 years ago (we went to a pizza joint in Tennessee because the drinking age was 19 back then).  The stein has accompanied me through all of my moves – one of the few items not lost, broken, sold, or given away.  Thanks guys, for the gift and the memories Smile

2756_Greening Of The Beer

2787_Green Beer

2834_Green Beer and Whiskey

3537_Green Beer and Irish Whiskey

2866-2_Irish Whiskey

Did I drink the contents in the glasses when I was finished with the photography?  What do you think?

Here’s from me to all of you:  Go Green on the 17th, Baby!

And have a Designated Driver.

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Filed under Photography, St. Patrick's Day