July Calendar - Udderly Austin

CowParade Austin Calendar – July – Udderly Austin

August 27th, 2011 was the 2nd hottest day, of the hottest year ever on record here in Austin. We were also smack-dab in the middle of one of the very worst droughts ever experienced in Central Texas.

Dad and I still had to hunt down a few dozen of the 72 CowParade Austin cows.  The weather reports told us that is was going to be very hot, so we got started early that Saturday morning, and we were photographing our first cow by 9:00 AM.

This is a short story about our encounter with our 10th cow we photographed that morning. “Udderly Austin” was painted by Patti Schermerhorn, and was sponsored by Schlotzsky’s. Patti has a very nice web page showing the art projects that she has done for charities. She even has a photo of Jay Leno auctioning off Udderly Austin. [here]

Even though we had moved quickly and photographed 9 cows in just over two hours, we were already starting to suffer, as the temperature was already well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not going to go into great detail in creating a story about just how brutal it was, but I was genuinely concerned about Dad’s ability to deal with this kind of heat – because I was also suffering from the stress of being out on the streets and sidewalks that were too hot to touch.

Udderly Austin was on the northeast corner of the Schlotzsky’s at the corner of South Lamar Blvd. and Toomey Road. This is adjacent to Zachary Scott Theater, just south of the Colorado River in downtown Austin.

As you can see by the shadow underneath this very colorful cow, the sun was almost directly over us at 11:15 AM that morning.

The scene painted onto this side of the cow is the view of downtown Austin that you would have if you simply walked a block to the northeast of where we were standing. That’s the Texas State Capitol Building on the face of Udderly Austin.

It was hot. Very hot. The sun was blazing. The heat radiating off of the sidewalk was cooking my sneakers. This was going to be done quickly, or someone was going to be taken to the hospital. I was going to circle this cow once, take a few photos, and get the hell out of there.

This was the photo that I used in my CowParade Austin calendar.

As I finished photographing the left side of Udderly Austin, I noticed that Dad had taken shelter in the shade of a nearby tree – and he didn’t look good.

I went around to the other side of the cow. This is the view that those inside of the Schlotzsky’s restaurant had of the cow. To me, it looked like a completely different cow than I had seen from the other side. Also, this side was in the shade, and background was nothing but blinding glare from the sidewalk street, and concrete pad that the cow was standing on. I popped my flash unit on top of my Canon 5D Mark II, and took this one photo.

You can see the reflections of the flash, and I knew that under different circumstances that I could have done much better. I also knew that we quickly needed to seek shelter somewhere, so there wasn’t time to dilly-dally. I walked up next to the cow and took a photo of the plaque underneath her.

It was too dang hot to even think about walking across Lamar Blvd. and the half block to our car. I suggested that we go inside of Schlotzky’s and get a iced soft drink. Dad would rarely ever go for such a suggestion, but this time he quickly agreed.

We spent nearly 30 minutes inside the air conditioned restaurant, and had nearly finished our second iced soft drink, before our body temperature returned to something near normal.  We had come dangerously close to heat exhaustion.

After we walked back to the car, we turned on the radio, where we learned that it was already 108 degrees (at only 12:00 PM). Now we have lived in Austin for 40 years, and we have seen our share of hot weather, but rarely does it ever got THAT hot here. I’m sure that we could count the number of times that it has been 108 or hotter on one single hand….

We did stop and photograph 3 more cows before we returned home, but I was able to park the car within 50 feet (16 meters) of each one, and the car’s air conditioner did its best to attempt to blow cool air on us between each stop. By the time that we got home, the temperature had reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The record highest temperature ever recorded in Austin, TX is 112 degees. It has reached that mark twice. The 1st time was Sept. 5, 2000. The 2nd time it did so was the day after we photographed Udderly Austin (July 28, 2011).

I associate this cow with the incredible summertime heat. That is why she appears as “Miss July” in my CowParade Austin 2012 calendar.

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Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Ruidoso, NM

It seems like a long time ago that we were in Ruidoso, NM. My previous post was from a 3 1/2 hour slice of time on Memorial Day afternoon as Barb and I walk up Sudderth Drive. This post is from an even narrower slice of time – about one hour – during the next afternoon.

The day after Memorial Day, I spent the morning still reading, marking, and highlighting, the owner’s manual for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera that I had been in possession of for less than a week. For lunch, we went to a casino/resort owned and operated by the Apache tribe, known as The Inn of the Mountain Gods.

We rarely gamble, and were not interested in doing so that afternoon, so we just walked around the facility taking lots of photos – both inside and outside this beautiful facility.

After a couple of hours, we headed back into Ruidoso, which was only about 5 miles down the easy-to-drive 2 lane road. Since the afternoon was still relatively young, we decided to stop at Grace O’ Malley’s Irish Pub that had been so busy the previous afternoon.

The place was pretty much empty at 2:45 PM, so we had our pick of which bar stools we wanted to sit on. I made sure that we were on the side of the bar that was nearest to the large windows on the street side of the building.

For those that know me, I rarely drink beer anymore, but all of the hard alcohol staring me in the face just didn’t seem inviting at all at this time of day. So we asked the bartender what local beers he could recommend to us. Barb settled on a light colored beer that had been brewed with hatch chili peppers, and I settled on a Fat Tire from Colorado (close enough to New Mexico for me).

While we were getting settled in to our spot, I just started playing with my new camera.

Barb was sitting to my right, and these beer taps were just to my left.

With the mixed lighting situation (window light and tungsten lights), I reminded myself to get a photo of my ColorChecker Passport so that I could make sure I could color-correct all of the photos from this visit later in Lightroom, if needed.

So we  sat there talking and playing with the new Olympus camera.

The timestamp on the next photo tells me that I drink this much beer in 17 minutes:

About this time, we started talking to the bartender – he was only “kinda busy”, and he knew that we were tourists in his town. Here he is making some mixture of two different beers, and is known as a “Back and Tan”. He explained to us that this beer concoction had to be made from two specific types of beer. I forget the first one, but the second one had to be Guiness Stout, as it would float on top of the first one (if he didn’t pour it too fast).

We were getting relaxed from the beer, and it was very pleasant inside this Irish Pub.

After 45 minutes, we had finished our beers, and decided that it was time to head on out. When we got outside, I wanted to get a couple of photos of the outside of the pub. The first photo was the opening photo to this post, and the second one I took had the moon in it!

So there you have a few photos taken within a one hour slice of time. What perfect way to spend time on a vacation!

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Sudderth Drive in Ruidoso, New Mexico

As I promised at the end of my previous post, here are more photos that I took with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. All but one of the photos in this post were taken using the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 lens, which I ordered as the “kit” lens with the camera.

We left Austin the morning of May 27th, and drove the 500 miles to Roswell, New Mexico, which is only about 70 miles short of our ultimate destination – Ruidoso. We didn’t go all the way to Ruidoso simply because the house that we were renting for 5 days wouldn’t be ready for us to check into until 3:00 PM the next afternoon.

Roswell, NM is famous for pretty much one thing, and that is for the “unofficial” UFO crash landing that occurred there in 1947 – officially known as the Roswell UFO Incident. While we were in Roswell, we never saw any real aliens from outer space, but we did have this friendly looking creature at the entrance to our motel’s parking lot. I took this photo the next morning, which happened to be Monday, May 28th – aka Memorial Day here in the US of A.

Roswell is in a very arid, barren region with an elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Driving west toward Ruidoso, the terrain remained very desert-like for at least 35 miles, but we did start to gain in elevation. The last 35 or 40 miles quickly changed to green trees and then pine trees as we climbed all the way up to 6950 feet above sea level.

When we arrived in town, we stopped in at the Visitor’s Center, which was on Sudderth Drive.

The very nice, helpful lady there loaded us up with maps and all sorts of information pamphlets for various tourist and entertainment activities that we might wish to do during our 5 day stay. She recommended that we head on over to Village Buttery for lunch on their outdoor patio. That sounded great to us! It was just “a couple of blocks up the road”. Ruidoso was very crowded with tourist for the Memorial Day weekend, and it did take us several minutes to find a place to park the CR-V. We finally got lucky and parked just a couple of spots from the little café.

After we went in and ordered our lunch, we came back outside and got the last table (around the left side of the building in the above photo), and one of the very few that did not have an umbrella, but it was in the mottled shade from the large trees behind us.

At last, since I wasn’t driving, I had a chance to play with my new camera! I pushed the Macro button on the 12-50mm lens and slid the barrel forward until it clicked into the macro mode, which seems to be fixed at 43mm focal length (86mm on FF 35mm camera).

For lunch, I had a garden salad AND a fruit salad. Why not – I was on vacation!

Put the lens back into normal mode and took a photo of the view I had while I had eaten my lunch.

Yes, we were out of the desert now, and into the southern extent of the Rocky Mountains.

One more photo, back in macro mode, before we left the café and headed on down the street on foot. The Image Stabilization of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is outstanding – this macro mode photo was taken while I hand held the camera (but I did have my elbows on the table).

This stretch of Sudderth Drive is loaded with little arts and crafts stores, restaurants, and other shopping opportunities. Barb wanted to wanded around in about half of them, and I was more than OK with that, as it gave me the opportunity to stroll along and photograph all sorts of interesting, quirky sorts of photos, like these fabric flowers.

Sometimes I would go into the shop with Barb, and sometimes I would just hang around outside.

After I took the above photo, I decided that it would be a good idea to put the circular polarizer onto the front of my lens. It remained on for all but the last two photos in this post.

We hadn’t gone more than 5 or 6 stores down the street before Barb said she needed to find a restroom. I suggested that we go into the pottery shop where we were at and ask them where we could find one. They showed her to the back of their shop, while I hung around up front and took a couple of photos of their colorful pottery mugs – which were predominantly lit by the overhead fluorescent lights, but also from both side from the sunlight coming in from both sides due to the front and back doors to the narrow shop being propped wide open. The Auto White Balance on the E-M5 camera did a great job.

After Barb returned, we stepped outside the front of the shop and one of the sales ladies seemed to latch onto us, and insisted in introducing us to one of their artists. He was perched up into the bed of a pick-up truck in the parking lot under the shade of the trees behind the shop, while he worked on his pottery.  He we struck up a short little conversation with him – and then he noticed my silver and black Olympus OM-D E-M5, and commented that it had been a while since he had seen any tourists walking around with “a real camera”. As I raised it up to discuss it, he noticed the LCD on the back and instantly realized that it was not a film camera. I asked him if it would be OK to take his photo, and he very kindly agreed. He just went back to his work and I waited a few seconds before I took this photo.

OK, so now it was time to head on up the street.

We went into a very nice looking Irish Pub, named Grace o’Malley’s thinking it would be nice to kill some time and sit and have a beer (remember – we were on vacation!), but it was so busy with the Memorial Day crowd, that we decided we would come back later in the week. (We did and I am certain that I will create a post of the photos that we took inside.)

As we stood on the steps of Grace O’Malley’s these two real photographers saw me taking their photo, but since I didn’t have “a real camera” they ignored me as they walked on by.

Now this was really interesting!  A few minutes ago an artist initial thought my camera was cool, and now these DSLR toting photogs effectively snubbed their noses at me once they saw my silver and black “toy camera”. For some reason this reverberated strongly with me – and I liked it!

We passed by some pretty corny art as we walked further up the street.

Since it was Memorial Day, lots of the stores had the American Flag on display outside their stores. While Barb went into a little shop known as Rebekah’s, I stopped to take a photo of their flag.

As I stood there, I noticed how the flag moved with the breeze, sometimes the sunlight was hitting the side of the flag that I was on (front light), like the photo above. However, what really caught my eye was how beautifully the flag seemed to glow when the sunlight hit the back side of the flag (back light). I waited and waited for it to occur again before I finally got a chance to take this photo.

As it turns out, Rebekah had been watching me from inside of her shop, and when I went inside to see what Barb was up to, Rebekah started talking to me about her flag. She had bought it from another vendor at a show she was selling items at in Las Vegas. Supposedly it would never get wrapped around to pole, due to the way it could rotate around the shaft. She asked me if I would send her a photo of her flag, and I said that I would, if she would write down her email address.

While Rebekah was writing on the back of one of her business cards, her sales helper asked if I would take her photo. Heck yes!  Sharon jumped up onto the stool behind the counter and mentioned that it would be really cool to have their old –timey cash register behind her. I said “oh, of course”, but was much more interested in using the large window to my right to light the side of her face, and not have it blow out the highlights in the background. (There was also a large window to my left, but it was 10 feet away from Sharon.)

The lens was all the way out to 50mm. The exposure was 1/6 of a second @ f/6.3, ISO 200. The maximum aperture opening for this lens at 50m focal length is f/6.3, which is pretty “dark” and is what caused the slow shutter speed of 1/6 second. The in-camera Image Stabilization of the OM-D E-M5 is very, very good, but I am glad that I took two photos of Sharon. Both were hand-held. The first is noticeably blurry when viewed at 1:1, but this 2nd shot seems to be razor sharp to me.

Note: a few days later I did email Rebekah the photos of her flag, and also of Sharon.

Moving on down the street, I just continued photographing anything that looked interesting to me – and continued playing with the settings on my new camera. Some photos were of objects in the direct sun – because I had no other choice.

About this point, we had gone 7 or 8 blocks, and decided that it was time to turn around and head back toward the car. This would be on the “sunny side” of the street……

This colored necklace was taken through a storefront window. Fortunately I had put a circular polarizer on the front of the lens by this time. I am pretty sure that I put the lens into Macro Mode to take this photo.

I like colorful objects, and can’t resist photographing them.

Here we passed by Grace O’Malley’s Irish Pub. We’ll be B-A-C-K!

At this point I noticed that my “low battery” indicator was flashing on the back LCD monitor. I think that the camera uses a lot of battery power when you wear it around your neck, and the sensor that detects an object close to the electronic view finder (EVF). That would be my belly. A valuable lesson learned about how to use the OM-D E-M5 efficiently – turn it off when you don’t need it to be on.

We got into the car and drove further up Sudderth Drive than we had walked. We went to a wine store that our friends had recommended – a place called End of the Vine. While relaxing there, we did a tasting of 4 New Mexico wines. While vintner Steve Willmon poured our wines and visited with us, I changed the lens on my camera the 45mm f/1.8 and took this photo of Barb under some pretty funky lights. I did use the gray portion of my ColorChecker Passport to correct the white balance setting in Lightroom 4.1.

After putting the two bottles of wine that we had purchased into the ice chest in our CR-V, we still needed to kill another hour before we could arrive at the house that we were renting, so we walked through a few shops in the same area. I put the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens back onto the camera.

While in one store, Barb found a very pretty little sun dress that she will be wearing to our niece’s wedding two weekends from now. While she was trying on dresses, I thought I’d take this photo of the decorations near the ceiling of the store, just to see how the Auto White Balance would perform under these strange spot lights.

It was now time to head to the house that we were going to spend 5 nights in, so we got into the car and headed on out.

I know that these photos are just “vacation snapshots”, but I was very pleased with the results that I was getting from a camera that I now had been out with for a total of only TWO times!

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A Neighborhood Walk with the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Camera

On May 1st, I went down to Precision Camera here in Austin and ordered one of the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four-Thirds cameras (in silver and black) with the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit” lens. I also ordered 3 prime lenses to round out the system. They were the Olympus 25mm f/1.4, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4, and the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 lenses.

Since the Micro Four-Thirds cameras have a 2x sensor magnification from that of a full-frame 35mm camera, the 12-50mm kit lens would be the equivalent of a 24-100mm lens on a full-frame 35mm camera. The 3 prime lenses would perform like 24m, 50mm, and 90mm equivalents.

On Wednesday May 23rd, everything came in, except for the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens. We were leaving for a week of vacation on Sunday May 27th, and I had pretty much come to grips that we would be taking the old Canon camera 5D Mk II on this week long trip to Ruidoso, New Mexico.

By getting a brand new camera “system” just days before a week-long vacation didn’t give me much time to learn how to use it – but I was going to “learn it as I went”. On Saturday morning, less than 24 hours before we were going to leave, I decided that I would take my new camera with me on my usual Neighborhood Walk. I’ve been walking this same route up to 4 times a week for over 11 years now, and I had never taken a camera with me before. The journey always starts right here at my front door.

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I was in my walking shoes and shorts, and I was planning on getting somewhat sweaty, so there was no way I was going to bring along a camera bag. No, I was going to have to travel light – really light.

So, before I left the house, I put the 45mm f/1.8 lens on the camera. I did not even have a lens hood – they are not in stock anywhere right now. I did have a B+W UV Haze filter on the lens. Even so, I knew that I was going to have to be careful about the direction that I pointed the lens, with respect to the angle to the sun, to prevent unwanted lens flare.

In the 3 short evenings that I had practiced with the camera in the house, I had left it in the default setting of “Auto ISO”. I had also read several reviewers on the internet say that the high ISO sensitivity of this camera was good at least all the way up to 6400, so I set that as the upper limit that the camera would use for Auto ISO.  However, when I looked at those practice photos on my computer monitor, I was pretty displeased. This new Olympus OM-D E-M5 was a huge improvement over my Canon PowerShot G-12, but it wasn’t perfect, either. I would say that the Olympus at ISO 6400 looked about as speckled as the G-12 does at ISO 1000.

For this walk, I set the ISO to 200 and left it there. If I needed more light, I was going to use the “business end” of the aperture settings that this 45mm f/1.8 lens was capable of – i.e. f/1.8 – and would also allow me to se how well it performed with narrow depth of field situations such as this:

And this:

Normally this 3 mile walk through my hilly neighborhood takes me anywhere between 47 and 49 minutes. Due to my stopping and taking photos of anything that looked interesting to me, on this day it took more than an additional 30 minutes more.

It was mainly overcast early in the walk, but the longer I was out, the more the sun would shine through the clouds. Photos of plants simply do not look good when taken in direct sunlight. As a result, I past by many interesting photo opportunities while the sun was out, and had to move quickly to capture what I could when the sun  was behind a cloud.

This next photo was taken while the sun was out, but it was on the shady side of the Magnolia tree. On my first shot of this blossom, it was pretty well underexposed. Camera meters get fooled by scenes that vary significantly from an average brightness. The white petals on this blossom were supposed to be white, and not gray, so I simply set the Exposure Compensation to +1.0 and took this photo.

Now I had to turn and walk up my longest (not my steepest) hill. Along the way, I noticed how well the yards were looking, as compared to this time last year, when Austin was in a terrible drought.

At the top of the hill, the sun went behind some heavy clouds, but I still had plenty of light to shoot with. The next shot with the two cacti was taken with a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second. The aperture wasn’t wide open, but even at f/3.2 – and on a Micro Four-Thirds camera – it did a very nice job of blurring the cactus in the background.

So I was just walking along shooting when the clouds were helping me out.

There is a style of photography known as “Street Shooting” where the photographer is simply out on the street, taking photos of interesting architectural features of buildings, and usually more important than that, they are attempting to photograph people candidly, in their daily life – and with their natural facial expressions (not a posed, fake smile).

There are some really good photographers who do this and are also “bloggers on the internet”. Robin Wong and Kirk Tuck are two of the 3 blogs that I read on a regular basis.

I learn a lot from reading what they, and Libby over at Ohno Studios put in their blogs. I like them, because they aren’t trying to sell me something. (OK, Kirk occasionally reminds his readers about the books that he’s authored.)

Now between those three “internet photographers”, I’ve never once see any of them come close to mentioning the type of “Street Shooting” that I was really enjoying on this Saturday morning.  I suppose I still have a lot to learn….

At the base of my steepest 1-block-long hill, I stopped to photograph a few things in this yard before I tackled the hill.

The sun was out most of the time now, but when I saw some movement in my peripheral vision, something instinctively made me raise my camera and get off this one shot just as the doe jumped into a full sprint.

OK, about another block beyond the deer siting, is my second steepest hill, but the good news it is just a few hundred yards from our home.

I could easily tell when the sun was out by observing my own shadow on the sidewalk.

I’m not sure if that qualifies as Street Shooting… it was actually a driveway!

There were only a couple more photo opportunities at the top of the hill.

 

I’m almost home now. This the intersection that you turn into Bing Cherry Lane, which is the cul-de-sac that I live on. Our house is to the left of the house on the left in this photo.

Before I end my walk, I have to go to the end of the cul-de-sac and then come back to the house.

The Purple Sage looks great this year, and this was the only time I passed them when the sun wasn’t out.

I don’t think this one is a Purple Sage, but the sun wasn’t blasting it with hard light, so I took this photo.

Before I ended my walk, I wanted to make sure that I had at least one shot where the aperture was wide open at f/1.8 so that I could see how what kind of “bokeh” that this lens would produce on the Micro Four-Thirds sensor in this new Olympus OM-D E-M5.

I was pleased to see that I could achieve this sort of effect – one that I really enjoy producing with my full-frame Canon 5D Mk II.

Well, here’s where my journey ends.

I didn’t get the “exercise benefit” that I always get from this 3 mile walk. Even so, I was very excited when I was done – mainly because I was pretty confident that I could take this new camera on our vacation and still not wish that I had brought my “real camera” with me.

At ISO 200, the images look great to me. I had the camera set to capture both JPG and RAW simultaneously – mainly because Adobe had not officially released the updates to Lightroom 4.1 and Camera Raw 7.1 that I would need to process the RAW files with.

While on vacation in Ruidoso, New Mexico, Adobe did release those updates, and I spent the morning of May 31st going through these photos and putting this post together. In ALL of the photos in this post, the White Balance was left at “As Shot” (the camera was on Auto White Balance). The Exposure, Contrast, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders were all left at 0 (zero). ALL of the photo did have the Clarity slider set to +20, the Vibrance slider set to +8, and the Saturation slider set to 0 (zero).

Why the bump in Clarity and Vibrance? Because that’s just the way I post process all of my RAW files, except for portraits of women (where I leave the Clarity slider at 0 (zero) – and then use the Adjustment Brush to reduce the Clarity on just their facial skin to -50).

When I exported the JPG photos that you see here from Lightroom 4.1 they were reduced in size to 1000 pixels along the long edge, which is quite a bit less than the 4608 pixels that the camera captured. This inevitably results in a loss of resolution. Even so, I think you will agree with me that what you see here isn’t too shabby!

My next few posts will be to show some of the photos that I took this week – all of which were taken with my new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and the three lenses that I currently have.