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Exploring Beatrice, Nebraska

During the week of September 2 – 7, Barb and I drove up to be with my Dad, his brother, and his four sisters – and we all met in the little town of Beatrice, Nebraska (which they grew up near). My previous post showed my favorite photos that I took on Labor Day, which was on Monday, Sept. 3rd. When we got to the motel that evening, Dad asked if I would like to go out with him and take some photos of the town. Of course, I jumped at the chance!. This post just shows about a dozen of my favorite photos that I took on the morning of September 4, 2012 in Beatrice, Nebraska.

We met in the breakfast area of the Holiday Inn Express just before 9:00 AM, and we didn’t have to go very far to take our first photo. The “Welcome to Beatrice” sign shown above was just outside, between us and the highway, US 77.

Turning around, I thought that the morning light looked really nice as it sort of wrapped around the curved base of the sign for the motel.

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Walking over to the base of the sign, I took the obligatory travel photo showing our “home away from home” for the week. That’s my Dad in the yellow “Wife Beater” T-shirt that seems to be his usual attire lately.

We got into my Honda CR-V and drove south on US 77 a few miles until we got to the Gage County Courthouse, which is located on the east side of US 77 (named North 6th Street) and north of Grant St. I took this photo from the west, looking east into the low morning sun, at 9:20 AM.

Walking east on Grant Street about 30 yards, gets you a nice view of the front of the courthouse building.

At the end of the front sidewalk, near where it meets the street, is a memorial to the veterans that have served our country in the armed forces.

I took the photo above (and all of the photos that morning) with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera mounted on top of my Gitzo GT1542T tripod. Whenever I use a tripod, I slow way down. I make sure that the camera is level, I study what is in the viewfinder, paying more attention to what is visible around the perimeter of the photo, and finally get the exposure settings the way that I want. I probably even rotated the circular polarizer on the front of the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens to get the reflections of the windows to what looked best at the time. I probably took 2 minutes to take this one photo.

After I pressed the button on the remote cable release, I stood up straight, and noticed the couple right behind me. I do not know how long they had been patiently waiting for me, but I was in their way. I said “excuse me”, and they replied in a very friendly “no problem”, and I immediately got out of their path on the sidewalk. They seemed somewhat interested in what I was doing.

I was struck by how differently this was than how it probably would have played out back home in Austin. 9 times out of 10, they would have simply walked around me, up the sidewalk – into my shot – and I’d simply have to wait a minute or two for them to vanish – and hope no one else would wander into my photo. Sometimes I wait a long time to get the photo that I want.

As we walked back to North 6th St., I saw what appeared to be a very large black bird sitting on top of a church spire a couple of blocks away. It had spread its wings out wide, and was warming them in the morning sun.

That was as “telephoto” as my 12-50mm lens would get, and this was one time that I wished I had my Canon camera and lenses with me.

We wanted to walk south one block on North 6th Street to get to High Street. Halfway through that block, as I looked west across the street, I noticed the moon was setting above the Post Office building. It was 9:36 AM.

Just south of High Street, I caught up with Dad in a parking lot. He was getting setup to photograph St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Dad shoots a Canon 7D on a Manfrotto tripod. He is a fairly decent photographer!

Here are a couple of photos that I took of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. This church is where all my relatives that live in Beatrice attend, and it is significant to me in that I have attended both of my grandparents (on my father’s side) in this church.

We didn’t think about it at the time but we probably should have gone inside and photographed the beautiful stained glass windows.

We walked back to our car in the Burger King parking lot, across from the county courthouse. We then drove 7 blocks south on North 6th Street, turned west on Court Street, and drove 4 blocks to North 2nd Street. We parked on North 2nd Street, directly across from the Gage County Historical Society and Museum.

The building is the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Passenger Station. While riding around in the car later that week, my Aunt Virginia told a story of how she had boarded a train here sometime in the 1940′s to go the 40 miles to the “big city” of Lincoln, Nebraska. Evidently, it took a large portion of your day back then, if you drove to Lincoln in your car.

Just to the left (south) of the building is a nice looking red caboose, sitting under a windmill.

Across Court Street is a working grain elevator. It is between the railroad tracks and the Big Blue River.

The sun was getting rather harsh, and higher in the sky by 10:15 AM, but I still wanted to get an isolated photo of just the caboose. That is the shadow of the windmill cast upon the side of the caboose.

Although it is pretty “cliche”, I setup my tripod in the center of the railroad tracks, and took this photo looking north.

Walking back toward the front of the museum, I passed this decorative ironwork fence. I do not think that they have a problem with people just hanging around and sitting on their fence…

I have always thought it rather strange to see the Statue of Liberty out in the middle of the heart of America’s farmland, but here she is.

This copy of the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by the Boy Scouts of America in 1951.

I took 5 or 6 photos of this scene, and chose the one that had the American Flag outstretched best, the way I wanted it to be.

Across North 2nd Street, under a shaded structure, there are 4 different information signs that tell a lot about the heritage of Beatrice, Nebraska. Here is the one sign that told about the importance of the railroads to this area.

It was now 10:30 AM, the temperature was getting close to 90 degrees (32 C), and we needed to get back to the motel and get cleaned up so that we could get over to Aunt Jeanette’s for lunch before noon.

I realize that these are pretty much just “touristy” types of snapshots, but they do have a special meaning to me. I hope that you enjoyed seeing them.

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Welcome to Beatrice, Nebraska

On Sunday, September 2, 2012, Barb and I drove to northern Oklahoma to spend the week with my Dad, his brother, and his four sisters that all met in the little town of Beatrice, Nebraska (which they grew up near). It was on Monday, which was the Labor Day holiday here in the U.S. when we finally made it to Nebraska. This short post just shows only 8 of my favorite photos from that day.

The Mid-West of the United States has experienced a severe drought this year, and we passed through several regions that looked like the entire crops were a failure, but when we stopped to take the photo above at the state line, it was sprinkling lightly.

The vast majority of the photos that I took on this trip were of my family members, but I will keep those to an absolute minimum here on my blog.

Beatrice, Nebraska is right at 780 miles (1255 km) from our home in Austin, Texas and the drive took us just under 13 hours total.

Here is a photo of my Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Jerry’s back yard. The lush, soft, green grass seems so much nicer than what is grown in yards back home in Texas. Love those tall trees, too!

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Aunt Jeanette seemed awfully proud and amused that they had brought the old outhouse from their previous home to their new home, which they moved into about a year and a half ago. I just had to get a few photos of that old outhouse…

I was just trying to get an semi-interesting composition of the wagon wheel with the outhouse, when this little squirrel decided that he needed to check out what I was up to!

I’m not sure when Aunt Jeanette acquired an old outhouse to be used as a yard decoration, but it had to have been at least 40 years ago, because they had it in their old yard when we used to visit them when I was just a kid in school.

Aunt Jeanette does a nice job of keeping the old outhouse decorated. And no, it has never been used for its original purpose (at least not for 50 years).

After my Dad’s brother, Uncle Jack, took us to dinner at a local restaurant, we went by to visit his new home at the Assisted Living Center.

Uncle Jack had moved there in the last couple of years, and so none of us had seen it yet. I took more than a dozen photos inside, and it is a very nice place. I have decided to only show this one of my Dad, Robert (on the left) and his only brother, Jack (on the right). Jack is 88 years old now!

For the photo above, I used my Olympus FL-600R flash unit on top of my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and pivoted the head upward so that the light would bounce off of the relatively low white ceiling.

As we were leaving Uncle Jack’s place, and still standing around in the parking lot, I noticed that the sun was setting. I jogged across the parking lot to hastily snap this Sunflower Sunset photo. It seemed to symbolize the American Midwest as a very fitting close to a fun day of travelling.

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Texas Longhorns vs. Wyoming Cowboys Football Game

On Sunday, September 2, 2012, Barb and I drove to northern Oklahoma to spend the week with my Dad, his brother, and his four sisters that all met in the little town of Beatrice, Nebraska (which they grew up near). I will probably make a post of that trip in a week or so. This is my explanation for why I didn’t have a new blog post last week.

The day before we left on our 780 mile (1255 km) drive, was the day of the first Texas Longhorn football game of the 2012 season. The University of Wyoming Cowboys were the visiting team.

I have had Longhorn football season tickets every year since 1984.  Every Saturday when the Texas Longhorns will be playing a football game, I go out to our front lawn to put out our spinner. Barb and I truly believe that the faster it spins, the more points the Longhorns will score in their game. :-)

The University of Texas athletic department has a policy of “no professional cameras with interchangeable lenses”, which has always prevented me from taking a “real camera” – especially a DSLR. I have taken a camera to only a handful of games over the years. The last time I took a camera to a Texas football game, it was when Ohio State University came calling on September 9, 2006 for a night game (OSU won 24-7). The camera was a 4 Megapixel Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom, and the auto white balance needed lots of color corrections later in Photoshop – due to the color of the stadium lights.

Now that I have the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, I thought that I would see if I could get into the stadium with it and a single 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 “kit” lens. I did, and here’s my story.

We usually meet our friend Greg Ringer about 1hour and 40 minutes before the game at the UT intramural fields where we get on the bus that will take us to the University of Texas campus.

The bus lets us off about 4 blocks north of the stadium, where we have to walk past all of the tailgaters.

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Playing with my camera, I ran a few yards ahead, and waited to snap this photo of Greg Ringer and my wife, Barb, as they caught up with me.

The Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is just ahead, to the south. Our seats are in the upper deck on the west side. That is at the top of the white concrete portion on the right side in this photo.

Before we go into the stadium, we go to the alumni center, which is directly across the street from the stadium.

I rarely drink beer, but I almost always have a Shiner Bock before a home football game.

While drinking our beers, I raised my camera to take a photo of the west side of the stadium, and Greg decided that the silhouette of his hand needed to be in the photo….

After a beer (or two), we cross the street to enter the stadium. They inspect every single bag that people carry in (no backpacks are allowed). I decided that I might look more innocent if I simply wore my camera around my neck, rather that appear to trying to hide it in Barb’s bag with our seat cushions. The kid at the gate did give this camera and the rather long lens a very thorough look, but he never said anything to me. I acted as if I didn’t realize that he might not allow me to enter with it. I didn’t linger around while they inspected Barb’s bag. I kept moving, and didn’t give the inspector any extra time to think about my camera. (If he didn’t let me in, I would miss at least the 1st quarter of the game while I took the round-trip bus ride back our car at the intramural fields.)

We take the escalators up to the 11th floor.

When we got to the 11th floor, we walked over the wall that overlooks the campus. The sun will be setting just to the left of this photo.

We are about 15 minutes earlier than our normal arrival time – as I wanted to allocate a little time to walk around to take a few photos. We walk to the south of the upper deck (which is on the right side of this photo), and look down onto the field from the northwest corner of the stadium.

The field, and our seats (in the upper deck to the right) are already in the shade, but the seats on the east side of the stadium are still in direct sunlight – a very high contrast scene, which is difficult to photograph nicely.

I zoom my kit lens out as far as it will go, just to see how large the players will look. I don’t expect Sports Illustrated will be calling me anytime soon….

Looking across, I take a photo of the seats on the east side, and make sure that I get the part that lists the years that the Longhorns were the National Champions. The shadow of the west side stadium lights are beginning to crawl up the seats on the east side.

Since it is still nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit  (37.8 Celsius), we purchase 3 bottles of water. If you come down to the concession stand during the game, you can still see the game on the TV screen while you wait in line.

We head into the stadium, and walk up the 12 rows to our seats, where my crazy cousin Mike is already there. Mike is always early. Really early.

We are halfway up the upper deck, on the north 10 yard line. We never miss seeing a play, and even if we do, we can watch the replay on the giant TV in the south end zone. The clock under the TV is counting down the time until the game starts (26 minutes from now). The person in the center of the TV picture is Darrell Royal, who was the Longhorn football coach when they won the National Championship in 1963, 1969, and 1970. He was on a golf cart, waiting to be taken to the center of the field for the coin toss right before the start of the game.

Up until two photos ago, I had the ISO setting on the camera at 200, but now that everything of interest was in the shade, I changed it to 400 to gather one more stop of light.

I knew that the lighting was going to be changing on me a lot – from sunshine, to shade, to twilight, to stadium lights. Here is a look to the south from my seat that shows the evil stadium lights that I would have to deal with later.

Looking across the stadium, the shadow of the upper deck that I was seated in was quickly climbing up the seats on the east side.

People wear all sorts of strange items to show their support for the team.

Twenty minutes before the kick-off, the Longhorn Marching Band enters the stadium through the opening near the north end zone. Here they completely fill the end zone.

They begin to march, and quickly spread out and cover 50 yards of the field.

And then they get into the “UT emblem” formation.

When the band plays the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, we always sing out loud – and everyone else around us does too.

After the nation, the focus of attention changes to our state of Texas. We’ve got a huge state flag that they bring out and spin around before each and every game.

Next comes the school song, which is entitled “The Eyes of Texas”. The fans who are loyal to the school raise their arm and give the “Hook ‘em Horns” sign while they sing the words to the song!

With less than 6 minutes before the game begins, the TV screen shows a live feed of the team as they exit the locker room area and prepare to enter the field. All of the players and the coaches swipe their fingers across the tip of one of the longhorns mounted on the wall near the door. (Does this look familiar?)

At the end of a rousing video on the giant TV, the team enters the stadium through a cloud of smoke. The first 3 players always carry the American and Texas flags.

At this point, the stadium is really rocking with excitement and the loud cheers!

The players run all the way to the north (opposite) end zone, where they kneel for a moment in prayer, if they choose to (and the vast majority of them do).

Time for the coin toss to determine which team will get the ball first, and which team will kick-off. They help Darrell Royal shuffle from the golf cart to the center of the field for the coin toss.

Play ball!  The football season is finally under way. Life is good!

As you can see, our seats are on the northern 10 yard line, but we see the entire field just fine.

Cousin Mike sits on the aisle. People walking up and down the stairs in the aisle only block our view of the extreme corner of the south end zone, but only when we are sitting down.

(Honey, Greg Ringer wanted me to take that photo. No, he double-dared me to. Really…)

Half way up the seats in the seats above the northern end zone, they list the years that Texas won the old Southwest Conference, which was dissolved when the Big 12 Conference was formed in 1996.

By now the shadow of the upper deck has climbed almost to the top of the seats on the east side.

Since the light is diminishing in intensity, I change the ISO setting on the camera to 640.

There is still some indirect sunlight coming from the sky, but the evil stadium lights are contributing a larger percentage of the light available.

I cannot see the sunset occurring behind me, but the view to the east is rather pretty, so I take a photo of it.

And again.

Twenty minutes later, the sun had pretty much set, and only the evil stadium lights were providing the illumination needed by the players, and my camera. I performed a custom white balance in the camera, and then took a photo of my ColorChecker Passport.

Here is a photo of Texas kicking an extra point after a touchdown.

At this point, I had increased the ISO setting to 800.

Across the way, I noticed that the moon was rising above the seats on the east side, but it was hiding behind the clouds. Here it finally poked out for just a little while.

Half time. The first band onto the field during half time is from the visiting school – if they bring one. The University of Wyoming marching band made the 1044 mile trip (1680 km).

Then comes “The Showband of the Southwest” – The Texas Longhorn Band.

Here they are, in the center of the field.

The next three photos are a sequence from the same original formation, where they write a cursive “Texas” on the field.

When the half time show is over, it’s time for the players to return from the locker room, which of course is done to great fanfare.

After half time, I changed the ISO setting to 1000.

Here was a play where the ball was on the field directly in front of us. Two players later, the Longhorns scored another touchdown.

By 9:18 PM, the moon had made it above the clouds on the horizon. I used the electronic viewfinder to know that an Exposure Compensation of -1 1/3 stops was needed.

Here’s a photo from sometime early in the 4th quarter, when Wyoming was on offense.

After the game, which Texas won by a score of 37 – 17, the players meet at the middle of the field to shake hands.

Moments later, the players head over to the north end zone, directly in front of the students and the band, and the band proceeds to play the school song, “The Eyes of Texas” for the last time of the evening.

Whenever the Longhorns win by more than 10 points or so, many of the fans leave before the end of the game (to avoid the traffic). We almost always stay until the very end – no matter what the score. (I can only remember leaving early twice in 28 years.)

I played with my camera while on the elevator ride down, and decided that I needed to bump up the ISO to 1600, so that I could keep the shutter speed at 1/25 th of a second. I hoped that the in-body image stabilization would do its magic – and it did.

After walking the 4 blocks back to where the bus let us off, we get into the short line to board the bus for the ride back to the intramural fields. This next photo was hand held with the shutter open for 1/5 th of a second.

This last photo, of the bus before our bus, was taken with the shutter open for 1/8 th of a second. That is still remarkable to me, as I could never do that with my Canon 5D Mark II camera!

I know that this story was very long, with a LOT of photos, so I tried to keep the number of words to a minimum. I thought about splitting it into 2 or 3 separate blog posts, but decided this was a story that would be hurt by doing so. I doubt that very many people have actually made it this far, but for those of you who did, I thank you for reading my blog!

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CowParade Austin Calendar – September – Partying with Pi-COW-sso

If you have my 2012 CowParade Austin calendar, you probably flipped over to September, saw a very colorful cow, and headed on over to my blog site to see what the story is with the cow named Partying with Pi-COW-sso, which was painted by Allison Gregory.

I count 14 artists that painted 2 cows, no artist painted 3 cows, and Allison Gregory was the only artist to paint 4 cows! I thought I’d use this opportunity to show all 4 of her beautiful cows in this one post. As you will soon see, Allison not only produced in quantity, she also excelled in quality!

You can visit Allison’s web site here, and you can see what she has to say about her herd of cows here.

Besides at the Preview Party in late July 2011, the first time that Dad and I found one of Allison’s cows on public display, it was on the very hot morning of August 20, 2011. It was a cow named Partying with Pi-COW-sso, and it was on display of the front lawn of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Obviously this cow’s name involves a play on words involving the famous artist Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973).

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This was the same bright, direct sunlight that I talked about in my previous post about the cow named Cowmaro.

I really liked the bright colors of this cow, but didn’t like how the harsh mid-day Texas sun was washing out those colors.

The next time we found one of Allison’s cows was 2 weeks later, on September 3, 2011. We found 2 of them that morning. The first one was named A MOO-sical MOO-saic.

This was one of only a handful of cows in the entire herd that were in the laying down position.

This colorful cow was located on the west side of Congress Avenue, just south of 6th Street, and at the front entrance of One American Center

Even at 9:35 AM, the Texas sun was wreaking havoc with my attempts to photograph the left side of this cow. When I went around to the cow’s right side, it was in the shadows, so I put on my external speedlite and took this photo.

I would have loved to had the opportunity that Kirk Tuck had to photograph a cow such as this using studio strobes and white seamless background. All of the specular highlights from the reflections on this cow really do an injustice to Allison’s work of art.

About 40 minutes later, we found Allison’s cow named “A Psy-COW-delic COW-ssword Puzzle”.

There is a discrepancy in how this cow’s name appears on the plaque underneath the cow, and how Allison spells it on her web site. The plaque uses the word “Crossword”, but her web spells it “COW-ssword”. I’ll assume that the plaque is incorrect.

This cow was located at 419 Colorado St. – at Emmis Radio (KBPA).

Wedging myself right up against the corner of the building, and looking at the cow from the other side, the bright background was incredibly bright. I dialed down the exposure compensation by 1 full stop, and took the next photo. I still had to use some Highlight Recovery (+20 in Lightroom 3) to somewhat tame the very bright background.

The next Saturday morning, September 10, 2011, about 10:30 AM, we found Allison’s cow named “MOO-sy In the Sky with Diamonds”. (I’m sure that’s a play on words from the title of a Beatles song from their psychedelic era.)

This cow was located at East 1st Street & San Jacinto Blvd. – at front entrance to The Four Seasons Hotel. There were a lot of cars, patrons, and bell hops between this cow and the front entrance, which made it difficult to get a photo of this cow without distracting cars or people behind it. I sort of got out in the drive between 2 cars and took this photo with a very bright background. I did use the Adjustment Brush to bring down the exposure by ¾ of a stop on the white car and pavement to the right of the cow.

After the car in front of me moved on, I was able to move a few feet to my right to get this photo with a somewhat more pleasing background. I still had to resort to using the Adjustment Brush to reduce the exposure of much of the bright pavement behind the cow by 4/5 of a stop.

After standing in the direct, hot Texas sun for about 4 minutes, I finally had a very brief moment where there were no people, and only the front of one car protruding into the background. This was my only shot from this side of the cow that was worth keeping.

It was a week later, on September 17, 2011 when we once again ran into Partying with Pi-COW-sso at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

This time the light was much more favorable. Even though it was 11:05 AM, it was overcast, and so the sunlight was very diffused. Here you can see the base of the large Texas Star behind the cow. This is the photo that I used for “Miss September” in my CowParade Austin 2012 calendar.

As you can see, Allison Gregory uses bright, bold colors. Her use of pseudo-psycheledic patterns and colors really seem to draw me in - about like a moth attracted to a porch light. I personally thought that all 4 of her cows were outstanding works of art!

Thank you for reading my blog. While I know that I am bouncing randomly from subject-to-subject in what my blog posts are about, I would really appreciate hearing from you to find out what you think works well for me, and what you think I should do less of. Just click in the “Leave a Reply” link immediately below (or on the cartoonish “word bubble” way back up at the top of the post – if there is a number in that “word bubble” it indicates how many readers have already left a comment).