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Lighting Set-up for Portraits at Curves

This post describes the equipment in my portable “portrait studio” that I set-up at the neighborhood Curves facility for their 10th anniversary celebration. To walk through it, I’m simply going to describe what you see in the photo above, and the crappy iPhone photo below.

Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

Before I get into the equipment, I want to draw your attention to the far right side of both of the photos. There, affixed to the large mirror on the wall are several of the photos that I had taken for the Curves Member of the Month photos back in 2011. If you look close, you may even spot the two portraits of Barb that I showed at the beginning of my previous blog post.

OK, now on to the lighting. As you can see, my whale gray backdrop was positioned halfway in front of a floor-to-ceiling window that was allowing lots of morning sunlight to come streaming in. To make my backdrop more opaque, I simply draped a king-size bed sheet behind the backdrop, and used 4 red handled A-clamps to hold it in position.

The facility was brightly lit with probably 100 banks of fluorescent lights in the ceiling. The sunlight was streaming in from the window on the left. I wanted to use my small portable Canon 580EX II Speedlites to illuminate the people in the portraits. To complicate things further, all three of those light sources emitted a different color (spectrum) of light. How the heck was I going to make these women look good under such conditions?

To start, I put up a round reflector on the left side of the photos above, to block the sunlight from coming in from the window and directly hitting the model, who would be sitting on the posing stool that you see in the middle of the set-up. The round reflector is a Creative Light 5-in-1 Reflector, which is 47″ in diameter. I put the black cover on this reflector facing the posing stool. I used a Paul C. Buff RBH2566 reflector kit mounting arm to attach the reflector to a standard light stand. I have wasted good money on three other such arms in the past, and this one is not only the best that I have used, it is also the least expensive!

As for the fluorescent lights, I borrowed the step ladder at Curves, and climbed up to disable the two light banks that were directly overhead of the set.

At this point, the ambient light was what it was, and I was just going to have to deal with it. The way that I deal with it, is to “kill it in the camera”. What the heck is that?

I wanted to underexpose any picture that would be taken with just the ambient lighting. To make the digital sensor of my Canon 5D Mark II the least sensitive to light, I set the ISO to 100, which is where this camera also captures the most detail that it is capable of. The “sync speed” of this camera is 1/200th of a second, so that is the fastest shutter speed that I would be allowed to use later, after I turned on my flashes.

With the ISO at 100, and the shutter speed a 1/200th of a second, the only thing left that I could use to control the exposure was the aperture (the diameter of the opening in the lens that light passes through).   So before I turned on my flash units, I took a few test shots, where I adjusted the aperture down to a small enough opening that any photos that I took would be severely underexposed – effectively killing the ambient light “in the camera”.

The photo above was taken with the aperture set at f/ 5.6. Notice that this is the same photo at the very top of this post – except in this photo, the flashes were not turned on. You can see the white bars of the exercise equipment, and you can see the gold star balloon on the right in both versions of the photo. So, even without the flash, there was still some of the fluorescent lighting that was going to contribute to the exposure, but it wasn’t going to be very significant.

I could have made the aperture smaller by setting it to f/ 8 or even f/11, but that would mean than when I did turn on my flashes, they would have to put out twice (from f/5.6 to f/8) or even 4 times (from f/5.6 to f/11) the amount of light. That would drain the 4 AA batteries in each flash unit twice, or 4 times, as fast.  By  leaving the aperture at f/5.6, I was expecting to get at least 100 flashes before I would have to change the batteries.

So those were my camera settings: ISO 100, shutter at 1/200th of a second, and the aperture at f/5.6. About the only other thing to mention about the camera itself is that I put the camera into “mirror lock-up mode”, and I use an electronic cable release to trip the shutter.

I put the camera on the tripod, and put a Speedlite in Master Mode into the hot shoe of the camera. This Master was set so that it would communicate and send commands to the 4 Slave units I was going to use, but this Master would not put out any light that would contribute to the actual exposure. I pointed the Speedlite up towards the white ceiling, so that it could bounce its control pulses of lights to the Slave Speedlites that I was about to use.

The lens that I chose to use that day is a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens. This is not a high end Canon “L” lens (L for luxury), but it is still a wickedly sharp lens. The 85mm lens on a full-frame sensor camera, like the Canon 5D Mark II is a allowed me to back up about 6 to 8 feet (2 to 3 meters) from the models, and that’s about all the space that I had to work with before I would be bumping up to the exercise equipment.

At that distance, with that 85mm lens set to an aperture of f/5.6, I was going to have to pay careful attention to what the camera would focus on. I wanted to use autofocus, because even though I was going to have them sit on the posing stool, I was expecting that they would be swiveling back and forth as we experimented with more than one pose. I was going to be dealing with less than 1 foot (~10cm) of depth of field (front to back in focus). If the camera focused on the front of the model’s blouse, her eyes could be 6 inches behind that, and therefore not very sharp – and her earrings would certainly be getting blurry. I also knew that I would have to really be paying attention to this later in the day when I had a mother and daughter couple shot, and that the last time slot was the largest group of the day – a family of 4.

Since the camera and lens were set-up, the next thing that I worked on was the background lighting. I wanted the gray backdrop to be lit consistently (the same for every shot) and I wanted a vignette effect (a darkening of the corners of the photo) to surround the head of the model.

I put a Canon 580EX II Speedlite on a small light stand (the right-most stand in the two set-up shots above). I put it into what Syl Arena calls “free agent” mode. This is a mode that allows you to shoot with both E-TTL and Manual control of Speedlites at the same time. This is all described on page 148 of Syl’s book “Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites”.

To get the vignette effect, I first put a large ExpoImaging Rogue FlashBenders onto the Speedlite and bent it into a shape that I thought would create somewhat of a spotlight onto the backdrop, directly behind the model. I never could get the somewhat uniform spotlight effect that I was after, and so after about 10 minutes of trying, I took off the FlashBender, and replaced it with a ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid unit.

I used the 45 degree honeycomb grid, and the spotlight pattern was easily obtained!  All I needed to do now was to dial in the amount of light (intensity) that this Speedlite would put out each and every time it fired.

Even though it is a trial-and-error effort, because I was using a whale gray backdrop, it is a very simply process. I would simply put the camera on the tripod, and take a photo of the backdrop. Since it was gray, I wanted a large spike on the histogram (on the back of the camera) to be positioned a little to the right of the center of the graph. (I wanted it to be brighter than 18% gray.) So I would take a photo, look at the histogram, walk over to the flash and dial up or dial down its power setting, and go back to the camera and take another photo, look at the histogram, rinse, and repeat. It only took a couple of shots to determine that I wanted this Speedlite set to 1/4 power.

Normally a well lit backdrop is sufficient to separate your model from the backdrop, but I like to do a little more. I like to use a “hair light”. This is seen in the two set-up photos above as the little light on the end of a small “boom arm” that puts it high, near the middle of the backdrop. The stand that I use, is a black Manfrotto 420B Combi Boom Stand, which Syl Arena had recommended. You definitely need to use a sandbag as a counterweight to the boom arm, and I also add another one at the base, since the entire rig begins to get rather top-heavy.

I also put this hair light Speedlite into the “free agent” mode, and attach the ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid to it, using the 45 degree honeycomb. I used the same method described above to get the power level set the way I want. I used a small step stool so that I could change the power lever on the back of the Speedlite, without changing the position of the light (which can be very frustrating). I asked Barb to be my model, and had her sit on the posing stool while I took several photos to try and dial in the power setting of the hair light.

In the photo above, the hair light was still a little too “hot”. You can also see how the light on the backdrop is creating a big spot of light centered behind her, and that it is creating the vignette effect (darkening of the corners). This photo is actually out of sequence, (because I had my main and fill lights also firing, which I will describe shortly), but I use it here to support my story.

With the camera in Manual mode, and the background and hair lights in free agent mode, they were not going to change – ever (well, not until the batteries in the flashes were run down).

Now it was time to set-up the main and fill lights. These two lights are “inside” of the two black umbrellas that you see to either side of the posing stool in the two set-up shots above. Instead of shooting the flashes through a white umbrella, I like to bounce the light off of the inside of the umbrella. I use a somewhat unusual 45″ Bowens Silver and White umbrella.

If I put these lights into manual mode, I could put them in position then use my light meter and dial in the amount of flash output they would need to produce to get a correct exposure with my camera’s aperture set at f/5.6. There are two problems with this, though.

The first problem is that my Sekonic L-358 light meter doesn’t work well as a flash meter with my Canon 580EX IIs. When the master Speedlite sends out the “pre-flash” burst of light, it triggers the flash meter, instead of the “real flash” that occurs just milliseconds later.

OK, so I could simply dial in the exposure by having Barb sit on the posing stool a bit longer and adjusting the power of these two lights (which can be done from the back of the camera – unlike the free agent mode slaves) – but there is another problem. I tend to move my main and fill lights around a lot. It seems like I’m either trying to avoid getting their reflections in the model’s eye glasses, or I want to bring them further up or farther back, depending on the features that I want to accentuate (or diminish) on the model’s face.

For these reasons, I like to keep my Speedlites in E-TTL mode for these two lights. I always set the lighting on the main light to be twice as bright as the fill light (a 2:1 ratio). Sometimes to “fine tune” that lighting ratio, I’ll simply move the fill light closer or further away from the model (than the distance of the main light to the model).

OK, so now with all 5 Speedlites on and operational, I had Barb sit on the posing stool, and I made my final adjustments to the lights. I dialed down the power of the hair light to its final setting of 1/8 -0.7 power. (That’s a funky way that Canon uses to describe a power setting that is 2/3rds of the way from 1/8 power to 1/16 power.) Her blond hair no longer seemed to be “blown out” at this power level. I also added +2/3 stop of Flash Exposure Compensation, which only effected the main and fill lights, which were in E-TTL mode.

I photographed one lady late in the morning, and two more in the early afternoon. During the late afternoon, during a two hour downtime, I recharged the batteries in my Speedlites. After that, as I was turning everything back on and making sure that my settings were all “good to go” for the two groups that were coming in, I sat on the posing stool and talked Barb through how to capture this portrait of myself.

The main light was to the camera left (my right side), and was set to twice as bright as the fill light, which was to the camera right (my left side). You can see a hint of the hair light on the top of my head – it really lights up my gray hairs – but more importantly, that hair light also lights up the top of my shoulders, which separates my gray shirt from that whale gray backdrop. Lastly, you can also see that the light on the backdrop is fairly well centered behind me, and is producing a nice vignette in the upper corners of the portrait.

Now I realize that my efforts are very “amateurish” as compared to any experienced and talented professional, such as Kirk Tuck. But I’m sharing what I have already learned, as maybe it will help someone less experienced than I am. I realize that I didn’t mention anything about posing, and I suppose that it’s because admittedly, that is something that I still need to learn more about.

I have heard back from all 5 of the ladies that I took portraits of, and they all seemed to be very pleased with the photos that they have seen. I am choosing not to include the photos of my clients in my blog posts, but I will soon include them in the “Studio Portraits” section of my “Photo Gallery” that you can find under my large banner at the top of my blog home page.

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Portrait Setup at Curves

Almost two years ago, in February 2011, while taking a Lighting and Composition photography class in The University of Texas Informal Classes, one of our homework assignments was to take a portrait of someone. I was less than excited, as I wasn’t interested in photographing people, especially in a true portrait style. Since I hadn’t been interested in this type of photography, I hadn’t given any serious attention on how to go about doing it “properly”.

A couple of years earlier, I believe in the spring of 2008, while visiting my local camera store, Precision Camera, where I had purchased my first Digital SLR  camera, as I was leaving the store, I stopped to look at the books on display near the door. One in particular caught my attention. It was entitled “Minimalist Lighting: Professional Techniques for Location Photography” by Kirk Tuck.

When I got home, I eagerly started to read this book. Right after the Table of Contents, was an “About the Author” section. It started by saying “Kirk Tuck attended the University of Texas where he dabbled in electrical engineering and English literature before accepting a position as a specialist lecturer teaching photography in the University of Texas College of Fine Arts”.

I found that fascinating. I got my electrical engineering degree from the University of Texas, and I was very absorbed in my hobby of photography, so I wondered if I would ever meet this Kirk Tuck guy.

Anyway, his book was my very first introduction to any sort of lighting techniques for photography. He seemed to know what he was writing about, but as my first exposure to this subject, I didn’t quite grasp it all. Besides, Kirk was advocating using old Nikon flash units and operating them in manual mode, and I had a single Canon 580EX Speedlite at that time.

As a result, I ended up purchasing a very simple lighting kit for about $100 from B&H Photo that included two small light stands and a couple of small umbrellas. I also bought a new model Canon 580EX II Speedlite.

A couple of years later, I read a book entitled “The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters” by Joe McNally. This was a fascinating book to me, as it described the “behind the scenes” stories of how he had captured the portraits of many famous celebrities. He wasn’t taking these portraits in a studio. He was going to where the celebrities were and taking their portraits on location wherever they were.

Joe included descriptions of the equipment that he used for the photos, but most of what he described was a foreign language to me. As I read through the book, I jotted down a rather lengthy list of strange lights (Elinchrom Rangers), stands (C-Stands), lighting modifiers such as reflectors, flags, softboxes, octobanks, etc. At the time, I was very impressed at how Joe made it sound to use all of this “portable” equipment.

Sometime after that, while photographing some of Barb’s Silpada Jewelry display cases, I dropped my older Canon 580EX Speedlite, and broke a switch that Precision Camera wanted $250 to repair. I simply replaced it with the newer 580EX II, to match my other Speedlite.

Back to February, 2011.

For my class assignment, I also remembered seeing somewhere that Scott Kelby recommended putting the subject (model) near a north-facing window for indirect lighting and then bringing a white bounce card in close to the opposite side of the model to fill in the shadows a bit. So I asked Barb to be my model, and I took her picture using the technique that Scott Kelby had described. To make it a bit more visually interesting, I positioned my tripod so that our fireplace was about 8 feet (a little less than 3 meters) behind her, and I had it lit, even though it wasn’t really cold outside.

I cropped the photo a little, and submitted it as my homework assignment. It is the photo shown above. I don’t remember why, but I also took one with her standing. I think it was to show off her new figure, after she (and I) had successfully shed a lot of unwanted weight.

As it turns out, a few months later, the Curves facility on Oak Knoll Rd. in northwest Austin where Barb had been working out had named her their very first “Member of the Month”. That was in recognition of her recent weight loss, which was achieved by working out at their facility and following their dietary guidelines. They asked if she had a picture of herself that they could put on their bulletin board to go along with the Member of the Month announcement. I printed the two photos above on letter size paper and that’s what they used for the display.

When the next month came around, and they had a announced their 2nd Member of the Month, they asked if that lady had a few photos of herself that they could use. I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but someone at Curves asked Barb if I would take the photos of the new Member of the Month.

I was “interested” but also terrified. I had never been asked to photograph anyone for money. My initial reaction was very hesitant. I was not a professional photographer! Photography was my hobby. Besides, in most of my photography up until this point, I waited patiently for as many people as possible to get out of the scene before I would take the picture…

After a week of discussing it with Barb, I finally agreed, but I wouldn’t do it for free. If they were willing to pay me for the on-the-job training, I would do it for $35 – and if they didn’t like the results they wouldn’t have to pay me anything.

I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to use Scott Kelby’s technique, and I would be using my two Canon 580EX Speedlites, and the couple of umbrellas on light stands that I had bought from B&H Photo a few years before.

As it turns out, it worked out just fine, and I had a lot of fun doing it, but I knew that I needed to learn how to do this better. I went to Amazon.com and searched for books that would explain more about the Canon 580EX II Speedlites than the Canon owner’s manual did.

I ended-up finding one specific book that significantly helped educate me in revising my technique and guiding me in acquiring a few more pieces of equipment and how to use it. That book was “Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites” by Syl Arena.

I ended up doing the portraits for the next 10 Curves Member of the Month. Some of those months had groups, or Members of the Month, which meant to me that I had to learn to photograph groups of 2, 6, and even 11 ladies in a group. I added more Speedlites, a few key modifier for shaping the light coming from those Speedlites, as well as a few larger umbrellas.

Evidently, during the year, several of the women who worked out at Curves (members that probably would never be chosen as the Member of the Month) had asked about the photos on the bulletin board – and about the photographer that had taken them.

In November 2011, this Curves facility was celebrating their 9th anniversary, and they were inviting a few local merchants to come and participate in their celebration. For some reason they asked if I would come in and take portraits.

I agreed, and I realized that if I was going to be charging a dozen or so people for taking their portraits, that legally I should also be collecting sales tax. On November 1, 2011 I went to the appropriate state government office and registered myself as an official photography business with The State of Texas. I also obtained two insurance policies; one for insuring my equipment, and another as small business general liability policy.

And so on November 16th, 2011, I photographed portraits of over a dozen individuals, couples, and families that had signed-up for a 20 minute time slot at the Curves anniversary event. During that day I took several very good portraits, and a few not-so-good portraits. I found that I really enjoyed engaging with the people that I was photographing, and that 20 minutes was really rushing things.

I let people sign-up for different levels of print package deals. No one purchased the deluxe package, a few bought the middle package, and the majority purchased the least expensive ($35) package.

During the next few weeks, I ended-up spending numerous hours retouching multiple poses of each person, and ended up printing one or two 8” x 10” photos, and multiple 6” x 4” photos of the numerous poses. I enjoyed the work, and learned a lot, but financially it didn’t make any sense. I earned more money in one day at my engineering job than I did for approximately 60 hours of effort in this endeavor.

Zoom ahead one year.

This November (2012), the same Curves facility was celebrating their 10th anniversary, and they asked me if I was interested in participating again this year. After thinking about it for over a week, I finally agreed, but said that I would need to do a few things differently this time. Randa, the owner, was quite agreeable.

And so it was, just a few weeks ago, on Election Day (Tuesday, November 6th), I took the day off of work so that I could take portraits of those who has signed up for 7 of the 25-minute time slots. The evening before, Barb and I went to Curves to look at the sign-up sheet, and I was pleased to see that 5 would be of individuals, 1 was going to be a mother & daughter couple, and one was going to be a mother and her two teenage children.

That was great news to me, as I find it much easier to set up my lighting equipment for individuals and couples. I decided to “go light” and use my Speedlites instead of my Einstein studio flash units.

Here is a crappy iPhone behind the scenes (BTS) that I took in the early afternoon, during a couple hours of time that no one had signed up for.

You can see that I had put up my whale gray muslin backdrop in front of a large window, and there was a lot of light coming in from the left side. The insides of the Curves facility are brightly lit with dozens of fluorescent lights. I was using small Canon Speedlites. All of these light sources emit different spectrum (color) of light.

Here is another photo that I took from further back using the same camera that was on top of the tripod in the previous photo.

I am going to attempt to describe some of the equipment that you see in the previous two photo, and how I used that equipment, in my next blog post. (There is a piece of exercise equipment in the foreground in the photo above that is not photography related.)

So how did it go?  I’ll let you judge that later. But in the meantime, here is a photo that I talked Barb through to take a photo of me later in the afternoon, as I was making sure that I had my lights adjusted how I wanted them, about an hour before the busy evening sessions were to begin.

I know, I know…. A gray shirt with a gray background isn’t very appealing, but I didn’t have any intention of having my own portrait taken when I got dressed that morning.

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Tons of Tiny Flowers in Late October

A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday morning, October 20, 2012, the temperature was pleasantly mild, and the sky was bright overcast. So just before I went for my usual Saturday morning walk around my neighborhood, I decided to bring my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with me.

I have noticed that the vast majority of the photos that I have taken with this camera always seem to require me to “add some exposure” (brightness) to them when I process the RAW files on my computer. I had already decided that the next time that I used this camera, I was going to not just accept the default meter readings that Olympus thought were appropriate (using their Digital ESP metering mode that they recommend for general use).

Instead, I was going to increase the exposure compensation until I had visual indication of some highlight clipping, and then I would back off the exposure compensation by 1/3 of a stop. I believe that this method is commonly referred to a “shooting to the right” – in regards to the histogram.

When I first stepped out of my front door, there to greet me are the bed full of flowers shown above. In the past, I have simply referred to them as Dr. Seuss flowers, but now I know that they are actually called Fireworks Gomphrena.

The photo above is the only photo that I took that morning that I include in this post or 22 photos that did not increase the exposure compensation setting in the camera.

For the photo above, and the vast majority of the following photos, I had increased the exposure compensation to +2/3 of a stop.

Although I was very curious to find out what types of flowers that I would find in Austin, Texas in mid-October, I also found a few other plants that were worthy of my attention

Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

What I found out was that there seemed to be MORE flowers in bloom than during the late spring and summer, the size of the flowers were very small.

For this next photo, because the flowers were white, I increased the exposure compensation to +1 full stop.

There were lots of reoccurring colors, but purple seemed to be rather rare.

I was glad that I had brought the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens along with me for this walk. It has a built in macro mode that allows you to get pretty close to your subjects. When the lens is in the macro mode, the focal length is fixed at 43mm.

There seemed to be several different color variations of the next flower. I wish I could tell you what type of plant it is, but I don’t know what most of these plants are….

I can tell you that this next photo is of some buds on an Oleander plant very close to our community mailbox. I only use +1/3 exposure compensation for this photo.

I probably could have improved the composition of the next photo by simply pulling back a couple of inches, and not cut off the flower at the top and near the bottom corners – but I can’t remember what else that would have included in the photo.

This red rose was the largest flower that I saw that morning, on October 20th.

(I seem to have a problem with the red colors appearing much more saturated in the photos on my web site than they appear on my calibrated monitor. I am still slowly working through some experiments to properly determine the root cause. I invite you to right-click on the photo above and download it to your computer and let me know how it appears in your photo viewing program, as compared to how it appears here.)

Since the next flower was white, I took the exposure compensation back up to +1 stop.

Here are a few more color variants of the flower that I mentioned a few photos ago.

The yellow and salmon colors of this one are nice, so I wanted to include it, even though the photo is a little blurry (due to the focus being at the base of the flowers).  The depth of field (front to back focus) is very shallow when the lens is in macro mode. The exposure compensation was only +1/3 stop.

When you back up a little, and move the lens farther from the subject, you get more objects in the photo, but the depth of field also increases.

I hope that the gentle color of this next flower looks as good on my web site as it does in my photo processing program on my computer.

You get a sense of just how small these flowers are when you compare them to the strands of the spider’s web that are attached to them.

I don’t know what these spindly lavender colored flowers are, but they were the only specimens of them that I saw on this shortened 2 mile long walk.

Although I normally put a circular polarizer on my lens whenever I will be outside photographing, this time I intentionally did not, as I wanted to compare the results to some of my earlier outings.

I like the results that I got without the polarizer, but I also usually like the results that I get when I do use one. I suppose the only real test would be to set up a tripod and shoot the same photo both with, and without, a circular polarizer.

Besides, I was out experimenting with “shooting to the right” on this little outing.

The photo above almost appears to have some highlight clipping, where the yellow petals of the flower are so overexposed that they are about to “blow out” to white. That’s not really what’s happening here, though. Evidently this bush full of flowers is past its peak, and is starting its decline.

When the flowers begin to fade away, they start by turning white around the edges of their petals.

This yellow flower was also one of the largest flowers that I photographed that morning. That plant was also unusual, as the long “string beans” that the plant produced was also worth including in the photos.

I really didn’t feel that I had much to say about this series of flower photos, other than I was experimenting with my exposure compensation and “shooting to the right” of the histogram. That technique seems to be a great success, and something that I intend to utilize in any future use of this great little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.

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CowParade Calendar – November – Texas Moosicians

If you have my 2012 CowParade Austin calendar, you probably flipped it over to November and said to yourself “Hey, what’s up with this cow? It’s different than the others!”.

This cow, named Texas Moosicians, was created by Mitch Brookman. Mitch evidently is a very talented artist who specializes in mosaics.

The CowParade Austin website, which is still semi-functional, lists Mitch’s website as http://www.mitchbrookmanmosaics.com, which does not seem to be valid at this time.

Doing a little searching using Bing and Google, I was able to find an interesting news post from The Oasis Restaurant out at Lake Travis, where they were having a contest to name Mitch’s cow (this was in July 2011).

I could also locate this web page, which appears to be on Facebook, but you do not have to be logged in to Facebook to see the photos there.

If you open another web browser window and login to Facebook, you can then come back to this web browser window and view Mitch Brookman’s Facebook page by clicking on this link.

And here is his Texas Moosician’s Facebook page:

It was late on the Saturday morning of September 3, 2011, when Dad and I arrived at the location where Texas Moosicians was on public display. It was at West Willie Nelson Blvd (2nd Street) and Lavaca – which was at the base of the stairs leading up to the Moody Theater at the Austin City Limits Studio.

This was the 19th of 24 cows that we photographed that morning – by far the most we visited in any one day. We arrived at exactly 11:00 AM. The sun was high in the sky, and it was a very hard light. I photographed the plaque first, and then started from the left front side of the cow.

The Texas musicians shown on the left side of the cow, from front to back, are Buddy Holly, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, and Janis Joplin.

Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, TX in 1936 and died young in an airplane crash in 1959. From Wikipedia: Holly was among the first group of inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2004 Rolling Stone (magazine) ranked Holly #13 among “The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

Lyle Lovett was born in north Harris County (the county that Houston is in) in 1957. His musical career took off while he was attending Texas A&M University. I have been to two Lyle Lovett (and his Large Band) concerts, and really had a great time!

Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

The Willie Nelson statue now sits in almost the exact same location that Texas Moosicians was on display at. Willie Nelson still lives just west of Austin. Barb and I took Dad and Rita to see a Willie Nelson concert at Riverbend Church for his Father’s Day present last summer.

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, TX, but her musical career took off while she was attending The University of Texas at Austin. Janis could really let loose, and was a superstar in the late 60′s – she even performed at the legendary Woodstock music festival in 1969, as one of the main attractions. She came on stage late on a Saturday evening, and performed in front of a half a million people until well into Sunday morning.

Although seeing this cow was very exciting, photographing it was very challenging. The hard, harsh sunlight was directly above. The background was very busy, and even though you still see some parked cars behind the cow, I did my best to wait until there were not also pedestrians and other vehicle traffic on the street. Note also the steel railing of the fence behind the cow…

That railing meant that any photograph of the other side of the cow was going to include the railing, or using some difficult to achieve photographic technique. I wasn’t going to leave without at least trying to get a photo of the other side of this very interesting cow!

To get this photo, I closed the 3 legs of my Gitzo tripod, so that they came together, and raised the center column all the way – which essentially turned it into as tall of a monopod that it could be. I put my Canon 5D Mark II into live-view mode, zoomed my 24 – 105mm f/4 lens to as wide of a field of view that it could go (24mm), and shielded the rear LCD of the camera from the direct sunlight, and stood on my tippy-toes to see the composition on the rear LCD. I used a fairly small aperture, which combined with the 24mm focal length gave me a fairly deep depth-of-field.

The musicians that Mitch Brookman put onto this side of his Texas Moosicians cow are (from read to front): Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Roy Orbison, and Billy Gibbons.

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was born in Lake Jackson, Texas, in 1971. According to Wikipedia, Selena was named the “top Latin artist of the ’90s” and “Best selling Latin artist of the decade” by Billboard for her fourteen top-ten singles in the Top Latin Songs chart, including seven number-one hits. In 1995, when Selena confronted the president of her fan club for embezzling money, the accused woman shot and killed Selena as the singer tried to flee.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was born in Dallas, Texas in October 1954. Stevie moved to Austin when he was 17 years old. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan play 3 or 4 times live – and it was up close and personal. He was the lead guitarist in a band called Paul Ray and the Cobras that played weekly out at the Soap Creek Saloon that used to be out west on Bee Caves Road in the mid-to-late 70′s. That joint could hold maybe 150 people, and we would sit at a table 20 feet from the band and drink beer by the pitcher…. A few people would dance, but almost everyone would just enjoy the music and stare at the band.

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a huge influence on my music listening. I still have several vinyl LPs, and a handful of CDs of his.

Stevie died in a helicopter crash along with 3 members of Eric Clapton’s band when leaving an outdoor concert in Wisconsin in August 1990.

Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas in 1936. Wikipedia reports: Roy’s greatest success came with Monument Records between 1960 and 1964, when 22 of his songs placed on the Billboard Top Forty. … In 1988, he joined the supergroup Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. Roy dies of a heart attack in December of that year, at the zenith of his resurgence.

I really liked the Traveling Wilburys, but the song that I still get chills when I hear it, is a song called Crying that Roy Orbison did as a duet with K. D. Lang in 1987. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it #69 on their list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. I don’t know about such rankings, but it is a beautifully powerful song.

William Frederick “Billy” Gibbons was born in the Tanglewood subdivision of Houston, Texas in December 1949. Billy is best known as the guitarist of the Texas blues-rock band ZZ Top.

The only time that I ever saw ZZ Top perform live was during their Worldwide Texas Tour at the 1974 Labor Day show at Texas Memorial Stadium here in Austin. The concert was the last to be held at the stadium for two decades, as the artificial turf was damaged by rowdy fans. Also performing at that show was Santana, Joe Cocker, and Bad Company. Jay Boy Adams and Jimmy Page also showed up to play. An aerial photograph of the crowd in the stadium was later used as the record sleeve for ZZ Top’s 1975 album Fandango!. If you ever see it, I’m sitting with my buddies on about the 35 yard line, southwest of mid-field, and yes, we were roasting in the mid-day Summer sun. :-)

When I look at the metadata embedded into the 5 photos that I took of Mitch Brookman’s cow named Texas Moosicians, I find that I was only there for 6 short minutes photographing it. It is simply amazing how such a work of art can bring back so many wonderful memories from decades ago.

The photos that I show here are not full of highly saturated colors, like most of the other cows that I was drawn to, but the colorful musicians shown on the sides of Texas Moosicians made this an easy choice to include it in my 2012 CowParade Austin calendar.