CowParade Austin Calendar – March – Cowjunta Music

The painted cow for the month of March in my CowParade Austin calendar for 2012 is called Cowjunta Music. The artist was Elizabeth C. Sullivan, and the financial sponsor is 101.7 LaZ, a Tejano Austin FM radio station.

The name Cowjunta is a play on words, as it is the “bovine version” of Conjunta Music.  Now I readily admit that I did not know what that music genre was. But since this is Austin,TX – the city that calls itself the “Live Music Capital of the World“, and since I live here, I thought I should at least find out what Conjunta Music is. Besides, I had to write something semi-intelligent about this cow in this post!

Conjunta Music is apparently Spanish for Cantina Music. I did find a nice YouTube video that quickly gives you as pretty good explanation about it. If you want to really get the academic details about it, The University of Texas has a very complete web page on the subject called The Roots of Tejano and Conjunto Music.

OK, so after you’ve checked out those two web sites, you will now know why Elizabeth made the accordion so prominent in the center on her very artistic and colorful cow.

Cowjunta Music was on display at 419 Congress Avenue at the Mexic Arte Museum, which is at the southeast corner of East 4th St. and Congress Ave. That’s just north of the Frost Bank Tower. Cowjunta Music was facing west towards Congress Ave.

The photos that I took of this cow were only about 25 minutes after the photos of Moosic Capital that was selected for the “February Cow” in my calendar. So, it was still pretty early; just 5 minutes before 9:00 AM on Saturday, September 3rd, 2011.

The sun was still low in the morning sky, and you can see the shadows of the cow in the photo. The sun was shining brightly and was unobstructed coming in from the east on 4th Street. The side of the cow that I wanted to photograph was in its own shade. (That would make it The Dark Side of the Cow.)  This presented a photographic challenge. If I simply took a photo of this shaded side of the cow, combined with the bright areas that the sunlight was directly hitting (beneath and behind the cow), I could end up with one of a few very different exposure possibilities.

If I exposed for the shaded side of the cow, everything in the direct sunlight would be very bright, and appear “washed out”, or worse yet: “blown out”. I could expose for the brightly lit areas, but then the cow would pretty much be a silhouette. A third possible outcome would be to expose for the average brightness in the scene, but that would result in an “average” photo – just like everyone else would make with their iPhone as they walked by this cow and snapped a photo. The cow would be “half as dark”, and the sunlit areas would be “half as bright”, but neither area would look right.

I thought about these alternatives for a few moments, and decided upon my fourth option. I would simply add a bit of light to the Dark Side of the Cow by using my portable flash unit; a technique known as Fill Flash. So I got out my Canon Speedlite flash unit, put it in the hot shoe of the camera (oh no!), set it to TTL mode, and simply took the picture you see below.

Now that brightened up the cow to a level to match the brightness of the areas in the direct sunlight. There are two not-so-great side effects of having used the on-camera flash, though. First, you can see 4 or 5 bright little “hot spot” reflections on the cow itself, and second, the flash lit up the street sign all the way across the street above the shoulder and neck of the cow. I never saw that street sign until much later – when I was post-processing my photos on the computer!

I didn’t feel that the “hot spot” reflections were that bad – they sort of gave the cow some extra sparkle (I hope Elizabeth doesn’t mind), so I left them alone in post-processing. The bright street sign was another matter completely. I didn’t like it at all, so I spent a few minutes removing it by using the Spot Removal Tool in Lightroom.  You can see that it is no longer present in the photo on the calendar. In looking at the photo again today, perhaps I should have also spent some effort to remove that silver colored fire hydrant in front of the cow’s face (which now looks like a Rhinoceros horn).

I also needed to get a photo of the other side of this cow, so I waited for a moment with no traffic coming down 4th Steet, walked out to the second traffic lane, leveled my camera on the tripod and snapped this photo of the “sunny side” of the cow.

The cow wasn’t completely broadside to the sun’s rays, so it did show some interesting shadows on the cow. The most notable one is how the cow’s ear shadowed the side of the face.

If you look very closely at the larger version of this photo (just click on the photo – but then use the “Back Button” on your web browser to return), you will see my reflection in the storefront window right above the cow’s nose.

I didn’t want to stand out in the middle of 4th Street any longer than needed, so I only took that one photo of this side of Cowjunto Music.

Although I actually took the next photo first, I show it to you last, just to document the plaque that identified this cow.

Dad and I had a large number of cows to photograph along Congress Avenue that morning, so we were moving along at a pretty good clip.  By examining the EXIF metadata (the information embedded into the photo by the camera), I see that the time-stamps on these three photos was just over 3 minutes from the first to the last.

For some reason the cow named Cowjunto Music appealed to me a lot. Maybe she was all decorated up for an evening of dancing at the Cantina… I think the artist, Elizabeth C. Sullivan, did a very clean, colorful job with her cow!

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