CowParade Austin Calendar – May – Cowcycle

The “May Cow” in my 2012 calendar is the very interesting Cowcycle. The artist who painted Cowcycle is Rebecca Wolfe Spratlin, and she was sponsored by U.S. Money Reserve. Rebecca Wolfe Spratlin also was the artist who created the cow named Cowch – which was sold for a record high $150,000 in the October 2011 auction!

The first time that I saw Cowcycle, it was near dusk, outside the Long Center on July 27th at the CowParade Preview Party.

Cowcycle was certainly different than all of the other cows – if nothing else, it was certainly the tallest of the ~50 cows on display that evening.  Cowcycle really grabbed your attention, and everyone had to stop and study it!

Cowcycle was on display inside the Frost Bank Tower lobby at 401 Congress Avenue here in Austin. That proved to be a problem for Dad and myself who wanted to photograph this excellent work of art.

On Saturday, Sept. 03, 2011 we arrived at the Frost Bank Tower, and photographed the two cows that we outside: Cow Quarium and Remember the Alamoo. (You can see all 72 cows by going up to the black bar under my banner photos, click on Photo Gallery, and then selecting “CowParade Austin – 2011 from the menu.) After we made all of the photos that we wanted of those two cows, we headed inside.

We didn’t get very far.  Just as I got in through the door, the security guard for the front lobby told me that I was not allowed to bring my camera and tripod into the lobby to take any pictures. I calmly explained that we had already spent 3 Saturday mornings hunting down and photographing all of the CowParade Cows that we could find. We really wanted to collect the whole set. He didn’t care, he said that we were not allowed to photograph the bank, and he insisted that we leave. I told him that we didn’t want to photograph the bank, just the two cows that were in the lobby. He didn’t give a hoot – we were simply going to have to leave, and leave now. So, that’s what we did.

I realized that the only photograph that I was going to get of Cowcycle (and Hairy Dear, Play Me a Tune), was going to be through the front window of the bank lobby. I did have my polarizer with me, and put it on, and hoped that it would eliminate enough glare and reflections to make a decent photo. I took 5 or 6 photos, and this was the best that I could get through the lobby window.

(Helpful Hint: 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 Gregg’s story.)

We photographed nearly 2 dozen CowParade cows along Congress Avenue that morning, including 3 inside the Driskill Hotel. No one had refused to let us photograph any of the other cows, and I wasn’t happy about it.

The very next day, Sunday, I went to the CowParade Austin website, and researched who was in charge of what, and I sent an email letter to two people who were on the organization committees. One of the persons was Olga Campos, who used to be a local TV news reporter, but now worked at U.S. Money Reserve – the financial sponsor of many of the cows, including Cowcycle. In that email, I simply told the same story that you just read.

On Monday morning, I received an email from Olga saying “I will try to find out what the security policies are and if there is a way to grant you permission –  for just a brief time – to take the photos you would like. Of course, I make no promises but I will try!”.

It was almost exactly an hour later that I received a second message from Olga saying “I just talked to Ms. Baker, of Txxx Property, which oversees the Lobby of the Frost Bank Tower. She apologizes for what she says was a mis-handling of their security/access policy. Ms. Baker assures me you and your father are more than welcome to come into the Lobby to photograph the Cows during regular Lobby Hours (8 am – noon on Saturday and 7-7 Monday-Friday).”

Bingo!  I immediately sent back a very appreciative response to her. Just as important, I printed out that email and put it in my camera bag – I had a feeling that I might need it the following Saturday.  🙂

Well, the next Saturday rolls around, which was September 10th. Our 2nd stop that morning was the Frost Bank Tower, and we got there at 8:35 AM. Dad followed me through the front door, and there in front of me was that very same security guard. I looked straight at him and said “Good morning sir. Will it be OK to photograph the two cows THIS morning?”. He nodded and said “Sure, come on in.”

We must have been in there for 30 minutes, and he watched everything that we did, but he never said another word to us until he replied to our “good-bye”.  Amazing!

There were only two cows in this bank lobby: Cowcycle, and a hairy beast of a buffalo-cow named “Hairy Dear, Play Me a Tune”. They were both illuminated by fluorescent lighting on one side, and large west-facing windows on the other side. Using the light from the fluorescent lights and my gray card, I set a custom white balance in my camera.

That’s a pretty bad exposure on many different levels!  The amount of light coming in through the windows was pretty well controlled, but the color of the light was nowhere near the same as the fluorescent lights. With the camera’s white balance set to fluorescent, daylight appears to be blue in color. In a mixed lighting situation like this, there’s really not much one can do, short of covering the windows with a colored gel that would turn the color of the daylight to become closer to the color of the indoor lights.

To get the photo that I used on the calendar, I had to get between the window and the cow, and set a custom white balance using the light from the window falling on my gray card. After that, I had to put my back right up against the window, which still had me less than 8 feet away from this 7 foot tall cow. To get the entire cow into the picture, I set my zoom lens to 24mm, and thanked the Photo Gods that I had my full-frame sensor camera.

After getting a good photo of Cowcycle, I moved about 12 feet to me right and got a fairly decent photo of “Hairy Dear, Play Me a Tune”.

That’s one hairy beast of a buffalo-cow!

Well, that’s all that I can tell you about how I got the photo of Cowcycle that ended up as “Miss May” in my CowParade Austin 2012 calendar. I know it was long-winded, and I thank you for reading it!

2 thoughts on “CowParade Austin Calendar – May – Cowcycle”

  1. Your run in with the security guard sound almost like my Shooting Tulips By The Bank story I recently posted.

    The one with the wheels is just so kicky and fun – love it.

    Do they do this every year in Austin? Sounds like fun and I’ve never been there.

    1. Libby, as I read your recent Shooting Tulips By The Bank post, I knew that my story was going echo a lot of what you had gone through. What is it with Bank Security Guards?

      No, the CowParade Austin was a one-time deal, but there have been CowParades in numerous cities around the world over the last decade or so. The CowParade Austin web site is still up, and you can see it here:

      If you visit that site, you can see all of the photos of the cows (that were taken by Kirk Tuck) by clicking on the Cow Gallery link near the top of their home page.

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