My First Photo Walk in Downtown Austin – Part 1

I thought that things were supposed to slow down during the summer months. That’s definitely not the case for me. Things at work have really gotten pretty busy for me. And in the evenings, I’ve been watching the Olympics. They’ve been exciting, but I’m glad that tonight is the closing ceremony.

At any rate, I hadn’t been out with my camera in well over a week, and I was really getting the desire to go out and shoot something – anything. For quite a while I’ve been wanting to go wander around downtown Austin and just photograph whatever caught my attention. So this Saturday morning, that is exactly what I did.

Now I’ve lived in Austin for 40 years (and 2 weeks!), but I’ve never just wandered around downtown with a camera. I’ve been downtown with my camera and tripod several times before, but I always had a specific reason for doing so. In 2007, Dad and photographed all of the GuitarTown 10 foot tall painted guitars spread around downtown Austin (and out at the airport). Just last year, in August and September of 2011, during the hottest summer ever on record here in Austin, we hunted down and shot every single cow on location for CowParade Austin. You can see all of the guitars and cows here on my web site, by clicking on the “Photo Gallery” tab under the banner at the top of my web page.

This time there would be no map to tell me where the items that I needed to photograph would be located. No agenda, no time requirement, no plan.

Even though we have an Austin address, and reside in the City of Austin, it still takes 25 minutes to drive to downtown Austin – and that’s on a Saturday morning with virtually no traffic to slow you down. (During a Friday afternoon rush-hour can easily be an hour drive.) Living in Austin has a lot of very nice attributes, but traffic is definitely not one of them….

Anyway, I left the house at exactly 7:33 AM yesterday morning, and got to 1st and Congress a couple of minutes before 8:00. Due to road construction, I couldn’t park where I thought I would – just east of Congress Avenue and 2nd Street. I had to detour around that and ended up parking my blue Honda CR-V about 2 blocks east of there – at P. F. Chang’s at 2nd and San Jacinto Blvd.

About two years ago, the Austin City Council renamed 2nd Street in the downtown area to become Willie Nelson Blvd, for one of our celebrity citizens. If you look carefully, you can see that on the street sign in the photo above.

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 Gregg’s story.

I had brought my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, my four lenses, and a flash in my little Domke camera bag (just in case I ran into Kirk Tuck; I didn’t want to be caught with a Lowepro bag…..).  I also had my lightweight Gitzo tripod in a nice, compact bag that you carry on your shoulder, the same way an archer would carry his quiver of arrows. But once I got out of my car, put the camera strap around my neck, my Domke camera bag over my shoulder, and my tripod bag over my other shoulder, I felt rather ridiculous, and certainly not very nimble. No, the tripod was going to have to stay in the car on this initial downtown visit.

I started walking west, as the morning sunlight was doing a beautiful job of softly lighting the east side of the buildings. Just a block east of where I started, at Brazos Street (and Willie Nelson Blvd.) I came to one of Austin’s iconic office buildings.

All of these photos were taken with my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-5.3 zoom lens and a circular polarizer on it. I certainly had better quality lenses in my camera bag, but since this was my first time at this game, I wanted the versatility that the zoom lens would offer. My thought process had me put on the circular polarizer (sunglasses) on the lens would be to minimize the reflections in all of the windows that I envisioned I would be dealing with.

The photo above had the zoom lens adjusted to as wide-angle as it could go, which is 12mm (24mm equivalent on a full-frame camera). One problem with a wide angle lens is that when it is not parallel to the surface that you are photographing, you get some very noticeable distortion – which you can see in the photo above. Just look at the edge of the office building on the left side. Heck, look at the right side of that photo and the building appears to be leaning at a very significant angle from vertical!  (I do have a 24mm tilt-shift lens for my Canon camera which eliminates this “falling over” effect, but I am not aware of any such lens for this Olympus Micro Four Thirds format camera.)

I kept the center peak of the building in the center of my viewfinder, so at least the center of the building wouldn’t be leaning to one side.

Up ahead another block, just across Congress Avenue is the current tallest building in Austin. It is named The Austonian, which is 683 feet (208 m) tall with 56 floors.

Another block west on Willie Nelson Blvd. is the Austin Children’s Museum, and along the wall on the outside is this wavey, curvey handrail that is only about 30 inches above the sidewalk.

I am not used to being around tall buildings, so they definitely had my attention.

I had to almost force myself to look down, as I was sure that there would be all sorts of interesting things to see, if I would just pay attention.

Another block west, and you come to Lavaca Avenue. On the southwest corner is the Austin City Hall. Just north of that, across Willie Nelson Blvd. is the W Hotel, and connected to that is The Moody Theater, where they film the Austin City Limits TV show.

At the base of the stairs that take you up to The Moody Theater, sits the statue of Willie Nelson himself.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the Austin City Limits TV show:

 Austin City Limits (often abbreviated as ACL) is an American public television music program recorded live in Austin, Texas by Public Broadcast Service(PBS) Public television member station KLRU, and broadcast on many PBS stations around the United States. The show helped Austin to become widely known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and is the only television show to receive the National Medal of Arts, which it was awarded in 2003.

You can read more here.

They show Austin City Limits on TV in Austin at 7:00 PM on Saturday evenings, and I record most of them, so that I can play them when we have guests over for dinner parties.

Moving on, and trying to look somewhere else but at the buildings in the sky. Here are some chairs and tables stacked up on the sidewalk for an outdoor cafe.

I thought this sign was cool, but I don’t know anything about the establishment. I took 2 shots of that sign, as the shutter speed was 1/5th of a second, and I was hoping at least one of them would not be blurry. As it turns out they were both OK. The in-body image stabilization of this little Olympus camera continues to amaze me! 

I turned north onto Guadalupe and quickly came upon this 3D sign.

And this window washer, busy doing his job before it got hot on this Saturday morning.

This is the view looking west of Guadalupe, between 3rd and 4th Streets.

Between 4th and 5th Streets, in an empty block, there is a Farmers Market every Saturday morning. (This is a different one from the one at Lakeline Mall that I recently posted on.)  This Farmers Market appeared to be MUCH larger and organized, too.

It was 8:38 AM, so the sunlight was still rather soft, and it seemed to make some of the vegetables glow.

I would definitely have to tell Barb about this Farmers Market!  I could easily see myself spending a couple of hours photographing all sorts of stuff here, but that was not on my agenda for today.

I thought I’d take a just a couple of photos, like this local honey vendor.

No, my mission was to figure out how far of a walk it was to Lamar Blvd., so I turned around to take this photo of the Farmers Market between 4th and 5th on Guadalupe before I headed further west.

To be continued….!

5 thoughts on “My First Photo Walk in Downtown Austin – Part 1”

  1. What a nice grouping. I like that red looping thing on the green. The image makes me want to go and find that. The caned chair has a lot of snap to it, I also really like the Urban Outfitters signage. Usually I dislike images of chain store signage, but this one is nice. Wonderful photo tour 😉

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