Tag Archives: CowParade Austin

CowParade Austin Calendar – July – Udderly Austin

August 27th, 2011 was the 2nd hottest day, of the hottest year ever on record here in Austin. We were also smack-dab in the middle of one of the very worst droughts ever experienced in Central Texas.

Dad and I still had to hunt down a few dozen of the 72 CowParade Austin cows.  The weather reports told us that is was going to be very hot, so we got started early that Saturday morning, and we were photographing our first cow by 9:00 AM.

This is a short story about our encounter with our 10th cow we photographed that morning. “Udderly Austin” was painted by Patti Schermerhorn, and was sponsored by Schlotzsky’s. Patti has a very nice web page showing the art projects that she has done for charities. She even has a photo of Jay Leno auctioning off Udderly Austin. [here]

Even though we had moved quickly and photographed 9 cows in just over two hours, we were already starting to suffer, as the temperature was already well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not going to go into great detail in creating a story about just how brutal it was, but I was genuinely concerned about Dad’s ability to deal with this kind of heat – because I was also suffering from the stress of being out on the streets and sidewalks that were too hot to touch.

Udderly Austin was on the northeast corner of the Schlotzsky’s at the corner of South Lamar Blvd. and Toomey Road. This is adjacent to Zachary Scott Theater, just south of the Colorado River in downtown Austin.

As you can see by the shadow underneath this very colorful cow, the sun was almost directly over us at 11:15 AM that morning.

The scene painted onto this side of the cow is the view of downtown Austin that you would have if you simply walked a block to the northeast of where we were standing. That’s the Texas State Capitol Building on the face of Udderly Austin.

It was hot. Very hot. The sun was blazing. The heat radiating off of the sidewalk was cooking my sneakers. This was going to be done quickly, or someone was going to be taken to the hospital. I was going to circle this cow once, take a few photos, and get the hell out of there.

This was the photo that I used in my CowParade Austin calendar.

As I finished photographing the left side of Udderly Austin, I noticed that Dad had taken shelter in the shade of a nearby tree – and he didn’t look good.

I went around to the other side of the cow. This is the view that those inside of the Schlotzsky’s restaurant had of the cow. To me, it looked like a completely different cow than I had seen from the other side. Also, this side was in the shade, and background was nothing but blinding glare from the sidewalk street, and concrete pad that the cow was standing on. I popped my flash unit on top of my Canon 5D Mark II, and took this one photo.

You can see the reflections of the flash, and I knew that under different circumstances that I could have done much better. I also knew that we quickly needed to seek shelter somewhere, so there wasn’t time to dilly-dally. I walked up next to the cow and took a photo of the plaque underneath her.

It was too dang hot to even think about walking across Lamar Blvd. and the half block to our car. I suggested that we go inside of Schlotzky’s and get a iced soft drink. Dad would rarely ever go for such a suggestion, but this time he quickly agreed.

We spent nearly 30 minutes inside the air conditioned restaurant, and had nearly finished our second iced soft drink, before our body temperature returned to something near normal.  We had come dangerously close to heat exhaustion.

After we walked back to the car, we turned on the radio, where we learned that it was already 108 degrees (at only 12:00 PM). Now we have lived in Austin for 40 years, and we have seen our share of hot weather, but rarely does it ever got THAT hot here. I’m sure that we could count the number of times that it has been 108 or hotter on one single hand….

We did stop and photograph 3 more cows before we returned home, but I was able to park the car within 50 feet (16 meters) of each one, and the car’s air conditioner did its best to attempt to blow cool air on us between each stop. By the time that we got home, the temperature had reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The record highest temperature ever recorded in Austin, TX is 112 degees. It has reached that mark twice. The 1st time was Sept. 5, 2000. The 2nd time it did so was the day after we photographed Udderly Austin (July 28, 2011).

I associate this cow with the incredible summertime heat. That is why she appears as “Miss July” in my CowParade Austin 2012 calendar.

CowParade Austin Calendar – June – Cowmaro

June is a hot month in Austin. The Chevy Camaro has always been a hot car in my book. Therefore, it seemed fitting to put the cow named Cowmaro into my CowParade Austin 2012 Calendar in one of the hot summer months.

The artist who did Cowmaro is Dale Whistler, and you can visit his web site to see many examples of his art – many of which are virtually iconic to those of us who live here in Austin.  You can watch a short YouTube video of Dale, where he is interviewed about his past and some of his objects of art.

Dale was sponsored by the Central Texas Chevy Dealers to make Cowmaro.

Cowmaro was on display out on the front “lawn” at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, with 3 other cows. I say “lawn”, because when we arrived at the Bob Bullock museum on August 20th, central Texas was still very much in the clutches of the hottest summer ever on record here in Austin. The drought was severe, and water rationing was being practiced by everyone in the Austin area.

We arrived a little before 11:30 AM, and it was already blazing hot. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. This is just about the worst possible condition to photograph anything outdoors – especially an art object. The ONLY thing that I could do was to put a polarizer on my lens and pray. Even so, you can tell by the shadow at the top of this photo just how hard the direct sunlight was….

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 my story.

The left side of Cowmaro had the image of the front of a Chevy Camaro painted on it, while the right side of Cowmaro had the view of the rear of the car on it. It was as if the car was somehow stuck inside of the cow!

Now I personally never owned a Chevy Camaro, but I always liked the look of one – they usually stop me in my tracks and I have no choice but to stare and wonder what fun it must be to drive one! Later on, (much later on – 1996), I owned a 1994 Chevy Corvette. It was the most trouble-free car that I have ever owned, and I’ve had lots of Toyotas and Hondas. I had that Corvette for nearly 3 years, and only put 11,000 miles on it…. although I would occassionally drive it hard, most if the time I babied it.

If you don’t remember the Chevy Camaro, here is one that I took a photo of in October 2010 at the Rolling Sculpture Car Show in Bee Cave, TX. I would guess that this is a 1968 Camaro SS.

You can see my favorite 100 cars at that show my going to my “Photo Gallery” button under the banner at the top of this page, and selecting the sub-menu for that car show.

OK, let’s get back to Cowmaro! I moved around to the opposite side, and of course, it was the shady side of the cow. To prevent my photograph from ending up as a silhouette, I put an external flash (Canon 580EX II) on top of my camera (Canon 5D Mark II), set it for TTL mode, with a flash compensation of -1 stop, and fired off these next two photos.

This is not particularly “artistic” photography, but not too shabby of a “journalistic” type of photography. But hey, that’s all we were trying to do anyway.

As an attempt to do something “artsy” while we were there, I composed this photo of Cowmaro on the burnt-up lawn, positioned over the cow named Mazy Moo that was done by Susi Alcantara.

(You  can see all 72 of the CowParade Austin cows by clicking on the  “Photo Gallery” button and choosing the CowParade sub-menu.)

As it turned out, we needed to return to the Bob Bullock Museum on Sept.17, as they had added a new cow (Once in a Blue Moo by Lewis Signs), and we needed to photograph it. This time, the lighting was much better, as it was a very hazy, overcast day. Still no rain to help the drought situation, but the overcast sky helped keep the temperature down below 100 degrees, and it was MUCH better light to be photographing painted cows with!

Even though it was almost exactly the same time of day as our previous visit (this time it was 11:13 AM), I did not need to use a Fill Flash on the “shady side” of the cow.

And finally, here is the shot that I liked the best, and so this is the one that I ended up putting on my CowParade Austin 2012 Calendar, for the month of June.

The overcast sky even made the shiny metal plaque look better!

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!

CowParade Austin Calendar – April – CowBella

The “April Cow” in my 2012 calendar is the gracefully beautiful CowBella. The artist who painted CowBella is Jan Heaton, and she was sponsored by The Leipsner Family.  CowBella was on display at West 2nd Street & Lavaca Street – at The W Hotel here in Austin.  You will definitely want to read this post to the end, as I asked the artist Jan Heaton if she would like to participate in this post!

The morning of Sept. 03, 2011 was very busy for Dad and I as we photographed most of the CowParade Austin cows in the center of downtown Austin within 4 hours. The EXIF metadata embedded in the photos reveals that my first photo of CowBella was taken at 10:52 AM, and the last one was taken just 5 minutes later at 10:57 AM. By that time the sun had risen pretty high in the still-summer sky.

Fortunately, CowBella was located on the south side of a wide support column at The W Hotel, so she was still completely in the shade. That was the good news. What wasn’t very good (for the photographer) was that the bright sunlit sidewalk was getting very close to CowBella, and I would only be able to photograph one side of this beautiful cow.

(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.)

You can see the bright sunlight washing out a step in the sidewalk in the lower left corner of this photo. I suppose I could have done something in Photoshop to eliminate that, but I wasn’t planning on submitting this photo to any contest or anything….

After taking the “broadside” photo above, I moved a bit to my left and to where I could see some of the front of CowBella’s face.

Now you can see the bright sunlight both in front and behind the cow. I did use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to bring the exposure down in both of those areas by 2/3 of a stop. This is the photo that Barb and I chose for the “April Cow” in the calendar.

OK, so I moved a little further to my left to get a “front shot” of CowBella. I really like the way that Jan painted the eyes on CowBella.  It looks like she’s looking at me looking at her!

The “tricky” part of making this photo was getting the tremendous amount of depth-of-field. Everything from CowBella’s nose, all the way back to the buildings over her head are in focus. That requires a small aperture opening (high f/stop number) and a wide angle lens. For this photo, I used an aperture of f/20 and a focal length of 45mm (on a full-frame sensor camera).

Now I had 3 areas of the photo with bright sunlight to deal with: in front of CowBella in the lower left corner, directly above her head, and the sidewalk and building behind her. Once again I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom to reduce the Exposure in 2 of these 3 areas: -0.4 stops in the lower left corner, and -0.43 stops in the sky directly above her head. (I did not need to touch the buildings above her head, because the sides of those buildings were also in the shade.) I also got that splash of sunlight on the circular column right above where CowBella’s right horn meets her head.

I really liked the way that CowBella was “looking at me”, and so this photo was paired up with another cow that was “looking at me” on the front cover of the calendar. That other cow is Mooquet, who was painted by Terrell Powell, and was sponsored by Breed & Co. (That is the only photo of Mooquet in the entire calendar.)

Now I have never met Jan Heaton, but we do have a mutual good friend, Barb Huffman. When I first took my photos of CowBella, I had Barb forward them to Jan. She responded that she liked them (she was just being polite). After we had the 2012 calendars printed, we gave one to Barb Huffman, and asked her to give another one to Jan Heaton when she got a chance. As a result, I again heard from Jan that she liked it (again she was being polite!). Since I now had Jan’s email address, I asked her if she would like to contribute anything to my “Cow of the Month” post – since it was her cow!

Jan very quickly responded, and here is what she graciously provided for you:

Hi Gregg:
Happy to participate. Here is my press info on CowBella!

About CowBella
One year ago, professional artist Jan Heaton visited Umbria, Italy.
The region’s spectacular art inspired her to create a series of watercolor paintings titled Tranquillo.
Translating the serenity of the paintings to a three dimensional cow seemed like a natural fit.
CowBella’s design is inspired by the intricate indigo hued ceramics of Deruta, Italy.
Her design was painted entirely with watercolor brushes, and varied transparent color glazes of one blue pigment color only.
In the process of designing and painting CowBella the artist became quite attached to this sweet heifer.

CowBella’s Measurements
Height (including horns): 57”
Neck: 42”
Waist: a petite 83”
Length: (nose to tail): 95”
Hoof Size: a dainty 5”
Weight: 100 #
BMI:19.6 (No added growth hormones.)

About Jan Heaton
Jan’s paintings offer a personal viewpoint that celebrates nature, and then abstractly reaches beyond the obvious.
Heaton’s watercolors are inspired by the structure, color, line and pattern of elements in nature that are often overlooked.
Her work isolates details and exposes the viewer to an everyday object or place seen from a new perspective.
She incorporates her background in calligraphy and graphic design to create sensuous organic forms.
Jan is a faculty member of the Austin Museum of Art School, and a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society.
Jan’s artwork is represented by art dealers in Austin, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Laguna Beach,
London, and San Miguel, Mexico. In Austin Heaton’s artwork is represented at Wally Workman Gallery.
Additional info on the artist can be found on her website, www.janheaton.com.

So there you have “the complete story” on CowBella. Be sure to visit Jan’s web site and check out her remarkable works of art!

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!