Tag Archives: Texas

Tour of Circuit of The Americas – Part 1


About a month ago, Barb came home from one of her Monday outings with the UT SAGE group that meets on The University of Texas campus, and said that there was going to be a tour of the new Circuit of The Americas race track. She also said that spouses were welcome, and wanted to know if I was interested. I probably thought about it for, oh maybe 2 seconds, and said “Wow! Hell yes, I’m interested!”. So Barb got us both signed-up, and the tour was this past Thursday, April 25, 2013.

For those who don’t already know, Circuit of The Americas was recently constructed just southeast of Austin specifically to be the only Formula One (F1) racetrack in the United States. They have also had other car and motorcycle races on this track since it held its first F1 race in November 2012. To further use the facility, they also build an outdoor amphitheater for live music performances (named Austin360 Amphitheater).

Now I am like most typical Americans – I don’t know anything about F1 racing, other than there seems to be this huge, wealthy fan base that travels from country to country to watch the qualifying time trials and the actual race on the 3rd day. More than 117,400 people were in attendance to watch the first F1 race on November 18, 2012. The week before the first F1 race at Circuit of The Americas, all 24 racing teams were located in Abu Dhabi – which is 10 time zones away from Austin.

Before you can go on a tour of Circuit of The Americas, you have to know how to get there – and most people in Austin do not know exactly where this facility is. I didn’t really know until the evening before we went.

Map to Circuit of The Americas

The race track is located east of Texas Toll Road 130, about 3 or 4 miles south of Hwy 71. Turn east on FM 812, and go about 1 mile. This is what you will see from the front (south) entrance.


That red and white structure on the left is an observation tower, and it is a key feature of this facility.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and my Whi-Bal card. No camera bag, no tripod, no spare battery, and not even a hat.  The description of the tour that Barb had indicated that we would be driven around on busses. Also, everything would be outside. I didn’t think that I would need any fast prime lenses for that, and I was really hoping that we would at least be able to get off the bus occasionally to get some decent photos.

After eating lunch with several of the SAGE members at the round Hilton Hotel at the Austin Bergstrom airport, we arrived at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) facility at 12:30 PM. It was overcast, and was supposed to remain that way. I did a custom white balance on my Olympus camera and then put my WhiBal card away.

We had about 15 minutes to kill before we were to get on the little busses, so we mingled with the other SAGE members and I took a few photos from the parking lot, and that is when I took the photo at the beginning of this post.


One of the other SAGE members, Dave, took this photo of Barb and I.


This is the only portion of the race track that can be seen from the main parking lot at the south entrance. This is the hill that leads up to Turn 1, and the seats for the spectators that want watch this exciting portion of the track.

Here’s a map of the race track itself

Map of Circuit of The Americas

The start/finish line is where the “A” pin is located.

Here is what the start/finish area looks like from near Turn 1.


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I’d like to point out a few things in that photo. You can see downtown Austin in the upper right corner. The bridge in the center, near the horizon, is on Texas Toll Road 130. The spectators sit in the grandstands on the left.

The building on the right is owned by the Formula One organization, and can only be used by the Formula One organization. It therefore sits idle for 51 weeks out of the year. This building is called the paddock.

(Edited on May 1, 2013. A couple of readers pointed out that those statements simply were not true. I sent an email to COTA asking for their help in correcting this information. Here is what they told me: “The paddock building is only used by F1 during that race. It is rented out for events or used as a spectator area during other events. It is not vacant 51 weeks out of the year.”)

The F1 racers start from a stationary start, and you can see the white markings on the pavement for where each car is to be positioned. They immediately race up a rather steep hill towards where we were standing, and when they get to the top of the hill they have to make a hard left hairpin turn. This is what our view of Turn 1 looked like.


There seemed to be about 50 or more people on this UT SAGE tour, and this photo shows about a third of them listening to one of our tour guides as we stood there overlooking Turn 1.


The tour guides told us that it cost $500,000,000 (half a Billion dollars) to build this race track, and that it was entirely paid for by individual investors. One of the SAGE members brought up that the government (city, county, or state ?) was paying $25 Million a year for the F1 membership, though. People get all worked up over that, and I don’t really understand why. Supposedly Austin gets that $25 Million back by having this track here (tourists, lodging, meals, worldwide exposure, etc.). I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I don’t really care, and this is not a political blog… so back to seeing my photos of this spectacular race track.

There is a large “overrun area” on the outside of this hairpin turn. I don’t know how many multi-million dollar race cars ended up running out into that area….


This is the view when looking beyond Turn 1 over towards Turn 2, with a better view of the observation tower.


The red “pipes” sweep up the back and over the top of the observation tower, where they form a ceiling over the white platform that people get to stand on.

We then got back onto our 4 little busses and drove to the far northeastern edge of the race track, where Turn 11 is located. Here is the track as it approaches Turn 11.


And here is Turn 11. It’s one heck of a hairpin curve!


Here we are blocking your view of this incredible turn. When the tour guide asked how fast we thought that the cars were going as they made their way around this turn, I was thinking “40 mph, 50 tops” (64 kph, 80 tops).


I wasn’t even close! The average speed that they slow to is “just” 69 mph (111 kph). That must really be something to see!

Between Turn 11 and Turn 12, the cars supposedly get up to over 200 mph (322 kph). Turn 12 is just before the stands that you see off in the distance. The rate of acceleration and then braking must really be incredible.


OK so after 10 minutes or so at Turn 11, it’s back to the busses.


We drive over to the middle of Turn 17, and park the busses right at the base of the observation tower.


This observation tower is 251 feet (76.5 m) tall. The elevator has only two stops: ground floor and floor 25!

I have too many photos to show you to cram them all into one huge, slow loading blog post, so I’m going to stop this one right here. I have 15 more photos set aside for Part 2 of this tour (9 from up on the tower).

I will end Part 1 of this story by showing you just one photo from up top. This is the very first photo that I took when I got to look out from that observation tower.


That is Turn 17 in the foreground, and Turn 11 is way off in the distance, near the upper left corner of the photo.

In Part 2, I will not be showing the race track in the order that I took the photos. Instead, I will try to show the turns in the order that the racers encounter them. I hope that you will return in a couple of days to see them, as I am pretty excited about what I have to show you.

Edited June 7, 2013: You can find Part 2 by clicking here.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

A Short Walk on East 6th Street

This post is really the tail end of my previous post. Sunday, April 7, 2013, was an overcast day, but I was tired of being in the house. I decided to go somewhere that I seldom go – downtown Austin. I ended up walking south on Congress Avenue from the Texas State Capitol down to 2nd Street, where I turned around and headed back north – until I got to 6th Street.

I was travelling light. I brought only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, and my X-Rite ColorChecker Passport. No camera bag, no tripod, not even a spare battery or a hat.

The truth is, I was just trying to get back to where I parked my car, which was three blocks east of Congress Avenue, on Trinity Street between and East 8th and East 9th Streets. I thought that 6th Street might be a “more scenic” route than 7th or 8th Street.

Within the first block after turning east on 6th Street, on the north side of the street sits the very historic Driskill Hotel, which has very recently been purchased by the Hyatt


I had my lens zoomed to as wide as it would go, which was 12mm (24mm equivalent), and even then I couldn’t get the entire front of the hotel into the frame. This is the only photo that I took that day where I wish I had some different equipment with me. My Canon 5D Mark II with the 24mm Tilt-Shift lens would have allowed me to capture the same photo – and not have the hotel seeming to be falling backwards (due to the perspective distortion). On the other hand, this would have been the ONLY photo that I would have wanted to be lugging that Canon camera (and a bag with at least one extra lens). Instead, this is “as good as I could do, with what I had with me”…

At the very first corner, which is Brazos Street, this is the view looking northeast along East 6th Street. Most Austinites do not see this scene at 4:00 PM on a Sunday afternoon. Actually most Austinites never see this scene, as East 6th Street is a one-way street, with traffic coming straight towards you in this next photo.


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I really don’t have much more of a story to tell. I only walked 2 more blocks along the south side of East 6th Street before I turned north on Trinity Street to get back to my car. Even though I don’t have much of a verbal story to tell, I did capture several photos within those 2 blocks that I would like to share with you!

People from all over the country (the world?) that come to visit Austin and ask “What’s there to do in this town?” are told about East 6th Street as one of the first suggestions. Obviously then, there are several businesses that cater to those who are visiting Austin.


Everyone who lives in Austin has heard or seen the slogan “Keep Austin Weird”. Most find it amusing, but nobody finds it offensive. This web site claims to be the origin of this slogan. I don’t really care, I just liked the tie-dyed T-shirt one vendor had hanging outside their front door.


And while you’re out partying on 6th Street, maybe you’ll have your thought processed altered enough that you might think that this is a good idea. 🙂


But really, the reason people come to East 6th Street is to drink and to listen to live music. I’ve never been to the Chuggin’ Monkey, but I like their sign….


After crossing San Jacinto Blvd, here’s another view looking northeast toward Trinity Street. Note that there really are not any modern buildings on East 6th Street, like there were back on Congress Avenue.


On the southeast corner of East 6th Street and Trinity Street sits Maggie Mae’s. I always thought that it was named after an old (but great) Rod Stewart song called Maggie May, but evidently the real story behind the name of this bar can be found here.


This little blackboard sign was in front of Maggie Mae’s, and I thought it was funny enough to photograph it.


OK, now that I was at Trinity Street, I needed to head north for two blocks to get back to my car. While still standing right outside of Maggie Mae’s, I looked back to the west, towards Congress Avenue, where you can see the modern buildings along Congress Avenue towering over the older buildings along East 6th Street.


Look closer at the photo above, and see if you can see the pair of cowboy boots dangling above the street…

It was just a quick, rather uneventful 2 block walk back to my trusty Honda CR-V.


Even though I had only been walking for 1 hour and 20 minutes, the time had just flown by, and I was certainly glad that I had left the house, despite the overcast and dreary sky that had been so prevalent earlier in the day.

It just goes to show you that sometimes you just need to get out there, and make the best of what you can of it.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Austin Shutterbug Club at The University of Texas


A week ago, on Saturday, March 16, 2013, the Austin Shutterbug Club had an outing where we met at 8:30 AM at the base of the Main Tower on The University of Texas at Austin campus. The outing was being lead by John Patterson.

As John was handing out maps of the campus, and filling us in on what we were to be looking for, I snapped a couple of photos of the club members. I was the only person without a DSLR camera. I brought my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, with the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens mounted on it. Even though I had three great prime lenses in my camera bag, since I had also brought my little Gitzo GT1542T tripod, I never bothered changing lenses that morning.


I had an Olympus camera, two people had Canon DSLRs, and everyone else was shooting Nikon. Many of these people are very accomplished photographers, and really know what they are doing…. Some of them asked about my camera, but I don’t think that any of them actually viewed it as a “real” camera. I realize that my photography skills are going to sway any of them to think otherwise. 🙂 One of the ladies had a Canon 5D Mark II, and when I told her that I also had that same camera, she looked at me in disbelief as if to wonder why I would leave that at home.


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We met at the base of the steps to the main administration building, generally referred to as “The UT Tower”. Here is a photo looking up towards the tower. Note the inscription “Ye Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Set You Free”. Well, at least you can see the beginning of it.


Although this event was not a scavenger hunt, we were asked to take photos of patterns, windows, doors, perspective, architectural detail, textures, and extreme/unusual views. In a few weeks we will be asked to submit what we felt were our best photos in each of those categories, and some committee will select the best 3 or 4 from each, and then the entire club will vote for their favorites. As a result, I will not be showing what I consider the best photo that I took in toward each category – not at this time, anyway. Never fear, when I have participated in such events in the past, none of my photos have ever been chosen as one of the best 3 or 4 from any category.


I decided just to have fun, and mingle as best an engineer is capable of mingling. 🙂

Since it wasn’t even 9:00 AM yet, I decided to head over to the east side of the tower to see how well it was being lit by the morning sun, even though it was very overcast. (The clouds were predicted to go away by mid-morning, and they did.)


These were my very first sighting this year of any Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas.


Just to the left of the Bluebonnets, I liked the textures of the rounded rocks, and the lone weed looked kind of like it was struggling for its space among them.


At 9:15 AM, we were to meet outside of Calhoun Hall. On the south side of this building is a rather interesting walkway.


We hung around here for several minutes. Brian Loflin, the founder and president of the Austin Shutterbug Club gave a little talk and demonstration of different perspectives of the same scene. This is Brian on the left.


We walked to the end of that “tunnel” you see in the photo above, which brought us out into a large courtyard behind the building, and next to the Harry Ransom Center and Sutton Hall.

Sutton Hall is a rather colorful building, quite unlike any other building on campus.


Going under the archway above the main door, and looking straight up, you can see some of the elaborate artwork that decorated the ceiling.


It can be a bit surprising when you realize that in the center of the photo above, that there are three “curly-Q” fluorescent light bulbs installed in the hanging light fixture.

Just outside of that same doorway I thought this huge tree limb looked rather unusual. My camera was pointed almost directly into the direction of the sun, so that’s why the photo appears to be somewhat hazy.


I walked over toward the Harry Ransom Center to get a few photos of Dobie Mall, and when I turned around I saw this photo of the UT Tower, framed by the tree limbs. The clock says that it is now 10:25 AM.


We started heading north, and outside of the West Mall Office Building, the patterns of this modern bicycle rack in front of the elaborate ironwork covering the window seemed like it might be good for one of the things that we were supposed to be looking for.


Directly east of there is Goldsmith Hall, which is built to surround an inner courtyard that contains 4 very large palm trees.


That’s Kathy McCall at the base of one of the trees. She’s a damn good photographer, and so I thought I’d wander in there and see if I could learn something by watching her!

I got close to one of the palm trees. looked up, and took this photo. Maybe I’ll use that one for the “textures” category.


We then headed over to the east side of the Student Union Building. I played around with various shutter speeds and depth of field while resting my camera on the limestone shelf. I must have taken 6 or 7 photos, but in the end, this is the only one that I kept.


I then wandered into the building, and went up a stairwell that had lots of daylight coming in through the windows. I setup my camera on my tripod and played around in this stairwell for 5 or 6 minutes.


I started wondering if I had become separated from the group, so I went more into the interior of the building to see if anyone else was inside.


I ran into one of the ladies in the club, and she was looking into this meeting room, acting like she’d like to check it out. I suggested that we go for it! She was getting down low for an “artsy” shot of a row of the backs of the chairs, but I was first interested in a “whole room” kind of photo. Even though there was a lot of light coming in through the windows, I had to keep my shutter open for 8 seconds to take this photo (but I had closed my aperture to a tiny f/22 to get maximum depth of field).


Right after I took that photo, an employee of The University came into the room and told us that we were not allowed to take photographs inside the building without first acquiring prior approval. We apologized and folded up our tripods and left. (At least she didn’t insist that we delete the photos from our memory cards!)

Back outside, we met up with John Patterson and John Sutton. Our group had dwindled to only 5 people. (We knew that we would meet up with many of the “drop-outs” at the designate lunch spot at 12:30 PM.) John suggested that we head up to 24th Street and take a few photos of the Littlefield House.


The home was built in 1893, and later bequeathed to The University in 1935. This home has many ornamental architectural features. I liked the lines of the multi colored shingles on the roof. This architectural style is not often seen here in Austin.


It was now noon, we were on the far north edge of the campus, and our designated lunch spot was at 12:30 on the southwest corner of the campus. On our walk to Schlotzsky’s, we passed by the south side of the UT Tower.


After we got to the Schlotzsky’s sandwich shop, there were about 10 of us sitting at a long table. We enjoyed lively conversations about photography, the drought, where one can find wildflowers already, and one of Brian’s upcoming Wildlife Photography Seminars. After about an hour, I decided to head back to the house and get ready for the Saturday evening that I had planned with Barb.

I almost didn’t make this blog post. Although I had a fun time walking around with my camera and mingling with fellow photographers, this set of photos didn’t cry out to me that I really wanted to share them. They don’t really inspire me. They are pleasing enough, I suppose, but something is lacking. Maybe it is the absence of color? I’m not sure….

Thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog today.

Lockhart BBQ Tour – Part 3


This is the 3rd and last blog post that documents my experience of attending a photographic excursion lead by Wyatt McSpadden to some premier BBQ restaurants in Lockhart, Texas. This trip occurred back on February 7, 2013.

Wyatt is famous for his photography of family-owned and operated Texas barbecue establishments. He has published a beautiful book on Texas BBQ, named appropriately enough “Texas BBQ: Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden“.

In my first post of this series, we had visited Smitty’s Market, which was in a building built about 1890. Our second stop was at Kreuz Market (pronounced “Krites”), which was built 100 years later, in 1990. Our third stop, and the subject of this post is Black’s Barbecue, which was built in 1932.

When we arrived at Black’s Barbecue, it was nearly 2:00 PM in the afternoon, and the sun was about as high as it will get in the sky here in Central Texas in early February. I still had the excellent Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens on my little Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera.


Note that Black’s Barbecue is open 8 days a week… That must be a strong indicator that they are something special. Indeed they are! From their website, on the Black’s Facts web page, you will find these words at the bottom:

Black’s Barbecue was selected by United States President Lyndon Baines Johnson to represent Texas barbecue at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Black’s Barbecue has been recognized by both the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives for their part in Texas History. The New York Times, Southern Living, Texas Monthly, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, The Food Network, Money Magazine, The Travel Channel and many others have all written about the Texas Legend – Black’s Barbecue.”

Let’s head on in and see this special BBQ sanctuary. As you enter the front door, you find yourself in a narrow hallway that leads you directly to the counter where you place your order. BBQ is usually sold “by the pound”, and they cut it up and weigh it right behind that counter – and then you pay for your order.

I didn’t order anything, as I had just eaten two meals in the last two hours, but I did stop long enough to take this photo over the counter.


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I went past the cash register, which takes you into the main dining area. It is quite the contrast to the cavernous Kreuz Market building that we had just left, but much more modern than Smitty’s Market (even though Black’s was built 80 years ago). It has obviously been through a renovation or two over that time.

I checked out the lighting, and it was a mix of tungsten and fluorescent lights, so I just left my White Balance setting on the camera to “Auto”.


This place looked like a living museum of Texas memorabilia!


A clock in the shape of the state of Texas, mounted horns from longhorn cattle, deer antlers, photos of football teams… Yes, this is the Texas that you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie.

The area that you get your plastic silverware, napkins, and white bread put an old safe to good use as a table leg…


Now any respectable restaurant in rural or small town area of Texas is required to have the trophy bucks (male deer) mounted on the wall for all to admire. Just above the bubble gum machine is as good a place as any…


Something about that deer on the right seemed to warrant a closer look. Damn, that taxidermist was good. That deer seemed to be looking right at me!


Now I don’t know why it is, but there is a drink served at almost every BBQ joint in Texas that is known as Big Red. I think I might have had it once… about 40 years ago. A lot of people drink it, but I only see it consumed where BBQ is served. I have no idea why that is. I did like their neon sign, but my photo of it really does not capture the brilliant colors that it was creating.


Almost all of the photographers had set themselves down at a long table that had been reserved for us, but I was still wandering around snapping photos of whatever seemed to interest me. I arranged these items on the plastic table cloth. The empty pepper sauce bottles become toothpick dispensers.


Some of the other photographers had engaged in a conversation with the Caldwell County Constables, who were just finishing up their BBQ lunch. They seemed like nice guys to me!


That is Andrew Auten on the left, Jay Defoore in the red jacket, and I don’t remember the photographer’s name who is on the right, but I do remember that he was also using an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera, and that he had flown in from Denver, Colorado just to be on this BBQ tour!

I was still wandering around, and went back to the area that was using the old safe as a table leg. I turned the labels on the special bottles of pepper sauce so that the labels were facing forward, and focused that 25mm lens as close as it would go, and took this simple photo.


Turning to my left, this little splash of color seemed to catch my attention.


Besides the bubble gum machine and the old CRT television on the wall, I think this was the most colorful item in the entire place….


Now that photo above, although just a snapshot, speaks volumes to me. Mounted trophy deer, longhorns, photos of decades of the high school football team, barbecue… yes, this worthy of the Texas Legislature’s recognition!

I felt like I had “carpet bombed” the place with my little camera, so I went to the long table with the other photographers, and pulled up a chair next to Frank Grygier. While sitting there and talking to Frank, I casually arranged these items on the table, and we had a good laugh about shooting this “still life” arrangement.


(See Frank, I told you that I would use that one!)

We were sitting close to the bubble gum machines, and since I’m drawn to color light a moth is drawn to a flame, I just had to snap this photo too.


Turns out it isn’t bubble gum after all…

About this time, I noticed that Wyatt wasn’t with us anymore, and Taylor Jones’s tethered shooting station wasn’t in the dining area, either. I asked if anyone knew where Wyatt was, and someone responded that they thought he had gone to take a photo of the owner.

I went back to the counter where you ordered your BBQ, and asked if they knew anything about the owner being photographed. One of the guys pointed to the area through the windows behind him. I could then spot Wyatt setting up his tripod through those windows.

I asked the servers behind the counter if it would be OK if I could go back into the kitchen area where they were. The first guy gave me a look like “no way”, but before the second guy saw that, he said “sure come around the counter, and I’ll show you how to get there”. Score!

Besides Taylor Jones and Jeff Stockton, who were helping Wyatt, I was the first of the “signed-up photographers” to see what they were up to. They had Barrett Black (the owner’s son) in action as the pit master.

Wyatt explained what he was going to do to light this scene the way that he wanted. The room was rather dimly lit by a few “track lights” mounted so that they would shine into the pit when the lid was raised. Since these were tungsten lights, Wyatt was going to use only the modeling lights of his portable studio strobes that he had brought. The modeling lights were also tungsten lights, so they would match the color of light from the track light. The model lights would not flash, but instead they would be constant light sources.

Now this was just like what Kirk Tuck described in his wonderful book that I had read a year ago, except that Kirk was using LED lights for shooting portraits.

Now I am not going to take any credit for the next photo, other than to say that I pointed my camera in the right direction, and released the shutter. Wyatt composed this shot, like a maestro conducts a symphony. He knew and understood what each component was supposed to do to contribute to the whole effort.


Barrett Black, the pit master, being photographed by Wyatt McSpadden, the photographer who is a legend for doing exactly this. I was almost giddy with the thought of what was happening right in front of me!

Wyatt had Barrett turn the exhaust fans off, so that the light positioned behind Barrett would light up the smoke behind him.

In the photo above, Barrett is looking directly into the lens of Wyatt’s Nikon D800 camera. I had my little Olympus camera held “stinky diaper” style” directly above Wyatt’s head, and snapped that photo. Well, almost above Wyatt’s head… I should have held it just a little bit higher; that’s the back of his black ball cap in the lower left corner of my photo.

After I got my photo, I helped one of the lady photographers by dragging over an empty 5 gallon bucket, turned it over, and helped her climb onto it, so that she could also see what was transpiring and to get a photo or two as well.

Wyatt’s photo looked absolutely stunning on Taylor’s tethered shooting station!

It was getting terribly smoky in that little room so I headed outside to get some fresh air. Several of the other photographers were already outside.

Soon Wyatt was out there with us, and he was looking for an appropriate place to take a portrait of Barrett and his Dad, Kent Black. This picnic table was in the sun, but the old sign on the side of the building behind it was in the shade. This would be the spot.


Wyatt planted his camera in the same location that my camera was in for the photo above, and then he did a great job explaining how he was going to compose the lighting. First, the exposure for the background was established. The sunlight coming from behind the two “subjects” would create a bit of “rim light” to help separate them from that background. Finally, Wyatt had Jeff assemble to large octagonal softboxes, one positioned to the camera’s left, and one directly over the camera. Using a light meter, Wyatt worked with Jeff to get the strobes to flash at the desired output levels to give the effect he wanted.

The strobes were triggered wirelessly. After Wyatt got the photos that he wanted, he offered to let us take the same shot. I didn’t hesitate one instant!

My tripod was set up about 30 inches to the right of Wyatt’s camera position. I dialed in the shutter speed that Wyatt had used, but since he had been using an ISO setting of 100, and my Olympus only went down to 200, I closed up my aperture by one stop from what he had used.


Barrett seemed relaxed and comfortable, but I got the impression that Kent was wondering if he was really expected to keep sitting there while a dozen different photographers took their turn – one by one. He never complained, and he sat there patiently, but we let him off easy, as only about half of us took our turn.

The only time that I changed my lens while at Black’s Barbecue was to put on the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens. I did that just so I could get a couple of wide angle “behind the scenes” photos.


That lens is considered a “kit lens”, but even so I still use it more than all three of my prime lenses combined.

Wyatt then announced that he was going to be going back to Austin in the equipment truck with Jeff and Taylor. He needed to get back to town and then get ready for some Texas Photo Roundup event that was being put on by the ASMP (Austin and San Antonio chapter) and the Austin Center for Photography.

We watched Jeff and Taylor skillfully, and quickly, pack up equipment you see in the previous photo, and then the rest of us went back inside the building.

We were told that’s where we would be served our “sample” of Black’s Barbecue…. After all, it was 3:30 PM, and we hadn’t eaten any BBQ in nearly an hour and a half now. I was surprised to see my fellow photographers eat more BBQ here than they did at the previous two establishments!

We eventually got back onto our bus, 30 minutes behind schedule. Nobody cared about that, and everyone was happy. I know that I had a great time, and I got the impression that everyone else did too. Even though we got caught up in some of Austin’s terrible traffic during rush hour on Interstate 35, I still felt like we were on an adventure to remember!

I learned a lot from watching Wyatt’s lighting demonstrations in action. It seems so much more relevant when seeing it in person, rather than seeing it on creativeLIVE, or reading about it in a book by Joe McNally or Syl Arena. Don’t misinterpret me here – those are still great learning methods. Seeing it live, I got a feel for how much time it took, and saw the measure pace that Wyatt worked at – and you simply do not get to see that by reading a book.

I was extremely appreciative of the access that we were provided in these BBQ establishments. It was because we were with Wyatt McSpadden – and believe me, these places know exactly who Wyatt is and what he means to their industry – that we were allowed unrestricted access and allowed to photograph anything that we wanted to. Wyatt had earned that privilege through years of hard work, and we were allowed to tag along with his reputation. For him to share that with us was truly impressive to me.

Lastly, as we rolled into Austin, I felt very happy to realize that my previous concerns about getting in “over my head” were not warranted at all. I was comfortable around all of these other photographers all day long, and everyone treated me pleasantly and respectfully.

I hope that you enjoyed at least some parts of my three-part blog post about Wyatt McSpadden’s photo tour of three very famous barbecue establishments in Lockhart, TX

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Lockhart BBQ Tour – Part 2


This is the 2nd of what will be 3 blog posts that document my experience of attending a photographic excursion lead by Wyatt McSpadden to some premier BBQ restaurants in Lockhart, Texas. This trip occurred back on February 7, 2013.

Wyatt is famous for his photography of family-owned and operated Texas barbecue establishments. He has published a beautiful book on Texas BBQ, named appropriately enough “Texas BBQ: Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden“.

In my first post of this series, we had visited Smitty’s Market, which was in a building built about 1890. Our next stop was at Kreuz Market (pronounced “Krites”), which is located just 4 or 5 blocks away.


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.

There is a complex history that tangles Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market. I am not sure that I have all of these facts absolutely correct, but here’s what I understand.

Charles Kreuz Sr. started Kreuz Market in 1900 as a meat market and grocery store in the building that we had explored in my previous blog post. In 1948, Charles’s sons sold the market to Edgar Schmidt, who had worked there since 1936. The establishment kept the name “Kreuz Market”. In 1960, Edgar closed the grocery store, and kept the BBQ operation going. In 1997, Edgar sold the place to his sons Rick and Don.

In 1999, something happened that caused Rick Schmidt to leave the old building and move to a brand-spanking new facility 4 or 5 blocks away. He kept the name Kreuz Market for the new facility.


Even though Schmidt had move Kreuz Market to a new location, the old building remained a BBQ establishment, owned by Nina Schmidt Sells, and with a new name of Smitty’s Market.

Confused? Me too…! It seems like both Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market are owned and operated by different members of the Schmidt family. At least that’s what I think. It doesn’t really matter, though, now does it?

I guess that explains why the wooden doors entering this new building built in 1999 say “Since 1900”.


After you go through those doors, and take a short jog to your left, you get a nice view of one of the three major dining areas in this restaurant. I do not know what they refer to this area as, but it seems like it is the “fancy dining area” (as compared to the other two areas). This next photo was the only one that I took all day long with the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 lens on my Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. I also used my little Gitzo GT1542T Traveler tripod for this photo.


The windows on the right side of this photo allow you to look into the brightly lit dining area where several customers were enjoying their BBQ lunch at the time. That area had linoleum floors, and lots of fluorescent lights. I never took any photos inside of that dining area.

To your left is the third of the three eating areas. It is a very long, relatively narrow, dining area with dozens of wooden picnic tables. That area seemed very inviting, as all of the light was diffused sunlight. We will visit that area later.

Straight ahead, in the photo above, through the doors where you see a few people, is the massive area where all of the meat smoking pits are located. I think that’s where all of the other photographers had immediately disappeared to.

I changed my lens to the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens.

Backing up a bit, just inside of the front door, it appears that Rich Schmidt had brought several old implements as reminders of the old location with him to this new location.


Does anybody remember accounting machines like this?


I headed back to the area where the meat smoking pits were located.

These BBQ pits have heavy metal lids covering them. To make it easier for the pit masters to raise them, they have a rope attached to them that goes up and over a pulley, where a counter-balance weight is attached.


I started just wandering around the area to get a feel for it, and looking for things to photograph.


In this next photo, behind the counter where you can order your meat “to go”, you can see several of the counter-balance weights hanging from their pulleys.


There didn’t seem to be much activity in that area right now, so I headed back out into the “fancy dining room”. This “menu” was high on the wall, just outside of the doors.


Note the smaller sign underneath the larger black one. No BBQ sauce, No eating utensils. No kidding!

As I wandered around the fancy dining area a bit, the reflection off of the back of a chair seemed to catch my eye.


The light that was being reflected off of that chair was coming into the room from that 3rd eating area – the one with the dozens of wooden picnic tables. Note the long wall of diffused window light on the right. (That will be put to good use in a little bit!)


Since nobody was out there at this time, I headed back into the area with all of the smoking pits. I’m not sure how much oak wood is needed to cook lunch at a place like this, but I think this is what they thought they would use on this day.


I noticed that Wyatt was getting set-up to do one of his lighting demonstrations. Jeff Stockton (in the red T-shirt) was moving the softbox around, and Taylor Jones, of Texas Grip, was getting his tethered shooting station all set-up.


Frank Grygier was also watching the pros in action.


Before you knew it, Wyatt had brought Frank around the end of the counter and had taken his portrait, which you can see here on the iPad (part of Taylor’s tethered shooting station).


I noticed that the pit master had pulled out a juicy brisket from a smoking pit, and was carving it up for one of the customer’s orders.


It was the next day, after I was at home, and was looking at all of the great photographs in Wyatt’s book, that I became aware of who these two people are. That is definitely Roy Perez on the left, and I *think* that is Ella Townes helping him with serving up the order.

After a few minutes, I noticed that Wyatt had moved out to the eating area with the wooden picnic tables – and he was photographing an actual customer while he and his buddies were enjoying their BBQ lunch.


He had the benefit of the remotely triggered small softbox, just out of my photo – the right. The photos that Wyatt was taking looked stunning on the tethered shooting station! So much so, that some of the
other photographers took Wyatt’s place.


Soon all 12 of us photographers were taking photos of the one person photographing this customer who was just trying to enjoy his BBQ lunch. Note in the photo above, that’s Wyatt standing on the bench directly behind the BBQ customer, and Wyatt is photographing all of us, who are photographing the guy photographing the customer…

That’s funny enough, but this good-natured fellow told all of us to stay right where we were for a minute. He then got up, walked back to where Wyatt had been on the bench, pulled out his smartphone and took a photo of all of us acting like we were photographing him!

After that episode, I wandered off again. I remembered the sign saying that they didn’t have BBQ sauce, so I was sort of curious what these little bottles were.


Hot sauce is definitely not BBQ sauce. If you are not familiar with hot sauce, then you should proceed with caution!

I talked Wyatt for a minute about the shot above, and after he walked off, I talked to Frank for a couple of minutes. I then wandered back into the pit room, and Wyatt had corralled yet another customer and was directing him, and telling Jeff where to move the softbox.


Again, Wyatt’s photo is absolutely stunning, and doesn’t look anything like mine. (Of course Wyatt was at a different angle, and didn’t have that strip of light coming in from the hinged side of the outside door, and of course, he had that very useful little softbox, too!)

Here’ the team hard at work, perfecting their craft. That’s Frank on the left, Jeff Stockton in front of the light he was in charge of, Kimberly Davis (with her back to me), and of course Wyatt McSpadden.


It was nearing 1:00 PM, and it had been a little over an hour since we had eaten some wonderful BBQ over at Smitty’s Market, but now it was time to sample some of the wonderful BBQ that Kreuz Market had to offer.


The photo above was set-up on top of one of those long wooden tables, near the wall of windows with the diffused sunlight. To further soften the light, Wyatt had Jeff open up a large (40 inch-ish) collapsible circular diffuser, and had it positioned to the right, between the window and this arrangement (which Wyatt had arranged).

I had changed my lens to the Olympus 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3 lens for one reason – it has a “macro” mode. In this mode, the focal length is fixed at 43mm (86mm equivalent), and it does not actually get to a 1:1 magnification (generally to be defined as “macro”), but it does get pretty close at 0.72 magnification.

I did use my tripod for that photo. I stopped down the aperture to f/14, which meant that the shutter would be open quite a while. I kept the ISO at 200 and fired off 2 shots – with a 0.8 second shutter opening, you’ve got to take more than one shot!

Starting in the lower-right corner, and going around in a clockwise direction, what you see here are onions, pickles, brisket (beef), a sausage link, and in the back is a pork chop. That’s right, a pork chop!

Also, lots of photographers wanted to get a shot, so I stepped aside, and put my tripod away – something that I would not normally do whenever I think about macro photography. When another opportunity to wiggle into position, I got this photo, which shows just how “macro” this kit lens will get.


I kept the ISO at 200, but I did stop down the aperture to f/9.0. That resulted in a shutter speed of 1/13 second – something that I thought I might be able to handhold without motion blur. I took 6 photos. Good thing, too, as that photo was the last of the six, and it is only one worth keeping!

Now that huge pork chop had started quite a conversation among us. I personally had never heard of Texas BBQ’ing a pork chop before. It turns out that this is one of the things that Kreuz Market is famous for. We pulled out a small knife and cut into it. Tender, juicy, and delicious. It was gone in just a couple of minutes!


Even though we were not actually hungry, we couldn’t help but taste all of the BBQ that Kreuz Market had brought out to us. So we tasted it. And we “tasted it” some more. Soon we were completely stuffed, and started moving very slowly. We were about to go into a coma, but someone realized that we still had to make another stop on this Lockhart BBQ Trip!

It took us nearly 30 minutes to get up enough gumption to pack our stuff and head on out to the bus.


I hope that you will return a few days from now for Part 3 of my Lockhart BBQ Trip story. In that next post, we will visit Black’s Barbecue. Hopefully I can show you a little bit of why Blacks’ Barbecue has been recognized by both the Texas Senate and Texas House of Representatives for their part in Texas History.

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