On Accomplishment: Inspiration from 100: Head/Heart/Feet

Zak Wieluns in Caprock Canyons State Park

I walked in to the house Saturday afternoon and told my wife that the two previous days, including that morning and afternoon, were some of the best days I’ve had this year, and I feel like my year has been pretty good! Lubbock hosted its annual Flatland Film Festival (aptly named for the region), through which I was introduced to some great films and some even greater people. One documentary was especially impactful: 100: Head/Heart/Feet.

I’m no film reviewer, so I won’t tread where I can’t swim. The film is about Zak Wieluns, an ultra-runner, and his attempt to complete the Vermont 100 Endurance Race. Yep, that’s a 100-mile foot-race, ladies and gents. I used to run quite a bit, some competitively, but a 100-mile race just wasn’t even on my radar. Nowhere close. In any case, the film is right up the adventure athlete’s alley. It is a dynamic story, and in true documentary form, the visuals are both well-done and highly related to the personalities of the characters in the film and to the sport. My wife is a marathon runner and triathlete, and I cannot wait for her to see it.

100: Head/Heart/Feet – Official Trailer – (2014) from Hammer & Saw Films on Vimeo.

However, 100: Head/Heart/Feet goes well beyond super-endurance athletes and ultra-running. Thematically, the story relates to humankind on many levels. Mike Mooney, co-director of the film, speaks about how the film is on some level about setting long-term goals and seeing them through. Running a 100-mile race isn’t something you decide to do a week out from the event. Nor a month. Nor half a year. It takes time and passion, which is another theme (as one would assume) showcased in the film.

Personally, I walked away with a different-yet-related theme stuck in my head: accomplishment. While the film’s credits rolled, I kept thinking to myself: “Everyone deserves to accomplish something big in their life.” In addition, I also kept thinking about how Zak was surrounded by those giving him encouragement–family and close friends, as well as race-day running enthusiasts and other runners. The film doesn’t necessarily glorify ultra-running, instead making it an integral part of a story that is much larger. Finally, I walked out of the film saying to myself:

“Everyone deserves to accomplish something big in their life with a team of supporters.”

I whole-heartedly believe that. Everyone is so deserving of getting something big done in their life. “Big” is relative. For Zak, an avid runner, it was training for and running a 100-mile race (I’m not going to say whether or not he finished it–you’ll have to see the film yourself). That takes commitment. Serious commitment. For a photographer, maybe it is landing a spread in a local magazine with a story you wanted to tell. Maybe it was building a portfolio of work to earn your first regional commercial job. I always tell my students to have in mind a few things they would really like to do in the five years that relate to their photography. I can only teach from experience. I remember being a student wanting to work in magazines. I made every effort to do so, and within a year, I was doing just that. I remember wanting to shoot my first cover the next year, and I did. It all took work getting there, though. Lots of work. And time.

It also takes a team. When you hear of someone running a 100-mile race, thoughts emerge of lonely hours of training and an in-your-head experience that characterizes the activity made up of a bunch of lone rangers that are incredibly talented and just a bit crazy. Photographers, does this sound a bit familiar? In actuality, while there is a large amount of time spent by one’s self for both activities, and learned skill and talent, it simply does not happen without a group of people (again, the size of which is relative to the goal) behind you. Zak will be the first person to tell you his family and friends are a necessary part of his running. Mike knows an ultra-marathon of a documentary like 100: Head/Heart/Feet just can’t be done without the help (volunteers, mostly) of many others. This facet of the film reminded me to be thankful of everyone around me, and to recognize them for their help in getting me to where I’m at and where I’m going. My wife (translated my hero) and children cannot be thanked enough. I hope that everyone with big goals has such a support group. This group can be very diverse, but it is essentially comprised of those that believe in your goal and in the process that will help you accomplish it. In my heart, I hope everyone reading this has such a group. If you don’t, seek them out. These people will encourage you, provide physical and emotional support, and in a positive way, help you stay accountable. There is value in all of it.

Zak Wieluns (left) and Mike Mooney (right)

I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Zak Wieluns (above left) and Mike Mooney (above right) while they taught a Saturday-morning workshop I helped host for participants interested in running and/or documentary filmmaking. In addition to thanking them for their time, I’d like to say that it was especially nice to simply hang out with new friends and, like Zak puts it, kindred spirits. Of course, I couldn’t let our time go without making a few images (the top image is of Zak running the red dirt trails of Caprock Canyons State Park, where the workshop was held). They both agreed to be a part of a new portfolio I’m shooting on advocates for active outdoor lifestyles. Like Zak, Mike is an avid runner, and they both value being outdoors as much as one possibly can, making them perfect for the portfolio. I can’t say enough great things about these guys, and I hope our paths cross again soon!

As a way of wrapping up this rather lengthy post, I want to encourage you all to be intentional about setting goals (photographic, personal, whatever they may be), and seeing them through. In lieu of much inspirational jargon, I’m usually quick to simply say “Work hard!” Do so, but also do it with a goal in mind and a community of supporters.

Do yourself a favor and try to catch a screening of 100: Head/Heart/Feet, and follow the film on Twitter and Facebook for information about its release to a wider audience.

Also, if you made it this far, you’ll note this is the first post I’ve written since May. I’m fortunate to have been busy with family, work, and writing, but my blog has suffered. Not for long, though. I’ll be making an announcement about a couple new books later this week, a new studio, and revising an old series soon! Thanks for the support, everyone!

 

Day’s End Near London, Texas

London Sunset, by Jerod Foster

We wrapped up another packed day of shooting and racing across the Texas Hill Country as we screeched to a halt on the side of the road near London, Texas (home of the state’s second oldest dance hall). It’s funny how you can be driving down the highway at 75 mph and spot a shot 100 yards off in the distance. Shimmering heads of grass, a pair of live oaks, the indication of more landscape behind them, and a ball of fire in the sky are what caught our eye, and in the last few minutes of the day, we made several variations on the shot you see above. Not a bad way to end the day!

This class works hard from before sun up to way after sun down. We’re headed out to far West Texas in the morning to chase down great images in the Chihuahuan Desert. Even though the land is severely drought-stricken, I’m sure the Texas mountains will not disappoint.

More on the way!

Junction Photography…We’re Back!

Students Crossing Llano River, by Jerod Foster

I’m starting my ninth year here in Junction, Texas, where I teach a special topics in photography course for Texas Tech University. This is where I pretty much started my photography career, and I’m excited and humbled to think I get to teach the course now. It is simply the best photographic field experience a student can get while “in class!” Of course, this is not all by my design, and a very large amount of credit goes to my compadre, fellow teacher, and mentor, Wyman Meinzer, for kicking this class off over a decade ago and setting it into motion. As Wyman intended, it has always and will always be purposed with putting students interested in photography into the shoes of an editorial photographer while visiting some of the most extreme and unique environments and people of the state. We’re a shooting-heavy tribe that rolls down the road, covering some 2,000 miles in 14.5 days, traversing everything from Hill Country rivers to far West Texas’ Chihuahuan desert mountains.

As always, it is an honor to be back in Junction for the Intersession period. Although we are on the road away from Internet service all next week, I hope to have a few images up over the next couple of weeks (like the one above of students crossing the Llano River after sunset), as well as notes about the class. Words and images can only do so much to convey the appeal to be here, but I’ll try my best!

Until then…

Finding Favorites in Color: Blue #2

Nighttime on Independence Creek, by Jerod Foster

It was nighttime. It was windy. It was cold. And I was perched on a cliffside with my legs wrapped around a tripod, camera and lens mounted on top. That’s the set up.

Like the previous shot in this series, Blue #2 was made while leading my annual Junction Intersession Photography course. I’m fortunate to take students to some of the most beautiful spots of Texas, and although students get to see many of them for the first–and sometimes only–time in their lives, I’m always looking for the new in the well-visited. This just happened to be the case at Independence Creek Preserve, a jewel of The Nature Conservancy. If I count right, I have visited the preserve eight times and spent 21 days on the sprawling Chihuahuan desert plateaus and canyons. Needless to say, having visited so often, I’m always looking for something new to shoot and represent a bit of the place.

This night saw the students and I light painting a gazebo against a sky that just wouldn’t let the stars shine through. Not wanting to completely pack up, the students decided to shoot long exposures of the building with the clouds floating overhead, and who am I to keep them from doing so? After getting them set up, I noticed the moon’s reflections shining brightly on Independence Creek, the creek that provides the bulk of the water to the lower Pecos River. So, I walked down the bluff on which the gazebo sits, along with a couple other students, and set up to shoot.

Did I mention earlier it was nighttime? After dialing in exposure and taking a few test shots, I noticed  the color cast on the images was pretty warm. Too warm, in my opinion, for a shot that is supposed to not only convey good content and composition, but also depict the night landscape in a more revealing context.  Therefore, I changed my white balance from Daylight to Tungsten. Under color correcting circumstances, I use Tungsten white balance (somewhat sparingly because of its strong effect on color) to mitigate the orange color cast of incandescent bulbs casting ambient light. However, switching to Tungsten white balance isn’t exactly what we would consider “color correction” in landscape photography. It does, though, come in handy when you want to stress nighttime as a time of day.

Unlike the previous post, where the blue-ness was not caused by changing the white balance and explained a certain emotional appeal to the shot, the shot above mechanically establishes time in which the shot was made. A sense of place is almost always tied to a time, be it a certain hour of the day, year, or era. By shooting this and subsequent shots in Tungsten white balance, where the blue color cast overrides the scene, my hope was to convey the time of day. It feels like nighttime because of the blue. There’s no lying here, no thought manipulation. Rather, a truer sense of the context was provided at the same time an aesthetic benefit was added to the image. I often do this with lightning shots as well, where the blue-ness of a bolt seems more electric than an orange-tinged alternative.

Again, this shot was all about context, and a simple, yet fairly drastic, shift in color did it for me. It might not work for cityscapes, but it did here. Some advice, don’t get too locked in with the camera settings and your mind set. Keep in mind that even before we see the image on our computer in a post-processing scenario, we have a great deal of control over its aesthetic.  Experiment, shoot in raw, and above all, bring that storytelling perspective along with the technology you have in front of you!

Perched Atop

Photo by David Vaughn

TECHNIQUE BONUS: I mentioned it was windy. Well, it was real windy! On these bluffs, gusts could be 30-50 mph! I was shooting straight into the wind as well. Even though the camera was on a tripod, the wind was still too powerful for long exposures (up to 30 seconds). Tack on a telephoto lens (in this case, a 70-200mm f/2.8 L), which is about as wind resistant as a Peterbilt, and you have some stabilization issues. What to do? Sit on the tripod. Yep, you read correctly. Lower your tripod, wrap your two legs around the tripod’s three, and sit down. I’m not sure I would try this with my carbon fibers, but a great set of Manfrotto aluminum sticks work just fine for the…perching. It’s all about adding weight for stabilization. You can see in the image above that I also took the lens hood off of the lens, reducing even more drag and shake. I’m surprised my hat stayed on!

This is #2 of a small series on some of my favorite shots from my latest book, Color, A Photographer’s Guide to Directing the Eye, Creating Visual Depth, and Conveying Emotion. The book is available from many great folks, including PeachpitAmazonBarnes & Noble, and your local book retailer. Check back for more in the series!

Finding Favorites in Color: Blue #1

Blue Tree in Utopia, by Jerod Foster

When it comes to landscapes, I honestly don’t find many blue shots in my portfolio. I noticed this in May when I made a couple of shots in which blue was the primary color (one above on the right, the other coming in a future post). We have very dramatic sunsets in West Texas, and blue is often the least dominant color (as it is when compared to other colors) in a grand show of the sky. Blue, however, is one of my favorite colors, and it says quite a bit when used in large doses.

The pair of images above were shot in a hayfield 50 yards from the beautiful Sabinal River in Utopia, Texas. That’s right, we have a Utopia and Paradise in this state. On this particular stretch of the river, I would usually find myself on or in the water, shooting among the bald cypress trees and calm flow of clear water. However, the current drought conditions of the entire area has left the river low, and the often-angelic light hitting the trees in the evening was shrouded by a dense layer of low cloud cover. So, I made a few shots near the water and made my way up the hill a bit to the rather lush crop of haygrazer.

The haygrazer in May was about waist-high, and its rich green was inviting. However, the cloud cover kept an abundance of green from reaching the eye, and instead, I was intrigued by the blue-ness of the scene. Blue, as opposed to some popular insight, is a pretty weak color. Weak in that it is one of the least advancing colors on the eye–it doesn’t attack the eye and brain like red does–and it is often associated emotionally and symbolically with the passive or intellectual instead of the bravado and aggressive. It is also a rather melancholy color–the blues genre of music wasn’t named so for no reason–and the blue I was seeing as a result of the cloud cover in what is usually a fairly bright, glowing, hot part of the Texas Hill Country was fairly fitting at the moment.

So, I started out hand-holding a 17-35mm f/2.8L on a Canon 5D Mk III, shooting vertically and using the long blades of haygrazer lead the eye to the lone pecan tree. I loved the color and the lines, and they sky was right on the money without any filtration. I was shooting at 1/13 of a second, about as slow as I can go with the lens at 17mm. The wind, however, would move the blades of grass around violently every 20 seconds or so, and every other shot I was making exhibited a bit of that movement. Needing to capitalize on that movement, I ran to get a tripod. The next several shots were made at shutter speeds ranging from one (1) second to five (5) seconds. The image on the right above was shot at 2.5 seconds. I like the swaying of the blades in this shot compared to the still blades of the one on the left. The color blue does its job of setting the mood, and the movement of the crop provides a bit of dynamic and immersion in the environment.

All in all, I made about 20 shots and then packed it up. I was pleasantly surprised by unexpected weather conditions and made a blue shot for the portfolio. Feeling the environment out is key to finding shots like this, and many times, feeling is about the combination of many things, of them weather, environmental conditions, and subtle (and not so subtle) coloration.

This is #1 of a small series on some of my favorite shots from my latest book, Color, A Photographer’s Guide to Directing the Eye, Creating Visual Depth, and Conveying Emotion. The book is available from many great folks, including Peachpit, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your local book retailer. Check back for more in the series!

New Book on Seeing and Shooting Great Color

CoverII

It’s out! My newest book with the great folks at Peachpit is now shipping! Color, A Photographer’s Guide to Directing the Eye, Creating Visual Depth, and Conveying Emotion (a good mouthful) is all about seeing and shooting great color that helps express mood, atmosphere, and story. The book is chock full of colorful images (over 200 of them) to help illustrate not only physical characteristics of color, but also how color touches us emotionally and culturally. The overall emphasis is color for photographers, and a great deal of the book is also spent discussing how we as photographers also affect and create color to make our images emotionally powerful and engaging.

This book started as my previous two did: as part of a conversation I had with Ted Waitt, one of the great editors at Peachpit. In fact, the beginnings of this book came over a breakfast chat at Photoshop World last fall when we first discussed the Sony NEX-6 book. We both wanted to create a book that combined the intellectual discussion on color with the photographer’s practical use for it. After visiting later a few more times about it, and bringing in my awesome and ever-patient editor Susan Rimerman, we ironed out a concept that touches upon color in three different areas for the beginning and avid photographer.

The first section of the book discusses color as a powerful way telling story and seeing the world around us. Like music, color is a universal language that both binds societies and cultures, but also is nuances along many objective and subjective lines. This section highlights the importance of recognizing the power in color, as well the importance of understanding how we actually, physically see color–the importance of the science (and physiology) behind it.

Moonrise over Pastel Sky, by Jerod Foster

The second section practically discusses color theory and how photographers can put to use the physically engaging qualities of color. One of my concerns with writing about color theory was regurgitating dense and nebulous discussion (it is theory, after all) about the color wheel, and while it is certainly covered, my goal with this section was to identify how information in color theory can be smartly used in our photographs. I am a strong believer that a firm and practical understanding of some theory comes in handy, especially when developing the photographer’s eye.

Independence Creek Under Full Moon, by Jerod Foster

The third section focuses on the subjective meaning of color and how to technically achieve great color in our actions as photographers. A rather large chapter in the book highlights several popular, foundational colors that what they typically mean on a grand scale, followed by a chapter on culture and color. So much of what color is is emotion and identification, and these two chapters look at both areas from the perspective of someone that needs to tell a story with their images.

Music and Ice Cream, by Jerod Foster

This third section also includes several chapters on shooting color and creating, or at least noticing, its emotional appeal and storytelling value. The last four chapters of the book highlight environmental and photographic conditions for great color, affecting color while shooting (think camera adjustments, artificial light, etc.), best practices before and after the shutter clicks to garner the most color possible, and finally, the significance of black and white photography in a colorful world (I couldn’t just let black and white be unmentioned).

Tia and Church, by Jerod Foster

As opposed to other books on color (some of which are great texts on color theory and aesthetic criticism), this book screams photography, photography, photography! I wanted to make a book that was immediately useful for the learning and learned photographer. It runs the gamut of photography, from landscapes and nature imagery, to photojournalistically being aware of color whilst documenting activity, to working in a more posed, studio-like environment. In the end, the book is about seeing great color before the snap, making sure the capture is completed with a mind for maintaining color, and seeing it through to the final visual.

I really hope you enjoy the book! I had a great team with me on its production, and I can’t thank the very fine folks over at Peachpit enough for letting me work with them so much over the past couple of years. I’m honored to be among their authors and and a part of many folks’ libraries.

Speaking of which, seeing as we’re closing in on the Thanksgiving holiday here in the States, I must mention that Peachpit is holding a huge Black Friday Sale, and you can find Color and other great titles at a discount (just click on Photography)! On top of that, I’m giving away two signed copies of Color to two folks who spread the good word about its release! Share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ (mention me in your post or use #colorbook in your tweet or FB message, otherwise I won’t know who to enter), and at the end of the week, my two-year-old randomly will draw two winning names from her winter beanie.

 

EXTRA, EXTRA! If you’re a regular to my blog, you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting as much as I used to in the past. I’m happy to explain why in another post, but that’s all about to change. For starters, over the next month, I’m going to be posting a series of some of my favorite images from the book with a detailed explanation of their origination and their colorful significance! Check back for more!

Photo of the Day – Matagorda Bay Sunrise

Matagorda Bay Sunrise, by Jerod Foster

I recently spent a day on the Gulf of Mexico with the Texas division of The Nature Conservancy. I’m documenting their efforts in restoring a sizable oyster habitat on Half Moon Reef. The reef is located in Matagorda Bay, about 20 miles by boat from the small harbor in the city of Matagorda. I’ll have more to share on this project later since it isn’t finished, but suffice it to say, it is always great working with this organization. I have had an extremely fortunate relationship with them for several years, and both my students and I have enjoyed incredible experiences and great photographs from their activities to conserve some of the most beautiful and ecologically valuable natural places around the world.

The Texas Gulf Coast sometimes gets a bad wrap. It may not have the white beaches and bright blue waters of its sister coasts in the Yucatan to the south and in Florida to the east, but it still has its own beauty. I don’t get to make it to the coast very much–given the size of the state, it’s about 10 hours and 550 miles from my house to the point on which I was standing when I shot this sunrise two weeks ago. Every time I get down there, though, I thoroughly enjoy it. The food’s good, the culture great, and the time spent there over too fast. In my opinion, the Texas Gulf Coast is underrated, especially when just about every sunrise and sunset I have seen there is the equivalent of what you see above.

I can’t wait to get back!

Photo of the Day: Roping at Dusk

Roping at Dusk, by Jerod Foster

My family and I had a lovely dinner the other night with some close friends of ours, and the owner of the house in which we ate has of late been re-energizing his creative spirit through photography. After the meal, he suggested we sauntered over to a set of roping pens a neighbor had set up and photograph them roping steers. I grew up on a working cattle ranch, and I know rodeo–who in the state of Texas doesn’t?–but I was never around a whole lot of roping. Needless to say, I never photographed the activity, and this was a prime opportunity to do so.

Here’s the catch, though. The sun had already set, the chute was at the western side of the arena, and to get any shot of value, I had to crank the ISO up for a fast enough shutter speed to matter. All of these factors weighed, I knew I was going for one shot and one shot only. I knew it was going to be a pan because I didn’t want to boost the ISO too much and for the drama a pan exhibits, and I already had it in my mind that it was going to be processed later to black-and-white. That’s it. Pretty simple and intentional. I had a 35mm lens on, and I positioned myself low and far enough away that I could shoot a burst of shots before the riders filled up the frame to the point of mass confusion.

After a few steers were roped and about 25 images later, I came out with a few I liked, the one above the victor of the selection. I love the highlight in the dust kicked up by the hooves, and you can see by the blown out sky why I leaned toward black-and-white. Yes, it’s messy. The rider in the back is the only thing in focus, and really only part of him is sharp due to the pan. It’s also grainy as hell. But it was intentional–and I don’t say that after the fact. I do a fair bit of assignment shooting that sees me documenting what is happening in front of the lens at that time. Sure, I previsualize environments, weather conditions, and as an editorial photographer, I’m always anticipating what is going to happen next. This, however, was different. This was one of those shots that I just knew was the only one I wanted. I relied on the subjects to do their thing, but this was the only thing for which I was looking.

In a way, this was personal.

New Book! Sony NEX-6: From Snapshots to Great Shots

Sony NEX-6: From Snapshots to Great Shots

This post has been a couple weeks coming! However, it’s certainly no secret that I was working feverishly on one of the latest in Peachpit’s From Snapshots to Great Shots series–a book on the new Sony NEX-6! I’m happy to say now that the book is in stores and online, and it looks great (thanks to many fine folks on the editing and design side of things)! Take a gander at it over at Peachpit’s website!

I was honored once again to work with Peachpit on a new book, and this particular one was loads of fun because I got to put a new camera through its paces and then some. I can honestly say that the NEX-6 is a great camera with loads of features and excellent image quality. If it means anything, I didn’t just get the camera for the book and returned it when I was finished writing. I purchased it with very serious intent to make it a go-everywhere type of camera–something I could keep at my side on a day-to-day basis. Even with that intent, it’s been a nice sidekick on several assignments, and I’ve even put a few of its images in magazines and newspapers. The end result: just as nice a file in magazine print, technically, as any DSLR I shoot on a regular basis.

The camera takes dang nice pictures, and it works. Period. Combine it with a some of the great Zeiss glass manufactured specifically for the NEX’s E-mount, or A-mount glass via an available Sony adapter, and you’re set! Needless to say, I had a blast shooting images for the book, and I simply left the DSLR rigs in the truck several times.

I don’t want to bog you down with details, because this isn’t a review. If you’ve purchased one, you know exactly what I mean about the image quality. If you haven’t, but are interested in a mirrorless system and heard of the NEX line, then you know of Sony’s ability to put out some very smart and dependable cameras.

It was great getting to put together a book that you can use to not only learn photography, but to learn photography with this specific camera. This is what makes this series of books a great resource for those that want a guide that practically goes very far beyond those (sometimes) indecipherable owner’s manuals. Thanks again to the fine folks at Peachpit for allowing me another great opportunity to be a part of their team!

With that, I’ll wind this up. However, this wouldn’t be much of a post on the book without sharing a few of my favorite images from the book:

Birds and Tower, by Jerod Foster

I shot this very early on in my tenure with the camera (while walking one evening at the university for which I teach), and this image was the one that said to me: “Take this camera seriously, buddy.” The image is clean and crisp sharp. The kit 16-50mm kit lens has its quirks, but there’s no arguing that it is sharp!

Pumpjack Sunrise, by Jerod Foster

This is one of those iconic West Texas images that screams place! I shot this lone pumpjack on my way to a shoot near Pyote, Texas. I lugged a DSLR with me when I saw this sunrise, but ended up shooting the majority of the shots with the NEX-6. The color is great, and the raw files are more than manageable.

Kyle Kreuger, by Jerod Foster

Mr. Kreuger was part of the shoot I was headed to the same morning I shot the sunrise above. Although I shot the bulk of the assignment (Texas Tribune/New York Times) with a traditional DSLR, there was a moment when I left a wider lens at the truck. So, I just moved the Elinchrom wireless transmitter over to the NEX-6, shot at 16mm with the kit lens, and sent this one on to the publication after uploading. I never thought twice about using it for environmental portraits after this.

Guard Dog on Duty, by Jerod Foster

I got a chance to shoot some Texas winter scenes with the NEX-6 (you northerners can crack your snow and cold jokes now), and in doing so, I learned my favorite lens for the camera was the E-mount Zeiss 24mm f/1.8. The Zeiss glass is extremely high-quality, and the lens is fairly small and plenty light to carry.

Hay for the Winter, by Jerod FosterAnother image made with the Zeiss 24mm.

Seth Foster, by Jerod Foster

My brother, Seth, has often been a test model for me. However, I wanted to make a nice “work” portrait of him. So, I found a great overhead door to place him next to at the Boyd Feed Store, and made about six portraits. Needless to say, I was fairly impressed with the camera’s meter in this contrasty environment, and I’m happy with the shot.

Raider Park Dusk, by Jerod Foster

This was shot from a new parking garage near the university. I’ve seen several of my students’ images made here, but I had never been up there. So, why not take a stab at it with the new camera. The West Texas sunset didn’t disappoint, and the camera was easy(ier) to hang over the side of the garage than a vertical-gripped DSLR. Plus, it wouldn’t have created a hole in the sidewalk below had it fallen…

Again, many thanks to a lot of great people who helped putting Sony NEX-6: From Snapshots to Great Shots together! You can check it out (and purchase it) at Peachpit’s site, as well as at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other brick and mortar and online retailers!

More to come, soon!

 

 

 

Winter at Meadows Ranch

Travelling back home is always a pleasure, and being home for the holidays (no matter which ones they are) is a welcoming occasion. As always, I never come empty handed to the ranch. There’s always so much opportunity to shoot during the few days we spend back home that I basically haul everything plus the kitchen sink with me. I’ve made various portraits over the years, shot wildlife and agricultural activity, and even shot a small book on the Meadows Ranch a few years back. If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know my love for the place, and while it’s not completely about the images, there’s always a good look for the taking. Such was the case yesterday morning.

Winters in Texas depend greatly on where you’re standing. Snow is not always a given, but the northern Panhandle is most likely to get more than a dusting every winter, while snow in Houston is (although not impossible as history has proven) a sign of the end of days. Meadows Ranch is just 45 miles northwest of Dallas, and snow is not prevalent. Sure, there’s always a hint of snow in the air throughout the winter, but the ground temperature is infrequently cold enough for it to stick in any considerable amount.

Christmas Day saw the entire Meadows crew gathered at the main house celebrating the holiday when the snow started coming down this winter. Not really coming down as much as it was blowing sideways and eventually crash landing on the frozen ground. The storm lasted all day and the temperatures yesterday ensured the white stuff sticking around all day.

I ventured out Christmas day to shoot my grandfather picking a few bales of hay up (above) for a group of cattle in a nearby pasture, but it wasn’t until yesterday morning did the sun shine through a sheer blanket of clouds at sunrise. It was 15 degrees F with a wind chill in the single digits when I hopped up on top of the hay bales you see at the beginning of this post, and it only came up a few degrees by mid-morning when the light became too stark for my purposes.

I saw this as a good time to roam the ranch in the 4X4, shooting stock winter scenes of a century-plus-year-old Texas ranch and putting the Sony NEX-6 through its paces in the cold temperatures. There’s no Rocky Mountains to put in the background, but the images show you a cold, snow-covered Texas ranch landscape–one that’s made families a bit tougher and enduring through the years.

It’s always quite at sunrise, and it’s even more quite when it’s cold. Even the cattle are staying still, laying low out of the wind and saving energy until hay or cubes arrive via tractor or pickup. The only sound you hear is the occasional diesel engine motoring its way down the frozen ranch roads. The noiselessness is peaceful, even if you can stand out in it for only a few minutes at a time.

Everything gets a smattering of snow, and the items that don’t see any use but are valuable for salvage seem as if they’ve been sitting there even longer than they have. The motorcycle may have a license plate, but there’s no telling how long it has been propped up against this shed.

The tires have a few miles on them, but you never know when they may see a few more. Everything has a purpose and place on the working ranch.

The snow also makes old subject matter seem new. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot hay bales on the ranch. From the county road, there’s a characteristic pasture you can see that is always full of hay placed in neat, diagonally sloping rows. The pasture is a signature image of the ranch. However, when snow hits, I find it worth it to revisit the location for not only different angles, but some of the same ones under different environmental conditions.

The same can be said for the old windmill. There was no need to draw water yesterday, but the still-operating windmill is another well-known facet of the ranch needing another look among the snow.

These are but a few sights of the ranch under not-so-common weather conditions. Whereas many people would cuss the cold, the wind, the snow, the ice, and the mud it leaves behind, I’m thankful as a photographer for these occasional chances to shoot it in a unique setting. Maybe it’s a bit of my agricultural background that likes it as well, but snow is always an exciting sight for us down here in the warmer part of the United States.

By the way (for those that are interested), I mentioned I used yesterday morning to put the Sony NEX-6 through its paces in the cold. Although they are not marked overtly, five of the ten images here were shot with the camera and either the Sony/Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 or the Sony 50mm f/1.8. The other five were shot with a Canon 5D Mk III and either the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L or the Canon EF 17-35 f/2.8L. The EXIF data for each image will reveal which image was produced using which camera.