Marfa may be a city with only a local population of around 2,000 (according to the 2010 Federal Census), but with dozens of art galleries and a film festival the small town certainly packs quite a punch in the Arts world. But Marfa’s iconoclast status as an art destination is due to Donald Judd’s works, and the fosterage of New York’s Dia Art Foundation to help establish the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas on the remains of an old military base. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
The Chinati Foundation/La Fundación Chinati is a contemporary art museum based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd. The specific intention of Chinati is to preserve and present to the public permanent large-scale installations by a limited number of artists. The emphasis is on works in which art and the surrounding landscape are inextricably linked. As Judd wrote in the foundation’s catalogue:
It takes a great deal of time and thought to install work carefully. This should not always be thrown away. Most art is fragile and some should be placed and never moved again. Somewhere a portion of contemporary art has to exist as an example of what the art and its context were meant to be. Somewhere, just as the platinum-iridium meter guarantees the tape measure, a strict measure must exist for the art of this time and place.
Despite being a bit daunted by the long drive it was from my home base of Dallas / Fort Worth to reach Fort Davis and it’s neighboring city of Marfa, Texas I had been incredibly excited for my trip to McDonald Observatory, and that part of the country for the rare opportunity to be in true Dark Sky area to try my hand at Astrophotography.
If you’re trying to see the stars whether it’s with your own eyes, a telescope or a camera lens, you’ll have the best visibility in areas that are classified as Dark Sky. We just don’t see the stars anymore except the most brightest (like Polaris) from our cities, because we have too much light pollution surrounding us. The light from our urban environment washes out the most distant light from the heavenly bodies around us. Think of it like how your night vision is ruined when you have lights turned on around you.
So much work goes into the preparation for Astrophotography. First it was time to do some research. Thanks to Wikipedia’s entries having elevation information and GPS coordinates of Latitude and Longitude I then plugged that information into the Stellarium APP on the days of my visit to see when and where the Milkyway would be rising and visible. Luckily for me it was going to be visible at that time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (May through August), and I found the hours where I’d have the best opportunity to shoot the Milky Way each night. Once I had the basic information and reference points in the sky I was able to combine that information with my free Sky Maps APP (which shows the night sky), so I could orient myself with nearby celestial objects the day/night of to get my camera pointing the right way.
If you’ve ever seen the meme:
This is because cameras have in some ways not yet neared the complexity of what our eyes can do. Vision with our eyes and with a camera works under the same base principle in that it requires light to see. Our eyes make complex changes rapidly, a camera lens has to be set up just so. The darker it is the wider the aperture needs to be opened and the longer the shutter speed should be kept open as well to allow the most light to come in. This requires more sophisticated camera equipment that allows you to manually manipulate those settings, and also requires a tripod (otherwise there’s too much camera shake and the images will be blurry). Ideally you also want a lens that can infinity focus as well, and you need to be able to turn off auto-focus and image stabilization.
Because our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet are in constant motion if you leave the shutter speed open too long you begin to get star trails [example follows].
Now I wanted to focus this trip on Milky Way Photography so Star Trails were NOT the desired result. There’s actually a mathematical formula used to calculate how long you can leave a shutter speed open based on the capability of your specific camera before you start experiencing the streaking of a Star Trail (it’s very long exposures that show rotational trails like above). So finding that number in seconds (a little over 17 seconds) I then adjusted my settings to JUST under that so I could maximize the light I took in. Additionally I had to use the Photographer’s Ephemeris to find out when Moon Rise was so I could avoid it. Why? The Moon is detrimental to Milky Way shots because the stronger light of the Moon causes it’s own light pollution drowning out the fainter Milky Way.
Luckily everything was lining up beautifully for my shots from an astronomy stand point. And then, Mother Nature decided to rain on my parade. 3 Nights of potential shooting, and I only got about an hour here and there of sporadic breaks in the cloud coverage across those 3 nights (usually the breaks were NOT conducive to MilkyWay shots at all) where I had a chance to shoot something, and even then there were still wispy hazy clouds that prevented me from getting clear shots, or other people ruining my shots. This is sadly the best shot I got.
As frustrating as my trip was, the experience I took away from the attempt will pay dividends in the future. Thanks to my cousin’s invitation I was at least able to listen to some amazing talks at the annual McDonald Observatory’s Board of Visitors Meeting, by scientists and researchers like Dr. Fritz Benedict’s “The Joy of M Dwarf Binaries and How One in the Hyades Gives Me a Headache” and Dr. Rob Robinson’s “Astronomy Questions that Remain Unanswered.”
Dallas / Fort Worth residents can hop on over to Irving this month to see my award-winning photography in a traveling exhibit with other artists.
If you missed your chance to check out my Texas Longhorns at the Jaycee Park Center for the Arts in Irving, you’ve got one more chance to see it in person. Some selected pieces from the 2017Irving Art Association‘s National Animal Art Juried Exhibition, including both of my Texas Longhorns, have been invited into the IAA’s Traveling Animal Art Exhibit and will be on display, and freely accessible to the public.
The Reception & Awards Ceremony for the 2017 Irving Art Association‘s National Animal Art Juried Exhibition was held Sunday, September 10th from 2-4pm at the Jaycee Park Center for the Arts in Irving, Texas. To my great delight my piece, “Texas Longhorn- II” was recognized with an Honorable Mention, which was accompanied by both an award and cash prize.
For more of Patsy photos from the Reception & Awards Ceremony, please visit the IAA photo Album on Photobucket.
For pictures of the award-winning art, you can see the Winners Gallery at the IAA’s website.
The 2017 Irving Art Association‘s National Animal Art Juried Exhibition is now open. This year 101 artists entered 238 pieces of artwork, 65 of which were selected for display by Juror Patsy Lindamood. The show is free and open to the public and runs through September 29, 2017 at the Jaycee Park Center for the Arts in Irving, with a Reception on September 10th from 2-4pm.
Please be sure to swing by and check the show out!
I’ve had the worst luck this year when it comes to my wildflower photography. I either miss peak bloom and arrive as the flowers have gone to seed, or the flowers have been mowed/harvested. I just missed most of the sunflowers in the Waxahachie to Ennis area in Texas by a couple of days this year. By the time I arrived the heat had doomed the agriculturally grown sunflowers into a drooping slump with the exception of a handful of blooms that were still upright. But at least the field had some wild sunflowers still thriving amongst the done for commercial cousins.
How can you tell the difference between wild sunflowers, and commercial ones? Easy: commercial ones have a flower that’s about the size of a human head, and wild ones are about the size of a human palm to hand.
These were taken in a multi-acre field adjacent to the Texas Motorway in Ennis, Texas on June 14, 2017.
Happy little bee.
This bee was dead, it had gotten tangled in a spiderweb, if you look carefully you can see some of the web’s filaments between the lower petals.
The Cleburne Camera Club’s 2017 Photo Contest and Exhibition Sale has an embarrassment of riches with striking photos from a range of photographers, including some very talented youth. And I’m not just saying that because I have 3 pieces in the show.
Awards were announced at the Opening Day reception on April 29th. The show runs through May 26th, and is free and open to the public for viewing from Monday – Saturday during 10am – 4pm daily at the JN Long Cultural Arts Complex located at 425 Granbury Street in Cleburne, Texas.
I’ve been slowly recovering from a knee injury, which has suspended a great deal of my plans for wildflower photography this Spring. Unfortunately, I missed peak bloom down in the Ennis area, but I decided to go there today and try my luck hoping there be a few small vignettes I could work with. More than 95% of the Bluebonnets have gone to seed or have been overtaken by the grass. While there were a few lovely spots with primroses, they were in locations where there was no naturally flattering composition available at that spot. And fields of flowers don’t look like field of flowers unless you can compose them just right.
One of the spots I did have luck, was a small fenced in private pasture on Mach Road, the Bluebonnets there were thick, lush, and tall. If not at peak, they’re just a bit past peak and they were surrounded with some sprinklings of pink, yellow, and even a touch of white from some other wildflowers which intensified the blue of the bluebonnets themselves.
I was working on a composition, when suddenly I noticed a mule/donkey walking towards me. I was like, ok I can work with this. But that meant I was changing from a landscape shot, to a wildlife shot, so I switched out my camera lens accordingly. So I was trying to line up a shot testing my setting on my camera with the new lens, snapping some shots, when I noticed what I had captured. I was just photobombed by a pair of exhibitionists.
This year I made Castroville, Texas a must-see destination for my annual wildflower photography road trip. This is colloquially known as the Castroville Poppy House (located at 606 Florence Street) which is a private residence, that during select days and hours in early Spring is open to the public. This labor of love by the homeowners, is a gorgeous spot to visit, and it’s a photographer’s dream as there are so many vignettes. They have some old structures on the property including buildings from the 1800s and 1940s.
Many of the locals go there for family photos with their kids, and others make appointments for shooting: brides, engagement, graduation, prom photos and more! The homeowners ask for nothing in return except donations to the local VFW and American Legion chapters. The homeowners even collect the seeds, and in addition to re-seeding their own property, to distribute to others in Castroville in their attempt to paint the town red. This year they were doing a World War II theme, so they even found an old 48 Star American Flag to fly tacked up to the old barn.
I loved shooting here, and only wish that I was able to hit this location under better lighting conditions. Afternoon sun on a cloudless day in Texas is very harsh and hard to work with, even with a UV filter and lens hood the grass and flowers aren’t quite true to what I saw, and trying to tweak it in post-editing hasn’t been incredibly successful for me without it looking incredibly fake.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.