Call me a Monarchist! I just adore this butterfly.

As a long time resident of the Dallas / Fort Worth area I’ve long been aware of a pair of fluttering orange and black wings that are seen during two key times throughout the year: Spring and Fall. The Monarch Butterfly winters in Mexico, but when temperatures rise in the Spring they begin their northern journey into the United States and the Southern most portions of Canada.

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Source: http://www.monarchwatch.org

In Autumn, the butterflies migrate south so they can spend the winter in Mexico.

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Source: http://www.monarchwatch.org

Their Winter nest is so laden with butterflies, it’s as if the trees in lieu of leaves have butterflies instead. Truly it’s a marvel. Scientists estimate that 6 out of every 10 butterflies die from starvation en route due to the loss of native habitat and native wildflowers that produce sustaining nectar. Here’s a short video on how you can help to preserve this annual wonder, plus some amazing photos of the Mexican winter home. Watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuMASSrli9A

There’s even a research site trying to tag and track them to more thoroughly map their migration patterns and routes over at MonarchWatch.org. Thanks to them you can get an idea of their Spring and Fall migration maps as seen above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stardust & Astrophotography in Southwest Texas

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:

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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].

Startrail 227 finalWM
http://www.lincolnharrison.com/startrails/

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.

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The Milky Way Rises from above the Davis Mountains in Texas.

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.”

This is my best Stardust shot from my trip:

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This neon sign is all that remains of Marfa’s Stardust Motel, it can be found on US-90 as you head West from Downtown Marfa immediately next door to the Apache Pines RV Park. The sign has since had it’s neon restored and it’s lit at night time. The sign’s neon now reads “Marfa” instead of “motel” (most likely to avoid confused travelers), though the original motel lettering on the sign can be seen during the day.

 

Award-Winning Photography? Check!

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.

 

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This photo is courtesy of the Irving Art Association‘s photographer Patsy Davila, who snapped this shot of me next to my award-winning entry. 

 

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.

 

 

 

New Greeting Cards

Here’s a teaser image of my new blank greeting card stock.

These are 5×7″ cards on 14 pt cardstock, with High Gloss UV Coating on the outside, the inside is uncoated to make it easier to write on.

They’ll be debuting at my booth inside the Foust Event Center at this year’s Grapefest, held September 14th-17th in Grapevine, Texas.

 

Now Open: 2017 Irving Art Association’s National Animal Art Juried Exhibition

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!

For more details, follow the link: http://bit.ly/2wQcvX6

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That’s so Marfa

When a mutual friend first introduced me to Mary Ann Glass a few years ago, I always remember how when Mary Ann learned I was from Texas the first thing she asked me is if I lived anywhere near Marfa, Texas. I recall thinking, where’s that? It would take a google search for me to find where it was in the state, and the answer to that is summed up in 3 letters: B-F-E.

The closest way to get to it is to fly into either El Paso, Texas or Midland, Texas, and then grab a car and drive a few more hours to get there. It’s in such a remote area of the state, and just on the edge of the Chihuahuan Desert (within a couple of hours of Big Bend National Park), it takes a hardy, and a bit of a unusual sort to want to call it home. In fact the town was created solely as a watering stop for the railroads.

Marfa, Texas is really only famous for three things:

  1. Movie Locations: Giant was filmed in the area with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson,  Dennis Hopper, and in his final appearance James Dean; more recently the film No Country for Old Men was filmed in the area starring Tommy Lee Jones
  2. The Marfa Lights (atmospheric anomaly, some sort of bio-luminescence, swamp gas, ufos?)
  3. The Arts

The development of the arts was really galvanized in the 1970s when minimalist Donald Judd moved from New York City to Marfa for the express intention of finding a spot to permanently display his works. He would find an old abandoned World War II army base, and with help from New York’s Dia Foundation, he established the Chinati Foundation which displays both huge indoor and outdoor installations and is home to his outdoor Concrete series.

From the creative seed provided by Judd to the area, more artists soon began flocking to the area. Today, Marfa despite having a very small population of fewer than 2,000 according to the 2010 Census, has well over fifteen different art galleries, hosting artists from around the world. Marfa also now hosts a film festival too. The town has become synonymous with the arts, featuring many artisan boutiques and wares in the city, and nary a chain store anywhere to be seen.

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This is best embodied by the “White Shirt Marfa” just as it’s name suggests, it sells nothing but White Shirts, because apparently you can’t own enough of them. It can also be represented in Elmgreen and Dragset’s Prada Marfa, a pop culture land art installation, of a faux Prada store, with a door that isn’t functional. It’s been theorized to be the single most instagrammed location in the entire state. Of course, I couldn’t resist a Selfie either. It had just rained when I showed up, so I decided to take advantage of the mud and puddles, and stormy skies.

The town is so small, that most of the places a tourist might be interested in are closed except on the weekends. For this reason, I had intentionally left my exploring of the galleries and shops to Saturday, when everyone had hours listed as being open. Alas, in practice, over 2/3 of the galleries and shops I went to visit were closed, some permanently, some between installations, some on vacation.

The main reason I was in that part of the state is my cousin had invited me to a special weekend at McDonald Observatory in the nearby Davis Mountains, but when I realized Marfa was a short distance away from where I was staying in the neighboring town of Fort Davis, well I decided I ought to go give it a gander. Afterall, since I was in BFE, I might as well embrace the opportunity, as I have no idea if I’ll ever make it back.

You can look forward to installments of more photos in the near future from my travels to this part of the state.

Central Arts of Bedford – Me & My Critter – Gallery Show

For those of you in the Dallas / Fort Worth area, please come on out and support me as well as other local artists at the next themed show at the Central Arts of Bedford. I’ll have several pieces for sale in the exhibit featuring some of the ‘critters’ (Ravens, Ducks, Longhorns, and Bees oh my!) I’ve taken photos of in my nature photography. I will be on hand until at least 9pm to admire the works of others, and to talk about my own photographic works. I hope to see you there!

 

Me & My Critter

Saturday, July 8, 2017

7pm – 11pm

Central Arts of Bedford

2816 Central Dr. #140, Bedford, Texas 76021

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Summer Blues – Peacocks & Feathers

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas I decided to swing by one of the city’s hidden gems, the Mayfield Park which features cottage style gardens, ponds of waterlilies, and peacocks roaming the grounds. I was there for about 2 hours waiting for a magical moment, and then finally one of the peacocks decided to spread their magnificent plumage in a full display. Nature Photography is part planning, part skill, part patience, and part luck. Of course I remembered one of the most crucial tenets of nature photography, don’t forget to look behind you, and don’t forget to look up, which helped me notice one particular peacock hanging out in a trees branches around 16 feet above me.

 

One man’s junk, is another man’s treasure

As much as my personal preference is towards nature photography, sometimes I do enjoy the freedom of experimentation that comes when I decide to take items that represent manufacturing and engineering, that are gritty from rust, or left abandoned to decay. The freedom to play with them can be fun, as it’s trickier to find lines, and composition that still speaks in the colors, textures, shapes, and found objects.

CARS

 

TRACTORS

 

ABANDONED DECAY

 

 

FLEA MARKET FINDS – ROCKING MY WARHOL

 

SALVAGED

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