Rattlesnakes and Bluebonnets

I love to photograph wildflowers and I took several of these shots in the Texas hill country, around Fredericksburg. When you are wading around in a patch of wildflowers there is always a chance other critters are lurking in the undergrowth.  In the Texas hill country, as often as not, those critters are rattlesnakes. Sure enough we saw two large ones and I was nervous.  I got down on my belly and got my shot, but I moved quickly.


















Robber caught in the act

I was standing near the Grand Canyon south rim (Pima Point) very early one morning (I was the only person around for miles) and it was so peaceful and quiet. Suddenly, a racket broke the silence and a squirrel popped up over the edge of the rim. A bird was dive-bombing him everywhere he went, and squawking the whole time. I caught this shot. I am guessing the squirrel was probably trying to rob her nest.


Say Cheese!

One day years ago when we lived in Kenya, I was doing what many westerners do in East Africa, taking pictures of the incredible scenery and interesting people. I had friends with me who were Masai and we were in a Masai village. I had been there for a while when two ladies approached me and wanted to see inside my "box" (camera). I handed them one camera and used another one to capture the moment. I love their expressions. A picture speaks a thousand words.



Here is one of my favortie butterfly pics.  It was taken with a telephone lens at "butterfly" level.


Photo-Tips: Turning water into "cotton-candy"

Two photographs, taken moments apart.  Same camera, same subject, same angle (the camera did not move), same lighting.  Yet, dramatically different results. What gives?

I made one simple, yet important camera setting change.  The top photo was taken with the camera set to "Automatic." The camera shutter speed was automatically set to 1/50 second (the camera decided what was the correct shutter speed and f-stop to give me an acceptable looking photo). The bottom photo was taken with the camera shutter speed manually set at 1.3 seconds. In other words, I took the camera off "Automatic."  It made a BIG difference.  Here's why.

1/50th of a second is pretty slow by camera standards (just fast enough to be hand-held without blur).  It is almost fast enough to stop the water in motion (but not quite; the flowing water is blurred).  If you had taken this same photo yourself, and you had your camera set to the "Automatic" setting (as I did), chances are your picture would look similar.

Sometimes though, there are good reasons to take the camera off the "Automatic" setting. The photo on the right benefited from an extremely slow shutter speed. I knew that if I changed the camera setting to "TV" (Canon's term for Time Value or Shutter-Speed) and set the camera shutter speed to a very slow - 1.3 seconds - I could achieve the "cotton-candy" effect I wanted.

In this case, the camera compensated for my slow shutter speed by automatically choosing the correct f-stop (lens opening) to give me a good exposure. The camera chose f-22 to compensate for that really long shutter time (the camera made the lens aperture hole very small).

Also, I did a couple of other things to improve my chances of a good (non-blurry) photo while using that 1.3 second exposure time.  I used a tripod weighted with a sand bag for stability. I also set the camera's internal mirror to lock in the "up" position so it would not vibrate my camera while it was opening and closing during my exposure.  I also set my camera's timer to ten seconds so I could step away from the tripod and let things settle down before the camera actually opened and closed the shutter.

This may all sound like a lot of work for a simple time-exposure photo.  Like a lot of other things though, I am stubborn. I have tried to do this same photo multiple times by hand-holding the camera (no tripod) and using shorter shutter speeds.  It just never worked. It was close at times, but close is only good when playing horseshoes.

So, there we have it.  Take your camera off “automatic” and turn water into "cotton candy.".

Story behind the photo: No Smoking. No spitting. Gasoline -16 cents a gallon.

I love old things; especially old signs. In 2010 I took these pictures of an old, run-down (and obviously closed) Texaco gas station, located on a back road, off of another back road, deep in the Texas hill country.

The scene is almost as if time stood still the minute the station closed for the last time. The gasoline price sign reads an amazing 16¢ a gallon (of which 1¢ was federal tax and 5¢ was state tax).

I am older than dirt, but I do not ever remember gasoline being that cheap. I am just guessing this station closed sometime in the early 1960s.

The two blue signs on the door read: “No Smoking” and “No Spitting.”




Story behind the photo: Breakfast with Kilimanjaro

My family and friends had been riding the Mombasa to Nairobi train all night.  The swaying and rocking of Kenya trains always put me to sleep early in the evening and kept me in dreamland all night.  During the eighties, when we lived in Kenya, the trains were a wonderful way to travel.

Early in the morning I awoke when that wonderful swaying and rocking slowly ground to a halt.  The train had stopped. No more clicky-clack. No more cool breeze.  I had no idea where we were but a passing conductor told us that a very large herd of zebra was on the tracks.  It might be a while before we could move on.

Our seven year old son Jeff could sleep through anything.  He was in an adjacent sleeper car with other children from our group.  Lynda and I got dressed and headed for the dining car. If I had to be awake, I might as well enjoy a cup of Kenya java.

Ahhhh, the wonderful smell of freshly brewed Kenya coffee.  Dining in a Kenya Railways dining car was dining in style. Great service, white linen table cloths and nice china. What could possibly make this experience any better.  Well, as it turns out, only one thing.

While we waited on our fried eggs, bacon and toast to arrive, I opened the window shade next to our table and this was the scene that met our eyes.  The awesome Mt Kilimanjaro . . . the grandest mountain in Africa.  Pinch me.