ROAD TRIP - DAY 3 - Austin / DAY 4 & 5 - San Antonio


Houston is a distant memory as I rolled into Austin, Texas early Sunday morning and got to work right away. Soon, once I get to play with some images, I'll upload them and show you. 

For whatever reason, photographing the State Capitol at 2am seemed like the thing to do. Then, around dawn, I shot the skyline from the west side, directly into the sun.

Texas State Capitol building

UPDATE 9/5/14: All technical issues have been overcome and the challenge has been in editing all the images from the past 3 days. I didn't realize that it would take so long to catch up once I got behind. Enjoy. Especially the panoramas.


Still, I haven't quite recovered from a technical SNAFU and can't put my fingers on those images. However, I did take some outstanding images of the Austin skyline that evening from The Long Center during a performance of the Austin Symphony's Jazz Orchestra. (Forgive if the name is not quite right.) Here's a sample of what you'll see later in this blog post:

Segment of the Austin skyline

Let's back up a bit. After shooting the Texas State Capitol at 2am, I wandered around the streets of Austin looking for buildings lit up for all to see. I happened on the Hotel Ella a few blocks north of the capitol and thought I'd try shooting something under the overly bright mercury vapor lights. Unfortunately, being tired and needing sleep more than I needed to photograph the Hotel Ella, I didn't really take my time and explore how I might best shoot it in an extremely mixed-light situation. There was the aforementioned MV lights but the sign and the hotel itself were illuminated with halogens, I think. In any event, it proved to be to much to pull off in glorious Technicolor® so I had to resort to removing the color entirely. Not my favorite reason for making a black and white photograph but serviceable, nonetheless.

Hotel Ella

Around 4am, I was driving out east on Cesar Chavez Blvd. and found a couple of places that someone had thoughtfully lighted for me so I could shoot in great detail in the middle of the night. Leal's Tire Shop was the first. I'd seen this place on my last trip to Austin and made a mental note to photograph it. I can't seem to make up my mind — black and white or color? What do you think?

Leal's Tire Shop - B/W

Leal's Tire Shop - Color

Second on my list of middle of the night photos and only a couple hundred feet away from Leal's Tire Shop is a lovely, little boutique hotel (some might even call it a B&B) called The Heywood. I stayed there on my last trip to Austin and loved it. Quiet. Peaceful. Plush. And very close to a great little taqueria down the street.

Heywood Hotel

Keeping an eye on the clock, waiting for sunrise, I wandered around in the pre-dawn hours looking for a good place from which to shoot the sunrise. I found it at last, though I'm not sure how, at Butler Park, between Riverside Drive and Barton Springs Road. Using the compass app and a sunrise app on my iPhone, I figured out exactly where the sun would come up. Playing a photographer's game of blind-man's-bluff, I found the perfect spot in the darkness from which to shoot the skyline just as the sun rose.

Austin Awakens

Finishing up, I saw this little twinkle as I turned around to leave for a hardy breakfast. It's the Austin Green Energy Building. They're responsible for the sustainability movement in Austin architecture and construction.

Austin Energy Green Building

I'm not one to pass by a Harley begging to be photographed. Found this while driving around a neighborhood looking for subjects.

Can't ignore a good-lookin' Harley

It must be the "Red Convertible Syndrome." You know, you buy a red convertible and suddenly they're everywhere. Take an Architectural Photo Tour and just by chance you run into the Texas Society of Architects headquarters. I really had no idea where it was. No, really.

Texas Society of Architects

Little did I know that I'd be circling back to where I started from as the day progressed. The Long Center for the Performing Arts is a stone's throw from my morning panorama. When I started shooting it, I didn't even know what it was or where I was in relation to the sunrise. I had to ask someone what this strange looking building was. It wasn't until much later when I could look at a map that I realized that I hadn't traveled very far at all, though I had been driving all over the city during the day.

The Long Center for the Performing Arts

As I approached the enclosed outdoor area of the Long Center with the thought of taking a panorama through the columns, a door opened and a squad of people appeared pushing a cart full of music stands, instrument cases, and sundry items toward me, then, past me to the edge directly under that big "halo" you see in the photo above.

Obviously, they were about to get right in the way of my spectacular panorama. Within a few minutes, more people arrived from within the building and from the lawn beyond. I realized quickly that my vision of a pristine panorama broken into segments by all those columns was shot to hell and it was time to make lemonade.

As it turns out, even with the complicating factor of hundreds of people wandering all over the place making stitching my pano much more difficult than I originally thought, it adds the very reason for this beautiful architecture to exist at all — dirty, nasty, unpredictable humanity, in all its glory.

When all the dancing started — didn't see that coming! — I wished I'd had another camera with me so that I could have shot some video, particularly when the crowd started doing Lindy Hop. But I had decided to travel light and not bring a backup with me on my road trip. C'est la vie!

Long Center Skyline Panorama #1

Long Center Skyline Panorama #2

I must have shot more than a dozen panoramas between 5pm and about 9pm. At some point, I may work on the others. These will do for now.

UPDATE 9/7/14: In retrospect, I didn't really hit my stride until I got to San Antonio. Up to late in the evening in Austin, I'd been struggling to stay awake from the cumulative lack of sleep since leaving Dallas and finding some sort of routine on the road. So, I'll have to go back to do a little more architectural exploration in Austin.


San Antonio

Moving on to San Antonio, I stayed with my friends Hector and Theresa Reyes. I worked with Hector at KTFM in S.A. way back when we were both skinny.

In the control room at KTFM back in the day

Shot some promo shots of Hector and his radio partner, Sonny Rios, on Monday for the streaming Internet Radio show they're planning. Can't wait to hear them back on the "air."

Rio & Reyes

That was day one in S.A. Before the sun set completely, Hector gave me a quick tour of downtown and I found something I had to photograph first thing on Day 2 in San Antonio — the San Antonio Public Library. Gorgeous structure!

San Antonio Public Library

Realizing I'd forgotten something I needed from the car, I took a short hike back to the parking lot and was greeted by the Weston Centre and the Wyndham Riverwalk.

Weston Centre and Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk

Weston Centre and Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk

The trip to the car brought to my attention a need that could only be met by a trip to the camera store. That meant calling it quits for the morning and heading out north on San Pedro to The Camera Exchange. Great people. One of the few remaining brick and mortar camera stores in the country. But it's good to have expert advice for camera problems when you're on the road.

Later in the day the sun was still overhead and not very good for most shooting. You may know that photographers prefer "Golden Hour," the time of morning or evening when the light makes everything glow and casts beautiful shadows. I thought I might find something to shoot in an area that is tree-covered and hard to shoot during Golden Hour — Alamo Heights and Olmos Park, two of the more upscale neighborhoods in S.A. It did not disappoint.

Alamo Heights Residence

Olmos Park Residence

As the day wore on, I made my way back downtown on what turned out to be a very hot day. How hot was it? It was so hot, that when I photographed the Milam Building, below, standing in the hot center of a hot, black, asphalt parking lot, all I could think of was, "Ow! Oooh! Ouch! Ah! Gotta. Hurry. Hot! Hot! Hot!"

Milam Building

Quickly, though, I was in the shadows of the downtown canyon and good bit cooler. 

I was told this was a movie theater. Beyond these two columns, it looks like it might be a food court. Interesting.

Something about the Hotel Valencia struck my imagination and I saw it as a very old, very European hotel. It inspired me to take a look at how it might appear in other-than-a-traditional style. I'm kinda diggin' the aged look, myself.

Hotel Valencia

Hotel Valencia - B/W

Hotel Valencia - Aged

By the time I finished with the Valencia, I was feeling the heat again. As I walked by the Buckhorn Saloon, something of a tourist-y type of place, the arctic blast from their wide-open doors invited me in for a little respite. Of course, once I was in, I had to shoot the place. Not sure what the food and drink are like but ya gotta love the decor. As someone who grew up with a couple of deer heads mounted on his bedroom wall — they turned and looked at me in bed every night! I swear. — seeing this just made me a little nervous. That water buffalo or whatever it is, there on the far left, has a glint in his eye and he was snorting while I was there. Word!

Buckhorn Saloon

I love how cities keep around old line stores to commemorate not only the business but the city's history. It's one of the things that I dislike about my hometown, Dallas. If it's more than 50 years old it's gotta come down! But. . . I digress. Shooting the old Walgreen Drugs store made me think I was looking at a picture postcard from the 40s or 50s.

The old Walgreen Drugs

As I was setting up to shoot the photo, below, of the breezeway entry of the Hyatt Regency, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting on a bench to my left. As many conversations begin, we started talking about the weather. But I soon found out much more about the older man than I might have assumed. His name is Carl Russell. "My full name is Carlton but everyone just calls me Carl." I asked if I could use his full name and he said that I might.

Hyatt Regency hotel entry

Carlton used to work at the US Treasury in Fort Worth, one of only two facilities in the country where the government prints currency, the other being Washington, D. C. These days, he works for DARS. "The DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services is designated as the state's principal authority on the vocational rehabilitation of Texans with disabilities. . . ," according to their website.

We were having a "good ol' time," as my grandmother might have said, but soon my work was done and I was burning daylight. As we were walking away from our chance meeting, Carlton looked back at me and said, "You really made my day." That may have been the best thing anyone has said to me in a very long time.

Carlton Russell

Casino Club Building

San Antonio is not known for it's skyline. But it has a wonderful variety of architectural styles that make for a marvelously diverse cityscape. Of course, there is the Alamo, but there's a lot more.

"La Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos del pueblo del Alamo" - The Alamo

It was interesting (to me, at least) that even though I knew there would be a crowd near the Alamo, when I got there and set up the camera, there wasn't a soul within 30 feet of the front of the old mission. The only person in the picture is the guard shown at the entrance to the barracks there in the lower left of the photo. And he shied away from having his photo taken directly by turning the crown of his hat toward the camera.

As many times as I've been to and through the Alamo, I find myself welling up with gratitude when I get near it. Gratitude to the men and women who died so I could call myself a Texan.

Alamo Memorial

I have a lot more to show but time is short and I must away to the Land of Nod. El Paso awaits at dawn.