31.92594N, 97.10344W

If you’ve spent much time in Texas, especially in the plains, you’ve seen these – the iconic old Aermotor windmill pump. They’re getting rarer now; fewer farms, fewer farmers and, one suspects, more electrical pumps. But they’ve been around, more or less unchanged, since 1888 and that slow squeaking and creaking has been a West Texas soundtrack almost forever, it seems. Change the geartrain oil about once a year and your basic Aermotor will keep on going until the world stops. It’s that simple and that solid.

“Somebody Ought to Shoot That…”

Had to run up to the old stomping grounds over the weekend to say Bon Voyage to a very old friend, and while I was there Mom pointed out that another friend had noticed the new plantings outside her apartment and commented that “those are so pretty someone ought to take a picture of them.”

Made sense to me….

Home Sweet Nylon Taffeta Home

Expecting (hoping) to spend more time on the road this year.

Home is where you stash the bedroll. And the computers and the cameras…

It’s sort of a monster, but it’s big enough to live and work in for a couple of weeks at a stretch, and I can handle it solo as long as the wind stays cooperative. And it’s a LOT cheaper than hotels.

So the next step, on a clear and somewhat warmer day, is to spray it heavily with Scotchgard and seal all the seams (it’s already guaranteed waterproof but a little more insurance is worth it.) and let it dry.

You gotta be off to see the wizard….

On the way to Goliad as soon as I log off here, to see Los Pastorales – a reproduction of an old play/performance the monks at Mission Espiritu Santo and the other early Spanish Missions used to teach the Christmas Story to the Mission Indians. Supposedly it goes from the viewpoint of the Shepherds. Should be interesting, though it’s done in Spanish and that might make it interesting. Words and a gallery to follow.

And there are several hundred pix from MECA’s Las Posadas last week, just waiting to be edited down and have words attached. That’ll have to wait until I get back, though.

That’s all gonna be happening over at The Other Texas, though.

Just for checking, in, though… here’s the first clean photo from MECA:



(Joseph and Mary, having wandered the streets of Bethlehem (with the Old Sixth Ward standing in for the little town) looking for a place to stay, eventually wind up back at MECA, where it’s about to be Party Time.)

29.78374N, 95.39728w

So yesterday afternoon the editor-beings dispatched me to the Heights to see a Citzen about a Constable. As happens I was up in the Heights one afternoon earlier this week and the traffic then had been similar to the mall parking lot on Black Friday, so I left base camp with a LOT of time in hand, Just In Case.

And, as always, when you’re ready for Just In Case, nothing happens.

So I wind up hanging out in the front of Donovan Park, watching kids on all the toys and climbing/clambering stuff and chatting with a nice lady I’d met just last week on another shoot in another part of town… and along comes this tall gangly dude, friendly-looking, burdened with an armload of miscellaneous stuff. I watch, wondering what’s going on – he might be my Citizen but that doesn’t feel right – and he starts opening things up and putting things together, and okay, that’s a paint box and that’s a folding table, and no, that’s an easel, not a tripod – we’ve got ourselves an artist here. I wander over for a look – I’ve got little to no talent in that particular medium myself, so it always fascinates me.

Turns out it’s Roger Seward and he’s got a beautiful day to work with, so he’s going to get some actual painting done…

And THEN.. THEN… Just in Case happens. A crew of small persons approach from the unguarded Northern Reaches, and they glom onto the artist right off. There are a couple of minutes of just watching him do his thing, and then, kid-like, “we’re doing that in class too.”

Hmmm… This could turn into something. We Have a Situation, and chemistry is developing here. Fortunately the Citizen Victim has arrived. He’s over by the gate trying to raise the Constable by phone. Meantime, I’m watching out of one eye for the constable to show up, and keeping the other eye on the artists.

And then I glance away to check out what might be a cruiser coming up the road, but no, it’s just HPD… and I look back and and Roger’s got the painting off the easel and down at work level for younglings, and this wonderful moment is happening, right here…

and this….

and it just keeps getting better…

and …

and EVERYONE gets in on the act…

And then, as all good things must come to an end, Mom comes back, the Constable arrives, and reality reasserts itself.

But there were those few minutes…

There are times when I hate this job, but on days like this, I wouldn’t do anything else.

32.76092N; 97.23616W

Running a little late here on the posting….

Back in early October I ran back up to Fort Worth to do Mom Stuff again. While I was there I got the chance to duck out and see a couple of things, including a convoy of Vintage Military Vehicles driving through Fort Worth, retracing the first coast-to-coast military convoy along the Bankhead Highway*.

I was hoping the convoy pix would become part of my larger Bankhead story-in-progress, but unfortunately, for whatever reason, the relevant authorities opted to bring the convoy in along the old DFW turnpike and avoid the Bankhead route entirely.

Buggeration.

But still… I like history, and I like old machines, and this was both, so I went out and found a good spot on the side of the road, where I could shoot as the convoy passed.

(Yup. That’s the front of the convoy. By now you should know that the rest of the convoy is behind it, right?)

After they’d gone by and some of the traffic had cleared, I jumped in the truck and followed the convoy over to Farrington Field for their rest-and-maintenance day. Learned some interesting stuff there… This trip was 3000+ miles at 30 mph, and on a haul like that the old machines require a fair bit of wrenching. Also, it turns out there are several thousand people involved in this particular flavor of historical preservation. The umbrella group is the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. They do long-haul convoys for public education and such about every year or so, they LOVE it when you ask questions, and yes, they DO take new members. If I needed a new hobby and had the money…. It’s probably lucky I’m ALREADY broke, since otherwise I’d go broke chasing all the interesting things I run into.

Later in the week I caught the train over to the State Fair. That post is coming soon.

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures, and charge up the batteries because the weather’s cooling off and there are more things to shoot.


*You will probably hear more about the Bankhead, and other old Texas highways, if you sign up for the mailing list at The Other Texas. (Yes. That is a Hint. It’s also a link. You should click and sign up. Please. It’s safe; I’m probably the one person you know who hates spam and spammers more than you do.)

Fiestas Patrias

It seems sometimes that close to half the countries south of Texas celebrate their independence from one colonial power or another within a very few days. Some of this is history, some is coincidence, but what it means is there’s a really big party. In Texas and most of the United States it’s generally referred to as “Fiestas Patrias.” We throw parades.

And I generally try to shoot them… because, well, they’re parades. There are bands. There are dancers. There are floats. There are veterans and celebrities ON the floats. There are old cars, with politicians and celebrities in them or on them. There’s music. Lots of music. This year there were high school ROTC units practicing for Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. There are flag-wavers and vaqueros and vaqueras and… it’s just a big noisy crazy spectacle and a heck of a lot of fun.

Also, for photographers, it’s what we might call a “target-rich” environment.

As always, the gallery is behind the picture.

In the moment….

One of the risks of doing “hyper-local*” media work is that if you don’t make a constant effort to look out past the horizon, your universe gets very small. A few weeks ago I noticed in passing that a delegation of Lamas from Drepung Loseling were scheduled to visit the Asia Society Texas Center to create another sand mandala. This is always a special event, but in Houston it’s not really THAT uncommon – one group of Tibetan Lamas or another comes through about every year or so. The thing is, though, after the first few minutes it’s not THAT much of a spectator sport, and I’ve seen it several times, so I marked it on the calendar out of habit and went on looking for stories.

The people involved with this are pretty slick about getting the word out, though, and the blip on the radar kept growing, and growing. And I kept thinking “nah, everyone knows about this, and every photographer within fifty miles will be there…”

See, my philosophy on covering minor news events without an assignment leans strongly in the direction of “hit `em where they ain’t”; if an event is going to draw a couple dozen other photogs, it’s unlikely I’ll find anything they aren’t getting, which means I’m mostly blocking the view of the paying customers, and selling anything after the fact is a matter of out-marketing those other guys… a thing for which I have no gift, little skill and even less inclination.

But as it turns out.. “everyone” was only most of the population of Houston proper. I mentioned the event, again in passing, to a Foreign Facebook Friend on Friday night, and he lit up like a neon sign. He’s at least 3/4ths of a Buddhist, you see, and had never seen the mandala work….and in and around the flood of words he typed at me over the next fifteen minutes I caught on that the message was “man, you just GOTTA go photograph this for me. You gotta, you gotta, you just HAVE TO…”

So…

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*a current buzzword – translates to “full coverage of the neighborhood, less coverage of the next street over, fading to virtually no information at all about anything more than twenty miles out…”

Training II

“Boooooo-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrr-dddddddd!!!!!!”

(Five letters. Three syllables. Impressive.)

Okay. I clamber into the front seat of the second coach, where I have a clear view of the engine on the curves, and settle in with the camera bag beside me.

Wooo! Wooo-wooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Shuf.. shufff… shuffa…shuffashuffashuffa clack shuffa clack shuffa clack clack clack

And… we’re off. If I didn’t know better I’d think this was a real train and I was off for a grand adventure somewhere.

But… no. No big grand adventures today. I’m out of clients and budget for those just now, so instead I’m aboard the SDF Express, one of two Chance Rides C P Huntington replicas in Hermann Park. It’s a bit too warm to sit inside, so I took a couple of hours “off” to ride the train and grab a few pictures.

The SDF Express and its sister, the Dr. Jack Express, certainly LOOK right for grand adventures.

In Training

I started to notice murals on my first major trip south – they’ve been a big part of the political and artistic landscape in Latin America for centuries, from the earliest civilizations we know of right up to now.

(Simon Bolivar, somewhere in a park…)

(The Hermit, Key IX of the Rider-Waite Tarot, beside the door of the Hard Rock Cafe’ in Cuenca.)

The last time I was in Ecuador I saw more straight-out graffiti than actual murals, which was disappointing, but they’re still to be found, everything from public art to portraits of political figures to advertising to political commentary for those who don’t own the newspapers….

Anyway, last Thursday afternoon I managed to beat the traffic down to Rosenberg for a Chronicle gig, so I spent some time roaming around and spotted this train-in-progress blowing through a side wall on 3d street. As you can see, it’s not small.

But, at the time, there was no one around, so I kept on wandering. I haven’t done enough small-town walkabout lately, so it was pleasant to get back to it. Checked out several antique shops and a couple of street scenes….

And about an hour or so later, I came back up the street, and met the muralist, Paul Sanchez. Nice guy, Paul. Puts up with all sorts of strange characters who come up and ask questions and stick cameras in his face and whatnot.

He says he’s done the entire mural with those little tiny airbrushes with the half-ounce paint cup, which I notice he has to refill about every ten seconds. He says he’ll be finished here in three or four days.

I’m going to have to go back next week and get the whole thing minus the scaffolding. It’s going to be grand.

(Mr. Sanchez has a website over HERE with some nice galleries, too. Take a look…)