I just got back from my trip to Alaska and it was fantastic!! I learned a lot and I can’t wait to go back.
My friends Tim and Desiree have been telling me for years that I should visit and finally, I took the leap. A 10 day trip is just not enough, I wanted to see every thing.
I first set out to Fairbanks in order to attempt to shoot the Northern Lights. It is a six hour drive from Anchorage, but if I had stopped every time I wanted to take a picture, I would not have made it. The drive is beautiful. Many photographers try to shoot the Aurora Borealis, but you really need the perfect conditions in order to be successful. I had planned to stay in Fairbanks for two days and then go to Denali National Park, but the weather was not good those two days. The forecast showed promis for the third night; so I extended my stay.
I was staying at Pike’s Waterfront Lodge in Fairbanks and frankly, it is one of the better places I have stayed. I cannot say enough about this hotel, the staff is great, the location is convenient; definitely stay there if you are traveling to Fairbanks.
I made several trips out to Chena Hot Springs road in order to scout locations for a night shoot (this is a must). Many people don’t realize the amount of time that it can take to do the footwork, but it pays off.
On the third night, I was blessed with good weather and an active aurora! It was like a gift. Unless you have stood outside and watched the dancing ribbons of light in the sky for yourself, it is hard to understand how magical the experience is. I was mesmerized. Definitely my favorite night of the trip.
The Aggie Barn located off of Highway 6 in Reagan, TX has become a landmark know to many students and former students at Texas A&M. As a student, we knew when heading to College Station from the north that we were almost there when we saw the Maroon and White barn greeting us back to Aggieland.
The barn was originally the building for the First State Bank of Reagan, TX, but was moved to a farm in the 1940s or 1950’s by an Aggie alumni named Mr. Thagard Kilpatrick, Class of 1924. In 1980, Mr. Kilpatrick painted the barn Maroon and White and a tradition was born. The barn has been repainted every years and has been taken care of. But in 2006, a highway project threatened the survival of the barn. The highway was scheduled to go right through where the barn stood and a resident of Reagan, Joe Swinnea, just wasn’t going to let that happen. Mr. Swinnea had the barn moved to his property which is adjacent to the expanded highway and he and his wife have kept the tradition alive in the Aggie family.
Today, the barn is a popular place for graduation photos and is instantly recognized by most students of Texas A&M. If you would like to read more about the history of the Aggie Barn, you can visit their website at http://aggiebarn.com/id18.html
The Story Behind the Photoshoot
My friend Betty Gaw and I were looking for a place to shoot the Neowise comet. We don’t want to wait another 6,800 years for the comet to return, so we figured it would be best to try to find some clear skies to shoot in a dark area. I have been wanting to go get some night shots of the Aggie Barn, so the two of us drove up there to see what we could get.
The clouds were obscuring the comet when we arrived, but the barn was just begging to get into my camera. Betty and I shot for several hours and then headed back to Houston. By the time I got home, I didn’t even try to sleep, I just had to edit the photos that I had gotten that night. By the time I went to work, the above photo was processed and completed.
I couldn’t be happier with the results, we were just blessed to have some clear skies and a beautiful night to shoot.
Last week, I went out to get pictures of the Union Pacific 4014 “Big Boy” in Columbus, TX and Richmond, TX. I shot the locomotive as it crossed the Colorado and Brazos rivers, but i was not able to get the shots that I really wanted from those locations.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3:30am and drove to Palestine, TX in order to try shooting the “Big Boy” again. This time, I had the right locations mapped out.
For those who have never been near a large steam engine like this, it is something that you should do at least once in your life. The sound of the pistons, the steam whistle and the bell made me feel like a kid. I wanted so badly to be the one who was driving that massive moving piece of history down the tracks.
As the engine passed, the smell of the steam reminded me of the steam from the catapult of an aircraft carrier. If you have never smelled that, then I am not sure what to compare it to. It is a very distinct smell that very few things in this world can produce and it is fantastic!
I raced to Neches, TX to get a couple more shots of this beautiful machine before driving home. Needless to say, the experience was something that I will always remember. Hopefully Union Pacific will decide to bring this engine back again on another tour.
Recently, I traveled to Sweden to visit several friends. This journey was a lot of fun and I was able to get some great shots too!
My friends pulled out all of the stops to make sure that I had a great time. I told them that I wanted to experience the language, the food and the culture; they did not disappoint.
For several months prior to going to Sweden, I tried to pickup some Swedish via an online program DuoLingo. My attempts at the language kept us entertained. Essentially, I have the vocabulary of a 2 year old, so my ability to converse was quite limited. I was successful in ordering food and reading directions on a map, but that’s about it.
When I was out on the town by myself, I found it helpful to understand a little of the language as I navigated the city of Stockholm. Of course, studying the layout of the city for several weeks in advance of my trip made it mush easier.
You have not had Swedish Meatballs until you have had meatballs made by my friend’s girlfriend’s family. These meatballs were so good, I just could not get enough of them. We also ate reindeer with ligonberry jam and moose.
Sweden is also known for their Cinnamon buns called “Kanelbullar.” I found the most amazing bakery in Stockholm called Gunarsson’s Konditori. If you visit Stockholm, I would highly recommend that you stop by Gunnarsson’s for some Kanelbullar and a confection called the Picasso. The Picasso is a Pistachio cake with pineapple coated in a pistachio candied shell. This place is a real treat.
Wanting to make sure that I had an authentic Swedish culinary experience, my friends also had me try Surstromming. For those who do not know, Surstromming is femented Baltic Sea Herring; this really means that it is rotted fish. I would describe Surstromming somewhere along the lines of Whale puke, but worse. I ate it. If you are looking for an entertaining subject to search on YouTube, look up “Surstromming” and you will see how wonderful it really is.
While visiting Sweden, I got to experience the Swedish culture and it was quite the learning experience. First of all, the Swedish people are very friendly. I hard to look very hard to find a rude Swede.
Something that I immediately noticed was that the Swedish people do not talk to strangers unless in situations where it is necessary. While riding on the subway, expect to see everyone trying to avoid eye contact and keeping to themselves. Some may interpret this to be antisocial behavior, but I observed that it was actually out of respect for everyone else. The Swedish people have unwritten rules of social interaction that avoid making people feel uncomfortable and avoid confrontation.
While the social behaviors of strangers seemed distant and unconnected, it was my experience that anyone I spoke to was very friendly and helpful.
Another thing about the culture in Sweden is that immediately it is clear that the Swedish people care about their country and the environment. Everywhere I went, the streets and subways were clean; even the bathrooms in the subways were clean.
My friends treated me more like family than a friend. They brought me into their home, introduced me to their extended family and showed me around. I never really felt like a visitor, more like I belonged there.
This trip will be something that I will look back on for many years to come with great memories and gratitude to my friends.
Yesterday, I took a drive to the Texas Hill Country with my friend and fellow photographer Betty Gaw. We wanted to make one more trip this spring to catch the bluebonnets before they disappear until next year. If you missed our last trip to Big Bend National Park, check out the post here.
We left early in the morning not knowing if the weather was going to cooperate with us. To our fortune, the line of storms passing through Texas passed over us as we drove. It stopped raining only minutes before we arrived at our first location to shoot.
We started out by driving to Marble Falls and shooting the “Bluebonnet House.” While this house is cool and the pictures are great, it was overshadowed by the beauty of Falkenstein Castle in Burnet, TX.
The story behind Falkenstein Castle starts with a Texas couple named Terry and Kim Young. The Young’s were both fans of the castles built by King Ludwig of Bavaria. During a trip to Neuschwanstein Castle, they discovered that Ludwig II has plans to build a castle named Falkenstein, but didn’t live long enough to see it through.
The Youngs decided to carry out the vision of Ludwig II by building the castle for themselves. I have not been inside, but I hear that the Castle is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
After shooting Falkenstein Castle, Betty and I headed to Llano, stopping along the way for wildflower shots. After a quick lunch in Llano, we headed to Kingsland to shoot the 1903 railroad bridge that is famous for the bluebonnets that grow on the tracks.
After a long day of shooting, Betty and I decided that it would just be wrong to drive back to Houston without a slice of pie from the Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, Texas. We had seen the Bluebonnet Cafe on the way up that morning and agreed that if we had a good day shooting, we should stop there on the way home.
Betty and I debated the merits of Coconut Creme versus Coconut Meringue while I slugged down some coffee before our drive home. While Betty seems to think that Coconut Creme is more popular; we all know that Coconut Meringue always wins.
Business Cards or a Sticker? Recently while planning to a trip to Sweden, I ran across an ad for stickers. I started thinking to myself, “Who doesn’t like stickers?” So I decided to design a sticker for the trip and hand them out along the way in addition to my business cards. This gave way […]
How can you help with the Kenya Flood effort? April 22, 2018 – For the past several days, Kenya has been subject to severe rains and flooding. The forecast over the next 5 days is calling for more of the same. What is compounding the issue in Kenya is that they have been in a […]
The Preparation When shooting the Northern Lights, there is a bit of homework that should be conducted before traveling to attempt to get any shots. This step is often overlooked and can lead to poor results when ignored. Scout locations by satellite view on Google Maps prior to travel Focus your location search on areas […]