Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

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Finding new places to shoot in a growing Austin

Residential Development, Rising - Austin, Texas

Residential Development, Rising – Austin, Texas

I need to find new places to shoot in Austin. It’s easy to fall into set patterns and end up shooting in the same places all the time. I realized this when I posted my post Christmas color photos. I think the images turned out fine but they’re nothing new. Congress Avenue to 6th Street. It’s a route that I always take and I’m sure even the out-of-towners that visit this site are starting to recognize the same places.

Luckily, Austin is a growing city with new buildings and new angles to explore. I recently rediscovered the area around the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge on the western edge of the Central Business District. I started to shoot in that area, especially during the day, but I’ve yet to apply my night-time HDR technique. I went down last week to see what I could find.

Seaholm Redevelopment - Austin, Texas

I must say that this part of town is really developing into a nice residential area. It’s quiet, for now, with not many bars and restaurants. That may change once the Seaholm Power Plant redevelopment finishes. Curiously there are several fitness related stores and gyms in the area. No doubt catering to its proximity to Austin’s Hike and Bike Trail.

Skyline from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge - Austin, Texas
Gentle Curves of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge - Austin, Texas

The Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge is also part of the Hike and Bike Trail and it connects the two halves of the trail on either side of the river. The bridge affords some nice views of the growing skyline but it also works well as a leading line that curves its way towards the new residential towers.

The Residences Beyond - Austin, Texas
Sandra Murida Way - Austin, Texas

I also explored around the bridge from ground level. I managed to find some atypical angles that worked especially well with the wide-angle lens on the Pentax Q7. Austin is growing large enough that I need to get off the typical routes to find new and interesting compositions.

Well Lit Park - Austin, Texas
Bold Red Sign, Seaholm Power Plant - Austin, Texas

A park separates the residential district from the new Seaholm redevelopment. I remember seeing the glowing “City of Austin Power Plant” ever since I moved here more than 20 years ago. The plant was shutdown in 1989 but the building stood proudly, undeveloped for all these years. I had a unique opportunity to photograph inside Seaholm 4 years ago. It was years before redevelopment but plans were then being made to use this structure as a centerpiece. It’s nice to see that the redevelopment is now in full swing. It’ll be fun to photograph once it reopens and perhaps the developer will let me shoot the same angles that I captured 4 years ago.

A Train Runs Through It - Austin, Texas
Two Towers - Austin, Texas

The bridge you see over the park is not the Pedestrian Bridge. It’s a larger rail road bridge that carries freight and the occasional Amtrak train. A train passed as I was shooting this, which you can see as a blur atop the bridge.

There’s still raw undeveloped patches which, no doubt, will be nicely integrated in the neighborhood. This brightly lit tower is nearing completion and there are plans for a lot more residential and office towers. The 2nd Street District will eventually connect to this area and bring a much-needed east to west pedestrian flow.

Under the Train Tracks - Austin, Texas

Beyond finding new places to photograph, one of my rationals for shooting here is to document the development. In a few years, this place is going to change tremendously. Nice to have the before photographs for historical comparisons.

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I took all the photographs with the Pentax Q7 in JPEG.

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The plan for 2015

Ramen on the Street - Tokyo, Japan

Ramen on the Street – Tokyo, Japan

Well, it’s the start of a new year and a perfect time to figure out how I’m going to make the best of it.

2014 was very hectic and I feel like I was running around too much — both in travel and gear acquisitions. I hope to slow it down this year, take stock of what I have and use it effectively. I’m sure people won’t believe it but I’m buying less cameras this year. We’ll see what happens. Last year, I was only going to buy the Fuji X100S until I became a camera collector and also dove into film. And that’s the risk of collecting stuff. There are always more things that look interesting. But ultimately, the cameras are in service to my photography. I think of myself as a photographer first. I just have to keep that in mind, before I whip out the plastic.

I expect to shoot more film this year. How seriously, I don’t know. I’m going to explore its creative possibilities and enjoy the challenges that it brings. Digital is too easy to create good exposures. I’m both enjoying and getting slightly frustrated with film. I’m hoping that frustration is a good motivator.

I’m going to shoot more than ever with digital. I’m really enjoying the Pentax Q7 that I picked up in Japan, as well as the photographs I create with it. The free form, black and white images are different from my previous. I want to move beyond just good-looking technical images and capture more emotion.

I suspect there will be a dichotomy. I want to explore quickly composed, spontaneous images — eschewing perfection. On the other hand, especially with film, I’m going to slow down and compose meticulously. I’m going to be playing on both sides of the spectrum. Will that improve my photography? Who knows. But I’ll keep on shooting.

I need to better organize my blog but I don’t feel compelled to do so right now. Perhaps later. I will, however, continue with stories about photography and most assuredly about gear. I hope you find them interesting.

Finally, I need to clean up all the cruft around me. It’s easy to have the stuff accumulate without active management. And I’m not talking about cameras. They, surprisingly, don’t take up much space. It’s all the paperwork, the old clothes, the kids’ toys and the digital morass stuffed into Terabyte hard drives. I’ve got a good start over these last 2 weeks. My wife and I have clean out a closet and the storage room. I’ve deleted nearly 300GB of old files. I want to continue throughout the year, seeking out and culling clutter throughout the house.

We’re actually in decent shape. We’ve always had space to park both our cars in the 2 car garage. I just want to kick it up a notch. I want to inch towards the minimalist lifestyle I lead before I had a wife and 2 kids. Not that I would trade my life for bachelorhood — I have a wonderful family and a great life. It’s just that with 4 people you need active management to keep things in check.

Will this de-cluttering improve my photography and blog? I’m not sure. But a clear and organized head and work area can’t hurt, right? The world is noisy and complicated enough. I should do my part to simplify what I can control.

Thank you again for visiting my little corner of the internet. I hope you find it enjoyable, entertaining and even educational. Here’s to a great 2015.

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I took the photograph with the Pentax Q7 in JPEG, slightly tweaked in Aperture 3.

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Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.


Number Ten

CONTAX T2 at Precision Camera - Austin, Texas

CONTAX T2 at Precision Camera – Austin, Texas

Curse Precision Camera. I was all ready to settle down for the rest of the year and I made the mistake of visiting them yesterday. Wow, a pristine CONTAX T2. Used of course, but in mint condition. I asked them to hold the camera for a few days, just in case. This camera is not going to stay around very long.

After a night of research, I decided to bite. I bought it today just so that I can say I bought 10 cameras this year. A dubious distinction, to be sure. My friend Mike, perhaps jokingly, commented “Still a few days left in the year. Make it an even 10?”. Well I guess Mike was right.

Some call this the best compact film camera ever made. Many put it on their favorites list. I originally considered the T2 but opted for the Nikon 35Ti instead, another premium titanium camera from the same era. The 35Ti is a fine camera but there’s one feature that bugs me — it defaults to the flash always being active. I need to push a cumbersome button, while taking the picture, to deactivate flash. The T2, on the other hand, defaults to the flash turned off — big difference.

I got the CONTAX T2 as a collector’s piece but I also plan to shoot it. It’ll be fun to compare the CONTAX against the Nikon. Two very similar cameras in specs but very different in terms of design.

I hope you have a healthy and happy New Year. Thank you all for continuing to visit. I have lot more photography and camera stories planned for 2015 — see you next year.

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I took the photograph with the Pentax Q in JPEG, slightly tweaked in Aperture 3.

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Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.


Post Christmas Color

The Marquee before New Year's Eve, Paramount Theater - Austin, Texas

The Marquee before New Year’s Eve, Paramount Theater – Austin, Texas

I’ve been out of sync with my holiday rituals since getting back from Japan. By the time I fully recovered from jet lag, Christmas was upon us. I realized that I didn’t shoot my usual downtown holiday photos including my yearly documentation of the Driskill Hotel Christmas tree. Even though it was after the fact, I went downtown on the 26th and created these images.

Looking up to Kruger's - Austin, Texas

Downtown was quieter than usual, especially for a Friday. No doubt the usual revelers where taking it easy after Christmas. I had my Pentax Q7 with my 08 Wide-angle, the 01 Standard Prime and a tripod on hand for a super compact system. I headed down Congress Avenue and captured the Paramount Theater and the colorful Kruger’s Jewelers before turning on to 6th Street towards the Driskill.

2014 Driskill Christmas Tree - Austin, Texas

You think after the 6th time, I would get bored of this, but every year the Driskill Tree changes. I shoot it differently too and with a variety of cameras. This year’s tree look skimpier then in years past. Also with construction off to the side, I shot closer than usual, which changed the angle and framing. Luckily I’m back to shooting with a super wide-angle so I got everything if frame, including the stained glass.

Soho and Lit Lounges, 6th Street - Austin, Texas
Soho Lounge and Chuggin' Monkey, 6th Street - Austin, Texas

As long as I was on 6th Street, I wanted to further test the Pentax Q7 and create HDRs. The Soho Lounge’s blue neon is a frequent subject and with fewer people than normal, I got less of the distracting motion blur. Just enough to express motion but not enough to obliterate details.

Watching the performance at the Bat Bar - Austin, Texas
The light show at the Bat Bar - Austin, Texas

Across the street, the most lively place seemed to be the Bat Bar, at least on the outside. A women frequently performs light twirling by the window that attracts attention. I also like the blue lights and colorful laser spots that adds to the visual interest.

Satisfied that I got what I came for, I switch to the 01 Standard Prime and shot free hand. I tested the high contrast black and whites that I often did in Japan for that dark and moody look. Tokyo is very bright at night and those black and white shots were easy to do. 6th street and many places in the U.S. are a lot darker — would the Pentax Q7 work here in America? I’ll post those images separately to see what you think.

Watching the performance at the Bat Bar - Austin, Texas

I remembered that there was Christmas Tree in front of the Texas State Capitol so I headed back up Congress Avenue. While it’s tempting to shoot the Christmas Tree and the Capitol together from the street, I found that too much of the building is obscured. I couldn’t find a balanced composition that I liked. From the capitol grounds, however, I like this shot of the tree looking south.

Texas State Capitol - Austin, Texas

Turn the other way and you get the view of the Capitol. The damp heavy air seems to give a soft glow around the lights. I think there’s a nice mood here and luckily without many people. Perhaps I should go downtown again after Christmas next year. It may be the perfect time for some quiet photography.

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I took all the photographs with the Pentax Q7 in JPEG.

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Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.


Make it 9 cameras instead

Lucky shot with a Pentax Q - Austin, Texas

Lucky shot with a Pentax Q – Austin, Texas

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I bought 8 cameras in 2014. Well scratch that, make it 9 cameras. My order came in early.

I’ve been raving lately about the Pentax Q7 I bought in Japan along with the full complement of lenses. The Q7 is actually the third iteration of the series. The original, simply called the Q, was released back in 2011. All of the Q cameras (the original Q, the Q10, Q7 and the newest QS-1) use the same lenses. There appears to be a following, at least in Japan, for the original Q. The camera is popular enough that it’s hard to find on the used market. Well luckily, I found a new one on Amazon and it was only $125 delivered, body only.

What makes the original Q so special? Other than being the first model of a new lens mount, it’s even smaller than the Q7 and it’s made of magnesium alloy. It’s a jewel of a camera and it originally sold with the prime lens for $799. Back then I thought it was crazy to pay that much a camera with a tiny 1/2.3″ sensor. Of course, I found out how fun the Q system is and with the blowout pricing, I was willing to give it a try.

Black and White Test with a Pentax Q - Austin, Texas

I custom programmed my favorite inky black and white, in-camera processing. Of course, Lucky is my favorite test subject whenever I get new gear. I’m happy to report that I get the same kind of look as on my Q7.

While very few reviews probably mention it, I find quite a few differences between the Q and the Q7. The obvious one is the Q7 has a slightly larger plastic body with a larger 1/1.7” sensor. But I noticed loads of other subtle and not so subtle differences. A few I like better but a bunch that I don’t. It’s clear that the Q7 has progressed over these 3 years.

I bought the Q mostly as a collector’s item. The first of a new line of cameras is always interesting to have. But I’ll certainly shoot it and do a comparison with the Q7. And as my test images show, it is certainly capable of producing strong photographs.

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I took both photograph with the Pentax Q in JPEG. Both photos where slightly tweaked in Aperture 3.

If you find these posts interesting, please consider using my affiliate links for any future purchases.
Make sure to click on the photographs to a see larger version. Hover over the photos to see the picture details.