A Yankee’s View of Texas

Spurs, Alamo Plaza – San Antonio, Texas

I once heard that a Yankee is anyone that lives north of you. Don’t know if this definition is true, but I certainly fit the more traditional definition of a Yankee — someone who comes from the North-East part of the United States. Not exactly New England but slightly south from New York. I now live in Austin, Texas. Have done so for almost 20 years now. That means I’ve now lived in Austin longer than I lived in New York. I still remember the pre-conceived visual images I had of Texas before I moved here. I think it’s common and I heard people living in other parts of the country and other parts of the world having similar views of Texas. So what are they? Well cowboys, guns, desert, cactus and tumbleweeds. Three weeks ago I went on a photowalk organized by Kirk Tuck in San Antonio. I’ve written a few blog posts about this event. What I noticed in my street photography, after the fact, is how my stereotypes of Texas came through loud and clear –even after 20 years in Texas. I’ve selected the 4 images that most fit my old notions of Texas that were taken at the photowalk. Do these fit your ideas of Texas?
[Click on the images to see a larger version]

Now to be clear, Texas is a modern, mostly urban state where most people live in generic American suburbs. Some would argue that Austin is not like the rest of Texas and while that maybe true, the typical stereotypes of Texas really don’t fit, at least anymore.

1. You don’t see many cowboys, except when you go to state fairs. And I’m told that many of these people dressed up as cowboys really aren’t cowboys. It more like a Halloween costume people put on to feel like they are cowboys. Big, huge, shiny buckles usually get in the way of real cowboy work so real cowboys don’t wear them. Since I’m a city slicker from New York, I’ll take their word for it. You also see a lot of big, shiny pickup trucks, but again these are not really working trucks that cowboys use.

2. While law enforcement certainly has guns, you don’t see regular people on the street packing heat. People are allowed to carry concealed weapons with a permit but you don’t see grandmas with 6 shooters out on the street.

3. In West Texas, which I have yet to visit, I’m told they have wide open desert with cactus and maybe tumbleweeds. In Central Texas where Austin and San Antonio are located, the landscape is quite different. Texas actually has very diverse landforms with, hills, mountains, beaches, forests, swaps as well as desert. When I first got to Austin, I was surprised how green it can be. We do have prickly pear cactus in this area but not the tall and skinny cactus depicted in cartoons. Those are Saguaro cactus which are found more in Arizona.

So enjoy the photos posted here on this blog entry but they are not the images of modern Texas. Just my stereotypes of Texas taken from my Yankee brain.

Stack of Hats, El Mercado – San Antonio, Texas

Pistol – San Antonio, Texas

Collection of Cacti – San Antonio, Texas

My Thought Process

I mentioned above that I didn’t consciously go out and take stereotypical images of Texas. I shot whatever I thought was interesting. I was in street shooting mode on this photowalk and I had only one lens, a 50mm F1.4 on my Canon 7D.

Image 1 and 3: Both the image of the spurs and the pistol were closeups of a costume worn by the same person. There was a hispanic cultural event that was taking place in front of the Alamo. This person was dressed up as an old Texas Ranger (sheriff). While I shot a more traditional portrait of the gentlemen, I really like the details of his outfit. I got up close to his boots and pistol and shot with a larger aperture to get a shallow DOF. I wanted the object to be in sharp focus but have the rest of the image be nicely out of focus.

Image 2: The stack of hats were being sold in front of a store in the El Mercado section of downtown San Antonio. El Mercado is a Mexican Marketplace with a great selection of mostly Mexican food and goods. I shot these hats from several different angles. I wanted to get the large stack of hats by themselves without any distractions of the other items that were being sold.

Image 4: The potted cacti was arranged in front of a store in La Villita, an artist community in downtown San Antonio. Again I used a large aperture to get just the tops of the cacti in focus. I thought it would be interesting to have the rest of the cacti out of focus. I think having multiple cacti fade out of focus makes the image a bit more interesting.

Image Details

The images were taken with a Canon 7D with the Canon 50mm f1.4 lens. All Images were taken as 18MP JPEGs. I used Apple’s Aperture 3 program to sharpen and add vignettes to all the photographs. I also added extra color saturation to the pistol and the cacti images.

Image 1: f1.8, 1/640 sec, no exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 50mm
Image 2: f1.6, 1/6400 sec, no exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 50mm
Image 3: f1.8, 1/640 sec, no exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 50mm
Image 4: f12.5, 1/320 sec, -1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 100 at 50mm

[View my entire San Antonio Street Photography Gallery]

Related Posts – selected by me

These are some other posts I made about this photowalk to San Antonio

Following Kirk Tuck to San Antonio
Overcoming the Fear of Photo Rejection
Brightening Your Subject to Direct the Eye

4 thoughts on “A Yankee’s View of Texas

  1. nice shots Andy and good post. even being in TX now for nearly 30 years I still think of these stereotypes, and encounter them sometimes, but as you know Austin is a bit different than the rest of this fine state!

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