A hot Texas Sunday and the five town tour

Old Store and New Truck - Bertram, Texas

Old Store and New Truck – Bertram, Texas

I was out in the hot sun on Sunday doing a type of photography I usually don’t do. I was shooting small town architecture, midday. If you follow my blog, you know I tend to gravitate towards bigger cities and only start shooting as the sun dips towards the horizon. Midday shooting generally sucks photographically and in the summer in Texas, it’s also very hot. I unwisely didn’t put on sunscreen so I have a nice red “tan” as my badge of photographic courage.

My friend Mike, who is a veteran of finding smaller Texas towns, did the driving. We met up in Georgetown and followed Highway 29, west. I’m generally too much of a city slicker to poke around on the back roads. I’m much more in my element navigating the New York City subway system.

The harsh midday light was not an issue for Mike. He’s been playing with film and used an old Nikon SLR filled with black and white. Digital tends to be less forgiving in high contrast areas. That’s why I decided that this was a perfect time for some daytime HDRs. HDRs blend several different exposures and evens out the extremes — it would give me the dynamic range that will compete against and surpass even film. It can be a pain in the neck though. To do HDRs right, you really need use a tripod.

I’ve done a lot of free hand street photography with my 6D but tripod based HDRs are a first. I also wanted to compare HDRs taken with the Olympus E-PM2 vs the Canon 6D. Would the more expensive full frame camera make a significant difference against the much smaller micro 4/3? I’m analyzing the results and I will share it with you soon. Preliminary results are interesting.

The photograph above is from Bertram, Texas. Our second stop of the day. I liked the contrast of the brand new truck against the old, textured buildings — it’s an HDR created on the Canon 6D. I noticed that I needed to tone down my processing, more than usual, probably because of the contrasty midday light.

We started close to high noon and went to Liberty Hill, Bertram and Burnet. Mike had to leave early so I continued back east on Highway 29 to the other side of Interstate 35. I hit the town of Granger and then went down south to Taylor. After about 7 hours of driving and shooting, I was pooped. The heat definitely took its toll.

What fascinates me about these small towns is seeing their various states of decay. What made these places spring up in the first place? What made them decline? Burnet is in pretty decent shape since it is the county seat of Burnet County. Buildings are partially restored, though some are unoccupied. Photographically, I don’t find it as interesting. Give me urban decay. It makes for a more interesting photograph. I also like older buildings with lots of texture and details. Modern materials don’t seem to age gracefully — they just ugly out. Brick, stone, metal and wood. These are the honest materials that show faded grandeur.

May favorite of the lot, Granger. Lots of nice details and very little half-hearted facade “updating” common in the 60s. The old fabric is still there, aging slowly in the hot Texas sun.


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