Sunday, May 17, 2009

Me and the Cub

Landing Approach
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
This past Sunday I had the unique opportunity to attend a local private "Fly-In" event. One of Emily's friends, who is an airline pilot, invited us out to their neighborhood for this little get together and the chance to photograph all the great aircraft. You didn't have to ask me twice! We arrived at the airfield at about 4pm and were quickly introduced to many others who had aircraft at the event. This is an interesting neighborhood, made up of pilots. So practically every house has a small airplane. And rather than having a neighborhood swimming pool, they have a 3000 foot grass airstrip. How cool is that!?

I immediately set out, shooting various angles and features on the planes. So many bright colors. So much to see. I was in photographers heaven! Then Emily's friends husband asked if I would like to go up in his Piper Cub. Sure!! Was all I could say! We squeezed into the small aircraft and taxied down the runway. I was very interested to experience this flight in this aircraft because Id recently been doing a basic pilot training in Microsoft Flight Sim and I wanted to see how it compared to the real deal! (I know, you're laughing)

Well, we reached the end of the runway, turned facing upwind and went full throttle. Just like the flight sim, 40 mph and we were lifting off the ground and headed upward! What a cool feeling! We began circling the surrounding farmland where he pointed out various landmarks and points of interest. We flew around for about 30 minutes while I snapped pics constantly. It was surprisingly like the flight sim, with the exception I was just a passenger..... and it was a real aircraft. :-) With both side windows down, the cool evening spring air poured in, but I was having too much fun to care. Also having the windows down made it easy for me to move my camera around for the best shot.

Finally it was time to land. He circled around to the end of the runway to what seemed like too high of an angle compared to the end of the runway, to me at least. Then again, im not the pilot with 20+ years of flight experience, like the guy sitting just in front of me! But without hesitation, we dropped down quickly, flared up a bit and drifted smoothly onto the runway. The Piper Cub is such a small maneuverable air craft, it doesn't need much runway to take off and land. Nothing to it.

We taxied back to the hanger and headed in for one more bite to eat before driving home. Really a fun day and a first for me! An afternoon I'll never forget.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Family Fun!

Mom & The Kids
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
Finally getting around to making this blog update! A couple weeks ago I was contacted by some of my old college friends who were now married with 2 kids. They wanted some fun family portraits and for me to take them! Id done a photo session with them in the past so their two children, Molly and Fiona were comfortable around me. So I knew we'd have a good session. This time they wanted to include their dog, Scout. Whoa... 2 kids and a dog? This could be a challenge!

They arrived at on location about 15 late and everyone piled out of the car. Parents, bags, kids and the dog. I spent a few minutes petting Scout and letting him smell my hands and get comfortable with my voice and playing with me. I quickly learned this is one smart pup! Very obedient. Actually more so than the children! haha Wherever we setup to shoot, Scout quickly listened, sat... layed down. Whatever we needed. It was great. The challenge was getting the kids to both look at the camera and working quickly enough so that they didn't get too tired and bored.

After about 45 minutes we had a good assortment of photos. Just in time as the 2 little ones were starting to get impatient. This was one of my favorite shots of the day. It wasn't actually even a planned moment. We stopped between locations and Amy was trying to liven up the tired kids. She began playing with them, getting them to laugh and i just started shooting. A great moment captured!

Its always fun to see Amy, Jason, Fiona and little Molly!

Where The Wild Things Are

Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
This past Saturday morning (after shooting bands till 1am), fellow photog Rocky Phillips and myself got up and hit the road at 8am headed North. Leaving Texas, crossing the Red River and into Oklahoma we went. Destination: Wichita Mountains! We'd been really excited about this photography road trip for some time. The chance to shoot interesting landscapes and a wide variety of wildlife would put a smile on any photographers face.

After the 3 hour drive we arrived hungry and headed straight for Meers Restaurant. Meers is pretty much a 100+ year old building, one of the last standing in this one time miner town, which now serves some of the best Long Horn burgers Ive ever had. Then again, I don't know where else Id find a Long Horn burger. I like them because the meat is much leaner than normal beef. Very tasty as well. Especially when you've been hiking in the local mountains and are starving! So Rocky and I chowed down and headed out to shoot.

First stop was Sunset Trail at the base of Elk Mountain. This zig-zag mile long trail winds its way up to one of the best views in the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. The trail isn't overly challenging, as long as your not severely over weight or have bad knees. Really a fun hike. We reached the top in about 40 minutes and commenced shooting photos. We hung out up there for close to an hour, until we both felt we had a decent amount of good shots. Then began our hike down.

Something funny happened on our decent. We ran into a boy scout troupe headed up. We stopped and chatted briefly and the scout leader asked how much further. We told them about 10 more minutes to go. Then he asks me, "So, did you guys hike up here?" Thinking to myself I cannot imaging any other way i could have arrived in my current location I replied, "Well, I don't recall being dropped off by a helicopter". He just gave me an odd look and we moved on hiking down. Rocky found that little exchange pretty funny. We're still wondering what exactly he meant. lol

Once down we stopped at a large field where a heard of Bison (pictured) were grazing and playing. This was a joy to watch and photograph. We had to use caution though. Unlike normal cattle Buffalo are known to randomly charge if they feel you're too close. Thank goodness for zoom lenses and our car! hah Our shutters snapped away as these massive animals butted heads, jumped, rolled and pushed each other around playing. The weather has been getting warmer and as you can see in the photo, their winter coats are beginning to peel off. They are very powerful animals that move surprisingly quick. What a blast to shoot!

A few hours later, tired and running out of daylight, we hit the road for our three hour return drive. It was a full day, but it was fun and a Saturday well spent!

Backside Pick

After shooting the Tennessee Three over at Boiler Room, I threw my camera gear back over my shoulder, sprinted up the stairs and ran one block over to Haileys Bar. Performing at their CD release party there was Backside Pick. I got in the front door and through the line of people and ran immediately into lead singer Rocky Ottely (pictured). I guess he knew i was there shooting for and introduced himself. Not only was he a very talented singer but a genuinely nice guy. He didn't even complain when it took me what seemed like 30 minutes to dig my buried biz card out of my camera bag. haha Rocky took the stage with the band a short time later and immediately got the crowd fired up and moved in close to the stage. Backside Picks music was kind of a rock/funk/jazz type mix. Well, thats coming from me... someone who's no music expert. But, it was really good stuff and a fun atmosphere to be in. Similar to the previous band, they were also a fun shoot and the mostly college aged crowed seemed to know the songs and was really into it.

Id definitely go to see them play again if they returned to Denton. Sometimes its hard to really get into the music when im focused on shooting photo's. So it would be nice to have a second listen to them.

Performing Classics

Performing Classics
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
If you're a fan of Johnny Cash you NEED to catch a show by the group Tennessee Three. I had the pleasure of shooting some live show shots last Friday night over at the Boiler Room in Denton Texas. They were in town for one show and had a pretty good turn out in the small club. The Johnny Cash songs they performed sounded as if it was the man himself. Not to mention the lead singer, who I believe was actually a part of Johnny Cash's original band, looked the part of Cash himself. It was a fun event to shoot. The crowd was really into it and the band appeared to really enjoy performing. I hope they come back to Denton again some time.

Again it was the wonderful 70mm-200mm f/2.8 lens which shined for shooting in this dark stage lighting. I can't say enough about this lens and how it continues to impress me. Expensive? Yes. Worth every penny? Indeed!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Head West Young Man!

Palo Duro Deadwood
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
Actually North-West. This past weekend myself, Emily and friends Craig and Bex packed our bags and boarded a 1 hour Southwest Airlines flight for Amarillo Texas. The city itself wasn't our goal. Just south of Amarillo sits the Palo Duro Canyon! Which, by the way, is also a 26,000 acre National State Park. With miles of trails and endless vista's, this was a rugged wilderness Id been wanting to photograph for some time. My chance was finally here!

We arrived in Amarillo's airport at 8am, got our rental car and headed out. It was a chilly 46F and drizzling rain. Not optimal conditions for hiking and photography, but we forged on not letting it dampen our spirits. We decided to first make a stop at a local Walmart for some snacks and so I could buy a sweatshirt hoodie to stay warm. My long sleeve pull-over I brought with me wasn't enough! From there it was off to find a place to grab breakfast. We found a little mom & pop dinner in town, where we enjoyed pancakes and french toast. Which I am glad we ate a high carb breakfast considering what lay ahead.

By the time breakfast was finished, the rain had stopped and the skies looked a bit better. It had also warmed up a few degree's, so it was time to get to the Canyon. A short 20 minute drive and we were at the parks main entrance. The lady working the gate gave us a map of the park and off we drove. We found a nice overlook section to park and start getting some photos. There was a visitors center near by with some exhibits and literature, which was very interesting.

We took a "quick" 2 mile round trip hike along a trail that followed the canyon rim. This was a great opportunity for many landscape and general scenery shots. The photo included in this blog post is from this portion of the hike. What you'll see here is a nice view over the canyon, with a striped red dirt area in the upper right of the photo, famously known as the "Spanish Skirt" because of the way it fans out with bands of color. Very nice view.

From here we drove to our next trail head known as the Lighthouse Trail. This of course referred to the Lighthouse rock structure, one of Palo Duro's most famous landmarks. (And which can be seen in my flickr stream!) This was a bigger challenge than we originally thought it would be. Three miles each way, 6 miles round trip... through hilly terrain. Although the trail itself was rather smooth, not requiring a high skill level of hiking. After about an hour and a half we reached the Lighthouse Rock. It really felt like an accomplishment and yielded some great photos. The last climb actually up to the Lighthouse was the most challenging. A real leg muscle burner! But we made it up and spent a good 30 minutes at the top enjoying the view and the breeze. Then, gathered our stuff up and began the 1+ hour hike back. We actually made it back in quicker time and we were exhausted! But we did it.

We all headed back to the hotel to relax, shower up and get ready for dinner. So where does a visitor to Amarillo go when they're only in town for one night? The Big Texan of course!! This restaurant is made famous for its "Free 72oz Steak Dinner" offer. The catch being, you have to eat this nearly 4 pounds of beef, along with the appetizer, salad, dinner roll and large iced tea in 1 hours time. Or its NOT free. In fact, its $100. There is a board on the wall signed by all those who have beat the challenge, accompanied by humorous quotes such as "Best and worst day of my life", or "Whats for desert?" haha It was an entertaining dinner in this authentic Texas steak house and we're glad we got to experience it.

Our flight Sunday was at 2pm, but we had one more destination to hit while in this Texas Panhandle town. Just west of Amarillo on the old Route 66 the Cadillac Ranch can be found. This is like an automotive version of Stone Henge, complete with old Cadillacs sticking up from the ground. Front ends all buried in the dirt, tail lights pointed to the sky. Lined up across the bleak, flat West Texas landscape. Its definitely an "art exhibit" worth stopping by.

After that, we were pretty much done with Amarillo. To the airport and time to get on home.