Monday, December 05, 2011

Frozen In Time

Abandoned... But Not Empty

I recently had the awesome opportunity to visit and photograph the old Johnson's Farm, located in the Johnson's Branch Recreation area of Lake Ray Roberts.  This farmstead, closed to the public, has been left almost un-touched for the past 40+ years.  The house which was originally built in the late 1800's remains standing, along with a couple barns, chicken house and storm cellar.  All the original windows are intact and there is no graffiti covering the walls, thanks to the state park keeping this historic site off limits to the public.  I was able to gain access to this location through the Denton Camera Club.  It was a planned field trip, arranged through the park service. We had 3 hours to freely roam the property, photographing and documenting the grounds.

The house and the barn were my primary points of interest.  The barn was still full of turn of the century era farm machinery and farm tack hanging on the walls.  It was like the people living there just walked away!  So many antiques, just sitting around.  So many photo ops everywhere I looked.  I'll admit it was a bit of sensory overload as far as taking pictures is concerned.  I didn't know where to point my camera first.  Three hours to shoot??  I could have spent 3 days in just the barn!

I finally worked my way to the old farm house.  Again, I could have spent all day shooting just this building.  One of the techniques I'd been wanting to toy with is using my speedlights off camera with gels to create a mood in old buildings such as this one.  So while the rest of the photo club photographed the more traditional scenes in the house, I setup my flashes and had fun creating a different type of image.  This photo was one of my favorites of the day.

I hope to get the chance to return to the Johnson's Farm.  So many more possibilities await there.
Fun With the Walking Dead!

More... Brains....

I'm finally getting around to blogging about this event.  Which is surprising since it was one of the more fun events of the year to attend.  The Dallas Zombie Walk is definitely an interesting place to be if you enjoy people watching, or in my case, people photography.  All of the zombies and zombie hunters love getting their photo taken.  There are interesting costumes everywhere you look, which makes for great photos.  Access to the event is free, I just had to park a couple blocks away and walk in.  There was live music as well and the Dallas Derby Devils roller derby league put on a small demonstration on the street for all to see.  The event was basically a 2 block street party with bloodied people walking around, most staying in-character.  By the end of the day I came home with some really fun and interesting photo's of the walking dead.  I ran into a lot of friends while down there shooting and had an over all great time.   I'm already looking forward to next years Zombie Walk!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011



I recently had the honor of meeting and photographing Christopher.  This casual looking young man is a high school senior and wasn't exactly excited to get his photo taken.  But after a few minutes of shooting he warmed up to the lens... and my cheesy jokes. :)  It was tricky finding a look that fit him best for his photo shoot.  His mom was quick to tell me he really didn't have a lot of traditional hobbies.  So incorporating what he likes into his photos would be difficult.  So, I decided to have them just meet me in a local park in the evening and we'd start shooting to see what we came up with.  Overall everyone was happy with the final product.... including Christopher!  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Trip of a Lifetime

Morning at Moulton Barn

This iconic photo is of the famous Moulton Barn.  It's probably one of the most photographed barns in the world.  It's been used in commercials and in print Ads and is kind of the postcard for the Great American Frontier.  And for years it had been high on my photography bucket list.  But I had no idea where to go, who to go with or where to really start.  Do I talk friends into going to Wyoming with me?  And if I do, where do I go once I'm there?  A bit overwhelming.  So I began looking for photography based tours, although I knew they were usually the more expensive route.  But I decided if I'm going to go all the way up there to see the sights, I'll need a guide to find the best places.  I began researching photo tours in the Jackson Wyoming area.  I had found a couple, but they were both over $1000.  Outside my budget.  I just needed to get there and to find someone who knew their way around and could show me where all the best places to take photos are.  I didn't need half days of photo critiquing or Photoshop learning sessions.  I just wanted to get out there and shoot some really cool stuff with other photographers.

Then I remembered a Flickr contact of mine, Mr. Jeff Clow.  He had once mentioned he and his wife started the photography tour company Dirt Cheap Photo Tours.  I decided to check out his website and read up on what his tour offered.  Now, some people might be thrown off by the term "dirt cheap".  I think a more accurate description might be "Nicely Affordable photo tours".  But that sounds weird.  Jeff's philosophy is rather simple... "if you want to take better photo's, stand in front of better things".  I sent him an email asking a few questions to make sure this was the kind of tour I was looking for.  Turns out, it was EXACTLY what I was looking for.  First off, the price was right.  While most the tours I found were $1000+, Jeff's tour was a flat $500.  Now that didn't cover air fare and hotel, but neither did the more expensive tours.  I'm a good travel deal hunter so I wasn't worried.  Secondly, Jeff informed me we would be shooting 10 to 12 hours a day.  We would be out on location before sunrise to get the best shots, then out again at night.  No classroom critiques or anything to keep me away from my camera.  I was sold so I sent in my down payment, bought my flight and reserved my hotel in Jackson Hole.  I hadn't had a real vacation in quite some time so I was beyond excited for this adventure.

I arrived at the Jackson airport around noon on Thursday.  The tour didn't officially start until later that evening.  But I wanted to get in early, find my hotel and walk around the town a bit.  As my plane banks and lines up for it's landing approach, I look out the window and my jaw just dropped.  We were cresting the mountain range and almost even with my window outside was the Grand Teton, the tallest peak of the Tetons.  It was incredible! We landed and de-boarded down a ramp onto the tarmac.  Once off the plane I began making my way towards the small terminal building.  I turned and looked behind me and had to stop and take in the view.  The mountain range running parallel to the airport looks surreal.  I must have been standing there a bit too long because an airport guy told me to keep moving. hah  I grabbed my suitcase and caught the shuttle into Jackson Hole.  During the ride I was looking out the window thinking, this might not be a bad place to live.  It was right about that moment the shuttle driver tells me each winter they get about 300 inches of snow.  Never mind, Texas works for me!

Around 6pm I met up with Jeff and the rest of the tour group in front of the hotel and we departed to do some evening shooting and get to know each other.  I liked that we weren't wasting the first evening in town.  We were out shooting our camera's from the first night.  I got back to the hotel about 9pm and as I sat reviewing my shots from the evening, I knew this was going to be an incredible trip.  I went to bed early because I knew it would be an early morning.

Our shooting schedule for the next 3 days was roughly the same.  I'd wake up at 5:30am, be downstairs by 6am so we could hit the road.  Jeff had us on location, ready to shoot the sunrise at an amazing location by 6:45.   After shooting the sunrise and that location for about an hour, we'd pack up and hit a long list of scenic stops.  Jeff knows about a few places that are not in any tour brochure or book.  Places which require a bumpy ride down jeep trails, but will reward you with some breathtaking scenery!  Along the way we would pull over and get out of the van if we saw any good wildlife.  During the trip we saw buffalo, beaver, elk, moose and deer.  Towards the end of the trip a few members even saw a bear!  Each day we'd shoot until lunch, then take a break to eat somewhere.  After lunch we'd resume shooting until about 5pm before heading back to the hotel.  We then get a couple hours to eat, freshen up, charge batteries and relax before meeting out front again at 7pm for some night photography.  The night sky in Jackson Wyoming is nothing short of breath taking.  With no major city for at least a 5 hour drive in every direction, you get practically zero light pollution and the stars are incredible!  We spent each evening under this star lit sky shooting the heavens and light painting barns.  A perfect evening for a photographer!

Ok so to wrap up this long post with a conclusion.  If Jackson Hole Wyoming and the Grand Tetons are something you've always wanted to see, I can honestly highly recommend Dirt Cheap Photo Tours lead by Jeff Clow.  As far as photography tours go, its affordable and you'll make some really good friends by the time you get on your plane to head home.  Jeff is a super nice guy and has been to the Tetons over 30 times.  He really knows his way around the area and has no shortage of information and places to help you get great photos.  No matter what level of photographer you are, this trip has something to offer.  For beginners, you'll be put in what Jeff likes to call, "A target rich environment".  Everywhere you look there's something to point your camera at and scenes to hone your skills.  If you have questions, there are more advanced photogs around you who are willing to offer their help.  You WILL come home a better photographer.  If you're an advanced or pro shooter, you'll meet some great folks and come home with some really nice landscape and wildlife portfolio material.  So visit Jeff's site at and read up on what he offers.

To see more of my work from this incredible adventure, check out the gallery I've posted over at my WEBSITE.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


Dismount! by Thorpeland
Dismount!, a photo by Thorpeland on Flickr.

Each August Denton hosts the North Texas State Fair. While not much of a cowboy & rodeo person... I still enjoy this event from a photographers standpoint. Because it's a smaller event and venue than the huge State Fair of Texas, I can get incredibly good access for taking photos. It makes shooting action photos of the calf roping events really fun and allows me to capture the speed and power of the animals involved. This is also an excellent venue to hone camera skills, as the lighting in the area is horrible. So you really have to have a firm grasp of your camera's abilities and functions to come home with a usable photo. This years was another fun event and I got to spend the evening with a bunch of other photographer friends. Can't beat that!

The Rider

Kyle by Thorpeland
Kyle, a photo by Thorpeland on Flickr.

The end of August means the start of many Seniors starting their final year in High School.  Kyle and his mother contacted me about shooting some senior portraits.  When I asked her what kind of hobbies he enjoys, she said he likes to ride his dirt bike.  Right then I knew we had some great material for a fun shoot.  I told him to show up with his dirt bike, dressed ready to ride!  At first he wasn't sure what to really do.  After all, he'd never had anyone really take his photo when he wasn't riding by the camera.  Posing with his bike as a prop seemed foreign to him.  I told him to imagine being on the cover of a Dirt Bike magazine.  Or imagine he had just won a big race.  How would he look at the camera?  He stood straight and gave me this direct, confident look.  I started shooting knowing we had some real keepers.
His mother also wanted some more normal photos.  So he changed outfits and wore a more contemporary western look.  Classic Texan, really.  Both looks turned out great and everyone was really happy with the photos.  And despite the temps that evening being over 100f, I had a blast shooting.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be There!!

Those who follow me on Facebook or Google+ have seen me post a few times about this event.  Well, the date is quickly upon us and if you live in the Dallas area and are looking for something fun to do on the night of Saturday August 27th, please come out and join the fun.  If you enjoy music, art and an energetic atmosphere then you'll have a good time.

A few people have asked me what this event is really all about.  In short, its an art/gallery night with live music.  I am one of the league photographers for the Dallas Derby Devils, the woman's flat-track roller derby league.  Gallery Night is the opportunity for myself and other derby photographers and artists to display their roller derby related work from the past year.  Of course this isn't an event limited to people in the derby community.  Its open to everyone and anyone who wants to come out and it's free to attend.  There will be live music from a band called "We're Not Dudes"...  which you really just have to see to believe.  I'm not going to spoil it, but they're good!! There will be snack foods and drinks and lots of very friendly folks to meet and talk to.  And of course all the art is for sale.  So if you see something you really like, you can make it yours!

So there you go.  Mark your calenders and clear your schedules.  If you have any questions about this event feel free to contact me.  I'll be there all evening and I hope everyone stops by my wall to view my derby photos and say hello.

See you this Saturday night!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Model Mayhem
Vintage Sarah

I recently had a great "vintage" session with a model name Sarah.  Long ago I created a profile on the site Model Mayhem.  This is a place where photographers, models and touch up artists can find each other for work or to build their portfolios.  Shortly after updating my profile, I was contacted by Sarah saying she wanted to get some updated shots for her modeling portfolio.  We met on a rather hot evening near the new rail station in town and walked around using whichever locations we found interesting as a back drop.  I brought along fellow photog friend Greg Scott to assist me with lighting and holding the reflector.  Even though the light was a little harsher than I would have preferred, I felt we still got some nice images.  It helped that Sarah was comfortable in front of the lens.  I look forward to shooting with her again in the future.  
River Adventures
Campsite on the Brazos

This was taken on my recent adventure, a 20 mile canoe trip down the Brazos river here in Texas.  When I signed up for this group trip, I didn't know I would be the odd numbered person in the group and the only one going solo.  So this meant I had to paddle my own canoe alone for the 20 miles.  At first I wasn't sure if I'd be up to the task.  But once I got out on the river, my canoe skills of years ago came back to me.  By the end of the first day I was efficient and keeping up with the group.  This photo is of our campsite on one of the sand islands on the river.  Its was a really cool campsite.  We cooked our dinner down by the shoreline, enjoying a nice evening breeze.  But as night fell, the breeze stopped and the heat was rather smothering.  We also had the amusement of two raccoon's swimming out to the island at night and going through our trash and canoes.  Hah!  One got into my canoe to look around.  But he knocked an ore down, which scared him and sent him running.  By the end of the trip we were hot, tired and hungry.  But it was a really fun experience and I hope to return with some of my good friends to take them down the river.  Perhaps in the fall... when its NOT 105f!
Derby Time!
This is my friend and one tough derby fanatical chica, Sarah "E-Lemmonator" Lemmons.  She plays the position of Jammer in Roller Derby.  Which means it's her job to go really fast, get around the opposition and score points.  She does this very well.  I felt this action shot really shows the speed she exhibits during a bout.  One of the things I like most about Sarah is how before a derby match starts she's all laughs, smiles and jokes.  But once the whistle blows and she's on the oval track... look out because she's all business.  She plays the game with passion and lots of emotion.  I admire her for that.  
NIKE Missile Base
Bed & Breakfast

One of the benefits of joining a group with a similar interest is sometimes you get access to things you might not on your own.  This would be the case in me getting access to the now abandoned NIKE Missile Base.  I was able to get this access along with the rest of the Denton Camera Club.  Someone in the club somehow met the current owner of the property.  We all met out at the base on a warm, humid Saturday morning at 7am.  We had free roam of the property, which was once the barracks and administrative offices.  About a mile away was the part of the base I really wanted to see... the launch pads and underground control center.  But, I was happy to be shooting this part as well.  Our club spent about 3 hours wandering around, snapping photos of anything of interest.  It was a really fun time and I could feel the photo-mojo flowing!  I felt I came away was some very interesting images. I hope to one day return to this location.  Or perhaps visit the other part of the old base.  
Ryli Dylan
Ryli Dylan
This is singer/song writer Ryli Dylan.  Interesting story on this shoot.  I happen to be perusing Craigslist looking for used camera gear I might need, when I came across a posting by Ryli.  She said she was rebuilding her website and needed new quality photos taken.  Id never done a portrait session for a music talent before, so I quickly fired off an email volunteering my services.  I felt it would make some nice portfolio filling.  The next day Ryli replied and notified me she was looking at me and 3 other photographers and would discuss with her family and then let us know.  A day later she called to notify me everyone she showed my website to liked my photography the best and she wanted to do a shoot.  It didn't take long to set things up.  She had a location picked out and friends ready to assist us.  Ryli was a natural in front of the camera.  She better be since she performs on stage on a regular basis!  Both her and I were really happy with the images from the session.  I hope to I get a chance to work with her again.  It was a lot of fun.
The Watchers
Ah 4th of July in America.  Wouldn't be complete without a nice fireworks show.  Just like the past few years I headed down to the local large college with friends and family to watch the show.  UNT puts on a nice one each year.  I went there wanting to capture something a little different than the normal fireworks photo's you see everywhere.   During the explosions, a couple stood in front of me, partially blocking my view.  At first I was a little frustrated over it.  But I kept shooting.  I then looked at my LCD screen to see I had caught them moving back and forth during the long exposure.  This looked very cool to me!  Something I hadn't quite seen before in a fireworks shot.  Exactly what I was going for.  Again proving my theory, no matter what happens... just keep shooting.
Hanging Out
Seven - Five Combo, Side Pocket
Yes, even when I go out with friends to just shoot some pool and have fun... my camera isn't far from me. When Brian invited me out to shoot some pool at a dark, local hole in the wall bar, I knew that would be the perfect setting for the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens.  Oddly enough no one even batted at eye at me walking around shooting photos while playing pool.  I like that.  I tried to capture the feeling of night life in these photos.  Either way, they were fun to shoot.
The 13th Stranger
13\100: Candie
Despite putting it on the back burner I am still working on my 100 Strangers Project.  This is Candie.  She had come to town along with The Done Deals (the band from the previous post) to support them.  I saw her sitting there talking to just about anyone and being the opportunist I am, explained my project and took her portrait.  As you can see, she was more than willing to strike a pose for the camera.  I really loved her smile and tattoos.  She really had a lot of character which made for the perfect subject for this project.  Thank you Candie for playing along! 
The Done Deals
The Done Deals

Doing a little blog catch up here.  Back in June I got the chance to setup a Canon Speedlight inside a local bar called Banter and shoot the band of the evening.  The Done Deals come from Paris Texas and came to Denton for the evening to perform.  They're a really good band if you are ever in the North Texas area and get the chance to see them.  From a technical aspect, these are probably the best photos I've ever captured inside Banter, which is known for its cave-like lighting.  I hope to shoot there again in the near future.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Officially Summer!

Denton Air Show 2011

For me, the official start of summer always seems to correspond with the Denton Air Show in early June. I guess its because its just the first event of many throughout the summer months. For a photographer, this is a golden opportunity. Everywhere you look is a photo waiting to be taken. Aircraft sit, lined up on the tarmac. People roaming around, looking at the details of these great machines. And a chance to get up close and personal with the aircraft.

Later in the day the real airshow gets started. Formation flying, aerial acrobatics and military aircraft demonstrations fill the afternoon skies.

This years airshow was a hot but fun day. I was able to get about a dozen photos I was truly happy with.

So... onward to summer!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Kid on the Block

Since 2006 I've been a loyal member of the Flickr community. It's been a great place to post my work, view and comment on others work and participate in discussions. I have long had a few gripes with a few things on the Flickr site, but what could I do? It's not like there was another quality photo community to go to. Sure there are other photo sites, but their "free" accounts were extremely limiting, or their look and feel left something to be desired.

Say hello to I hear they've been around since 2003, but somehow Id never heard of them till recently. I checked them out, opened a free account and gave them a test drive. My findings, highly impressive! You get more options with a free account than you do with most paid or "pro" accounts at other sites. But what really put a smile on my face was the sites layout. Everything about it is designed to present your work in the most eye catching manner possible. It even lets you create a portfolio slide show. It's really all quite beautiful and rivals some photographers official websites!

After setting up my account and uploading a few photo's, I began noticing a few things. As I browsed through other photographers galleries, I found there seems to be a high level of work across the board on 500px. It was very difficult to find anything that looked amateurish. Unlike Flickr, there were no profiles where they just used it as a "photo sharing" site and dumped their entire memories cards contents onto their account. No profiles with 5000 photos of a family reunion. No profiles with an endless stream of someone taking self portraits in a bathroom mirror. None of that non-sense, just jaw dropping, amazing photographs. In fact the quality seemed so much higher than most sites, I was very selective in what I choose to upload into my new gallery. The standard just felt... higher.

Now of course there are a few complaints with 500px and even a few notes they should take from Flickr. After all, Flickr didn't become the Goliath it is by accident. But it's their slowness to change or innovate which has led photographers like myself to be open to their options and try new sites. Ok, so here's a short list of dislikes.
  • Zero Photo Protection - All these beautiful photos are yours for the taking with a simple right click, "save as". Even Flickr puts an invisible layer over the photos which will only show up as a 1 x 1 pixel when you attempt that same technique. 500px MUST give photographers some options to protect their work. Many deny it but photo thieves are out there and are stealing photos daily. They will publish your work as theirs, they will create websites with your work, they will put together entire portfolios based on your photos if you don't do something about it. I use a light watermark across my photos. Some people say it detracts from the image. I'm fine with that because that's the same thing being said by the person trolling websites for that perfect image for their latest Ad campaign.
  • No Lightbox View - When I'm viewing someones 500px gallery, give me the option to go "lights out" and use my keyboard to move from one photo to the next. Its sleek, elegant and really lets you get into someones work. Not to mention looks great. Right now you have to manually click, click, click... ugg. Even Flickr has a series of keyboard commands to control and navigate their site. Its nice.
  • Lose the "Dislike" Button - People either click "Like" or just move on to the next photo. I feel like im giving someone a kick in the stomach by clicking "Dislike" before moving on. Not to mention, most photos are so nice I can't say i really dislike any of them. Anyhow, it just seems un-necessary. Save the dislike button for songs I can't get through on Pandora.
Ok, that's all I really have for dislikes about 500px. Im sure these are things they've already looked at and for all I know, might be rolling out soon. It seems like a rather young website still and changing fast. It also appears to be very popular with Russians. haha It seems like 3 out 5 profiles is written in Russian. Which is fine, their work is amazing. Just seems like a high ratio.

Overall is visually everything I wish Flickr was. I can see this website growing very quickly. It will be interesting to see if they continue to grow and improve, or stagnate like Flickr has now. I hope they grow and continue to really cater to photographers and not people who want "photo sharing". I was so impressed with what 500px has to offer it only took a quick search to find the promo code for $10 off their pro, or "awesome" account, bringing it to $40 for a year. I felt it was worth it, i'll give the site a year and see how I feel. Oh the promo code is friends. :)

So check it out, see what you think, see if it could fit your photography needs. You can check out my profile at

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Xoom, Xoom!


Where to start? Well, this is a Motorola Xoom. An Android tablet. There are a few Android tablets out now and I'd wanted one since the moment I saw them. I didn't think I'd be buying one quite so soon, but after stopping buy Best Buy for a hands on test drive I was sold. Most of these new tablets are running Android 3.0. Which ill say, is quite a bit different from the 2.x version currenly runing on Android phones. Its a bit more polished and optimized for tablets which really provides a nice experience. If you've used Android at all, 3.0 is even more intuitive and solid feeling. I've had the Xoom for one full week now and this is my opinion and review of the device.

The device has a 10.1 inch screen, dual-core 1ghz Tegra 2 CPU, 1gb of ram with 32gb of hard drive space, expandable to another 32gb via SD card. Really nice specs and actually tops the ipad2 in hardware terms. One of the key features I was happy to see was Motorolas choice to make the screen out of Gorilla Glass. This stuff is incredibly tough and practically scratch proof. So no need for one of those annoying stick on screen protectors. The Xoom is under half an inch thick, so its very easy to carry around. Its light but definitely feels solid and not like some cheap, plastic toy. I really like that it has a micro USB and HDMI out. Transfering files and music to the tablet is as easy as pluging it into your computer and dragging files over to it. The HDMI allows you to connect it to you TV and show movies or photos from it, to the TV. So cool. Do that, crApple. It has a 5mp rear camera with dual LED flash and 2 speakers. On the front its got a 2mp camera for vid chats.....but which doubles nicely as a mirror. :)

So, what do I really like about it? Actually lots! It's small, light weight, has an awesomely sharp screen and its fast. I was recently asked if this will totally replace my laptop? In short, no. But it does manage to replace about 80% of what I used my laptop for. Which is what I bought the Xoom to do. Things once handled by my laptop such as email, facebook, twitter, flickr commenting, web browsing and online shopping are now easily handled by the Tablet. But tasks such as working in Photoshop or Lightroom are really best left for a laptop/desktop where you have the precision control of a mouse pointer and a bit more graphic horse power. Not to mention those applications are not available for tablets at this date. But I do love the "instant on" of the Xoom tablet. Being able to hit the web, running in just 2 seconds is very nice. Another thing I like is that Adobe Flash is supported. So when you go to a website that uses Flash for parts of the page, you still see the page as it was meant to be seen. Things such as embedded video's work nicely. If your'e wondering about battery life, you'll be happy to hear its VERY GOOD. I can easily get a full day of tinkering and web surfing in one battery charge cycle. In fact the first few days I had the Xoom I was bringing it to work and doing lots of "show & tells" with it all day. By bedtime, I still had 35 to 40% battery life remaining. Nice! Now, movie watching can change that. When watching a movie I had the screen brightness really turned up and it did eat a good chunk of the battery. But that is expected. Overall I can carry the Xoom around with me during the day and leave the charger at home.

Now the question, is there anything I DON'T like about it? There are a few rough edges I'm sure will be addressed in time. I think my biggest gripe is Honeycombs (Android 3.0) webkit/browser. Using Facebook is a perfect example. The page loads, but using it is a major pain. You cannot close incoming chat windows. I click the X, but they just don't close. So I now have 5 old chats at the bottom of the screen I cannot get rid of. Frustrating. Typing in text fields are also slightly delayed. Now this only seems to happen on Facebook. Which leads me to think its something to do with the way the page is scripted. I haven't encountered this on any other website. Now, I did download the Opera browser from the Android Market and Facebook performed quite a bit better. Another option is to just use the Android Facebook app. Which works pretty well.

There are still a few bugs with some apps since weren't written for the tablet screen resolution. Some won't download to the tablet. Some will download but won't open. Some will open but crash when you try to use them. It's only a small percentage which do this and I'm sure it will improve in the months to come. I also found myself trying to download all the same apps I have on my Android phone. Then I realized I didn't need some of them. For example, my banking app. I no longer need an app for it. I can now just go to the website. Which really does work better.

Wrap up:
In conclusion, I absolutely love the Xoom tablet. The most common question people ask is 'how does it compare to the ipad'? Well, I chose this over an ipad so that should answer that question. You get more tablet for less money. I feel its a better device overall as well. Then again, I'm not sucked into the apple PR machine and tied to itunes. The Xoom does everything I need it to. I am a power user... not a beginner so I ask a lot of a device. Despite going through a few early adopter bumps with the first Android Honeycomb tablet, I see huge potential from the device.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Race Day!

Sling It

After a months wait, the weekend was finally here. I was headed up to Thackerville Oklahoma to shoot some photos of my good friend JB and his son in a cross country race series they participate in, known as the TCCRA. As the week came to a close, weather reports were all saying we were in for a good soaking the coming Sunday. Perfect. That was race day. Now, most people would dread the idea of doing any outdoor activity in the middle of a thunderstorm. But I knew cross country dirt bike racing takes on an all new dimension when you mix those bikes, with dirt and then throw in a little (or a lot) of water.

JB informed me his race was the first of the morning, starting at 9am. I accepted the reality that I would not be able to get myself out of bed early on a cold, rainy Sunday morning and drive 45 minutes north into Oklahoma to find a rural race track. So I decided to camp out with JB and his family in their RV, at the track. Wise decision on my part. Saturday evening was gorgeous. Warm temps, perfect sunset with clear skies. But at 4am I was awoken by the loud crack of thunder, followed by a torrential downpour which lasted all the way till the race start time. And with the rain came a cold front. Saturday's temperature was a balmy 85f. I stepped out of the RV camper and into windy 40f temps with monsoon-like passing rain showers. The rain held off just in time for the start of the event, which had to be delayed as they re-routed the course because some parts were impassable now.

Even though I had brought a few cold weather clothing items, I was woefully un-prepared for this change in temperature. I layered pretty much everything I brought with me and headed out with my camera gear. The race course was just as I suspected... a muddy quagmire which always makes for some amazing action photos, but would make for a challenging day for me as well. After being outside for just a few minutes, the rain started. I could only stand there thinking, this is going to be a long, cold wet, miserable day. It was just then that JB's wife Diana offered an extra rain poncho for me to use. THANK YOU!! Now I was able to prevent my clothes and camera gear from being soaked to the core. I then moved to the starting line and got on with my day of photographing the event. It's so much more easy to concentrate on the task at hand when you're not shivering and soaking wet.

Now, I want to take a moment for a bit of gear talk. My main equipment for the day was my Canon 7D, with an attached Canon BG-E7 battery grip. I only used two lenses all day, the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS. According to Canon all of these items are "Weather Sealed" which was actually a strong selling point for me when I first bought the 7D. But, I'd never truly put it to the test. Today was about to change that. By the end of the day I can honestly attest to the weather resistance of the camera body and lenses. I stood out there shooting in virtually non-stop rain, ranging from light drizzle to a complete downpour. I hid the camera under my rain poncho when not shooting. But it was fully exposed to the elements when I did shoot. I used the sleeve of my hoodie to wipe down the camera body when I could. But other than that, it was pretty much soaked. The 7D didn't even blink. No errors, no lock ups... it just worked. Even the next day after it all dried off, it still operated completely normal. It's a huge relief to know the camera can take that kind of punishment and not fail. So if you were ever wondering what exactly "Weather Sealed" meant, shooting in a steady rain, falls under that category.

As for my cameras set-up for the day, my goal was to freeze this high speed sport the best I could. I wanted to capture as much detail in the bikes, riders and flying mud as possible, but still use the telephotos lens to separate them from the background. For the most part, I kept the 7D set to Aperture priority mode. Focus mode set to AI Servo so it could track fast moving subjects and the drive mode set to high-speed burst. Although the 7D shoots a blazing 8fps, I really only shoot in bursts of 3 to 5 on average. From those shots I can usually pick out the one I'm looking for which best captures the moment. I kept my aperture at f/3.2 for most of the day. A lot of people seem to think you can only get a nice DoF by keeping the lens set on f/2.8. This isn't true with a telephoto and shooting at f/3.2 enabled me to lock focus on the bikes numberplate and get most of the bike and the rider in sharp focus. It also gets the aperture into a sharper range than the wide open f/2.8. But at the same time is a wide enough aperture to maintain a speedy shutter. Obviously, a high shutter speed was important in this type of motor sport and on this very cloudy and very overcast rainy day, I had to really bring the ISO up. I found the sweet spot to be ISO2000. This allowed me to keep a shutter speed of 1/1000 or better throughout the day. Because of the sport and the camera's ability, I wasn't really worried about digital noise which can come from shooting at a high ISO. I knew it would blend in well with the editing style I had in mind for the photos.

Images were shot in RAW and processed in Adobe Lightroom 3. I use a couple presets which I use as a starting point, then I tweak each image for the desired effect and adjust highlights, darks and color tones in order to try and capture the intense, gritty feel of off road racing in bad weather.

I actually left the event a little early. My pant legs were soaked from having no cover from the poncho. My hands were numb from not having any gloves and the rain showers were getting more intense. I had taken plenty of photos and I was just exhausted. After I got home I heard it started hailing before the end of the event. Glad I came home. :) Overall it was a blast to photograph. Big thanks to my friend JB and his wife for letting me crash in their RV the night before the race.

So long... until my next adventure!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Clearance by Thorpeland
Clearance, a photo by Thorpeland on Flickr.

A quick, short posting for tonight. I was recently invited by my friend Beau to come along with him to his daughters final track meet of the season. Since Id never photographed a track & field event before, I jumped at the chance! Although I was restricted to the side lines I had a good time shooting and was able to get quite close to the action. One thing about shooting track compared to other team sports is with track, you know exactly where the athletes are going to be and where they're headed. Which made it much easier to photograph than say... ice hockey.

Anyhow, the weather was great and with the event happening with some nice evening light, I was able to capture some nice images. And, Beau was happy to see the photo's I took of his daughter in her final track event of the year.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Photographers Portrait

Just a quick post here to introduce one of my favorite Flickr photographer friends. This is Jennifer Sosa. She is a very talented wedding and lifestyle photographer from New York City. She was recently in Texas to shoot a wedding and we had the opportunity to hang out. I was really happy I got the chance to show here Denton Texas.. where I live. Great seeing you again Jen! Looking forward to getting to see some cool sites next time I make it up to NYC again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rock The House!!

The 35 Conferette 2011

This past weekend I attended my first 35 Conferette (No, not Confederate)here in Denton. This is a music event with over 100 bands playing in bars, coffee shops and on stages in the center of Denton over a 4 day span. If you enjoy live rock music, this was not to be missed! Now, I believe this is only the third year of this music events short life. But it grew leaps and bounds from last years when it was known as NX35. Last year I didn't even know it was going on until the coffee shop I was sitting in told me I had to leave because they were about to start a show only for those who had already paid. Um, excuse me?? This year, they had outdoor stages setup, streets closed off and made more of an effort to advertise what was going on. I still don't think many people really knew, because everyone I asked during the week if they were going looked at me and said "going to what"? I have a feeling next years "35C" will be even bigger than this and will get more attention. I really hope so.

Ok so my experience. It ROCKED! I'll admit, wrist bands (which give you access) were a bit on the pricey side compared to a normal Denton music festival. Yeah I know all you 35C die-hards are screaming "But SXSW is like $200!". Well, this isn't Austin and this is nothing near or like SXSW (South by Southwest). So paying around $95 after tax for the 4 day wrist band is a shocker for those who aren't college kids in the know, or die hard indie rock music fans. But, I still really wanted to experience this event and get some photos. I bought a one day pass ($73) and headed out with my camera gear at noon, determined to make this a marathon day of music and photography.... and by George get my monies worth! :)

I arrived at the Denton town square, picked up my wrist band and a band schedule. The first band started playing shortly on the "Square Stage", I had no idea who they were but started snapping a few shots anyhow. I quickly realized how many of the bands start times were overlapping and if I wanted to get photos of all or most of them, I'd need to really hustle. So, I spent from noon till somewhere around 1:30am bouncing from stage to stage all over central Denton. I was tired, sweaty, pretty stinky and even a little sore. But it was worth it! I discovered some really great music and captured some good images from the day. I got to meet up with some good friends and even made some new ones. Most of the day my ears were ringing and I was bounced around by dancing crowds, but that was fun! I ended up shooting somewhere around a 1000 photos, which later narrowed down to a few dozen I was really happy with. This can really be an epic experience for those willing to really get out there and enjoy live music at its best.

Now that I know what the event is all about and how it works, I think im going to try to make all four days next year. I think one of the positive results about the event price was unlike other Denton music festivals, at this one I didn't have to fight my way through an endless traffic jam of family's pushing baby strollers and dragging their kids in-tow. It was really a crowd of true music lovers and people who really wanted to be there for what it was. Which was nice. Now that its said and done, I can honestly say this was the best music event I've been to in Denton since moving here and by far the most fun and memorable. Im already ready for next years 35C!!

Check out my flickr for a few more images from the day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Behind the Scenes
Photowalk Meetups are one of the best things you can do with other photography friends! The only problem is, such an event requires lots of time, planning and schedule arrangements. Or does it? Enter the wonderful world of photographers and Twitter. This particular photowalk meetup was arranged in a matter of a couple hours, less than a day before it occurred. It was Saturday evening and while driving I saw the tweet come through from fellow photog Kevin Hail (@khail) asking who would be up for such an event the next day since the weather here in Dallas was to be beautiful. Immediately replies began to fly back and forth as everyone interested tweeted their availability and interest. Just two hours later the event was a "GO" and my Sunday afternoon now had plans. Not an email sent, not a phone call made... not even an Evite created. Just awesome.

Many of my friends laugh at my use of Twitter and say they just don't understand it. Today's event is a prime example of its power and usefulness. In such a short amount of time on a very short notice, photography friends scattered all over the city were able to arrange a fun event. Let this be a note to those not in the-know. It works. ;)

And a fun day it was! With temps in the mid-70's and clear sunny skies we all met up in the Deep Ellum area of downtown Dallas. Kevin was nice enough to bring out his rolling suitcase of photography gear, which included flashes, a softbox and reflectors. Virtually everything you need for a mobile studio! But, not only did he bring the gear, he brought a his wife and model/photographer, Amanda. We all spent the afternoon just wanting the streets, stopping to shoot whatever caught our eye or for Amanda to pose when we found an interesting backdrop. The streets of the Deep Ellum area scattered with artistic colorful walls and painted murals. Literally a photographers dream. And we weren't the only people with this idea. All day long we must have seen 20+ other people wandering the streets with cameras and some doing actual photoshoots for clients. The area was really buzzing and it felt so nice to finally get out and shoot in good weather.

Well I'm really looking forward to our next meet-up. As we begin to enter the spring time, so many more locations open up as options. Stay tuned as I am sure I'll be posting photos and blogging about the day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dallas Photowalk, Hosted by Brian Braun!

On Cloud 9

While browsing the DFW Metro flickr group last week I came across a photo by local Dallas photog Brian Braun promoting a photo walk he was organizing. I'd been itching to go on one of these so I jumped at the chance of course! Being that it was January and the weather has been a bit dodgy lately, I wasn't sure if we'd get to hold the event or if we did, how many would even show up. With a light rain falling, I loaded up my gear and drove down to downtown Big D determined to take photos even if I had to wonder the streets by myself!

To my pleasant surprise, I pulled up in the parking lot to see a few other photogs already gathering. I quickly recognized "The Braun", organizer of the day as he flashed his friendly smile and a peace sign as I got out of my car. I then knew the event was on! Shortly after I arrived, quite a few others began to pull up and park. This was turning into a decent sized turn out and I knew it would be a fun day. Just as I had hoped.

With no real destination, our group first made our way to a multi-level parking garage with the idea of getting to the top floor and shooting some scenic downtown shots. A thick low fog made this difficult and most of downtown was engulfed in it. So after a few minutes we all headed back down to the ground floor. We were met with a surprise. The garage security gate had closed, trapping us inside! We were just about to all start climbing through the side of the gate, when a car pulled up and the gentleman had an access card. We were saved!

We continued our walk for another couple hours, moving to various location, stopping to shoot for a while at each. By the end, this group of strangers all felt like old friends. I guess thats not a difficult task when everyone has such a common interest like photography. From what ive seen, everyone came away with some really cool photots. One thing about photowalks which always fascinates me is how we all will shoot the same scenes, but everyone has their own take on it. Different angles and different ways they post process gives each photo a life of its own.

Big thanks to Brian Braun ( for putting this together. And a friendly shout out to all the great fellow photogs I met yesterday! I hope we have another one of these in the coming months as it warms up. It was definitely a blast!

Here's a few of the photo's I took during the event. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Long, Dusty Road

Long, Dusty Road
Originally uploaded by Thorpeland
I recently accompanied my good friend JB to the cross country race series he participates in. I always try to come out and shoot the action if they are racing somewhat local to me. This race was only about 30 minutes from me, so I packed up the gear and headed out for a day of dirt, 2-stroke fumes and race action.

Unlike the past events of this type Id shot, i wanted to shoot this with a bit of a different perspective. Not just shoot the riders going by and jumping. But this time include an artistic element into action photography. These past months Ive been inspired by an excellent professional sports photographer who in many ways I consider a mentor. His name is Ryu Voelkel and he truly is a master of his craft. In his words, he strives to "... Make sports photography more beautiful". I kept this motto in mind as I spend the day shooting the race event. Always looking for unusual angles and perspectives, breaking away from the ordinary and including more of the environment in frame. Ryu has really opened my eyes to a new way shooting action sports. And while he mainly shoots soccer (football), his photography philosophy really can translate to any sport. You can see some of his work here--> . Not only has "toksuede" motivated me with his photography. But he's a super nice, down to Earth guy who has always been nice enough to respond to every email ive sent him, answering all my questions. You won't find many full time pro photogs willing to do that. So I am eternally grateful for his patience with me. :)

So, I spent the day laying on my belly shooting, hanging off of tree's to get more over the track, firing away with the camera up in the air trying to catch something unique and analyzing my photos in post for interesting crops. Its really changed the way I think of shooting action sports. I think everyone should find a mentor in the type of photography they want to do. It gives you new goals to reach for and helps you see things in a new light. And right when you think you've shot that same old subject to death and nothing can make it look anymore interesting, your mentors work will have you going back through all your old shots to see what you could have done different.

I can't wait to shoot other sports and apply this same type of thinking. I really believe it's the key to expanding my photography skills and opening the door to a new level of work. I feel a lot of great photography opportunities on the horizon for 2011 and many great photo's to come out of them!