Being a kid again: The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

What kid doesn’t love balloons? My daughter, who recently turned six has an obsession with them. Any mildly important date of note whether it’s a birthday, Mother’s Day, Saturday, etc. all days deserve a plethora of balloons to float about the house and eventually become awkward volleyballs for living-room sports. The first of October brought us a similar set of circumstances, except that we couldn’t later take the balloons with us as most of them were larger than our home.

Having run for over 40 years now, the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival is the largest hot-air balloon showing in the world, with most years having over 500 hot-air balloons roll into the sky during the nine day event. Odd as it is, even though I had lived in New Mexico most of my life, I’d never actually made it out to one. So this year we packed up the Jeep and made the drive figuring it would make for a fun way to celebrate the kiddo’s birthday.

While I thoroughly enjoyed myself, I didn’t happen to really get a shot that “did it” for me. I had some decent ones, but over all the scope of the festival and my location left a little to be desired. I could have been down on the ground level which is where my wife and daughter were, but I wanted to get a slightly higher position so I could cat a good wide angle shot of the mass ascension (where all the balloons launch within a few minutes of each other). I though a view of the city, and the balloons spread across it would be good, and I didn’t want to take the same photo everyone else was taking either. In the end, here’s what I got, and while it could have been better photo wise, the weekend was enjoyable and relaxing and the Kiddo ended up having a great time. Which is really what matters.

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On the ride back I happened to snap a couple of pictures I was a little happier with including this one:

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I’m actually pretty happy with how that one came out, so the trip wasn’t a total photography bust. That’s all I’ve got for now. There are a few more things in the works, and as I get them together, I’ll be sure to post about them. Be sure to check out the storefront for prints if you see anything you’d like to own! As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 2: The Sunshine State

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this yet! As it turns out, the reason you never read about the second half of our family road trip is because it somehow got axed out of my pending post list. Whoops! Nonetheless, here’s the details:

After spending some time with family, we made the long trip out towards Santa Cruz, California. When we set out I figured it would be a drive, but I had no idea just how long and exhausting it was. We did get to cruise along the route 66 for a bit which was fun, and stopped at this quirky gas station somewhere in the west-Arizona/East-California mess:

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Once we got into California, it got so hot and miserable that I wasn’t sure if I could do it in one swing like I had hoped. In fact we actually had to stop a little town called Bakersfield to spend the night and make the last few hour drive the next morning. That night was largely uneventful. We drove around a 3 block radius trying to find a hotel with some vacancies in it which took a while, then grabbed some IHOP as it was the only place still open at 10:30 at night. Apparently. the town rolls up its streets around 8:30, and is dead most of the time. But since there was a wildfire going through most of Northern California, a lot of the fire fighters were staying in Bakersfield.

We got up the next morning and shoved off hoping to see some beach before too long. When we got in around lunch time, we stopped at a little Choice Hotel near the boardwalk and took the first room available as I didn’t want to fight to find one later. Once that was done, we headed over to the boardwalk to take in some sweet sweet ocean living.

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Thursday and Friday were spent lounging on the beach and hunting for shells/sand dollars for the kiddo but I did manage a few good shots when we toured the wharf.

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Of course one of things I was really looking forward too was finding the Kraken piping, which was something I’d heard about online and it was an even cooler sculpture in person:

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Saturday was spent driving around the Santa Cruz area trying to find more stuff to take pictures of. The entire reason I had planned the trip out that way was to hit up Natural Arches State Beach, but when the kiddo and I got there, it was crowded, dirty, and consisting of only a single small arch covered in seagulls. The disappointment was super real. However, while the main objective was a total bust, the rest of the trip was incredible. Even the Saturday excursion ended up with some pretty strong shots.

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Better yet, the waves seemed to be good (not that I could tell if they weren’t) as there was a pretty decent number of people surfing. I opted to stop along the walkway and see if I could snatch a couple pictures of some sweet wave action and ended up with a few I was happy with.

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I really enjoyed the feeling of the top two images as they are part of a large memorial to those who have been lost while surfing, and in the spirit of the sport, the rules of sharing the ocean so that everyone can enjoy the waves. The other shots were of various surfers either scouting the landscape or riding out the end of a pretty large wave.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. We hung around in the evening and ordered in pizza to the hotel as everyone was sunburned and tired. I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea since we were going to be driving back to Ogden on Sunday morning. The drive home was uneventful. There were a few places in Nevada I would have stopped at to snap some photos, but I was tired and had been on vacation much too long at that point. I just really wanted to get home and sleep in my own bed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I’ve enjoyed taking them. In the spirit of the Santa Cruz surfers: Be good to each other, and until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Epic Family Roadtrip #2, Part 1: The Land of Enchantment

Wednesday June 22nd at an ungodly hour of the night, My wife and I loaded up the car and started the long drive down to Albuquerque, NM to spend the next few days with her family. Her grandparents had put together a family reunion of sorts and we figured we could lump that and some time with her parents in together as the first leg of our trip.

The drive itself is around ten hours if you don’t stop at all, but since we need things like food, water, and gas for the car (not to mention the occasional stop for a photo-op), it is in reality around 12 hours. However, even though it’s insanely long and not terribly interesting at 2:30 in the morning when it’s too dark to see, the sunrise on Thursday outside of Monticello, UT was super worthwhile:

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It’s also only the second time I got to break out the new camera. I recently (about three days prior) had upgraded into a full frame Sony A7Rii. The only shot I had managed to take with it prior to the road trip (that was salvagable) was this one:

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I snapped this one from Willard Bay on Tuesday night as my wife and I drove around the greater Ogden area trying to catch the sunset. Of course, all that is neither here nor there.

The rest of the drive into New Mexico was fairly uneventful as I tried to sleep for most of it. I’ve always found New Mexico to be fairly ugly –largely the opposite of picturesque. I’m sure a lot of that has to do with having grown up here and spending roughly twenty plus years of my life in various parts of the state. Once you’ve kind of seen everything a place has to offer it tends to lose its luster. Given that, I haven’t really broken out the camera a whole lot on this initial leg of the trip as there isn’t a lot that inspires me to take any pictures. I did however feel that it would be worth getting up one of the mornings while we were up in Los Alamos to try and catch the sunrise. The reason being, is that the mountains sit fairly low on the horizon from the vantage point of the east canyon you drive up to get into town. So that mixed with a valley and the few trees that have managed to thrive in this barren wasteland of a state looked like it might be worth an early morning. As it turns out, it was. I managed a 4-shot panorama that came out surprisingly well:

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While it isn’t going to crack into my top tier of photos I’ve taken, it was pretty good considering how biased I am against the aesthetic value of the state as a whole.

The trip however has been anything but a bust though, as we’ve gotten to spend some time with family, in which I repeatedly put my foot in my mouth trying to be funny. We got the chance to see some friends we haven’t seen in a while and catch up/reminisce about the olden days; and on Tuesday we went down to the Albuquerque Zoo/Bio Park, to take the kiddos (our child, and my wife’s little sister who’s eleven now) out for a fun filled afternoon of complaining about how hot it is, and how much their feet hurt. I even managed to take some pictures while I was there and ended up with a few winners:

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As for the next stage, Wednesday morning finds us heading out super early in order to make it to Santa Cruz as the second leg of the trip will involve lying on a beach and enjoying the sun. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to that. So the next post will likely come on Sunday or Monday pre-4th once I’ve gone through those photos and recharged the batteries on both my gear and myself enough to write another post. As always, until next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Denver Trip part 3: The Long Ride Home

By the time we were pulling back into our apartment complex on Monday night, it had felt like spent just as much time on the road as we did in Denver. While I generally dislike driving, this particular trip home wasn’t as bad as it usually feels largely in part to the number of detours we took. We had decided to take a different route home instead of the usual drive across the southern part of Wyoming, which is a barren hellscape lacking any sense of photo worthiness. This time involved a drive down the I-70 and then cut off onto the 13 which was a much longer drive but also substantially more scenic. The highway 13 involved a long winding mountain road that ran along a railroad and the Eagle River, which gave me plenty to stop and shoot.

Our first stop however was in the city of Vail, which is a tourist community much like Park City here in Utah. It’s primary function is a ski-town, and it spends most of the spring and fall closed for the “offseason”. While that meant most of the shops that weren’t selling t-shirts and nick-knacks were closed, the city itself was still exceptionally pretty and worth meandering around for. I also found yet another super creepy mannequin:

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Aside from turning a corner to have as soul-eating beast greet me in the sweatshirt aisle of a store, there happened to be a river that ran through the middle of town that made for some solid relaxing scenery:

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Once we left Vail and merged into the heart of our trip, we found a few pretty sweet spots to pull off and snap some photos. Here’s what came of the trip home:

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Even though it was almost 12 hours to get home, I had an excellent time and it made for a great finish to a wonderful weekend away with my wife.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our excursion into the wilds of Denver, Colorado. I should have some new prints up in the shop later this week from all the other things I have been taking pictures of since getting home as well. As always, until next time — Thanks for reading!
-D

Denver Trip part 2: Buildings and Patterns

As I mentioned in the last post, I really wanted to try my hand at shooting things I don’t normally when I go out. So with this trip and some pre-planning, I found a few antiquated buildings I thought would be perfect to try my hand at the architecture side of things. What I ended up shooting was very little on the “super old church” side of things (although there are a couple of shots of them) and more on the new flashy skyscraper side. The endeavor proved fruitful I suppose as not only did I get some pretty sweet photos, I managed to teach myself a thing or two about composition. I am trying to be less of a “spray and pray” photographer and be a little more fastidious when shooting photos. What it has done for me is let me get better composed shots, and cuts WAY down on the amount of time I have to post process something.

With that all being said, here’s some cool buildings and their subsequent accouterments:

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Clearly I have a thing for towers and clocks. I’m sure there is something meant by this in the writings of Freud; Nonetheless, here are the non-clock/non-tower accouterments I mentioned previously:

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The second shot there was one on my checklist (neon sign) and I was really hoping to do it in Black and White, but that posed two problems, 1) When converting to monochrome in Lightroom, a ton of the detail in the sign vanished making the letters harder to distinguish; and 2) it didn’t have the feeling I wanted it too. So I left it in color and I think it came out alright.

For the second half of this post I wanted to cover the patterns side of the trip. With these I don’t think they came out quite as well as the building half of things, but it is an interesting style of photography and one that I may focus on more in the future as a means of learning new ways to compose images. Here’s some patterns I found interesting:

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What I like about the last two shots of this grouping is their history. These were taken in a Methodist church in downtown that was build in the mid 1800s. And minus a few electrical fixtures here and there, it is largely the same building according to the pastor (who was kind enough to give my wife and I an impromptu tour). The seats are from right before the turn of the century and the mechanism by which they open and close is as ornate as it is Goldburg-ian. The organ, which is from the 1870s still works to this day and is used in every Sunday service. It was truly a magnificent piece of work.

Well that’s all for this one, I hope you enjoyed reading along and be sure to check back in next time when I post my third and final installment on the Denver series about our trip back. As always, untill next time –Thanks for reading!
-D

Denver Trip Part 1: Downtown Denver

Last weekend my Wife and I took a trip to Denver to celebrate our anniversary and drop off the kiddo with her grandparents. Prior to this trip during the planning stage of locating a hotel and finding the fun tourist-y stuff we wanted to do I also set out to build a list of photos I’d like to take. Those included (but weren’t limited too): Patterns, Architecture, some Street shots, and especially I wanted to detour on the way back for some landscape photos.

Over the course of the weekend I managed to knock out all of the different types I was shooting for, some with better results than others obviously. But, I did get at least one fun shot in each category so that worked out well overall.

For this post I’ll cover the street side of things and try to spread out the massive amount of photos I took into a few posts.

While we were in town we stuck mainly to the downtown area as there was quite a bit of stuff happening over the weekend and being centralized would let us get to it all. Saturday night was primarily finding food (as we had driven in that morning) and some form of entertainment as it would be night number one without the kiddo. We settled on food at the Paramount and music at Jazz @ Jack’s. The jazz place was pretty sweet and the food was alright. I’d forgotten how much of a beating getting drinks at a bar was.

Once we got some sleep and a recharge, we set out Sunday to explore the city and see what I could take photo wise. Here’s what I caught:

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One of the better things about downtown big cities on the weekend is all the street performers out trying to make some extra cash. Much like here in Ogden, Denver’s main drag is line with fun painted pianos for everyday folk to play and they were definitely getting used. Some by college kids, other by the homeless, but everyone I walked by seemed to know what they were doing, which was cool.

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Of course, I can’t go anywhere without picking up some kind of art thing. I really should join a group or something. Luckily for me, there was a phenomenal spray paint artist who was making some crazy cool stuff. When I spoke to the guy with her about buying something, he gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I ended up buying a couple of things.

So that’s it for the street portion of this excursion. I’ll post the next installment here in the next couple of days. As always, thanks for reading!
-D

THERE’S NO TIME!

2015 was an excellent year overall. Kiddo started learning to read, I got to take some sweet photo trips, I got a new job working with Google, and I’ve learned a ton when it comes to picture taking. One of those things, is how to find inspiration where none really exists. I can safely say there were probably a half dozen points this year when I had the time and opportunity to get out and shoot but felt completely unmotivated to do so, so instead I would stay home and play on my phone, or surf the web or something else. Really, anything else. It sucked because I knew I should be out taking some kind of photo. For most of the year, my time to do photography was always limited by some outside factor: Work, Family etc. So being blasé about it made me not only unproductive, but sad.

However, being the man of silver-linings that I am, I started to use that downtime more constructively. Even though I wasn’t shooting, I could still be doing something photography related. So instead of taking pictures, I’d find myself pacing about the house brainstorming photo shoot ideas, or new photography projects. Basically things I knew I’d likely not get the chance to do, but at least my creative juices were flowing. Usually if I had a few days off, I could spend the first one puttering and brainstorming, then for whatever reason I was always really excited to just go out and shoot anything the next day. It was a true Christmas miracle of sorts (minus it happening in like May).

The reason for all that rambling above, is to introduce a new photo project I’ll be working on this year. I am pretty excited about it and hope it will turn out as well as I imagined on my insanely long car ride this last weekend. Which of course was the other half of my inspiration.

More backstory:

I HATE DRIVING. I really do. It is one of the most inefficient forms of travel invented in the last 100 years, but since it often costs a fifth of as much to drive somewhere as to fly, my over-arching frugality wins the war of things I hate and I end up driving. This last weekend I drove into Denver and back to pick up my kiddo from her grandparents and in the 16+ hours of highway driving I had what I felt was a great idea.

Behold, my 2016 photo project: THERE IS NO TIME!

The idea of this project is to shoot interesting photos from the front seat of the car. Most of them will likely end up blurry and awful, but as with this trip sometimes you get a winner (or two):

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So for the rest of this year, anytime I am driving, I’ll be also snapping photos along the way and trying to post-process at least one good shot and add it too the collection. I’d also like to get other photographers involved in the project and see what kinds of things people will come up with. So be on the lookout for more posts like this one with pseudo-decent photos from the driver’s seat.

As for the name of the project, I feel like that stems from this weird quirk of mine when it comes to road trips. Since I hate driving so much, I try to get it over with as fast as possible. So while I could (and probably should) be stopping periodically to pull over and shoot some, I tend to just roll straight through only stopping for gas. I never feel like I have time to stop and enjoy the scenery. While I know that on some level it isn’t true, my utter contempt for the road creates an anxiety in me that forces the narrative of the hurry-up-and-get-there ideology.

What I find most uplifting about this potential process, is it’s something I’ve always done since I got a camera. In fact some of my favorite shots from when I first started shooting were like that. So, this seems like it bodes well. Here’s one in case you’re curious:

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With all that being said, this is one of a couple projects I want to get done this year, so be on the look out for those and as always:

Until next time, Thanks for reading!
-D