Texas, its been a while

Redesigning the website from scratch and sorting through a library of a couple hundred thousand images is the “spring cleaning” we have needed to do for a couple of springs now. While this hasn’t left a lot of time for photography, it has made me go back in time and revisit some of the coolest experiences of my nature photography career so far.

Back in 2008 I was honored to be a competitor in the ICF Pro-tour competition. This has been one of the defining experiences of my career so far, a mentally and physically challenging month of nothing but nature photography. But, as great an experience as it was, I have not really looked back through those images since I did my final photo selection for competition submission.   Maybe it was the challenge of picking out the 60 images for my final portfolio from the nearly 13,000 I took that month. Or maybe it was the challenge of picking out prickly pear spines from my knees with pliers, man the ranch had a lot of those things.   But, whatever the reason, its been  good to go back through those old images, and relive the many moments from that month in Texas.   jhahn-dragonflies_58V1035-Edit-4

Through the Lens

This is one of the final images that I submitted as part of my portfolio in the Pro-tour. While making my daily circuit of the waterholes on the ranch, I found this little pond had hundreds of damselflies flying over it. I found a couple of pieces of grass sticking out of the water that these guys would regularly land on, and was fortunate to get these two landing and facing each other for a split second.

The big “problem” with this pic (and a lot of macro photography) is you have no reference point for scale on these guys. So, hold up your thumb. Measure from the tip down to the start of your first knuckle. That’s it, that’s how big they were.

This image was made using a 1D MkIII with a Tamron 180 macro lens at 1/320 sec, f/14 @ ISO400, aperture priority (Av), +2/3 exp comp, handheld laying on belly on the bank of the pond, slowly sinking into some fairly smelly mud…

Usually I work off of a tripod, it results in crisper shots, less fatigue, and fewer missed opportunities.  However, there are times when the tripod just plain gets in the way of getting the shot you have pictured in your mind’s eye, and you have to come up with other solutions.  The shot I wanted was eye level at close to the water’s surface, and the tripod I was using at the time just could not go that low.  So I laid down on my chest in the mud at water’s edge and inched forward until my elbows were in the water, bracing the camera just above water level.  With both elbows on the ground, I could still hold the camera very stable, and also get the angle I was looking for.  Taking this shot from higher on the tripod would have lead to a more cluttered background and given a top down view I didn’t like as much in contrast to this more intimate eye level view.  Would this work in every situation?  Probably not.  But here I had plenty of light to work with giving me good shutter speed even at the small apertures I was working with, and a way to lock the camera against myself to control my focus point and depth of field.

On the Headphones

Nutshell by Alice In Chains on Unplugged (Live)

I finally saw Alice in Chains in concert last year, at the spring 98 Rockfest.  And it just wasn’t quite what I hoped.  While it would be hard for anyone to follow the blistering set Stone Sour put on, it just didn’t live up to what I was expecting.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that they didn’t put on a good show, it wasn’t what they did or didn’t do on stage, it was who was missing.

Its tough to see  torment in other artists, I think for us reflective creative types it just hits a little harder when we lose someone who inspires us with their talent and vision.  Everyone has a soundtrack to their life, mine features a lot of music with the cutting vocals of Layne Staley.  Hearing those same songs coming from someone else was tough.  I wish I had seen him before his downward spiral and early exit from this world.  I wish he had been able to tame his demon’s and share his art with us just a little longer.

Man, getting a little dark today, time to lighten things up.

On the Plate

Grilled Chicken Thighs with a Mole Rub.  Marinate it in OJ and Cilantro for a couple hours, then hit it with the rub; equal parts salt, pepper, sugar, cocoa powder, smoked paprika and chile powder.  On the Weber (its charcoal or nothing in this house)  for about 30 min, indirect heat.  pop them over to the coals for the last five to crisp up the skin.  Cook a couple extras, the leftovers will rock on quesadillas.

On Tap

Harp, still working through the leftover’s from St. Pat’s Day.  Pairs surpringly well with the chicken, the bitterness in the beer finds a good match in the sweet/bitter of the rub.

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