2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Fall Melody

There’s not much I can say about this image. It was made deliberately but casually as my first effort at “contemplative photography”, expressing a feeling rather than providing information. To me it was an expression of the flow and movement of fall, with the stem curving downward with golden leaves swaying from it.

I realized that this is one of the most satisfying photos I’ve ever created, and it was taken in my own back yard.

So, look around you and find the simple joys you may not have noticed before.

Be at peace, and be blessed. I am.

I was in the Penitentiary for a while

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Penitentiary Hollow at Lake Mineral Wells State Park

This place has been my runaway location of choice for several years. It’s an hour and a half from our home in northeast Dallas, about the same as driving into East Texas. So why not go to the piney woods of East Texas? Because Lake Mineral Wells State Park is a truly unique environment.

I’ve always loved the rugged landscape of west Texas, and Fort Worth is “Where the West begins.” Besides the stereotypical Texas tumbleweeds and Mesquite trees there, cacti bloom in season and the native grasses are exquisite in the waning sunset light. Deer can always be seen at sundown.

But that’s still not the main draw for me.

I go for the rocks. “The rocks!?” you may ask. Yes, the rocks.

SOME NATURAL HISTORY: Just a few million years ago, most of Texas was submerged under an ancient shallow sea. As creatures died in that sea, they fell to the sediment floor and mixed with the sandy bottom, a sedimentary bottom that was quite deep in places. As the waters receded, that sediment formed sandstone, which can be seen in many places in north Texas.

That sandstone layer is forty to sixty feet deep in the area now known as Lake Mineral Wells State Park! That stoney mass is partly above ground now. With the passage of time (many thousands of years) massive blocks of sandstone have been separated by repeated freeze/thaw cycles.

That place at LMWSP has been named Penitentiary Hollow. So, I’ve been in the Pen many times. 😉

WHY I GO THERE: Visiting LMWSP for me is like looking up at the stars on a country night. You stand there in awe of the created universe. If you’re a city slicker who has never experienced the Milky Way on a clear country night you are missing a true wonder.

I get that same feeling by looking at a sixty-foot wall of sandstone or a smooth granite pebble. Both were formed by eons of natural forces – a span of time that boggles the imagination. My perception of God expands as I try to imagine millions of years and the beauty of this world created for my enjoyment (“Do not trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 1Timothy 6:17).

Let me describe how these granite stones were formed. Granite is an aggregate formed from various types of stone and quartz crushed by earthquakes and volcanic action. As it is forced to the surface, possibly by glacier movement or erosion, it becomes subject to the elements. Winter freezes, torrential rains and spring thawing reduces huge stone masses to smaller pieces. River and lake wave action then smoothes it to form, in some cases, tiny marbles of granite.

Now, just imagine how long it takes for all of that to happen. Longer than I can imagine!

IF YOU GO: The park is west of Weatherford, four miles east of Mineral Wells on U.S. 180 and about a half hour drive from Fort Worth. The entrance fee is $5 a day per person. Park amenities include a Park Store, boat and canoe rentals, bike and hiking trails, fishing and swimming, and of course rock climbing. Overnight accommodations (for an additional fee) include primitive camping, equestrian camping, RV sites and screened shelters. Contact the park office for details.

Park phone is 940/328-1171 – their web site: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/lake_mineral_wells/

Another link with a map of Penitentiary Hollow and a great slide show: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=904914

This park can be as docile or as rugged as you like. But the scenery is always magnificent.

Do you have a favorite north Texas getaway? Please tell me about it in the comments section.

For more on my photography adventures, “like” my Facebook page. Thank you!

I REMEMBER DOWNTOWN DALLAS

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I REMEMBER DOWNTOWN DALLAS

Dallas and the downtown area in particular hold a special charm for me that goes back to my teen years. I was born and raised in Oak Cliff, which originally was a town founded before Dallas. After grade school, I attended Jesuit High School on Oak Lawn.

As a young freshman I enjoyed the adventure of riding a city bus from Oak Cliff to downtown Dallas then transferring to the Oak Lawn bus. As this ritual continued into my junior year, I was constantly fascinated by the downtown district through the seasons.

Near the east end of town on Elm Street is the historic Majestic Theater. My wife Susan still remembers the favorite sundress she wore to ride the bus downtown with a girl friend to see the “new” Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964.

Long before that my Grandfather Moll was employed at the Majestic. He couldn’t read a lick of music, but he sure could play the piano! Which he did with gusto during the silent movies. He’d play softly for romantic scenes then spirited tunes for car chases.

I would have loved to see that!

 

In the 1960s, the Magnolia Building was visible from miles around, with its Pegasus in red neon spinning slowly at its top. Most Texans around here just called it the Flying Red Horse – and they still do. The red Pegasus was the logo of Magnolia Oil, the predecessor to Mobil Oil. By 1975 it failed to function and was in total disrepair, so it was completely restored in 1999 under strict historical preservation guidelines. Today it proudly stands and rotates again, even if it is dwarfed by newer skyscrapers.

Nearby on Houston Street is the Old Red County Courthouse, which locals simply call ‘Old Red’. This grand old building, built in 1892, has been completely restored and now houses the Old Red Museum and hosts civic activities of all kinds. As a kid, ‘Old Red’ was a grand and mysterious building to me. It still is.

On nearby Young Street is the original home of the Dallas Morning News. I was a carrier (newspaper boy) for the DMN in the 1960s. I didn’t get much of an allowance so my “newspaper money” provided pocket change and more. What I spent that money on I have no idea. Probably comic books, paper kites, movies and plastic car models. One thing I do remember is some of the characters I met on my route!

The west end of downtown included the old train station, also on Houston Street. The old Union Station is still there but like most parts of downtown, the buildings have been repurposed and renovated with a facelift and new surroundings. A new park and fountain now graces our old Union Station.

Downtown has changed a lot over the years. Gone are the old Walgreen’s Drug Store, KVIL Radio (we called it Kayville) and the numerous newsstands. The Sanger Harris Building where my Grandmother Maupin worked for many years became El Centro College where I was part of its first class.

Downtown was virtually dead for years until a Downtown Revitalization Program developed the Historic West End, new park spaces, Hyatt Regency Hotel/Reunion Tower complex, the Dallas World Aquarium, and Dart Rail. These and many other amenities brought new life and excitement to the area.

With many business returning and with new buildings going up everywhere needing employees, the increasing demand for housing was met with new residential properties. Lofts in Dallas? Yes! Lofts and condos and more.

Downtown Dallas is back!

Do you love the color and culture of Downtown Dallas? Or do you avoid it if possible? Please share your thoughts with a comment below. Thanks!

Cameras (people) don’t lie, or do they?

What makes a photo (or a person) real?

There is an old expression that “cameras don’t lie”. The camera is an unthinking, objective machine that simply records what is before it. Thus, the photograph it produces must be true – right? Wrong!

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Adobe® Photoshop® knows photos can be “faked” or “Photoshopped.” And faking photos has been done long before Photoshop was even a gleam in Adobe’s eye, as some photo hoaxes date back to the beginning of photography in 1840!

And of course modern photos are subject to being Photoshopped. In fact it is becoming quite common, even by “reputable” publications. This photo supposedly of Sarah Palin in a stars n stripes bikini toting a rifle made the rounds not long ago, and was debunked by Snopes.com.

Actually I love Photoshop. In my Photoshop edited photo, note the smoother skin, more texture in her dress, the softened background and the darkened edges in my bridal portrait of Yomara Steen – after Photoshop on the right. 


Check out the inspiring Photoshop work by the amazingly talented photo artists at http://www.worth1000.com/.

But what about “straight” photos that haven’t been Photoshopped. Are they true and accurate? Well, yes, and no.

Some photo purists say that a photo should never be cropped but should be displayed “full frame”. And that a 50mm lens is the “best” lens to use for photo accuracy since is best simulates the human range of vision. What do you say? Are all black and white photos fake because the real world is in color?

What is included and what is excluded from a photo can certainly skew the viewers perception of the “reality” depicted in the photo. A favorite Facebook cartoon depicts this well.

Bringing this down to a personal level, I’ve cringed at times at the statement, “I wish my real self was as cool as my online persona.” Ouch! I suppose many of us try to put our best foot forward and portray ourselves in the best light possible. We want to be “liked” figuratively (and literally on our Facebook fan pages). When someone LIKES my page http://www.facebook.com/maupinphoto, I feel more valuable and appreciated. The view we have of a person may be skewed somewhat like the cat photo above. So what is outside the borders of the photo may tell more than what is in the photo. Here’s another fat cat you may recognize, but the photo doesn’t show that he’s almost 80 pounds overweight. Creative cropping? Of course.

My social media coach, Jenna Ryan, encourages me to be transparent – to show the “real me.” That’s a scary thought. I must confess that I want people to see the best version of “me.” Maybe if people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me as much. But, the bottom line for me is that I want to be the best that God has planned for me to be. I am reminded of a favorite expression that I try to live by above all else:
“Character is who you are when no-one is watching.” So, how real are you online? Are you too cool for words? What do you think?

Have a great week, be cool, and be yourself!

Check out my Facebook page and share it if you “like”. 

100 “LIKES”

Well, I just hit the 100th “like” on my Facebook fan page: MaupinPhoto on Facebook THANK YOU!

A milestone of sorts though a small one compared to some of the Top Guns there. But for me it’s noteworthy, considering I only started that page about a month ago. if you would have asked me a month ago how many friends I had, it probably wouldn’t be 100 – maybe 20-30. Well, now I have 100 folks that “like” me. Granted, most are family and true friends who “liked” me because they like me. 😉  Some are just associates or new casual acquaintances. Truth be known, though I don’t really know many of them personally, they are precious to me. I appreciate each and every one of them, even my competitors who just want so see what I am up to next 😉

We all want to be liked and accepted. Don’t believe me? Where’s the first place you go on Facebook? That’s right – Notifications. Who has liked my posts? Who has posted on my wall? Who wants to be my friend?

None of that is bad. In fact it can be quite good:

  • Reconnecting with distant family members.
  • Finding former schoolmates and teachers.
  • Sharing ‘war stories’ with long lost old Army buddies.

Those are all great uses for FaceBook. But a lot of it not worth spending much time on. Do I really need to stay up too late watching just one more drag racing video? I just need to keep my balance.

Funny YouTube Vid

How do you keep your balance on FaceBook?

FACEBOOK FACTS:

  • More than 750 million active users
  • 30% of Facebook users check their Facebook each morning before getting out of bed.
  • 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.
So, has Facebook (or Twitter or LinkedIn) enhanced your life – your real life?

STAYING FOCUSED (or not)

STAYING FOCUSED (or not)

Photographers spend a lot of time and effort on FOCUS. And rightly so. We use terms like selective focus, follow focus and focus points. “Focus on the eyes, the windows to the soul.” After all, without focus our images would be haphazard collections of light captured on film or sensor.

Focusing on one part of a scene, as in “selective focus”, draws the viewer’s eye to whatever it is that caught the photographer’s eye in the first place. It causes the viewer to see the focused object clearly while everything else is a little blurry. In fact, selective focus is one of my favorite techniques. (This is accomplished by using a large aperture setting on the lens to create a small depth of field, which is the area that appears to be in focus.)


(Toyota Supra photographed at White Rock Lake)

Sometimes as photographers we want to portray a scene with everything in focus, such as a landscape or sunset. (Then we’ll use a small aperture on the lens for maximum depth of field.)


(Sunset over the Pacific coast)

REFOCUSING

Sometimes I lose my focus altogether and have to ’find my way again’. That seems to happen whenever I’ve gotten more undisciplined that usual, a little too irresponsible or a little selfish. Those things seem to throw me off course and I lose sight of what’s important in my life. Whenever I start getting off balance, I refocus on what’s most important to me – God and family. When I do, I regain balance and focus. It’s not about me.

And I discover that the joys of God and family are very much intertwined.


(Madison Kay Maupin, one hour old)

When something (someone) old is gone

We’ve all owned things we probably wish we still had. For us car nuts, it’s probably a car or truck we could kick ourselves for selling, wishing it were still around. This is about a group of cars I never owned, but I really miss them all the same.

A few summers back, my cousin Mike emailed me and said, “They are crushing the cars.” My heart sank for I knew exactly what he was talking about. He and I had seen them many times at the former Midway Drive-in Movie in Sweetwater Texas where he lives. That abandoned drive-in was the graveyard of some classic American iron, cars and trucks from the 40’s and 50s that hadn’t run in decades. I answered him back. “We’ve got to do something!” An hour later he replied “too late – they’re all gone – they only kept a couple at the junk yard across the street.”

My mind raced with what could have been done:

  • Buy the lot of them and sell them to collectors.
  • Advertise the parts for sale.
  • Restore some of the best ones.

No matter now – they were gone. Not that I could afford to do much with them anyway, but the thought of them all being crushed for scrap metal at 10 cents a pound was almost criminal.

Fortunately I had photographed them during a previous visit there. So all I have now is memories of that day seeing the cars, meeting the owner, and these photos:

I chuckle at the irony of this one – a flame-painted truck hood, once the pride and joy of a local hotrodder – now rusting in the bed of the truck.

We all have things we wish we had said or done differently in our pasts. But this is not about regrets, and guilt is the devil’s playground. Do I have anything important left unsaid or undone in my life? As long as I’m breathing, it’s not too late.

Two of my best photos ever

I often take photos for the same reason most people do – to remember something significant. In the summer of 2003 I took a ‘trip around Texas’ with my old Nikon and a bag of slide film. I stopped in 16 state, national and county parks in 6 days. Here are two of the treasures I found, both at the Gulf of Mexico.

These were both taken about 30 minutes after sundown. Words fail me, so I’ll just say, “Enjoy.”

Finding the SWEET SPOT

I mentioned recently that all of photography is a series of compromises. For example: use a tripod for sharper photos or go handheld for freedom to compose on the fly? Photography is full of such compromises, and, I’ve found, so is life. Especially in relationships. I read a Facebook post of one of my young twenty-something friends recently: “Whenever you compromise with your girlfriend, you have lost.” That might be true if you view your relationships as battle grounds.

But after you’ve been around for a few years, as I have, you’ll discover that there is a sweet spot in everything, from photography and finances to career and marriage. A phrase we use around our house is self-explanatory – “finding balance.”

So how do you know when you are “out of balance”? That’s usually not hard to discern. If your spouse doesn’t tell you, maybe your conscience will. Or, you know your finances are literally out of balance of you keep getting overdrawn notices from your bank. Car falling apart? A little preventive maintenance goes a long way.

A lot of balance issues come down to time. It has been said, to know what you value most, look at where you spend most of your TIME. Most Americans are very busy – it is our culture. But it need not be out of balance. My son, Brian, is a great example. He has great balance in his life I believe. As a junior executive with AT&T, his job demands are very significant. And yet he still has quality time for family, church, neighbors and his new hobby, metal sculpture. An amazing guy. My other two grown children are the same – amazing at balancing work, school, new babies and marriage.
(Susan and I in California, an evening walk along the beach.)

For me, I’m blessed with a natural talent for composition. It comes easy for me. I simply balance the elements in my photos. Balancing the rest of my life is trickier.

So for you, be sensitive to the imbalances in your life and your photography. Both will improve if you pay attention to them.