Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dial "Pooh" For Murder

Dial "Pooh" For Murder

This photo was created for "Film Noir" week on DPS. It was great fun working on this project. Pooh was a good sports too.

No stuffed animals were harmed during the shoot.

Special thanks to Gretchen for modeling and inspiration.

Monday, April 26, 2010

On the Streets of Houston

Just Hungry

Houston Statistics
• 10,000 homeless individuals are on the streets of Houston on any given night
• more than 3,000 are considered chronically homeless.
• 25% of these homeless individuals are youth
• more than 50% of these individuals have been diagnosed with mental illness
• more than 50% have complicated legal issues that prevent them from accessing services and employment
• 50% report having a substance abuse problem

Common causes of homelessness are:
• Poverty (impacted by declining work opportunities, decreased public assistance, financial crisis, mounting debt)
• Lack of affordable housing (impacted by increasing rents, decreasing SRO housing and excessive waiting lists for public housing, eviction, etc.)
• Lack of affordable health care -Mental illness and disability
• Substance abuse issues -Prison release and reentry into society
• Natural disaster
• Foster care background
• Family crisis (e.g.: death, relationship breakdown, etc.)

A national study on homelessness found that most cities estimate that the number of homeless individuals greatly exceeds the number of emergency shelter and transitional housing available.

Reference: Cathedral Health & Outreach Ministries

Lunch on The Side of the Road

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Out of the Past

Journey Back in Time 2

These photos are taken in Barrington Farm, a living museum farm in Washington On The Brazos State Park near Houston, TX.

The farm represents the mid-1800s farm founded by Dr. Anson Jones, the last President of the Republic of Texas. The residents are costumed interpreters who live their lives as in the 1800. They raise cotton, corn, cattle and hogs using period techniques. The recreated outbuildings include two slave cabins, a kitchen building, a smokehouse, a cotton house and a barn. The farmstead opened in 2000, and is operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

An interesting place to visit if you were ever in the area.

Face from the Distant Past

Journey Back in Time 4

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On a Rainy Sunday Morning

On a Rainy Sunday Morning

"The April rain, the April rain,
Comes slanting down in fitful showers,
Then from the furrow shoots the grain,
And banks are fledged with nestling flowers;
And in grey shawl and woodland bowers
The cuckoo through the April rain
Calls once again."
                                                                 "Mathilde Blind, April Rain"

Sunday Morning Rain

Hiding Baby from The Rain

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Still make up (not part of the movie... really) (part 3)

"Halloweed" is a zombie stoner comedy produced by the all-volunteer "Spring and North Houston Film Group” (of which my wonderful wife is a member). It is about two stoners who hit on two hot chicks at a Halloween party who are dressed as zombies. ...when in fact, the girls actually ARE zombies! 

I had the good luck of lurking behind the scenes and took tons of photos, of which a sample is presented here.

My wife (Not the actress in the photos), who is a computer engineer by day, moonlights as an independent film maker. When we first met, I remember her telling me that making movies is her dream. At the time, she did not even know where to start. Now, she is a founding member of “"Spring and North Houston Film Group” and is very active in making small independent shorts.
Here’s to living the dream.

(You can see more behind the scene photos by clicking on any of the photos and going to the Flickr stream)

Still make up (not part of the movie... really) (part 1)
Still make up (not part of the movie... really) (part 4)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Paria Canyon and The Land of Oz

BA-Utah Trip- Store negative scan - 049

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm not a big fan of "over processing". Since this term is way too general, I wanted to explain what "over processing" means to me and also talk about a few exceptions and qualifiers.
Browsing the internet, I can see that the majority of photographers agree that an over processed picture is one that does not look really natural (the Photoshop look). Examples: over saturated colors that are not seen in nature, extreme sharpening, skin tone and softness that fits a porcelain figurine more than human being.

I have to admit, the line between "just enough" and going over board is sometimes hard to find. For me personally, that's one of my weak points. For a long time I opted for very little or no processing because every time I tried to push it I fell into the over processing trap. I like to think I am getting better at it, but I'm nowhere near where I want to be.

Now, a major exception is if you are aiming for something closer to an illustration, or more accurately, a hybrid between a photo and an illustration. Some of these could be really interesting. Another case could be if you are going for a certain vintage look, like the Technicolor movies of the 40's and 50's. (I personally like those occasionally. Think "The Wizard of OZ").

In general, less-is-more applies here. But rules are meant to be broken (once you learn them and know what you're doing).
Coyote Buttes, Arizona (BA-Utah Trip- Store negative scan - 049)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yes... This is My Property (said the cat)

Yes... this is my property (said the cat)V3

"You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals."
                                                            George Mikes, "How to be decadent

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'll Protect You, Young Ones

I'll Protect You, Young Ones

"Trees are much like human beings and enjoy each other's company.  Only a few love to be alone."
                                                         Jens Jensen, Siftings

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Cyclist in "Topaz Adjust"

The Cyclist Who Came From The Fog )Topaz Adjust Test)

A few weeks ago, I attended a meet up where photographers shared their latest photos. One photographer made a comment that he runs a lot of his photos through Topaz Adjust to enhance details. His pictures did not look over processed (which I like) so I was interested in researching this Photoshop plugin. I just downloaded it and started playing with it. I had only a few minutes so I used the "I feel lucky" option for automatic adjustments and then did some very small tweaks on it. I can see the potential there (see the original in the previous post). Looks like there are tons of options and features that I will have to explore in the coming days to take full advantage of it (without over processing. This picture was an exception). Check it out if you are interested.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Cyclist in The Fog

The Cyclist Who Came From The Fog

It is the season for the MS150. That's an annual bicycle ride between Houston and Austin. For those who don't know, the MS 150 is a charity ride for the benefit of National Multiple Sclerosis Society. There are more than 100 similar extraordinary rides across the nation. So if you find this intriguing, follow the link for more information.

I was thinking of doing this ever since I heard about it when I was new in Houston 5 years ago. Still have not done it yet. I better start getting in shape if next year is to be the one.

Clubs and groups of cyclists usually start serious training in January and then ramp up considerably in the spring. Last weekend they were everywhere. Only a couple of weeks left for the big weekend. April 17-18.

Good luck to all riders.

The Cyclists
- 2010-04-03 at 10-14-50

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring in Texas

"Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems. "
                                                                                             "Rainer Maria Rilke"

Spring Came To Texas

Spring in Texas means Bluebonnets  (and lots of cyclists on the rural roads preparing for the MS150, the annual ride from Houston to Austin). It is a big tradition to go out to get bluebonnets pictures and welcome the coming of Spring. Although we've been living here 5 years, Gretchen and I have never done that before. This year, we made sure that we did. Seas of blue, yellow and rose on the side of the road were surely welcomed after an unusually cold winter by Texas standards.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

On The Streets of Luanda

"It is the voyage not the ship that matters" 
                                                        Angolan Proverb
Luanda, Angola 4

Last February, I had the good fortune to travel Luanda, Angola. Although it was a short business trip, I was happy I went. 

This photo was taken on a few block's walk between my two work locations in Luanda. It was one of the rare opportunities to walk on the street because my employer required all employees, especially visitors, not to travel between location without a car and local driver, even if it was for a short distance. Two co-workers and I were walking rapidly when I spotted these two ladies. I tried to slow down to take a picture, but my friends were walking a few steps in front of me and I did not want to be left behind. Especially since I did not know which turn to take after that. All of us turned the corner, and these two ladies started crossing the street while my friends were getting ready to enter the building on that corner. I thought I'd lost my chance. Suddenly, one of my colleagues stopped and turned sideways to take a picture with his phone, and this gave me enough time to snap this photo. 

On the streets of Luanda, you see a lot of these women, wearing vivid colors and selling the best fresh fruit that you can buy. Better and fresher than any supermarket in Luanda. It was shocking to learn later that selling fruits on the street is actually against the law in Angola. Police "raid" the street vendors, who typically run away before they can be arrested.  The police then confiscate as much produce as they can carry, and then smash the remainders on the ground so the vendors can no longer sell it.

One of the most surprising facts I learned on my trip was this. Quoting from Wikipedia: "Luanda (Angola)is the world's most expensive city, ahead of several Japanese & European cities. Around one-third of Angolans live in Luanda, 57% of whom live in poverty. Living conditions in Luanda are extremely poor, with essential services, such as safe drinking water are still in short supply".

Let’s count our blessings, shall we?

Special thanks to Gretchen for her input and feedback
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