San Antonio

San Antonio Cattle Drive by Josh Trudell

Cowboys and longhorns on Houston Street in San Antonio. 

Photographing the longhorn drive in downtown San Antonio was a treat – it’s a nifty juxtaposition of cattle and civilization.

I got there about 20 minutes before the parade started, and the sidewalks were already filling up quickly. I knew I wouldn’t be able to move far without losing my streetside spot once it started, so I staked out a spot on the curb and waited.

Without any official numbers, I’d guess there were between 75-100 longhorns, with several groups on horseback, bands, youth groups and one sheep herder helping to round out the parade.

With a relatively limited amount of mobility, I tried several tactics to help vary the shot selection, including shooting up to get some of the buildings behind the cattle, reinforcing that juxtaposition. I also zoomed in, looking for details and patterns.

Part of the celebration was a group of Native American dancers in front of the Alamo – colorful tornados spinning and whirling to the music. In my mind, events like this are great, no-stress practice. I wasn’t assigned to it by any publication – I was just out shooting for fun, and it made for a rewarding afternoon. 

If you'd like to see more photos, you can find them on my Flickr page

Shaking the dust off... by Josh Trudell

This big fellow was one of the highlights of our behind-the-scenes tour at Animal Kingdom.

Shadows dance on the wall as my compatriot raises a lantern, and looks around at the cobwebs and dust covering the stone carvings and ancient murals.

“What happened here?”, Dr. Jones whispers.

I look at my fedora-ed companion and shrug. “I got busy.”

Which is largely the truth for why this space has been dead pixels for the last three months. I’ve been writing (and shooting) too much to be writing.

The biggest project has been a package of stories that has involved talking to a lot of people passionate about what they do. There is a unifying subject behind the stories, but the magazine publishing them isn’t coming out until this fall, so I can’t say much about it.

It took me to some places I hadn’t visited in Texas before, which is always a bonus. It’s a little startling that we’ve been here for 10 years now, and there’s still so much to see.

The biggest event of the last three months was my 40th birthday. Initially, I had had daydreams of going on safari for my 40th, but that ended up getting pushed down the schedule a bit.

Instead, we went to Disney World.

Initially, I was unsure about this trip – spending a 40th birthday at the House of Mouse wasn’t quite the equivalent of spending it on the Serengeti – but it turned out really well.

One of the big highlights was a behind-the-scenes tour at Animal Kingdom, which got us up close and personal with the crocodiles and hippos. It was expensive – like most things at Disney – but the quality was outstanding – again, like most things at Disney.

Also of note: Baseball season had started – the Red Sox are scuffling so far, as is my fantasy team. The first summer movie of the year – Captain America: The Winter Soldier – is out, and it was most impressive. Marvel is building a great reputation as a provider of quality entertainment.

My next big photo trip is Montana in July – I’ve been saving madly for that. I can’t wait to see (and shoot) Glacier National Park.

Catching up: Photo show, Doctor Sleep, and Italy by Josh Trudell

Josh Trudell's Point the Compass exhibit

Photo courtesy of FotoSeptiembre USA

So, we’ve gone from fireworks season to pumpkin season between posts. At least it is still baseball season (for the Red Sox, at least).

THE BIG NEWS: The opening reception for Point the Compass was August 28, and it was a rousing success. We drew between 175-200 people for the opening reception, and I sold several of the pieces in the show and some loose prints I brought with me.

The commentary was generally very positive, including random e-mails I received from people who visited the gallery and appreciated it.

I was having a bad day until I stumbled into your exhibit at Central Library. I have always dreamed of seeing the slot caves. Excellent work!

- one of the e-mails I received

There were some odds and ends and issues while putting it all together – I’ll detail those in another post – but in general it was a very positive experience. I’m not sure when I’ll try and do another show – it’s an expensive habit, and I’ve got lots of trips I want to take and camera gear I want to add to the toolbox – but it was definitely worth doing.

THE NEXT NEWS: Six weeks from today, we’ll be in Italy! Venice, Rome and the Amalfi Coast will be holding our attention for two weeks, and I can’t wait. Looking into photographing Venice, and I found this site, which is loaded with information. Great work.

IN OTHER NEWS: Currently catching up on Grimm, which I quite enjoy – it takes the fairy tale monsters and runs them through a dark strainer (Nazis – I hate these guys!) and keeps the cutesy to a minimum. Also watching the HELLYEAHAGENTSOFSHIELD…sorry, was I drooling? And Marvel’s holding my wallet? How’d that…oh, never mind, just take my money.

Stephen King’s new book, Doctor Sleep, is quite excellent. I read it far too quickly the first time – now I need to go back and savor it. The Shining was one of the books I grew up with, and to see Danny Torrance back is a treat.

So – another entry before the end of October? Why not?

It's going to be a really big shew... by Josh Trudell

It's been a month of Big Giant Scary Endeavors. Kind of like The Lone Ranger, but hopefully without as many plot holes. The biggest BGSE is the photo show. Or, as it's been clamoring in my head for the past month, "THE OMIGOD HOLY CRAP PHOTO SHOW!!"

If you've swung by my Facebook page, you know that I'm putting on a photo exhibit for the month of September at the San Antonio Public Library's Central Branch.

It initially was going to be in August, which induced a minor amount of freaking out when I looked at the calendar and saw it was already June. Then, it was pushed back to September (pause freaking out) it could be part of Fotoseptiembre.(freaking out recommences with extra sauce.)

Fotoseptiembre is an international photography festival held annually in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country. (The international part is from exhibitions in Switzerland, Thailand and India, among other places.) So, kind of a big deal in the South Texas photography world.

My exhibit (titled "Point the Compass") is the library's entry into the contest. Add to that several other firsts - my first gallery show, my first opening reception, a few other odds and ends - and it's been a little crazy round these parts.

However, thanks to the awesome photo trip earlier this year with Ian Whitehead, (which I still haven't fully detailed here yet, but will), I'm really looking forward to this. I've got my files off to the printer, and things are *knock wood* coming together nicely.


New Camera, New Zoo by Josh Trudell, parrot, photography Some people have work-related hazards such as ergonomically incorrect keyboards or desks that leave them bent in uncomfortable positions.

Others are Iike Maricela, the nice lady at the San Antonio Zoo in charge of the parrot cage. While most of the streaking rainbows buzzed around the cage, Snowflake sat on her shoulder, nibbled on her shirt collar, then finally nestled into her hair.

Finally, Maricela was forced to swing her head side-to-side to shake the nesting bird loose.

The parrot, dislodged but unruffled, promptly hopped back onto her outstretched hand and headed back toward her shirt collar, nibbling on the button hole.

The parrot cage, and the zoo as a whole, is my go-to place for testing new camera gear. In this case, it was my new Sony A99.

My initial verdict is very positive. The images are very, very sharp. It's a little disconcerting to have the LED viewfinder show the image I just shot before going back to live action, but I was getting used to it by the end if the day.

The manual focus option is also different - it can be locked in through a menu, or if you just want it for one shot, hold a button on the back of the body and focus. Take your thumb off the button, though, and it snaps back to auto.

I found the light sensors to be a vast improvement over my A-350, which is forgiving in its own right. Having a sunny day helped, but on shots in dark shade, I was getting good results at ISO 100.

It had been at least two years since I had been to the zoo, and I was more than a little impressed with the number of improvements and additions it has made. The interactivity has increased a lot, especially in the birds area - I nearly stepped on a couple of tiny birds on a walkway through one of the cages.

Zoos are always a little sad after a while - I like to see animals in nature rather than behind steel mesh. But in comparison to other zoos, San Antonio has one to be proud of. The rest of my zoo pictures can be seen here.

Secrets of the Light by Josh Trudell

I like taking photographs in the dark.

And now a few of you are nodding, and some of you are looking at the screen like I’m crazy.

“You can’t take photographs in the dark!,” they say. “All you get is….dark!”

Not at all. With a tripod and long exposures, you would be amazed at some of the results.

What brought this to mind is my self-assigned photo assignment for next week – going to Kickapoo Cavern State Park to take a tour of the cavern and (hopefully) get some good pictures of the dark and gloomy depths.

Night photography is always fun, especially around big cities. There’s always at least a little light to play with, and I have a weak spot for long exposures with lights streaming across the screen or print.

If you haven’t tried any night photography, the basics are fairly straightforward. For a shot like what’s pictured above, find an overpass with a sidewalk that gives you a clear view of the street below. Use a tripod. Smile and be polite when people start looking at you and wondering what you’re doing.

Set up your camera with a low ISO and a long exposure time – this will help reduce the digital noise that can result from long exposures.  Some cameras will have a noise-reduction mode, as well. Shoot, and enjoy.

Cave photography is a little different. Caves that get a lot of tourists have artificial lighting, but many are kept in a natural state.

That means you can play with light painting – once you click the shutter, you use a flashlight to illuminate different parts of the cave in order to create an exposure. This can be a lot of fun, and result in all kinds of interesting pictures.

I’ll report back next week with the results of my trek.