Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My Boy Loves the Chicks

Chick chick
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
He's only four years old but my little boy already has the chicks flocking to him. Literally. Or maybe it's the other way around. The chicks have the boy flocking to them. Whatever the case may be I spent the better part of the day last Thursday hanging out at the baby chick spot at the Comal County Fair. My boy desperately wants a pet of his own -- because four cats, a dog, a rabbit, three birds and some fish aren't enough for our household. The boy wants something to call his own and to bring to his bed to sleep with him at night.

He's tried to sneak in crickets, grasshoppers, fireflies, snails, toads and lizards (most of which we did eventually find and return to their outdoor homes). His big sister won an iguana at the fair and pleaded with us to let her give it to the boy, but mean old mom and dad insisted it would be happier at someone else's home along with the mealworms she brought home from a science project.

The county fair is really the boy's best bet to cuddle with the fluffy little feathery things. So I didn't mind spending my time waiting away the hours as he captured and cuddled chick after chick after chick.

Eventually they had to throw us out. They don't allow us to sleep in the chick pen and after a while I was craving eggs. So we made our way home, but I assured the boy that the fair would return next year and maybe, if he was lucky, we find those missing fireflies before then. I'm sure they're in here somewhere.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

For Rent: Photographer with Really Cute Shoes

Wedding Bliss
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
I learned a valuable lesson last weekend. A lesson that's sort of a no brainer for most people who work on their feet -- and deep down I knew it, but I thought I'd chance it anyway. I paid for it for two days. What I'm talking about is putting "looking cute" ahead of personal comfort in the form of sensible shoes. But I really love my little strappy black heels with the shiny bling up the top of the foot. They're so trendy, so stylish, so hot, and so incredibly painful after about three hours. The wedding I shot went on for four hours. I knew they wouldn't last long on the comfort scale. I thought they were 4-hour shoes. I took a risk, I lost. Lesson learned.

I usually wear the more sensible shoes when I shoot a wedding. Shoes with proven staying power. Shoes that are always, inevitably a little lower on the trendiness scale. But this was a shorter affair than most of the weddings I shoot and I got cocky about my ability to endure. It won't happen again.

But on the bright side, I'm really happy with the images I captured while under extreme discomfort. My throbbing feet did nothing to slow me down.

Nick and Megan threw a beautiful bash and it's always so nice to see two people who love each other so much celebrating that love.

This wedding gave me a chance to break in my new Canon 5D Mark II. I needed a camera to use for low light conditions that will give me excellent quality even at high ISOs and I believe I've found that in this new camera. This particular wedding officiant had a policy of no flash photography during the ceremony and the lights in the church were horribly dim during the service. Of course when he says no flash photography, he's only talking about the pro photographer, because flashes from relatives and friends were blinking throughout the service. I never understood those policies, but who am I to argue. I'm just happy to be there.

Thanks for letting me be a part of this special day Nick and Megan!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Papa Bear says "This porridge is too hot!"

Ghost Chili
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
Today is my darling husband's birthday. I'll be nice and not tell you his age, only that he is in fact older than me. It's a tradition in our family to let the birthday boy or girl choose a place to eat dinner as a family. Most of us choose along the line of normal -- Chuck E. Cheese if we happen to be under 5 -- Cracker Barrel, Mamacitas, or Rudy's are some popular choices for those of us old enough to expect decent food instead of mind numbing noise.

My darling Jayme, on the other hand, opts for the outrageous. He makes it his goal every year to choose a birthday dinner that consists of strange and bizarre food items that have never crossed his lips. There was the dive that served Jamaican food but the chef wasn't there so nothing was available except plantains. Then there was the all you can eat Indian place that would have been decent if I hadn't been 3 months pregnant and suffering from severe nausea. Not a pleasant ride home.

Each year about September 17 he starts planning for the next year's birthday feast. Scouring the internet for the strange and bizarre -- within a short drive from home of course. He found the strange and spicy in Chunky's 4 Horsemen burger. Jayme likes things hot. He makes his own salsa because he's never found a salsa hot enough for his tastes off the shelf. A meal is rarely satisfying to him if he's not sweating at the end. So these people at Chunky's order this pepper from Northern Pakistan that is so hot it's among the hottest peppers ever discovered. It ranks higher than a million on the pepper hotness scale whereas jalapenos rank around 3,000 or so. He decided last fall that he would be eating a ghost pepper by way of this burger on his next birthday.

So we show up at the restaurant and see a banner boasting their visit last fall from that show Man vs. Food. In that episode, the man won. He ate the burger. But he did it with a whole lot of milk.

Inside the restaurant we're greeted with a "wall of flame" where the photos of a couple hundred smiling men -- and a few women as well -- stare back at us with red eyes and haggard smiles. These are the people who were able to eat the 4 horsemen in under 25 minutes and not puke or drink anything for 5 minutes afterwards.

Jayme places his order at the counter, "I'd like a 4 Horsemen please." The waitress stops cold. "Do you know what that is?" she said. There's cold silence from the dining room and the kitchen as the fry-cooks take notice. Somewhere in the distance, a fork drops to the floor.

The waitress pushes a waiver to Jayme as the shock wears off and activity resumes. Jayme signs away his right to sue if he gets sick, has a heart attack, becomes pregnant with a deformed baby or dies. He also agrees to pay a $20 clean up fee if he barfs anywhere other than his designated puke bucket.

When the ghost chili burger is brought out, the first thing one notices is the size. It's huge. The waitress sticks around to watch the show. Others poke their heads out of the kitchen, the heat is on, literally. Jayme takes a bite. He's okay. He takes another bite, still okay. After the third bite the sweat starts. He turns red in the eyes. He sucks down his Pepsi in one slurp. He runs to the fountain for more.

I, of course am capturing the whole episode with my camera and am sharing the images with you here. Happy Birthday dear!

In the end he was only able to finish half the burger. The waitress consoles him by telling him more than 4,000 have attempted to finish one and only a couple of hundred have survived -er - I mean finished it.

I, on the other hand, finished my delightful guacamole burger in excellent time and am now relaxing with a glass of wine. Jayme was unable to drive home and has been popping the antacids like candy.

I have posted a before and after image above as a lesson. Boys and girls ghost chilis are dangerous. And I want you to remember this face before you decide to try one for yourself.

Update: It is now more than 12 hours after the demon burger and poor Jayme is still feeling the effects. He was up every hour last night with dry heaves and severe cramping. His body is trying desperately to reject the toxic chilis. Will he ever be attempting another ghost chili burger -- NO!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Support of PPA

I just renewed my membership with the Professional Photographers of America the other day. It's something I insist on doing every year. It's not an option for me. I was curious so I did a search on their Find-a-Photographer site and was shocked to see that only 15 photographers in New Braunfels are listed as members of PPA. You do a Google search and you'll find dozens of photographers in New Braunfels -- yet only 15 are members of PPA. I can't understand why a photographer would operate without the protection and support of PPA.

I'm sure they'll be happy to know that even though they aren't a member, PPA is still supporting them with their efforts at protecting copyright and upholding copyright laws in Washington. Because of PPA, they have laws protecting their work and their rights, without paying their membership fees.

But PPA also provides valuable services to photographers who bother to pay those fees and join their organization -- like liability insurance and discounts on equipment. They have free webinars and training programs. They provide access to thousands of learning opportunities and mentor programs, business education and competitions.

These learning opportunities are extremely important to me. I feel like a sponge and am constantly trying to absorb knowledge and improve my skills. Every session is a learning experience for me and I can honestly look at my work from a year ago and say "I can do so much better than that now." And PPA plays a huge part in that.

I've only just tapped the surface of their programs. Every month I discover some wonderful new benefit that I never knew about and get excited all over again.

Right now PPA is gearing up for their annual national photography convention and I'm thrilled that it will be taking place in San Antonio in January. So I don't have to pay for airline tickets or a hotel! Yeah me!

The annual fees PPA charges are nothing compared to what a professional photographer gains. And what that photographer gains makes them a better photographer. Please look for that membership whenever you hire a photographer. It demonstrates that they're serious about photography and about providing you with quality images and service.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where should we shoot our portraits in New Braunfels?

A few days ago I started a series about where to have your portraits done in the central Texas area. I told you a few of my favorite places in San Antonio in this blog (you click on those words and it'll take you to that blog. Isn't that cool?)

Now I want to share a few of my favorite places here in New Braunfels. Of course I always recommend New Braunfels because I don't have to drive far so I'm biased for these locations.

New Braunfels, Texas:

Landa Park: I had to put this one first because it's such a popular photo spot. There are dozens upon dozens of possible back drops in this park. I think my very first photo session was done at this park years ago and now it's an old standby. Here is a link to the official Landa Park page. And here is a link to a session I shot there most recently. And another I shot there a few months before. There are more, but that should be enough for now. The rules are simple. There's no shooting fee. Obviously respect your environment and leave the place better than you found it. This place gets really packed on weekends during the spring and summer so avoid it during those times. I've found it's quite lovely at the end of autumn when the leaves are golden. Sunset in November is perfect for a session at Landa Park. As is the early spring when the trees have grown just enough to be green, but the people haven't begun to flock by the thousands.

Dry Comal Creek Winery: This one is a sweet little location tucked away off 46. The nice people at the winery offered me their venue when we chatted at a bridal fair. I promptly took them up on their offer and met one of my brides there for a bridal session. The results can be seen here. Since I first did this blog they did start charging a fee for photo sessions at the winery. Give them a call to check on that and reserve your time.

Greune: If you're looking for rustic, country, outdoorsy, this is the place for your session. So many of the buildings have that beautiful old barn texture going for them. The Guadalupe River provides a nice water back drop on days when it's not stuffed with tubers. There are even a number of nicely manicured Bed and Breakfasts in the area that provide pleasant images as well. Here is a session I shot in Gruene recently, and another. And here's a page about the community. There are no fees for most of the area, but keep in mind all this space is open to the public and the public is everywhere. The area owned by the Gruene Mansion Inn does require a $25 fee and a reservation. They will ask you to leave if you don't have a reservation and pay the fee. Please be respectful of their rules and you shouldn't have a problem. Update: Here's the latest session shot in Gruene as well as the Faust Street Bridge, which is just a couple of miles away and also provides an excellent backdrop.

The Faust Street Bridge: Since I mentioned it, let's talk about this little spot as well. The bridge provides great leading lines and is near an old factory that serves as a nice urban grunge backdrop as well. There's a brand new event center right next to the bridge that has some of the lushest grass this side of that nasty drought. I took a family here recently and here's what we shot. You are not allowed to trespass on the property of the Milltown Historic District venue or on the property of the old mill. Please respect the "no trespassing" signs and stay on public property.

The Comal County Courthouse and the Square: I shot a session with an attorney at the courthouse and discovered that I never realized how beautiful this building is. Here's that session. The courthouse is conveniently located right across from the gazebo, offering you the opportunity to attempt to cross the street -- be careful it's crazy -- and shoot some images on the square. I shot this session in the gazebo recently. Update: Here's another session I was able to shoot around downtown. Downtown also can provide little mini sessions tucked into any area. This young lady just wanted a session in front of the Brauntex. They came out great even though we stayed within a small space. The back alley areas can also provide some interesting urban images like in this session.

Cypress Bend Park: This park is just lovely any time of year. The cypress trees growing along the river give it a gorgeous canopy. What I love about this park is that it seems like a secret little park that not many people know about. It's rarely crowded. There's always wide open spaces and plenty of parking. Here is a session that was shot partly at Cypress Bend Park, partly at Hinman Island Park, which I'll discuss some more next. And here is a session of my own family at Cypress Bend. And a session of another gorgeous family at the same place. This father and son session even ended up in the water thanks to a fun rope swing.

Hinman Island Park: This is very near Landa and is often considered part of Landa, but it's actually its own little gem. Avoid this one at all costs during the summer months. It's the entry point for people tubing the Comal and it's always crowded during the summer and many times the people can be quite undesirable. There was some violence here this summer and I've heard lots of complaints about rowdy behavior. I include it on my list because I have had successful sessions there. See the link above in the Cypress Bend section. I once shot a bride tubing in the water, but it was done before tubing season got started so it was the perfect time.

Walking Trail near Dry Comal Creek at 337: I shot a session with a model at this location because we were looking for a wild, savage setting. We didn't want manicured lawns and landscaping. This area was perfect for what we were looking for. Take a look here. Occasionally a jogger or walker would happen by but we pretty much had a pretty easy time with setting up each shot. This spot was great for what we needed.

The Little League fields: I debated putting this one up here because it's such a specific interest but I had to. I shot a session there that turned out to be one of my favorite sessions. Check them out here. If you love baseball, the backdrops are perfect. Be respectful of the property and don't make a big production about it and you should be fine.

The drainage ditch near Landa Street and Loop 337: I only just discovered this location during bluebonnet season because the flowers were so thick and beautiful. Here is a link to one bluebonnet session, and another here. I'm hoping the bluebonnets return in full force next spring at this spot because it was so nice. {Update: They did not return I'm afraid, but I was still able to get a nice session in with the flimsy excuse for bluebonnets that 2011 provided. See that one here.} It's a lot bigger than it looks from the road and there's a nice little creekbed at the bottom of the hill. If you're lucky you'll see some deer. Be careful about staying away from the loop, those cars can fly by. And watch for bull nettle and snakes. I didn't see any snakes, but this environment is perfect for them. This little gem may disappear soon. I heard a rumor about the city designating it as a future dog park. Can't shoot portraits with the fear of stepping in doggy doo. But for now it can be our little secret spot.

Any old empty field of flowers: Okay I wanted to mention that I've shot sessions in areas that most people wouldn't consider. Here's a session in an empty field near my home on Morningside Drive. It was gorgeous for a few weeks in April with these yellow flowers. I had to mention it because I wanted to point out that you don't need manicured lawns, landscaping and structures to have a good session. I've shot sessions in crowded dining rooms with an open window, a reflector and a back drop. I've shot sessions in the rain, in a dirty cow field, against an old store in the middle of nowhere, in my own backyard, in my client's backyard, in an alley between subdivisions.

You're limited only by your own imagination when shooting in New Braunfels or anywhere. The sky's the limit. I'll add to this list as well as I discover more hidden gems in and around this amazing town.

Next I'll compile a list of my favorite San Marcos locations. Check back later!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's all about color

HDR attempt
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
I've been reading a few good books lately. Okay, yes, I'm reading the Sookie Stackhouse series and am loving the mush it is turning my brain into, but I'm also reading up on HDR -- high dynamic range -- photography as well as a fascinating book on digital color correction. I decided to play with some of what I've learned and make an attempt at creating some images in HDR.

This is a barn I came across on the way to Cuero the other day, I loved the color of the rust on the roof as well as the clouds and the sky. I think I was being bitten by fire ants at this exact moment. Mental note to self, wear closed toe shoes on road trips.

HDR is a process of taking 3 or more images bracketed in rapid succession and merging them into one. This allows you to bring out details in the shadow areas and details in the highlighted areas in the same image, when otherwise you might be forced to choose the areas that are more important to you -- like should you expose for the details in the clouds or the details in the shadow of the roof? I want my cake and eat it too, so I'm going to go with both.

I also used some of this technique on a bride I shot the other day at the Capital building in Austin. I can't wait to share the results with you, but that will have to wait a few weeks. I can't run the risk of the groom seeing the bride in her wedding dress before the wedding ;-)

Some secrets must be kept!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

So where should we shoot our bridal portraits?

It's a question I hear every time I schedule a bridal session. Or any session really. There are so many places to shoot that the possibilities are endless, but I thought I'd do a few blogs about some of the places I've shot before and even some that I haven't shot just to give an idea to future brides, engaged couples and even families who want lovely settings for portraits. I'm hoping to include links and photos as well and add to this as I find new places.

Let's start with San Antonio, since that's the biggest city I'm closest to, then we'll get into New Braunfels, San Marcos and Austin. I put a lot of miles on my car and have even driven to Fredericksburg and Galveston for bridals so I'll include those here as well.

San Antonio:

The McNay Art Museum. Beautiful setting and dozens of possible backdrops. Here's a link to a gallery I shot at this lovely setting. And here's a link to their page on photography. Basically we're allowed to shoot there if we pay the $20 shooting fee. A very reasonable price considering many comparable places charge 5 times as much. There is no place to change and they ask you not to change in the bathrooms so it's best to show up ready to go. Update: I recently was asked to shoot a wedding at this location and wanted to add those as well. Click here for the latest link.

The San Antonio Botanical Gardens.
Nicely manicured gardens and some cool architectural areas as well. Here's a session I shot there. Well, actually it doesn't show you much because we showed up after the 5 p.m. close time. My bad! But fortunately, the parking lot has some nice areas as well and we didn't need much space for this session. So here's a gallery of images I took at a recent family session. And finally, here's a link to their visitors page. Basically, they charge just the cost of admission to shoot there. Of course they ask you to respect their gardens and don't go trampling any plants. That's just common sense. That rule applies to all these places. Keep in mind that you're a guest on these properties and leave them as nice or better than you found them.

The San Antonio Riverwalk
. This area is pretty massive and has tons of hotels and businesses all along the area. This particular session that I shot here was taken outside the Tropicana. Changing areas are pretty sparse unless you get a hotel room to change in. Some of the businesses may take issue with you using their restrooms to change so it's best to either get a hotel room or come dressed and ready to go.

The San Antonio Missions. Mission San Jose is my absolute favorite setting for a session. It's just simply gorgeous. Here's a link to a gallery of images from this mission. And here's a link to their photography policy page. In a nutsehll, they charge a $100 fee to shoot professionally. The park rangers will see you coming in with professional equipment and dressed in your bridal gown and they will collect it at that time.

The Japanese Tea Gardens. This is a beautiful place for bridals, engagements, seniors, whatever. There is a $20 fee to shoot there, and once again, be respectful of the plantlife. Here's a link to a gallery of images I shot there. And here's a link to their page. I recommend going on a day in the middle of the week around an hour before sunset. The crowds are at a minimum and the lighting is perfect. Try to shoot on a weekend and you'll be battling hordes of people and there's not much room on those little sidewalks to share when you're trying to have your photo taken. Once again there's not really a place to change so arrive ready to go. Update: Here's another session I was able to shoot at this beautiful place.

Breckenridge Park. There are some really nice areas to shoot at this park, especially a bridge near Broadway and Hildebrandt. I'd love to share a gallery of images from this site but I have yet to shoot there. The number one reason is that this park is so packed with people most of the time that shooting just isn't feasible. There are about 4 months out of the year when you can barely move your car through the roadways let alone find a parking space and get out. If you do shoot here, make it during the middle of the week and have a back up plan in mind if you can't park, especially if it's a nice day. There's no fee to shoot here and the only place to change is in the bathrooms -- which aren't very nice.

So that's a start for the San Antonio portion of this list. I'll come back and add to it periodically, and tomorrow I'll get started on a list of my favorite New Braunfels area settings.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Photography Classes are open!

Baby Barker
Originally uploaded by lisablaschke
This is it! It's open season on the community education registration front. Now is the time for all of you who didn't get into the last photography class to sign up for it before it fills up again. I'm offering two basic DSLR classes this time because those are the classes that had the most interest the past two semesters. Those of you without DSLRs are welcome to attend as well because a lot of what you will learn can be applied to your point and shoot cameras as well.

The first session will be on Thursdays and will begin September 30 and the second session will be on Mondays and will begin November 8. They're both the same class so you have your choice on the day of the week. For more information, check out the community ed website here.

The photo I'm sharing today was taken at a session I shot the other night. Darling, adorable little boy who showed me how much he liked me by peeing on almost every backdrop and prop I brought along. Wasn't that sweet! I don't mind. Baby pee lightens the mood and keeps us on our toes. But don't think I'll let anyone who isn't this cute get away with it! I'm finally getting to the end of that laundry pile just in time to head off to another newborn session. Share more later!