Hands On

This website is dedicated to my photography. I mean, it’s in the name! Still, I have other interests that I’d like to share. The one’s I’m talking about are at least ‘artistic’ in nature. I have plenty of other interests that I won’t get into on this page as they have nothing to do with anything remotely creative.

Most of what I’m going to share in this article began as photographs, so really, this isn’t that much of a departure.

It’s important to note that the works I’m going to share in this post were made in 2010. I bring that up only because I’m planning to get back to this and I’d like this site to serve as a journal of sorts and to document my (hopeful) progress!

With photographs as a reference (usually), I gathered the supplies and instructional books on the subject and set out to see what I could do. Admittedly, these first attempts are probably juvenile, but we all have to start somewhere.

I’m sure an experienced artist would scoff at these sketches, but again, I’m just a beginner at this point.

Ok, I’ve stalled long enough. Without further fanfare, here are a few of the sketches that I produced (again – in 2010).

 

I’m not sure what prompted me to want to pick this up again. I would also like to start painting again and, well most paintings begin with a sketch. Perhaps that’s the reason. Plus, my wife and I just watched the movie “Big Eyes” and it’s possible that the movie got me thinking about getting into it. In any case. There ya go. I hope you found this of interest.  Until next time!

Drama at Dusk

I’ve said it before, sunrise and sunset photography is always a gamble. A sky full of clouds can go clear right at sunset – it’s crazy!

I was watching the sky, off and on, most of the day. I finally decided to go ahead and go out to see what I could get. I left the house late (about 7:30 PM) so I wasn’t able to go very far. Algiers point is about a half-hour drive and looking at my sun position app, the sun would be setting right behind the French Quarter.

I arrived at the ferry landings little parking area, grabbed my equipment and hiked the short distance up the levee. I’m always surprised by the amount of people who hang out here watching the river and waiting for sunset. I spoke to one guy who was telling me that the sunset the previous night was really spectacular.  I missed that one of course.

Still, I made the drive, I may as well see what comes of it.

I decided to meter for the sky and let the buildings just be a silhouette – that’s different my usual technique, so why not?

Even at sunset, it was fairly hot out and, once the sun sank below the horizon, it was clear that the show was over. Still, I’m pleased with this image, so it was worth the trip.

A lot of people comment that the Mississippi river isn’t blue. They’re right, it isn’t. However, at this time of day and at a certain angle, the water reflects the sky, which above the orange glow IS blue. That’s not to say that this photo wasn’t ‘edited’. Anyone who has seen the French Quarter from this location knows that there are SEVERAL power lines running across this image. Well, those HAD to go!  That’s the only change that I made however.

For the people interested in the technical information;  Focal length; 200mm

1/640 of a second. f/2.8  ISO 100  Metering;  Pattern     This particular shot was in aperture priority – I’m not sure how my camera got in that mode, but it was changed to manual when I realized it.  This shot was also handheld.

I hope you like it!

web sunset

You CAN do it too!

“Two men took a boat to the lighthouse in 2008 and climbed to the top of the lighthouse. As they started to descend, the ladder broke, stranding them in the tower. Fortunately, one of the men had a cell phone and called for help. Firefighters soon arrived, and, after having to swim across the inlet near the lighthouse, they succeeded in rescuing the men with a rope harness. The two grateful men were cited by the local sheriff’s department for trespassing and property damage.”

This is but one of the accounts in the storied history of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. If, like me, you’re into history, the Lighthouse at the Louisiana / Texas border is filled with it.

My journey to the lighthouse began when I saw a photo of it on Facebook. Upon further investigation, I learned that I could get up close and personal with this slice of history.

Let me begin at the beginning, the most logical place to start a story.

After seeing the lighthouse photograph, I started to research its location. Being from just southeast of New Orleans, it was going to be about a four and a half to five hour drive!  Still, I wanted to see it for myself – and photograph it of course!

I called the Cameron Parish Library (Johnson Bayou Branch) and a gentleman named Jack answered the phone. I nervously asked if this was the place I’m supposed to call to gain access to the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. He said it was and only needed some quick information to get me set up. This was a shock to me as most thing like this are filled with disappointment. Jack couldn’t have been more helpful, however, and said all he needed was my name, what kind of vehicle I was driving and when I wanted to come out – that’s really about it. I wasn’t sure exactly when I would get there as I wanted to make sure I could even get to the location before getting too far in the planning process. He then told me all he really needed was a ‘ball park’ idea of the time, so I told him I would call back the next day with that information.

Now, It’s important to mention that I was speaking to him on the Thursday before the Memorial day weekend. He said the Library would be open from 8:00 – 12:00 the next day. When I got my timing all planned out, I called him back and he was very nice and said he would send an email to Cheniere to let them know to expect me.

I have to be honest, I didn’t know what a ‘Cheniere’ was, but he gave me the address and said they’d be there, so I was all set.

I spent Saturday getting my gear ready and making final plans.

I got up about 4:30 AM Sunday morning and started out. I had never driven this far west, so it was an interesting drive – not bad at all. When I arrived at the address that Jack had given me, I was surprised to see that “Cheniere” was a high security refinery!  I was thinking; “Oh, great, I’m never getting in here!”

However, I had come this far so I decided I may as well give it a shot. I entered the visitor center and told the woman behind the glass that I was there to go to the lighthouse and that she should have an email about it. I’m thinking; “No way this is going to work out.”

To my surprise, she just asked to see my driver’s license and told me to go to the guard shack at the gate right next to the visitor’s center. Jack had done exactly as he said he would! The next guard at the shack, just jotted down my license plate number and told me to proceed to gate 3 where my escort would be.

It worked! I was in!

I made my way down the short road to gate 3 where I was met by armed security and told that my escort would be along shortly. While we waited, he told me about some other historical sites that I might be interest in on the Texas side. He was very nice as well!

Sure enough, another guard in a pick-up truck pulled up and guided me to the gate. He opened it and motioned me to go on in! I have to admit I was concerned about driving my Mustang back there, but the road wasn’t bad at all. I didn’t go all the way to the very end, but stopped at the last little turn. That last short bit seemed a bit muddier and ‘softer’ than the rest. I was plenty close enough and just walked to the end. I couldn’t believe I was this close to this lighthouse.

I spent the next hour or so (probably longer, but time flies when you’re having fun!).
I took photos with my main camera and shot video and still images from my drones. I’ll be working on that video very soon.

After I was finished by the lighthouse – I wasn’t actually ready to go, but I could see the rain was coming and I didn’t want to have any issues getting back out.

I’m not sure if I needed to, but I stopped back at gate 3 to let security know that I was leaving and a different guard asked if I enjoyed myself back by the lighthouse and warned me to drive carefully in the coming storm – such nice people!

I realize this has been a very detailed story and there’s a reason for that.
Upon my return home I wanted to call back and thank Jack for all of his help.

Well, It turns out that Jack was just filling in for a nice lady named Sherry. I explained that I wanted to thank Jack and we started talking about the lighthouse. It turns out she had just been out there for a visit herself around the same time as me!

Here’s the thing, I felt like I was being an inconvenience, not because anyone treated me that way, just because I was involving other people (and a whole refinery) in my desire to see an old lighthouse. However, when I spoke to Sherry, it turns out that they want people to visit! So, I want to lay out exactly how you go about visiting this iconic location.

  1. Call the Johnson Bayou Library 1-337-569-2892. Let them know that you’d like to visit the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. They’ll tell you exactly what to do.
  2. Go to the visitor’s center at Cheniere and verify who you are – AFTER the library has sent your request to them – I wouldn’t recommend just showing up unannounced! Follow their instructions carefully.
  3. Bring water if you go in the summer – it’s hot. Some bug spray would be a good idea too. I didn’t see any alligators, but they are certainly back there. If you’re lucky, you’ll see one – just be aware of it.
  4. Have fun and be respectful of this historical landmark that’s been around since BEFORE the Civil war!
  5. Whatever you do – don’t forget your camera!

I stayed the night in Port Arthur – more on that later. The main reason I did that was so I could get some photos of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse at sunrise. I had a great time visiting history and the people that I interacted with made the trip that much better!

If you’d like more information, here’s some links to more information;

Lighthouse Friends

Sabine Pass Lighthouse

The opening quote for this article came from the “lighthouse Friends” webpage.

Here’s a few of the photos that I took of the Sabine Pass Light during my visit;

Hope

When my siblings and I were in high school, there was a nursery (a plant store) up on the highway. It was only a couple of blocks from my parent’s home, but I never visited the store. I was young after all and had little need for plants. Still, it was a fixture and a business that we’d pass often.

It seemed this store did a good deal of business, though I can’t even remember its name.

The nursery shut down, at some point, very unceremoniously. There was no fan fare or going out of business sale – not that I knew of. This once vibrant store, now gone.

In time, the wear started to show, as it always does. Time and the elements have a way of doing that, nothing or no one escapes it.

When I saw the building recently, I knew I wanted to photograph it. Knowing that It could be torn down at anytime or succumb to the elements, so I didn’t want to miss my chance. I also wanted to make the photo at or near sunrise, as I had already mapped out where the sun would be and when it would be at the proper angle.

As I stood in the wet grass waiting for just the right moment, I couldn’t help but think about the plant store back in its ‘hay day’. Who owned it? How many people worked here? All that effort, time and expense, now lost forever. I wondered if it was all worth it. How did the store owner feel closing the door for the last time? Was it sad occasion or was it a relief?

As these thoughts were filling my brain, it happened… The rising sun burst through the window. The sun brought with it something that it aways brings;  The hope of a new day.

As I shot photos, trying to get the sun in perfect position, I was struck with the lyrics of one of my (current) favorite songs by a band called Sevendust. The song is “Waffle” and in it the singer speaks of what can only be described as depression. Then, as the music builds to the chorus… there’s some hope, something that everyone seems to crave…..

“Bring me a light, make my life worth something more, show me a light, bring a light.”

Even though this building and business are done and long gone, with the new day, there’s new hope.  No matter what happens, the sun will rise tomorrow.

Anyway, I’m often asked what draws me to create certain photographs and why I do it at all…… now you know.

Make today worth it.

Belle Chasse Plant store

 

Yes, It’s Worth it.

A couple of days ago I took the hour long trip across the lake hoping for a decent sunset. It’s always a gamble as I’ve mentioned before, but you have to be there ‘just in case’. There were a lot of scattered clouds in the late afternoon, so I felt pretty good about it. Still, the sky can change very quickly, so you just never know what you’re going to get.

I arrived well before sunset and visited some other areas of interest I learned about from a friend (Thanks Rickie!) – more on that later.

Once I got to the lakefront, it was time to scope out a spot where I wanted to be should the sunset work out as hoped. The sun was already pretty low in the sky and, in the light streaming through the branches of the trees I could see little clouds of gnats. Now, if you’re not from here, you’re probably thinking…. so what… what’s the big deal?   If, however, you’ve ever had several of these tiny bugs on you and biting you (all at the same time), then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!  Not fun!

You can really barely see them on your skin, but there’s no question exactly where they are! Normal bug spray has limited power against them. A product called ‘skin so soft’ is supposed to work on them, but… well, I’m not going to carry around something by that name!  Sorry, I’m just not.  Sometimes you just have to ‘man up’….. LOL

Anyway, there were a lot of other people at the lake so I wasn’t the only person on the menu, that’s something I suppose.

As I waited and watched the sky, I watched the clouds of gnats grow larger. They seem to be most active at dusk – great!  To top it off, I started to notice a thick layer of clouds right along the horizon – usually that’s not a good sign.

Still, I was already there. Not a time to be too hasty. There’s nothing to do at that point but to ‘ride it out.’

The sun seems to barely move all throughout the daylight hours, but let me tell you, that baby can MOVE at sunset!

I did manage to get several different images from different vantage points, but I literally had to run from one location to the next!

Here is one of the last images I was able to make just before the sun dropped out of sight for the night;

web northshore sunset

I’m still scratching those gnat bites!  In the end, I think the wait and the bugs were worth it to get this image.  I hope you agree.

See ya next time.

What a Difference!

After having heavy rain, hail and gale force winds at our last attempt at working an art fair, we had a MUCH better time this morning at the “Mandeville Trailhead Market.”

The weather couldn’t have been better, we had a nice shady spot under the pavilion (so we didn’t need our canopy) and we had a fairly steady stream of customers. We got some really great feedback from several of the visitors and had a profitable day as well! That’s the whole idea after all.  It was also fun to meet some really nice people.

The event coordinator (Donna) was so helpful and just such a nice lady! We’ll be a regular fixture at this event! We can’t do every weekend as we’ll need to replace product and that takes time, but this was a really nice turnaround from our last outing.

The weather was the problem for that one, so it’s not really fair to compare. We’ll be back in Gretna in May and back in Manderville very soon!

Special thanks to everyone who came out, including family and friends. While it was still work, it was also a fun day!

Tall Ships

As part of the year long celebration for New Orleans 300th anniversary, A ‘Navy week’ was scheduled. Part of this Navy week would be several historical ‘tall ships’. A few of them would be tied off on the bank of the river, while two more would be docked in a canal just off the Lake. These two would be allowing people to take a ride on the ships out into the lake!  Of course, the rides were sold out well in advance of the ships arriving.

As a photographer, you begin to become weary of shooting so many similar images. That’s one of the reasons I felt so inspired by our trip to New York last year, different subjects to photograph. The tall ships represented a similar opportunity for something ‘different’ that you just don’t see everyday. So, I was pretty excited about them being here. So excited in fact, that I purchased an app for my phone that would track maritime traffic so I could keep an eye out on their locations and know when they would be arriving. Using this app, I was able to drive down river and, after waiting on the levee for over an hour, get several images of one of the tall ships heading upriver towards the city.

web tall ships are coming
The masts of the ship were even visible over the tree tops!

web crop river tall ship edit

Of course, the ship was under engine power and not using the sails, which was a bummer, but to be expected. Still I was excited to get these shots.

I had BIG plans for several different photos of the tall ships. The last time the ships were in the city, you could just walk up to them. Well, that wasn’t the case this time! Although they were free and open to the public, that wasn’t a 24 hour proposition. When I arrived just before sunrise on Friday, I was disappointed and surprised to be met with a six foot fence surrounding all the ships! Not only that, but there were several vendor tents and other equipment blocking most of the view of the ships.  Still, I worked around these issues the best I could raising my camera up on a tripod above the fence and taking shots, then readjusting as needed until I got the shot I wanted. Well, not the shot I WANTED, but the best I could get under the circumstances.

web tall ships william wolfeweb william wolfe tall ships 002web william wolfe tall ships 004web william wolfe tall ships 005web william wolfe tall ships single image edit

I could have come back at 10:00 AM when the area was open, but that would have meant having people in the photographs – lots of people! Also, the light would be too harsh, so I had to be satisfied with what I got and didn’t go back downtown the rest of the time the ships were here.

The ships out at the lake however, that was a different story!

These ships; The “Lynx” and the “When and If” were on a pretty tight schedule as they had to coordinate with a railroad bridge and a drawbridge which services a fairly busy highway.  The schedule was also available online, so I made a print out of it and began planning my best possible location and times.  While the ships kept to their schedule and I was able to get to the most of the locations I planned on, the weather was a different story (It’s always something!) The first day the skies were too clear – no drama. The second time I went out, there were some nice clouds, which was great, but it so windy that the ships didn’t leave the sails up for the whole trip, greatly reducing the shots that I could get.

web tall ships lake 002web tall ships lake edit 002

The above images are from the first day while the image below is from the second day;

 

web 2 ships at the lake

I was even inspired to create a little photoshop ‘art’ with the tall ships;

web full moon ship bnw

This above image and the header image for this article are both photoshop composites. This one is pretty obvious, while (hopefully) the other is more realistic. The header or featured image of this post is what I first envisioned when I heard that the tall ships were coming back to our area. The weather didn’t cooperate sadly and there was no available angle to get an image with the ships sailing as the sun set behind them, so I created it!  The power of photoshop!

Time to Stretch a Bit

If you know me…. well, most of you don’t – but if you did, you’d know that I’m always ‘up’ to something. Nothing bad usually, just always pushing to do more… to try new things.

Well, this time I tried my hand at creating a book. My daughter Ashley is the real author in the family, but this is a photo book (of course). Don’t get me wrong, there’s text in it as well. Not a lot, just a ‘sprinkle’ (if you will). This first edition is really just a test to see how it all works. I even mention that this is a ‘test’ book on the last page.

The book itself is only twenty pages and it’s on the iBooks bookstore. While you can sell books on iBooks, this one is 100% FREE!

All you have to do is follow the link and download it.

I didn’t have my daughter proof-read it, so there my need to be some revision (probably will if I’m completely honest).

Anyway, please feel free to download and check it out! I’d love to hear what you think and whatever suggestions you might have.

Perhaps in the future I’ll publish (I like the sound of that!) a longer more detailed book – who knows? Like I said, I’m always up to something!

Here is the link;

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/new-orleans-a-photographic-tour/id1369312494?mt=11

book cover

First One in the Books

Our first ever Art Fair is in the books….. Well, sort of. We were approved by the committee and paid our vendor fee over three weeks ago. At that time, of course, there was no expectation that the day of the April Art Walk would be, maybe, the worst weather day that we’d have in a long time!

All week leading up to the fair, the meteorologists warned that this Saturday was going to be a ‘wash out’. Still, they are always correct in their predictions and the Art Walk is pretty much a “rain or shine” type of situation.

So, as we’d already paid and prepared, we loaded up and drove the shot distance to the Art Walk location. We unloaded and set up in overcast conditions, but I saw the sun peek through a few times and thought that we’d be ok.

The Art Walk officially ‘opens’ at 8:30 and runs until 12:30 – so it’s not a long day to begin with. However, the gathering dark clouds and the reports from those who had drove in or who were listening to the radio warned that the “bad stuff” was closer that we would’ve hoped.

Shortly after 10:00 AM, the organizer approached us and told us to go ahead and start packing up as they were worried about just how bad the weather was going to get.

In the short time we were then we got to meet a few people and got some very nice comments on our booth and the product that we had to offer. Sales were not what we hoped for, but about what we expected with the weather + the French Quarter Fest and the Strawberry Fest being on the SAME weekend!

We’ll do it again next month (hopefully with MUCH better weather).

I snapped a few photos of our booth at the Art Walk, which is worth the trip itself as these types of photos are instrumental when it comes to being accepted in larger craft and art fairs.

Not what we hoped for the first one, but it is what it is.

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