Monthly Archives: July 2012

C.A.F.E. Dance Company

1111_Cafe Dance

Or, to those of us bilingually-challenged people (like moi):

Creation Art Figure Elegance

1171_Cafe Dance Group

My co-workers possess many hidden talents apart from their work in the office, and this never ceases to amaze me.  I see them on a day-to-day basis as geologists, engineers, managers, admins.  These office workers have lives outside of the office.  One of my co-workers runs marathons, another co-worker taught ballroom dance, while another was a lead singer for a touring band.  And one of my co-workers is a dancer for a Colombian dance troupe.

Maria noticed my photography and started looking through my blog posts, chancing upon the post  I published about the Colombian Orchid Ballet troupe and capturing the art of the dance.

One day, Maria approached me to ask if I would be willing to photograph the dance troupe to which she belongs:  C.A.F.E. Dance.  I told her I would love to photograph them.

On July 22, 2012, I packed up my Canon 5D Mk II bodies, my 24-105mm, 70-200mm, 50mm f1.2, and 85mm f1.2 lenses, pulled on my photo vest stuffed with memory cards and extra batteries, and drove to downtown Houston to capture images of the dancers as they prepared for their performance onstage during the Colombian and Venezuelan Festival.

1257-2_Applying Makeup

1364-2_Applying Makup CROP

0955_Orange and Green


1016_Getting Ready

1450_Getting Ready

1272-2_Costume Colors

Yes, I captured images of the men, too.  Some of these photos required a little artistic license on my part.  A hotel room is not the ideal backdrop for these brightly-dressed performers.




Coco Mendoza is the group’s artistic director. An amazing woman, constantly on the move. She was a hard one to pin down that day, for a photograph. I’d spy just the right moment for a portrait image, and by the time my eye reached the camera’s viewfinder, Coco had moved on to the next task.


1314-2_CoCo and Dancer

1110-2_Getting Ready with CoCo

And then, it was time to move from the hotel to the outdoor stage.

1519_On Their Way To The Stage

1565_Waiting To Go Onstage

0841_Stage Lights

I was actually allowed onstage to photograph the action!  I’ve never gotten to do that before!  I stood at one corner in front of the stage, next to the soundmen and the booming speakers (I guess that would be “stage right”, right?).

1582_Getting Ready to Dance

My goal that day was to try and capture the pure energy, enthusiasm and joy these men and women poured into their performance.  It’s high-energy stuff that made me want to dance – heavy camera backpack and all Winking smile


1457-2_Carrying The Dancer






1906_Twirling The Ladies

1752-2_Holding Him Up

1882_Dancers Onstage

1921_Dancing Onstage

1701_Balancing Act

1467-2_Having Fun Dancing



1739_Dancing Onstage

I also used a little of that artistic license again, in order to blur out some things (like the onstage fire extinguisher) and focus the eye more on the dancers.  Granted, unless one is a Photoshop Magician (which I am not), sometimes one must make do with what one has, photographing onstage, away from a studio or other set backdrop.


1843_Up In The Air

1843_Up In The Air_Blurred Background

This whole session was pretty much an experiment for me.  For you photographers interested in my settings: I used the AI servo focus mode on my 70-200 lens, because I captured close-up and portrait images during the dancing.  With the 24-105 lens, I kept it on one-shot focus and just hoped for the best as I snapped away.  ISO was between 250-400, and shutter speeds were high.  Apertures were between 5.6 and 7.1.  Having never seen their routines before, I didn’t know where the really good parts were – you know, the acrobatic parts, or parts of the  dance with a lot of flourish to it.  I just hoped for the best.  In the end, I was pleased with what I captured on digital “film”.

After the performance, as the energized dancers walked back to the hotel, Maria turned to me and remarked that they were a young group in terms of performances and years performing together.  I told her it didn’t  matter.  If they have a fun time onstage, then the audience will see that and in turn have a fun time, themselves.  That’s what it’s about, right?

1550_Costumed Group Shot CROP


Filed under dance, Houston, Photography, Texas

Here’s To The 2012 London Olympics!

6780_Little Miss Tourist

I’m stoked for this year’s Olympics.  Well, I always love watching the Olympics, but this year, the event is being held in a city I visited back in 2011 and fell in love with:  London.  I only spent 3 days in that city before traveling on to Ireland, but they were 3 days jam-packed with sights, sounds, and plenty of photo ops, some of which you have seen in previous posts early on in my blogging career.

The view from the London Eye looking out over the Thames and Parliament:

6746_Almost to the top

The view of the stage from my seat in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre:

6847_The View From My Seat

A view of St. Paul’s Cathedral at the other end of the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge:

6940_Millenium Bridge 6-4-11

Inside the British Museum:

6873_Museum Atrium

A whimsical armored sculpture inside the Tower of London:

7228_Armoured Dragon_lighter

London Eye pods and Big Ben:

7026_Eye Pods and Big Ben

Night lights along the Thames River:

6859_London at Night 6-4-11

Little Miss Tourist at the Tower Bridge:

7168_Becky and London Bridge_REV

Here’s to the 2012 London Summer Olympics!

Rule Britannia!

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Filed under London, Photography, Travel


0571_Maroon Bells Alpen Glow_REV 7-21-12

I think I am pretty good with the written word, but sometimes, words fail me.  Especially when it comes to expressing sympathy and condolences.  Don’t know why that is, except that I feel sometimes anything I say would sound trite, clichéd, or fake.

I’m still trying to get my head around the Aurora, Colorado shooting of July 20, 2012.  It’s beyond my comprehension why somebody would want to do something like that to other people.  I don’t get it.

Because I don’t have the right words for something like this, I thought I would express my sympathy to the people of Aurora, Colorado in the best way I can, and that’s to post a photographic homage.

I’ve chosen to post some Colorado sunrise images because – to me – that represents the beauty of a new day,  a fresh start and sunlight shining to illuminate the darkness of the night.

1731_Crested Butte Sunrise

0723-2_Sunrise Beginning Dallas Divide REV

9886_Many Curves Sunrise ORIG

9900_Estes Park Sunrise

0639_Maroon Bells Morning REV 7-21-12

My thoughts and sympathies are with you, Aurora.


Filed under Colorado, Landscape, Life, Photography, sunrise

Updating Your Gravatar

7-21-2012 6-33-33 AM

Whenever I read – and Like – a blog post by a blogger I follow (or by a new blogger I have discovered), I tend to hover over the Gravatars of others who have Liked that same post.  If I see a potential interesting photo blogger who I might want to follow, I click on their Gravatar.

This takes me to their Gravatar profile .  Sometimes, I see other links listed on their profile that would take me to their blog post or their photo website.  Most of the time, though, I see nothing else on that person’s Gravatar; no link of any kind.  I now know that is because

They didn’t update their Gravatars

Just call me slow.  I knew I had a Gravatar associated with my WordPress account, but I had no idea that it was actually a sort of separate entity that I needed to update in order for people to check me out whenever they click on it.  I was clueless until this morning, when I clicked on another blogger’s Gravatar  and noticed a separate link in the upper right corner of the screen to my own Gravatar (see the photo at the top of this post). I clicked on that link and saw the stuff I originally typed into my Gravatar eons ago when I joined up with WordPress.  I also noticed that I, myself,  had not added any links to my WordPress site nor my Facebook page.  Yikes!

That little issue has been remedied.

Now, whenever I Like another blogger’s post, my Gravatar is there for others to see and  click upon, which will hopefully lead those others to my WordPress site, my photography website, and my Facebook Page.


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Filed under Blogging, Photography

Least Bittern


Bitterns are among the smallest of the herons.  They are secretive, preferring to keep themselves to the dense grasses of the wetlands.  Experts at camouflage, it either takes a very sharp eye to spot them or – as in my case – pure chance.

9472-2_Least Bittern

9502-2_Least Bittern

9553_Least Bittern


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Filed under birds, Brazoria NWR, Photography, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

0662_Yellow-Crown Night Heron

I’ve seen a bunch of these guys during my last few visits to Brazos Bend State Park, Texas.  They also have nests in the oak trees in my mother’s front yard; every spring, one must be very careful where one steps in certain parts of the road under those trees in front of Mom’s house.

The thing about yellow-crowned night herons that draws my attention are their eyes.  And they are great little posers.

0679-3_Up Close and Personal

0634_Yellow-Crown Night Heron

0686-2_Yellow-Crown Night Heron

8945_Yellow-Crowned Night Heron


The Sibley Guide to Birds says yellow-crowned night herons eat mainly crabs.  This particular heron with its first summer plumage appears to prefer the large crayfish (aka crawdads or crawfish) inhabiting the park.  Unfortunately for this guy, the paparazzi just wouldn’t let it eat in peace Winking smile


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Filed under birds, Brazos Bend State Park, Parks, Photography, Texas

Morning At 40-Acre Lake

Most photographers come to Brazos Bend State Park in Texas for the wildlife.  I do that too, but I also come to this place for the landscape photo ops.  On this particular morning, I left home at a little before 7AM to arrive at 40-Acre Lake by 7:30;  just in time for some nice morning light.   This is the observation/fishing pier.  Fishing is free here, but no boating or swimming is allowed (note the sign regarding alligators, of which I saw several).

1047-2_Sunrise On 40 Acre Lake

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, Landscape, Parks, Photography, Texas


I was driving home after a morning photo shoot at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge. I looked over to the right side of the road, toward a concrete water tank. A large, quirky-looking bird was pecking at the ground. I stopped, grabbed my camera with the 70-200mm and 1.4x extender attached, carefully got out of the car, and managed to fire off one shot before the bird flew away.

0902_Crested Caracara ORIG

0902-2_Crested Caracara

A check in my Sibley Guide to Birds identified this bird as a Crested Caracara, a falcon that feeds mainly on carrion.  I was subsequently informed by several Facebook friends that it’s seen a lot in Costa Rica, and is also known as the “Mexican Eagle”.

On the July morning of Friday the 13th, 2012, (which has always been a rather fortunate day for me), I drove out to the refuge for some neat  cloud shots.  On my way home, there were two caracaras on the road.

9571_Caracara On The Road

One of them flew onto a fencepost where it posed nicely for me until I started getting a little too close for its comfort level.

9620-3_Caracara 56pct CROP

9685-2_Caracara 42pct

Both birds eventually landed high in some tree branches.

9709_Two Caracara

It was a good morning.

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Filed under birds, Brazoria NWR, Photography, Texas, Wildlife Refuge

A More Creative Way To Add A Watermark To Your Photos

1530_Common Sunflower_200mm-teleconverter_CROP

I was going to post my thoughts on my new Canon 1.4x Mk III teleconverter (will do that later) but decided instead to publish this watermark post because I am so tickled with the new thing I have learned that some of you might want to try out for yourselves.

I subscribe to the Daily Peta Pixel.  It’s an online magazine dedicated to photography. One of the recent editions ran a story with a link to a  watermarking tutorial published by farbspiel photography.  After looking at this tutorial and its screenprints, I thought wow, I can do this too!

Farbspiel photography is correct in stating a watermark can deter some viewers from looking further.  I myself don’t necessarily care if those viewers get disgusted when they see a watermark on my photos because they apparently don’t have issues with photo theft and copyright infringement.  For me, there is always room for improvement, and this watermarking method can be used for places where your uploaded photo cannot be linked to your photo website when a viewer clicks on said photo.

Note #1: farbspiel photography’s tutorial uses Photoshop, as do I.  I am going to assume – however erroneously – that most other decent photo editing applications have similar commands/methods.

It took me a freaking hour to figure everything out based upon the tutorial.  I’m not really familiar with layers and masks, and there were parts of the instructions that – even with farbspiel photography’s screenprints – were not clear to me .  I created this post with additional bits and pieces here and there to help clarify some of those issues.  I’m a spell-it-out-for-me kind of gal, and I know many of you reading this may be the same (guy or gal).

OK, here we go.

  • In Photoshop:  File-New

I copied my settings after the settings in farbspiel photography’s tutorial:


  • Using the Text tool, I created my watermark, formatting the font type, font size and text color.   If you are in Photoshop, look to the right of your screen and you will now see your text listed as a layer.

Originally, I deviated from the tutorial in that I simply created a single layer for the entire copyright watermark, rather than creating a separate layer for each segment.


Then, I realized the value of creating separate layers, because I can return to my original watermark file and change it up, simply by deleting or re-doing a specific layer (like the copyright year).  Duh.


Now that you have created the look you want for your watermark:

  • Click on Layer – New Fill Layer – Solid
  • Give this layer the same name as what you have given your new watermark (I called mine “Signature”).


  • Leave everything else as-is, and click on OK
  • You will be shown the Color Picker
  • Choose black


  • Click OK
  • Hold down the Ctrl (on a PC) key and click on the first (or last) layer you have created.  You need to click on that little white layer icon thumbnail beside your layer name in order to see that particular layer outlined in blinking white dashed lines.
  • Release your hold on the Ctrl key, and then right-click on the next layer  icon and choose Add Transparency Mask .  You will now see that next layer highlighted in blinking white dashed lines.
  • Continue to do the right click thing on your other text layers until you see all of your text watermark outlined in blinking white dashed lines.


  • Click on the white box next to the little locking icon in your Fill Layer
  • Right click and choose Delete Layer Mask
  • The Fill Layer will remain, but the white box will be gone.
  • Now, click on that icon (the highlighted yellow one) at the bottom of the Layers screen, which is the Add New Layer Mask icon


  • Once you have clicked on that, you will see your signature watermark  with a black background in the thumbnail of the Fill Layer.
  • While your Fill Layer is still selected, choose Color Dodge from the drop-down box.
  • Double-click to the right of your Fill Layer name and you will see the Blending Options box.  You can play around with the options, but for this post, which follows farbspiel photography’s tutorial, choose Drop Shadow and Bevel and Emboss.


  • Click OK
  • Save your new watermark as a .psd and keep this file open
  • Open up the photo you wish to watermark
  • Go back to your watermark file, click on the Fill Layer (the one that has the thumbnail of your watermark signature), then right click and select Duplicate Layer.
  • On the pop-up screen, make sure you have your destination photo chosen:


  • Click OK
  • Go to your destination photo and you will see your watermark signature as a new layer.  You will also see the watermark on your photo.


Here’s where I veered off of the remainder of farbspiel photography’s tutorial because I already liked the look of my watermark and am pretty good at “eyeballing it”.

  • Edit-Transform-Distort
  • Your watermark is now boxed in


Each of those little square “markers” (or whatever they are called) can be used to move/distort your watermark.  I just chose to arrange the corner markers as you see in the screenprints below to get to the finished product.



Once you are finished with your watermark arrangement, hit Enter

You may now choose to keep your original photo and your watermark layers separate, or merge the layers by selecting Layer-Merge Layers

As you can see from the photos, I decided I didn’t like the look of the watermark in this particular image.  I returned to the original signature.psd file and removed that layer.  I saved the file as a new psd file (so now I have two nifty watermarks).

Voila!  You now know how to create a workable watermark that you can move/distort and blend in with your photo which, at the same time, indicates the copyright and ownership of the photo without too much of a distraction to the viewer.

Thanks farbspiel photography and Daily Peta Pixel!

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Filed under Lessons, Photography, Watermark

A Happy 4th of July From Texas!

No flags (can’t find any in my photo archives), no fireworks (my little town isn’t going to be having a fireworks display afterall) – just a beautiful July 4th morning with bright rays of sunshine, dramatic clouds, and a silhouetted symbol of the Texas coastal prairie.

0612_Texas July Morning

For those of you who celebrate the 4th of July (or at least, get the day off), I wish you a happy day.  For those of you who have not the slightest idea of what this day stands for in America (and for those of you who don’t even give a rip what day it is), consider this just a nice landscape for your viewing pleasure.


Filed under Clouds, Landscape, Photography, Texas