Too Sunny for Birds

Too Sunny for Birds

Recently we had an episode of beautiful weather, not too hot or humid with brilliant blue skies. The weather forecasters were gleeful and grateful the hot Summer days had passed. This is South Texas and we might have these mild days for several months. The only problem is this Blinding Sunstorm that makes everyone else so happy produces horrible light for birds. 

IMHO.

A photograph taken in harsh light will have little or no detail in the deep shadows. Plus, all that light just washes out the whites and even the colors. And it makes a violent glare on the water. Even birds in the woods will often have strong shadows of branches across their bodies when the light is strong. When I first started taking photos, I was puzzled why my bright blue sky birds looked so ... flat and uninteresting. 

So, while I waited for a cloudy day I still had to take photos and think about blog posts. Recently I went with my fave photographer Bill Maroldo on a little excursion to use my wide angle lens. First stop, Rice University.

Stunning brick work. Patterns and shapes and light and shadows... Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR

Stunning brick work. Patterns and shapes and light and shadows...

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 200 HDR

Rice University is famous for the colonnaded walkways which offer a great play of shadow and light and a favorite site for wedding photographers. I should have had Bill take one of me here pirouetting around in my cargo pants, pocketed shirt and hiking boots. And bush hat.

Doors to Knowledge Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT 1/80 sec. f/5.0 ISO 640

Doors to Knowledge

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT 1/80 sec. f/5.0 ISO 640

We did find a small interior courtyard that wasn't subjected to high sun. Rice University is exactly the kind of school you would want to attend to study Humanities. Oh, it has a fantastic, well-deserved reputation for science and architecture, but we aren't being practical here.

Just having dreams. 

I played around with HDR here as there were a lot of high-contrast locations. Some of these came out nice, but I still need a lot more practice, as I tend to underexpose. I have more photos, perhaps you will see them in mashups or composites. Rice and surrounding area is a great place to wander around on a Sunday afternoon.

For those of you out-of-state, or from a square-state, or my Arctic Tundra residents and those from across the pond, Rice University is just southwest of downtown Houston. It is a beautiful tree-filled campus, surrounded by museums, parks, high-dollar homes and our world-famous Texas Medical Center.

#ipulledoverfotthis Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT 1/640 sec f/5.6 ISO 100

#ipulledoverfotthis

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT 1/640 sec f/5.6 ISO 100

In between are the trendy townhouses and a bit of the barrio. I saw this down a side street as we headed downtown, so Bill backtracked in response to my excited babbling. 

Sorry about cutting his feet off, it was really really big and I was already on the sidewalk. 

This must be a popular image; just as we were leaving several cars pulled up. Young folks jumped out and started taking photos of each other and the mural with their phones. And then...

A lovely young lady in a long, pink sparkly dress got out of a car. She wore high-heels and I am just positive it was part of a Quinceanera Celebration.

Decades ago, the train stopped here for bags of Comet Rice Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/7.1 ISO 200 HDR with post-processing

Decades ago, the train stopped here for bags of Comet Rice

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/7.1 ISO 200 HDR with post-processing

A little further out on the East side, we checked out an abandoned rice mill. Our objective was a towering structure with a 5 story caged ladder, but the building itself was unexpectedly open. Judging by some signs and installations, it appears to be used to host exhibits or events. A group was making a movie and we quietly prowled around outside of camera range. One of the actors was in Zombie makeup and that was rather startling. I mean, I watch Walking Dead faithfully, and I even have a Zombie Outbreak Response Team decal on my car, but seeing one outside of my TV was very different.

My internet research tells me we were at the The Silo

The Silo is such an alternative venue it's barely even open. In fact, the converted rice mill deep in Fifth Ward is open to the public only on rare occasions, such as when the Art Car Ball (almost) got rained out earlier this year. Billing itself on Facebook as "the place where the improbable becomes the possible," the Silo's seven-acre spread is home to an automobile graveyard, urban farming, film productions and screenings, experimental theater and tribal performance art, as well as the more traditional weddings and massive dance parties.

Want to see inside? It is going to be part of the 22nd Annual Houston Art Crawl, but there will be too many people then for good photos.

Classic VW Bug Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 640 HDR

Classic VW Bug

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 640 HDR

All around the edges of the open area were... retired Art Cars. Our parade is a very big deal, but I haven't been in years. Naturally, I was drawn to the Beetle. It was painted a flat black, and looked a bit sad, so I fixed it up a bit with Fractalius and Topaz Simplify

Retired tech writer behind retired Art Car Photography and Digital Art by William Maroldo

Retired tech writer behind retired Art Car

Photography and Digital Art by William Maroldo

We totally forgot about the original goal since the building was unexpectedly open. The movie crew seemed nervous we were going to get in the way or make noise, so we left and traveled back toward downtown. We had seen an abandoned warehouse a few weeks back and wanted to see if it was accessible.

The view from the near East side of Houston Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/7.1 ISO 200 HDR

The view from the near East side of Houston

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/7.1 ISO 200 HDR

Ya'll know Houston is growing all the time, right? We are like those sharks that have to keep moving or they will die (or is that just a myth)? We are constantly building and expanding and renovating and getting bigger. Just a block or two from this train track and fabulous derelict warehouse are $500K townhomes. And the BBVA Compass Stadium. I think they even play Soccer there.

A neighborhood in transition as they say.

But back to my foray into UrbEx photography. First off, let me say there were no Do not Trespass signs and a side door was totally open to the old building.

No breaking and entering, promise.

Pull up a chair and rest a while... Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 800 HDR

Pull up a chair and rest a while...

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 800 HDR

The building was very impressive inside; empty and actually in good shape. I have no idea where the green velvet chair came from; it doesn't even look like an executive office chair. And it was a challenge to deal with the deep shadows and streaming sunlight - the perfect high contrast environment for HDR..

Shadows and textures and messages from beyond Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 800 HDR

Shadows and textures and messages from beyond

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/5.6 ISO 800 HDR

The space kept changing with the light. And in processing the photos (I have about 500 from that day) I keep finding new hidden messages. The post-processing techniques bring out texture and even graffiti I didn't see when I was there.  

Parts from the freight elevator, a corner view and some of the ground floor. 

Parts from the freight elevator, a corner view and some of the ground floor. 

I have some new mashup techniques I am playing with. And then there are endless possibilities. 

Some internet research determined the building has a 2009 historic designation. It has a good roof, and seems structurally sound. It would make wonderful residential lofts except for that active train track 20 feet away along the side of the building. But, hey, there are large apartment buildings right up next to freeways.

And that would be almost constant noise and annoyance. At least trains have schedules.

End of the day... Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/4.5 ISO 640 HDR with post-processing

End of the day...

Sony A77 II with 16-50mm DT  f/4.5 ISO 640 HDR with post-processing

This industrial side of Houston is perfect for skyline sunsets. That could be another reason those new trendy townhouses are so expensive. Since Houston is flat as a table most of us just have views of the neighboring house. 

Are you tempted to get out and explore the urban jungle? Did you miss the birds this week? Are you relieved to know I actually have a cell phone now and could call for help if I got lost or something?

Let me know in the comments; UPDATE: Internet Explorer is not working, and seems Safari has problems, too. Chrome works. Sending a new complaint to SquareSpace right now. 

Related adventures: Adventures Amiss ; Opportunities

Outrunning the Cold Front

Outrunning the Cold Front

Seeing Double and Triple

Seeing Double and Triple