Art and Architecture

Art and Architecture

September 30, 2016

Before it got heat-advisory hot this summer, Bill Maroldo and I ventured downtown late one afternoon. We used to go on Sundays to take photographs as it was deserted and quiet but Houston has finally achieved the long-desired outcome of continuous downtown activity. With events and venues at all times, you can hardly find a parking place around City Hall or Discovery Green. 

Loitering on the lawn Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm 1/400 sec f/5.6 ISO 500

Loitering on the lawn
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm 1/400 sec f/5.6 ISO 500

Years ago I worked downtown, I lived in Montrose and even rode the bus to work. All of this is now new and unfamiliar to me. These chairs and umbrellas were near 1600 Smith because it is in the photograph, but I am mostly lost in the glass and concrete canyons these days.

Reflections Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 400

Reflections
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 400

Not too far from the colorful chairs is the infamous Enron building and the round sky walk. I have to say none of the photos I took this trip were really satisfactory to me. Too many cars and pedestrians. We were advised by a building's security that taking photos from the sidewalk was perfectly OK with them but please not to take photos of entrances. Fair enough.

This whole street photography and access thing can get touchy. We have a Facebook friend who was treated pretty harshly by security where a small rookery is established near a local hospital. She was intimidated enough she complied with their request to delete her pictures. Bird photos! Bill and I were politely asked to move along once at some train tracks near the ship channel. Another time we were held up in traffic as Life Flight was being loaded and the EMT guys asked Bill if he had taken any photos of bodies. They were not at all upset about him photographing the helicopter and took his word for his images. 

And as much as I would love to photograph the refineries along the coast (the shapes and rust and textures are fascinating) I know better than to try. Those things can be rationalized as true security concerns except for the fact Google and the internet can tell you more than a photograph.

Main Street and the train Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 1250

Main Street and the train
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 1250

And on Main Street, our silent train passes through this water feature on the way to the Medical Center. I am all for mass transit in congested areas, but geez, that thing scares me to death. It just appears out of nowhere and farther down the line you can actually drive in the same lane with the train. Why they didn't just buy a bunch of cool open air trolley-looking buses that could have flexible routes is beyond me.

Bistro on Main Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/9.0 ISO 640

Bistro on Main
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/9.0 ISO 640

When I took this, I was thinking about the shadows in black and white, but it looks nice in color. I believe this is on Main looking out at the train tracks, but I am not sure. The canopy for this looks a lot like a multi-colored witch's hat.

Canopy for Bistro Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/9.0 ISO 640

Canopy for Bistro
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/9.0 ISO 640

Now. I have probably insulted some famous artist I have never heard of. Maybe it was supposed to look like a tornado morphing into a witch's hat? Have I been looking at fur and feathers so long I don't appreciate man-made wonders?

The forest is never far Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 1250

The forest is never far
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 1250

This row of trees with Foxtail ferns and blooming Agapanthus fascinated me. I took a lot of shots, and only now when I was processing them I see the best shot would have been getting some of the construction reflections AND the greenery.

Photographers at work Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 640; post-processing NIK Silver Effex Pro

Photographers at work
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 640; post-processing NIK Silver Effex Pro

More selfies. It is fun to work with reflections downtown; you need to concentrate on shapes and geometry and get yourself in an abstract zone. A little hard for me to do with all the noise and activity. I need more practice.

Sky walk keeps workers above the noise and traffic Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 400; post-processing Topaz Glow

Sky walk keeps workers above the noise and traffic
Sony A77II with Sigma f/3.5 10-20 mm HDR f/5.6 ISO 400; post-processing Topaz Glow

The first and last photographs in this adventure were post-processed with Topaz Glow 2. It is a stand-along program but does work with Photoshop. I tried it when it first came out and felt it was too strong; the effects were overdone. But, there are sliders and adjustments and reducing the total opacity seems to work for me. I like the outline affect, and how it flattens out the mid-tones. And it is does some interesting things to feathers on bird subjects. 

Do you work downtown? Or does everything inside the Loop seem to be "downtown' now? Have I been out in the field too long to appreciate urban wonders? Let me know in the comments below.

Shrimpin' at Surfside

Shrimpin' at Surfside

Chasing Green Herons

Chasing Green Herons