No Greater Joy…

I’ve been quite busy over the past few weeks and unfortunately, it has involved very little photography. However, it has involved a lot of quality family time and that’s a trade I would make any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Yet, I do have some exciting news to share. Both of my children, and one of my photography students (non-family), recently placed well with their entries in the 2013 Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Photography Competition. My son competed in the Junior age-group and placed 3rd in the Birds & Mammals category, 3rd in Landscapes category, and 8th in Digital Altered category. My photography student also competed in the Junior age-group and placed 3rd in Black & White category and 6th in Digital Altered. My daughter, competing in the Sub-Junior age group, placed 1st in People Category, 5th in Birds & Mammals category, and 10th in Landscape category. Her 1st Place People image was also selected as the Reserve Grand Champion for the photography exhibit. I am sharing my kids images, and a short shot description, below.

As I sit and reflect upon their photos, I am reminded about the laughs we had on the road, the snacks that they made me purchase, the joy of seeing their images on the computer when we got home, and the excitement of seeing their work place in competition. Without reservation I can tell you that no award I have ever won as a photographer has ever brought me as much joy as the awards won by my children. As the lyrics in Trace Adkins song state, “these are some good times” and yes, as they get older, I sure am going to miss this.


Net-Casting Fisherman. 1st Place, People category and Reserve Grand Champion of the 2013 RGVLS Photography Competition. Photographed by my daughter (age 7 at time of photo). Waking my daughter up at 5:00 A.M. was much easier than I thought as she was eager to get out and photograph. I knew fisherman frequented this particular location so I hoped we would get them wade fishing or perhaps paddling their canoes in the water. When I spotted this fisherman casting the net, I asked if my daughter could take his photo. When he agreed, I attached the 24-70mm lens to camera, mounted it to the tripod, placed it in a spot, then told her to take photos of him as he cast the net. I gave her a safety instruction about not looking at the sun through the viewfinder, reminded her about the rule-of thirds for compositions, and told her to focus on the fisherman. Then I went to the truck to get my son setup with his camera gear. I didn’t realize how good of an image she had until we got home and saw it on the computer. Normally I would have reviewed the images in the field but after this image, we found a long-billed curlew and whitetail fawn to photograph, which my son would end up shooting and using in the contest.


Black-Crested Titmouse. 5th Place, Birds & Mammals Category. Photographed by my daughter. This was an image from a back yard setup at our home. I made a make-shift pond out of wooden pallets and pond liner, placed some feed near it, then pruned a branch off of a mesquite tree. This was the first and only time I have ever seen this bird in my yard but what a joy it was to have her get this image.


Palm-Tree Sunset. 10th Place, Landscape category. Photographed by my daughter. How this image didn’t place higher is beyond me but it remains one of my favorites. This image was taken along the road in Mission, Texas and reminds me of what the RGV looked like when I was growing up. Here I wanted to teach my daughter how to use filters in the landscape. Using an app on the iphone, we knew exactly where, and at what time, the sun was going to be setting. I gave my daughter about four suggestions for possible photos and let her choose the one she preferred. I also let her determine whether she wanted to shoot in vertical or horizontal mode. While the sun was still too high, we experimented with the ND-grad filter so that she could see the type of effect it had. I had her adjust the filter up and down so that she could set the grad line on the horizon. She composed her image, took a test shot, then we sat and waited for 20-minutes. When the sun was where she wanted it, she took this image.


Historic Catholic Church in South Texas Brush Country. Photographed by my son. 3rd Place, Landscapes Category. I took him to this location hoping for a great sunset and to teach him how to use filters in the landscape. We shot many images with and without filters and even at his young age (9 at time of photo), he could tell the difference in quality by using the filters. We had practiced the Rule of Thirds all summer so I had him compose his image then we began our filter experiment. This is one of my favorite images taken by him and it beats any images I have taken of this same church.


Long-billed Curlew. 3rd Place, Birds & Mammals Category. Photographed by my son. My kids and I were driving along a ranch road when we spotted these birds in an open field. I placed a bean bag on the ground, handed him my 7D and 500/4.5 then had him take a photo. At their distance, they were too small in the frame so I decided to circle them and push them toward my son. Before leaving I reminded him about compositions (vertical if bird was walking toward him and horizontal if walking to the side) and that he would have to make a quick decision based upon the birds course. I recall smiling as I watched him from a distance shooting in the prone position and working that camera like a seasoned vet. Not once did he complain about the sand burrs that he had been laying on. This was his favorite image.


Whitetail Fawn in Caricature. 8th Place, Digital Altered category. Photographed by my son. This image, along with the long-billed curlew and my daughter’s “people” category image, required my kids to get up at 5:00 A.M. and make the 1 hour (maybe 1.20hr) drive to the Texas coast. This is an area where I have photographed deer over the past three years so I knew he would have a good opportunity there. This fawn, along with several does and other fawns, was in an open field of grass. I setup my camera/lens on a tripod and told my son to isolate one of the fawns and fire away. I sat back and watched him work. To get this caricature effect was quite simple using Topaz software. All it required was a few clicks and experimenting with sliders until he had a look that he liked. What kid doesn’t like a good cartoon? 🙂

Until next time, share the great outdoors with your children. The memories will be ones you’ll all treasure. Listen to Trace Adkins here.

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