Shot using the Minolta 500mm Reflex.
Peter King of the Light Rock Express rolled up to the Continental Club in his latest acquisition, a 1978 Chevy Van RV. It was a surprise for the members of the band who took some time enjoying some cold Löwenbräu with their manager William S. Graham before their performance on Friday evening.
The first song the band played that evening came as no surprise whatsoever.
After the Geek Gathering I wandered over to the Continental Club where I ran into Chris Gray, the music dude for The Houston Press. He asked if I was free on Saturday as he needed someone to shoot the Fleetwood Mac concert @ The Toyota Center. I told him I was available and he asked if I had a “long lens” because the photographers were going to have to shoot from the soundboard which is a pretty good distance from the stage.
My longest concert lens is my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 which works out to be about 300mm on my crop sensor Sony Alpha 700. I told him I would give it a try.
When I arrived @ The Toyota Center there were two other photographers, one with a Canon and a 400mm f/2.8 and another with a Nikon connected to a 300mm f/2.8 and each was armed with a monopod, something I have not yet invested in.
We were escorted to the soundboard before the show started and I was a little disheartened at the distance from the stage which was about 3/4 of the way to the back of the floor seats.
This shot was taken @ 70mm and gives you an idea of the distance
Yea, it was back a ways. I shot the show fully extended at 200mm without the benefit of a monopod. Thank you built in image stabilization from Sony!
Not bad, but I would have liked to have been closer, or had a lens with more reach and a monopod. Just not sure
This past weekend I was treated to a light plane flight over Houston with my friend Daniel Baker. We took to the skies in a Grumman Tiger and flew over downtown and out to the ship channel before cruising out to Galveston and then back to the Sugar Land Airport.
It was harder than I anticipated. The skies were clear, but it was a windy day and at 2000 ft it was a bit bumpy. Keeping the camera steady was a challenge.
I’ll have to do this again, but on a less windy day and maybe at or near sunset to see what I can come up with.
For our last day in Valencia Manel agreed to pick us up at the hotel and drive us the 120 kilometers (75 miles) to Peñíscola which is a beautiful city located on the coast and is topped by a castle that was once home to the Knights Templar and Benedict XIII (an Antipope). It was also the filming locations for the movie El Cid.
When you climb to the top of the castle you have a pretty spectacular view of the beaches and surrounding city.
The full sized version of the panoramic image can be seen by clicking here.
We had a fun time climbing around in the castle and shooting pictures.
Eventually we climbed back down and walked the beach for a bit for some lunch and then headed back to Valencia with a stop at a Horchatería where Manel introduced us to horchata which is a traditional Valencian beverage and quite tasty.
We’re very grateful to Manel for all of his kindness and hospitality and we could not have had a better send off!
It was worth packing a tripod just to get these extended exposure shots of The City Of Arts And Sciences in Valencia, Spain.
Friday was the first day after the official end of the Las Fallas Festival. We needed something peaceful and easy going after a solid week of late nights, loud noises and huge crowds so we decided to hop the bus and head to the nearby beach.
I forget sometimes what a beach with clear blue water and light colored sand looks like. Valencia is right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and it is a magnificent beach.
We just spent the day walking along the paseo from one end to the other. We came across this cool fountain which we’d seen pictures of previously
The beach was not overly crowded, but there were a number of people out. Some were walking like we were, others were sunning themselves on the beach or fishing. Some were running and launching themselves into the air
Around 2 pm we headed to an area on the beach that was lined with upscale restaurants and took a seat on the patio to enjoy some sangria and world famous Valencian paella.
Everyone we knew who has been to Valencia said the paella was fantastic, and they were right. It was a tasty tasty meal!
After a bit more walking we headed back to the bus stop and made our way back to the hotel.
It was a great day!
The main event. Midnight is the time all the fallas are burned.
We decided the above falla would be the one we watched burn. It was within easy walking distance of the hotel and was facing a wide open area along the dry riverbed so we would not be crammed into a small space by the throngs of onlookers.
We got there an hour before the burning time which was midnight. The crowd was very large and enthusiastic. Once the firemen cleared the electric lights and lowered the fire screens that protected the nearby buildings a series of fireworks detonated and the falla began to burn. At one point the fire was so hot we could feel it on our faces. It’s a wonder the people up close were not injured. I suspect there’s more than few eyebrow-less festival-goers after this.
It burned to the ground in about 10-15 minutes.
By the time we got back to the hotel there were plumes of black smoke all over the city, billowing into the Firework were going off everywhere. Within a few hours the entire city was covered in a haze of smoke.
The next day, silence….
The fire parade was a must see. It started just after sunset and was not too far from the hotel so we headed out early to stake out a spot for an unobstructed view. After the crowd filled in there was a reconfiguration of the barricade that actually put us behind some people. Most unfortunate, but not as bad as it could of been.
The parade started on time and at the beginning it was peaceful and really rather tame. The dancing girls moved along the parade route followed by a live band.
They were followed by a slow procession of Falleras (the women in traditional costume seen in my previous post. Apparently only a select few. Probably award winners from the champion fallas.
Then the main event.
Men and children dressed in flame retardant devil costumes with all manner of fireworks in tubes, on sticks and as part of elaborate constructs that looked like engines of war. The ran up and down the street and at points in the parade we were showered in sparkling fire embers. It was kind of scary. Cynthia thought we would be set on fire as she huddled behind me. I shielded myself as best I could and took some pretty satisfying photos.
This is only a small sample of the photos. Check out this Flickr slide show to see the entire collection
The Chapel of the Holy Grail claims to hold THE Holy Grail. It has even been certified by the late Pope John Paul as almost certainly being one of several potential candidates for being the One True Grail.
We went off in search of the Grail and actually got a little lost. We were pretty sure we knew where it was, but not absolutely certain. Cynthia mused at the conundrum of having to actually utter the sentence “Excuse me, but we seek the Holy Grail.” It just sounded ridiculous.
We did find it on our own, avoiding having to answer these questions three or being taunted by French guards, tricked by Grail Maidens or menaced by a bunny rabbit with huge gnashing teeth.
The Grail is back in a special chapel and behind bulletproof glass and the closest you can get to it is about 20-30 feet so it is not possible to truly scrutinize the relic.
William The Sheepie was in awe of seeing the Grail, much as he was in awe of being blessed by the Pope when we were in Rome.
Of course we needed proof we’d found it
The Ofrenda is the flower offering to the Virgin Mary. Two days of parade of traditionally clothed men, women and children marching to the square to bring flowers which are used to create a giant effigy to the Holy Mother.corners of the city and converge on the square so you pretty much can’t go anywhere without running into a procession.
It starts with just the bare structure in the Plaza de la Virgen
And then, over the course of two days literally THOUSANDS of women dressed in traditional costume make there way to the square to bring flowers that will be used to construct the effigy. The women are escorted by husbands, fathers and children and it seems to go on and on forever down several main streets.
Each group represents a family or a neighborhood and most of the groups have a marching band that accompanies them to the square and back home so there’s lots of music, singing and dancing.
This goes on from around 4 o’clock in the afternoon and wraps up at midnight and starts all over again the next day.
When we went out this morning the virgin was only half complete but starting to look quite amazing
They should be finishing up about now.
Here is just a small sampling of the hundreds of fallas that dot the city. It’s interesting to think that these are so temporary. The most common comment I get when I mention to people back home that these will be burned at the end of the festival is something like “what a waste.” I don’t think so. Everything is temporary and this festival celebrates that along with the concept of renewal…and besides, things that burn and go boom are so coooool!
We’re still looking for the one we want to watch burn.
Speaking of burning, we are still deciding which one we want to see get torched. We’ll have to stake out a spot early as the crowds get very large for the better and larger fallas when it is time for the crema.
The Oceanográfico, billed as the largest salt water aquarium in the world, was something we really wanted to see while in Valencia. It did not disappoint!
The aquarium tunnel alone was extremely interesting and fun to walk through and take pictures in.
At one point I dropped my hat without realizing it and the friendly scuba diver alerted me to the situation
Thank you Aquaman!
We saw many fine aquatic creatures including this very cool Sea Dragon
And these jellies
The highlight of the exhibit was this very tame and very curious Beluga Whale
The best aquarium I have ever seen and in such a wonderful complex. If you’re ever in Valencia, it’s a must see.