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Vapor Tales

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Photographer's Assistant

I don't know where I would be without my trusty assistant who's always at the ready to help me test a new lighting scheme, prop, backdrop or process. Thanks as always Ladybird, prop examiner and local explorer extraordinaire.
Cat Photography

Last But Not Least

One of the most important tools to any visual journalist and digital storyteller is that metaphorical meat cleaver used to cut the fat. That fat, unfortunately, often includes fantastic scenes or photos. The story is the trump card and takes priority over even the best images if the images don't fit. That's a reality, but it doesn't mean those
shots shouldn't nor couldn't be shared.

Here are a few of my favorite shots that didn't make the cut for the
Reliving The Railroad piece in the post before this one.

Austin Steam Train Association
Austin Steam Train Association
Austin Steam Train Association

Reliving The Railroad

For a long time I have wanted to do a story on trains. My dad grew up in Montana and briefly worked as a brakeman. In addition to his tales, I have had the pleasure of watching trains in action almost every place I have lived, from North Idaho and Spokane, Wash., to Boise and certainly here in Austin, Texas.

As with aviation, I can't pinpoint exactly what drives my curiosity but I think any man to some degree channels his inner-boy when he sees, hears and feels an engine yank a long line of assorted cars down a nearby stretch of track. I have stopped to watch this event more than a few times myself.

I began searching for a suitable story within the industry. I figured with so many possible storylines, I would have to hit on one and I did, when I ran across the Austin Steam Train Association in Cedar Park, Texas. With the association's blessing, I tagged along on several of the tourist railroad's rides, including a couple themed rides. I also interviewed a small handful of association representatives.

I weaved together the photos and audio to make this photo story. I hope you enjoy this piece, learn about the railroad, the association, its operators and riders and begin to develop an interest in trains yourself.

I would like to extend a special thanks to those at ASTA as none of this would have been possible without their help.

I used this project as my master's report for The University of Texas and wrote the required 4,000 word, first-person narrative associated with the photo story. If you'd like to give the report a read, you can Download a copy here.

Be sure to allow time for the video to buffer. Internet Explorer does not do this well.

Happened Upon A Legend

Sometimes one has to spend long hours and a lot of money to stand toe-to-toe with the greats. Sometimes, they come to him. I shoot for the Texas Stars and they have the Hamilton Bulldogs on their schedule twice this season, once at home. The Bulldogs' ace in the net just happenes to be Dustin Tokarski, the best goaltender to come through Spokane as a Chief since possibly Barry Brust, who I caught earlier in the year when the Stars played Abbotsford.

I grew up just across the Idaho border from Spokane, only about 45 minues from what was then, the Boone Street Barn. When I played hockey, it was as part of teams originating from Spokane and no matter which team I was playing for or where we were traveling, we always supported the Chiefs. Like most of my friends and family, I followed them through their highs and lows. I'll never forget some of my favorites, such as Jason Padollan or Greg Leeb, Ray Whitney or Kevin Sawyer, Myles Stoesz or Spokane native Tyler Johnson. I remember trying to describe Jeremy Stasiuk's hair to my stylist; never could get that to look right. Certainly one of the most impressive Chiefs on record is Dustin Tokarski. Though he's bounced around a little bit since then, he'll always be a legend in Spokane. He was absolutely vital to bringing the Memorial Cup back to the Lilac City in 2008 and he'll have the respect of Chiefs fans forever.

I couldn't resist taking a few more shots than usual of the opposing team when the Bulldogs came to town. The Stars won the game, a physical game, but Tokarski played well.

Here's a bright side Hamilton fans: I know you're in last place right now, but the Chiefs finished last in the league in 2004-2005. Tokarski joined the team the next year and picked up a winning record as the backup. Then, in 2007-2008, he went on a tear, finishing the regular season 30-10, with six shutouts and a .922 save percentage. He followed that with one of the most storied post-season performances a goalie has ever recorded with only a pair of losses in 18 games and three shutouts with a sky-high .944 save percentage and a 1.38 goals against average, ending with his raising of the Memorial Cup. I'll be checking to see where Hamilton finishes two years from now and I won't be at all surprised if it involves a Calder Cup somewhere over Tokarski's head.

Here are a few of the shots from the game in Cedar Park, Texas.

Dustin Tokarski
Dustin Tokarski
Dustin Tokarski
Dustin Tokarski

A Little Fun With Perspective

Providing a new perspective is one of my favorite uses of photography. This doesn't always have to be extreme nor does it require fisheye lenses or remote-controlled vehicles. Sometimes, it just means showing someone else something he or she has seen many times before in a new light, literally and/or figuratively.

I came across a few recent examples I thought I'd share with you. The first is the historic Clyde Littlefield house on The University of Texas campus. This shot was taken from the west side of the building around 9:00 a.m., but I bet you wouldn't have guessed that from the photo.

The second image was taken from my position between the benches during a Texas Stars hockey game at Cedar Park Center in Cedar Park, Texas. If I look straight up, this is what I see. As part of a ceiling assembly, it's not too incredible, but as a collection of geometric shapes and complementary colors, it has value.

Find something you see all the time, then find a way to see it differently and you'll take a big step forward as a photographer whether that's important to you or not.

Clyde Littlefield House
See A New Perspective
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