Ridin’ and shootin’

Another fun shot from the 2012 National Western Stock Show — this one from the Cowboy Mounted Shooting event:

Ridin' and shootin'

Honestly, I’d never even *heard* of Cowboy Mounted Shooting as a competitive event before. But when we showed up at the stock show ticket desk, we could definitely hear it! We wandered into the arena to see what all the noise was from — and found this fun little event going on.

Getting this shot was a bit tricky, though. The arena lights are relatively dim, and the horses move pretty quickly — so I had to let the ISO get up to 2500 in order to get a reasonably fast shutter speed. At times like this, it helps to catch the action when the horse and rider are rounding a corner — so they’re moving as slowly as they’ll ever be. Oh, and put your camera on “continuous” shooting — catching sparks in mid-air is a game of chance…


A Quick Engine Change (QEC) unit for a historic P-38 fighter undergoes a rebuild at WestPac Restorations — on the campus of the (not quite open to the public yet) National Museum of WWII Aviation in Colorado Springs, Colorado:


QECs were developed to speed aircraft maintenance — containing an engine and all its support equipment, a QEC allowed an engine swap to be performed with a relatively short grounding of an aircraft.

I made this image on a recent tour of WestPac Restorations and the National Museum of WWII Aviation. The Museum has been designed and is in the process of collecting funding to start construction (anybody have $12M they can spare?). Meanwhile, they have monthly tours during summer months — my daughter and I went on a special tour this past weekend as part of an AIAA-sponsored group.

Cool stuff!

Lost in the Caribbean

A few weeks back, Denver held its latest annual “Doors Open Denver” weekend. The point of these is to encourage people to get out and get familiar with some local architectural points of interest. This year’s theme was “modern architecture,” roughly speaking things built in the past 50 years.

Lost in the Caribbean

I took this shot in the lobby of the Cable Center Building — a pretty posh place that’s a local hub of the cable TV industry. I have no idea who this gent was, but he definitely seemed to be feeling a bit… at sea.

Democracy Wall, Beijing — 1979

A lifetime ago, I was fortunate enough to be part of a cultural exchange trip to China for a few weeks. It was 1979, and much of the country was just opening up to visitors from outside. When our group travelled through Beijing, it was months after the main activity at the “Democracy Wall,” but some sections of it were still in active use as a community discussion board:

Democracy Wall, Beijing -- 1979

I’d forgotten about this slide (taken with my trusty old OM-1, recently scanned), but current events in Egypt reminded me that I’d never done anything public with this image.

I have to suspect that authorities in China are being very careful w.r.t. how they handle news of the events in Cairo.

Update: turns out, they are

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta takes place every October, the first full week of the month (Saturday of one weekend through Sunday the next). I’ve now had time to sort through the shots I took from this year’s Fiesta, so I thought it’d be a good time to write down some thoughts / advice on how to photograph the event. I’ll talk about logistics in this post, and follow up in a few days with some gear recommendations.

Happy day!

According to a number of estimates, the Fiesta is the most photographed single event on the planet. And it’s easy to see why — admission is open and reasonably priced, you’ve got lots of color to work with, skies are usually blue. And with the advent of the internet, you can get your ticket(s) online in advance. Piece of cake.

But all this comes with one little complication — the Fiesta can be a crowded place.

A bit cozy!

To put it in perspective — the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico has a population of a bit over 500,000. The last estimate I saw pegs the visitor count for this year’s Fiesta at about 750,000. I suspect this double- and triple-counts people that come to town and attend multiple days’ launches. But still, on weekend days you’re out on a field with well over 100,000 other pedestrians.

Did I mention that if you don’t have any in-town relatives, you need to line up a hotel room well in advance for this?

State spirit

Anyway, the crowd is friendly, but it’s no place for the claustrophobic. Since you’ll be viewing the balloons from the same field they’re launching from (on weekend mornings, about 600 balloons launch in multiple waves as part of “mass ascensions”), you need to be ready to do some walking — if only to get out of the way of the next wave of balloons as they are brought in by trailer.

Also, as you might imagine, getting 100,000+ people in and out of a single large field is no mean feat. There are only so many ways you can get to the park where the Fiesta launches — so driving definitely isn’t recommended. Instead, when you buy your ticket(s), get the kind that include a shuttle-bus ride. Here, you’ll just need to drag your tail and your gear down to a large parking lot (your choice of six) early in the morning — the bus driver will take it from there.

And by “early,” I mean before 5:30 am — the buses have to take a circuitous route to the field (to get around all the people in cars), and that means that even with every bus in town on the job, the first wave of buses in will be on the road by 5:30 — and tied up in traffic until 6:30 or so. Show up too late, and you might not get a seat on the second wave of busses — and the last bus in leaves at 7:00.

Bus route

Here’s the GPS track of our bus ride one day. We rode in from the Hoffmantown lot (parking for a local mega-church), and as you can see, minimizing drive time isn’t high on the priority list. It’s just the only way to dodge the log jam caused by thousands of cars trying to take the shortest route in from the interstate.

On the bright side, since this is a New Mexico event, when you get to the Fiesta grounds at an ungodly hour of the morning, you’ve got a very tasty breakfast burrito waiting for you…

Enjoying the show

I’ve been delaying this post so I could upload and group a bunch of related images together. Well, enough waiting…


The town we live in (part of the Denver metro area) has a celebration each August called Western Welcome Week (which is actually 10 days long). It started as sort of a homecoming event, an excuse for folks that have moved away to come back to reconnect and visit with their old friends.


It’s since gained a bit of celebratory flavor — a way to remind ourselves that while we’re part of a major urban area, we’re still small-town folks at heart. So part of the shindig is an opening fireworks display — presented in a local park with all the flavor you’d expect from a small-town fireworks show. Come early for the free music, bring a lawn chair or blanket and sit in the grass, close to where the fireworks are getting launched.

Cherry on top

If you pick your spot well, you’ll even catch some silhouettes of other spectators in your pictures!

Enjoying the show

Dude, I’m dragon…

So a few weeks back, when we went to the 10th annual Denver Dragon Boat festival, I made a point of lingering along the path the dragon would take during the opening festivities. Very colorful, not something you see every day — I thought it’d present some interesting photographic opportunities.

Dude, I'm dragon...

So after firing away, taking pictures of the dragon’s passage, I was more than a little surprised myself that I’d captured this shot. One of the dragon’s carriers definitely isn’t too enthused about the whole affair…