The Blogging Life

Fall Is Coming!

webc4465.jpgDespite the calendar flipping to mid-October already, I was terribly surprised to wake up Saturday morning and feel CHILLED! Even though our summer was especially mild this year with all the rain, I had forgotten what it was like to want to settle back into the covers rather than throw them off from the heat.

This past weekend was delightful weather for outdoor shoots. At the park, a mom taught a daughter how to play soccer, a dad tried mightily to get a butterfly kite aloft, and many joggers stopped to stare at Not-webc4285.jpgFrosty, my Texas snowless snowman! They found him very amusing.

I still have two more weekends of the outdoor special for the reduced rate of $65. Visit the page with sample images and the schedule and see if there is a slot for you!

Who makes snowmen in Texas?

We do!

Just, well, not out of snow. 

With all the craziness going on in Austin with the various parks charging fees (Zilker $50 per session, Mayfield park’s fee is pending with the City Council but rumored to start in October–no one would confirm), I knew I’d have to find an alternative place for photographing my fall special.

And knowing we’d be losing the bridges and scenic byways of Zilker Botanical Gardens, I wanted to have some fun new things for your holiday cards (although he’s definitely optional!)


Not-Frosty took twelve hours and $100 worth of grapevine to make! But I love him, and when he isn’t on duty on photo shoots, he’ll take up residence on my porch.

I hope you like him too!

Bluebonnet Mania

I am always eager for the bluebonnets to arrive. Fields of flowers make any drive better, and since I am often on Loop 360, I get an eyeful every time I go anywhere.

Last night, though, after spending hours working on bluebonnet portraits shot during my special, I dreamed of lying in a field of them and they loomed, menacing, flying into my face.

I guess too much of any good thing can be traumatizing.

Straight Up and Dirty

So last night we went to Stephanie Klein’s book signing at BookPeople. Stephanie was funny and spirited, much as I expected. You could definitely see her “bump”–she’s five months along with twins!

She talked about how when she started her blog, she never expected success to follow, and attributed the popularity and the book deals to her belief in following your passion. I think bloggers these days are probably more aware of the potential of their blogs, although with the blogosphere so inundated, it’s hard to stand out.

She read three excerpts from her book Straight Up and Dirty and answered questions with humor and candor. About 100 people attended, and maybe half of them stood in line to have her sign books. I am in the picture on her blog! I’m in red on the opposite side. She also posted the pictures I sent her.

I also got a book signed, of course, and she wrote her standard phrase “Follow your passion!” inside.

Christmas in September

Many people rant about Christmas trees going up in summer at craft stores, gift displays erected before Halloween, and general rumbling about department store holiday Muzak in November.

I beat everyone, always, as I have to prepare well in advance of Christmas for holiday portraits.

By mid-summer I’m already sweating the new holiday scene, watching for props, considering card designs. I won’t actually put up the tree in the studio until Halloween night, hanging decorations while I wait for trick or treaters, but I have to shoot sample images to put on my mailouts and ads way ahead of that.

Yesterday I ran around town trying to find red pajamas. They did NOT have to be Christmas, mind you, just red.

I tried discount stores–Wal-Mart, Target. I tried department stores–Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Dillards, JC Penney. Then I progressed to kid shops–Children’s Place, Gap Kids, Gymboree. My sense of panic grew as the day wore on and nothing but pink, yellow, blue, pastels. Was red just taboo this year? Did they withhold it to make sure everyone bought it at Christmas?

Finally at a boutique shop, Bright Beginnings, I found little pink gowns with characters in red coats and muffs. Close enough! I had just about given up on using my dad, who was in town for the weekend, as Santa in the new scene, even though he loves doing it. I didn’t have anything for the girls to wear!

But saved by the high-end kids clothing store. They tend to have leftovers from previous seasons, so I don’t have to wait for new shipments. Thankfully that had sizes close enough to the girls to make do.

So here’s the new design. I will be selling porcelain plates with images like these on it, perfect gift for grandma–a cookie plate with their grandkids giving cookies to Santa. The set is designed so that it will be very easy to splice in other kids with my dad, a clean seam down the middle.

First Day of Freedom


Both girls are in school today, the first time they’ve both been gone at the same time.

It’s been a long day. I feel like I should have accomplished a whole lot more.

But I did:

*Take my first NIA class. It did not really challenge me cardio-vascularly, which I expected, since I’m so used to hard-core running in the heat, but I liked the way I used more muscles. My arms will be sore, I think.

*Go shopping for NIA appropriate attire!

*Spend too much time reading blogs.

*Wrap a gift and otherwise prep for a birthday party tonight.

If I haven’t already forced you to see the images of my darlings in the new photo set, which are part of the special I’m running this summer, well, here they are!

Flower Power

Today I’ve been researching the history of Zilker park, and in particular, Zilker Botanical Gardens. Yesterday, while waiting for some clients to arrive, I spoke with one of the garden old-timers, an elderly man who is both an employee and a volunteer for the gardens. I have met him dozens of times over the seven years I’ve been taking portraits there, and he is one of the few hard-core garden advocates who does not actively dislike photographers who use the park. You’d be surprised at the animosity we encounter there by those who feel the gardens should be visited for their beauty alone and not commercial gain.

I naturally feel differently, as we photographers bring many visitors to the park, often creating devoted supporters. We also make the park eternal through our images taken there.

The man told me that a proposal is winding its way through the city to charge photographers $35 a day to use the gardens for portraits. “After all,” he said, “other cities do it.” He leaned against a stone pillar between the wood benches, tall and thin and white headed, but friendly, as if glad to bring me in on the secret.

“But didn’t the original deed state that the city could never charge for use of the gardens?” I asked.

“Yes, but they lost those deed rights a year or so back. They are trying to even kick the garden clubs out by charging upwards of $2,000 to rent the visitor center for flower shows.”

“Can they do that?”

“They are. Fortunately most of us are grandfathered in. But eventually, we’ll be out, I’d guess. They started charging for parking you know. Things change.”

His eyes were a startling clear gray in his relatively youthful face for a man I’d peg as nearing 80. “Oops, let me go help her,” he said, smiling broadly at a 60-something woman trying to load irises into her trunk. His stride embodied “spring in his step.” I laughed. Such a flirt.

At home I looked up the City Council agendas and minutes, but found no reference to the proposed fee. I decided to investigate the history of the gardens, and the deed, to see if if I could dredge up the original stipulations and how they might have been changed.

I came across this entry in the historical timeline.

April 1954: 14 white playgrounds and 3 colored playgrounds were opened for the spring season

I pictured white equipment and painted equipment for a moment, wondering why they designated that, then realized, “Oh!” And felt like an idiot. A moment documenting Austin’s intolerance, not quite the city then that it is today, liberal, progressive, although still with its blind spots.

I gave up on my quest for information on the fee. I assume it’s in subcommittee or just being tossed around by some director as a way to scrape up money. If they start charging, I’ll probably have to shoot elsewhere, as my fees would have to be jacked up beyond what my middle class families would pay.

Change, like any evolution, tends to head us toward improvement, but certainly there are glitches along the way, mutations in the structure that cause ill to some. Should this proposal pass, it seems innocuous, a few photogs make less money, a few more families return to JCPenney for pictures rather than face higher prices. But the cost to our perception of Austin, its parks, it openness, and its availability to all takes a pretty serious dive.

State of My States

Thanks to my friend Henry for pointing out this cute little item–you can map out where you’ve been in the U.S. or the world.

Here is my US Map (red states visited–18 states, 35% of them):

And my world map (red countries visited–13 countries, 5%):

So many places left to explore!