An End of a Season

Today is my last full day here and I have to say that the experience has been amazing. It’s been 10 years since my last trip to Montana which is far too long.

Although this trip has been less enjoyable than my last one. For one I’m on my own so I spend a lot of time talking to myself. Secondly, today was pretty much a none stop wintery storm mix – rain, freezing rain, hail and snow. I swear I was Eyeore from Winnie the Pooh. Anywhere I was it was raining, but elsewhere I could see sun so I’d chase it but then the rain followed me. I went east I went west it didn’t matter. The temps have hovered in the 40s as well so even when I’m outside it is damn cold and windy.

Photo of the Day – Minute Maid

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I took this photo on Tuesday while in Houston – I had a little bit of time to kill and decided to walk over to Minute Maid park to take a few pictures of their ballpark. It is a neat ballpark and the indoor atmosphere and climate control in Houston is well needed. They have a few unique things about their park that alot of people who watched the good Astros teams from the mid-2000s (Killer B’s). The first is the train out in left field that will make its round around the track (not sure if it goes all around the stadium) every time the Astros hit a homer and the upward sloping centerfield which at least once a year causes a forgetful outfielder to take a spill while tracking down a fly ball. I’ve been to three Astros game in the past few years and still haven’t seen that train run….one day they will hit a homer when I’m there.

What do you Seek

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

– Matthew 6:33

That’s the quote that was referenced on the inside of the spaceship in Rockwall, Texas. I hope they found what they were looking for during their visit to the planet.

Photo of the Day – The Day after Tomorrow

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Climbing into this Futuro House after taking pictures of the outside I was struck by the fact that a family could – and likely did – live here at some point. Of course, there was probably other walls and what not in the place when it was habitable.


I booked another trip back to Houston this afternoon for a client meeting. We will be heading down at the end of this month and from what I’ve heard it is going to be toasty! I fly a decent amount for work and consistently – without fail – the flight from Chicago to Houston is by far the most expensive ticket I’ve ever seen domestically. The price no matter when you look or book the flight is over $1,000. Now my work is paying for the flight so I shouldn’t complain about the price but if I was traveling for pleasure or anything like that the insane price of a ticket might make me consider doing the 19 hour drive. In comparison I also booked a flight to Los Angeles this afternoon which cost a little over $300 – the distance from Chicago to LA is around 1,000 miles more and the ticket is a third of the price. I know airlines don’t do it purely based on distance but I have to think that is a factor. Perhaps it is that most people going to Houston are business travelers so the prices can be whatever they want to put them at and companies will keep paying?

As I was writing this I thought I can’t be the only one thinking this and I’m not. Two years ago there was an article in the Wall Street Journal about why it costs so much to fly out of Houston’s Intercontinental Bush airport and yes it is because of us damn business travelers with our airline preferences that are essentially making the pricing inelastic (oh boy that old Economics term coming out) since airlines can charge whatever they want and we will continue to pay rather than take a cheaper carrier in or out of Hobby airport. However, to be fair I did check Southwest before booking my flight this afternoon and it was only $50 less than what American Airlines was charging for a non-stop flight around the same times….so maybe the point made in the linked article no longer holds true since flights from Hobby seem to be rising with those of the ‘major’ carriers.

Photo of the Day – Sunset and Reflections

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As the sun dipped behind a skyscraper in Houston I went to the top of a parking garage and took a few shots of the reflection. I received my 10-stop ND filter in the mail today so what that means is in the future I should be able to take a 10 – 15 minute exposure of a scene like this and get the motion in the clouds which will be something I can’t do with my current equipment. I’m excited to try it out and will probably do so this weekend at the lake.

Fort Worth Stockyards

During my last business trip in Dallas, Texas I wound up staying the night in Fort Worth, Texas because I wanted to shoot the Stockyards area. The previous trip I had there I wound up attending the rodeo with my client and had a blast but since I didn’t have my camera with me I didn’t get any shots of the Stockyards. The Stockyards district is a historic district that used to be a former livestock market that operated under different owners dating back to the mid-1800s.

Photo of the Day – The Texas Flag

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As I walked around in the morning taking pictures of all the historic buildings I noticed how the Texas Flag hanging from the awning of the hotel was forming a nice frame with the Fort Worth Stockyards sign. Unfortunately, as most of the buildings are single or two stories tall I wasn’t able to get anything of interest in the ‘frame’ area. Therefore, I decided to put a little vintage look to it and add some texture to it via a ‘yellow paper’ texture in OnOne Perfect Effects. I liked how the texture made the signage and flag standout from the background.

Magnolia Building – Dallas, Texas

On a business trip in Dallas, Texas I stayed downtown at the Magnolia Hotel. If you’ve never been to a Magnolia Hotel – I think they only have five across the US – I’d recommend seeking one out the next time you stay in Dallas or Denver. The rooms are typically very large (by hotel standards), free drinks at happy hour and milk and cookies in the evening. Yes, milk and cookies. Nothing hits the spot better than some milk and cookies after spending the evening walking around the city sight seeing. Trust me it’s perfect. 🙂

Photo of the Day – The Historical Magnolia Building

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This Magnolia Petroleum Building is on the National Registrar of Historic Places and for many years it was the tallest building in all of Texas (it stands at 29 stories). It was the original headquarters for the Magnolia Petroleum Company and on top of the building placed a neon Pegasus symbol which would later become the well known symbol of Mobil Oil. The building was converted to a hotel in 1997.

Off to a charity function this evening for Open Heart Magic – it is their annual fund raiser and I’m looking forward to a night of fun for a good cause. It is a wonderful organization that continues to help sick kids in hospitals throughout the Chicago area. Please take some time to go to their website and view the stories of the patients and families they have helped.

The Death of Guidebooks

I read a sad article the other night about how Frommers will no longer be publishing hard copies of their guides. Now, I’m not a Frommers reader (maybe that’s the problem?) but it still leads me to think that other popular travel guides may make the same decisions. Unfortunately, most people get their reviews from free, user based sites on the net while the thought is that the guides are only promoting those businesses that are lining their pockets for the publicity. I’m not naive enough to think this doesn’t happen to some extent but I can that I’ve never been disappointed with the Rick Steves’ guides when traveling within Europe and I’ve always really enjoyed the DK Travel Guides because they have better pictures strewn throughout which gives me a good sense of the land. Alternatively, I find the reviews on Tripadvisor, Travelocity, etc… are often skewed by people with bad experiences since most people are more apt to write negative comments than to praise something or someone.

One of the biggest joys I get when initially planning a trip is going to the bookstore logging onto Amazon and purchasing the first of what inevitably ends up being two to three guidebooks. I like to prepared for trips and spending an additional $20 – $50 seemed a good investment when spending much more on the trip itself in order to have some sort of idea of ‘what to do’ when on the vacation. I thoroughly enjoy revisiting the guides in the years after the trip to see what I’ve highlighted/starred/underlined. Sure this can be all done on a Kindle but seeing those books with dog eared pages each day on my bookshelf also reminds me (albeit briefly) of where I’ve been and undoubtedly sparks some fond memories – perhaps the gelato in Rome, skirt steak in the Dominican or the beers throughout Belgium.

Photo of the Day – Sun Setting Over Houston

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I found a parking garage shortly before sunset and I went up to the highest possible level. Their were little holes in the wall slightly bigger than my camera so I wrapped the grip firmly around my hand and pushed the camera outside the window before snapping off three pictures in Photoshop. The colors in the sky and the reflection on the building turned out much better then I expected it to so it was a pleasant surprise when I loaded them up on my computer.

It’s no secret but my biggest pet peeve with hotels is…

The WiFi situation. Look its cheap now – it is everywhere – so why, why, why can’t hotels just provide it properly?!? I don’t get it – especially ‘business’ hotels. Yet here I am at the Minneapolis Westin hotel and the picture I’m trying to upload (7 mb) has been going for fifteen minutes and it’s not even halfway done……okay, deep breaths and I’ll come back to complete today with a positive quote of some point.

“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”

— Paulo Coelho

Photo of the Day – The Joy of a Child

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This statue was erected after a tragic event at the ballpark in Arlington where the Rangers play. A young boy lost his father when his dad was trying to catch a foul ball and tumbled over the railing. The statue represents the joy that a child experiences when coming to a game – where dreams are always plentiful and worries (about love, money, life, etc…) are non-existent.

Ahhh to have the mentality of a child.

Booger Red’s Saloon – Home of the Famous Buffalo Butt Beer

While in Dallas I stayed overnight at the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards Hotel. Next door was a bar named ‘Booger Red’s Saloon’. It was packed the night I was there so I went across the street to the Loveshack where they had a nice outdoor courtyard, live music and good, greasy cheeseburgers. The next morning I woke up to get some sunrise pictures but before heading outside I stopped in the hotel lobby and was taking some pictures of the interior. One of their employees was setting up for the breakfast that morning and asked me if I’d like to head next door to the bar to get some pictures of it. Seeing it the night before I knew it had a cool interior with the saddles for bar stools and the mounted buffalo butt on the mirror. I never did have ‘Buffalo Butt’ beer but maybe next time I’ll head into the bar, grab a saddle and order one.

Photo of the Day – Booger Red’s

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And when you want something bad enough the universe usually relents

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

It is always hit or miss while traveling for work and having one night in a place to take photos. You don’t have the opportunity to come back again so a cloudy is sky is just something you have to deal with.

In doing my research ahead of time I found this UFO looking house in Rockwall, Texas. It’s an old Futuro house that sits right off a highway in Texas. These houses were built in the 1960s and 1970s but weren’t very popular and only 100 of them were built. Therefore, it’s pretty rare to see them let alone have them in tact still and on the property where they were built. After seeing how rare they were I knew I wanted to get some good shots of it. I was scared that it wouldn’t be accessible and if it was I worried that the light wouldn’t be good. I arrived about an hour before sunset and wound up taking well over a hundred shots of it. I even climbed up on the inside and experienced a little of the living situation inside (it was cramped). In my mind this is the exact shot I wanted as the light turned out perfectly – I zoomed in and eliminated the background neighborhood to make it seem like we are being visited by creatures from another planet.

Photo of the Day – Aliens among us?

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You’ve got to move it, move it

Sitting is lethal – that is obvious by the studies that have been done in recent years showing that people that watch one additional of hour of TV per day have an 11% higher chance of dying than their peers who watch less TV. As someone who doesn’t believe alot of the BS the pharmaceutical companies pump out trying to convince people they are sick so they can pump their bodies full of their prescription drugs I actually take this study to heart. Not because it has more ‘proof’ or anything behind it but because it makes sense to me. I know some people are probably skeptical but many felt the same way when research showed smoking shortened lives.

TV is actually a (relatively) new phenomenon and combine it with internet and you could have a deadly combination of sedimentary activity. In fifty years maybe we will have more proof of the effects but right here, right now I’m making an active pledge to get and stay healthier. I generally do a good job of hitting the gym and my diet is pretty good but I go through stretches (like the last three weeks) where work/life gets so busy that the gym is a secondary factor – I crank the diet up in those times and drastically cut my calorie intake but I still feel so much more lethargic after a period of extended ‘rest’.

Photo of the Day – The Stockyards

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The Fort Worth Stockyards near Dallas, Texas. I spent a night there this week while on business and the historic district is pretty cool. Alot of nice bars, restaurants, etc…If you do stay there I recommend the Love Shack – it’s a small outdoor bar that has live music but the burgers are awesome and they were able to curb my skepticism that I wouldn’t be able to find good food in such a ‘touristy’ location.