Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The soccer game was played in the afternoon, which left the evening free to pursue some photography in Dallas. Usually when we go to the games, we rarely stray far from the stadium. So I headed south, and ended up in downtown just before sunset.

I kinda know my way around downtown Dallas, but I still got lost and turned around by one-way streets. But I eventually ended up at the Main Street Garden Park.
The park is brand-new, it was dedicated just last November. The neon sign here used to apparently hang over a parking garage on the site of the park, and was refurbished and placed here instead.

The Dallas skyline from the park:

I walked around some, attempting to get some shots looking up at the tall buildings. I wasn't the only one out there...

I had a car pull up next to me and the driver ask for directions to American Airlines Arena. I had to admit that I didn't know the way, and she gave me a suspicious look like I was being deliberately unhelpful. I realized that they must have taken me for a local, since I was wearing a FC Dallas jersey at the time. After saying I was also a tourist, I tried my best to help by offering a vague "it's somewhere over there." I don't think it helped.

The sun was setting and casting some neat light in the sky, which was reflecting off of the glass sides of the Bank of America building. By the time I got close enough for a shot, however, the good light had vanished.

Before the trip I tried to scout possible shooting locations (which was comprised of searching for "Dallas skyline" photos on Flickr and then seeing if I could figure out where they were taken at). I found this spot, located across the freeway from the Dallas Museum of Art. I even looked this up on Google Streetview, and picked out the spot I wanted to stand to get a picture.

But as I got there, the spot I wanted was blocked off for some construction. Dang. So I went over and tried to get a shot from further down the road, as the sky turned to night.
And the curve on the building on the right isn't casued by lens distortion, it's actually shaped like that.

The nearby Arts District is also home to a cool old church that I've been wanting to get a picture of for years. So I crossed the freeway and stopped for a few shots...

The church is the Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe. Construction on this neat old church started in 1898 and finished in 1902. The church has the second largest Catholic church membership in the country.

I had been looking forward to getting shots of downtown Dallas at night for a few weeks now. But of course, the typical Cormack family luck would raise its ugly head once again. The one night that I was able to get pictures downtown just also happened to be the same night as "Earth Hour." Now Earth Hour is where cities across the world switch off the lights on major buildings and landmarks, in an effort to raise awareness for environmental causes.

Downtown Dallas also participated in Earth Hour, much to my dismay. At 8:30, the bright city lights that I had driven down there to photograph were promptly switched off. Oh well, I drove around and stopped for a few more shots. This one is the old Dallas County Courthouse, located by Dealey Plaza. In the distance is the dimly-lit Bank Of America Building.

I drove a few blocks over and went to the top of a parking deck that had some good views of the skyline.
I guess the Dallas World Aquarium, in the foreground, didn't get the memo that they were supposed to switch off the lights.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FC Dallas vs. Houston

The 2010 MLS season finally kicked off last week, after a long pre-season and threats of a possible player strike. I headed down to Dallas for another soccer pilgrimage, visiting the Holy Land of Pizza Hut Park in the suburb of Frisco. Saturday was a beautiful and sunny day, except for the wind. Gusts up to 40 mph would race through the stadium, picking up any paper you had and sending it over to the other side of the stadium.

The game was played during the day, which meant that it would be easier to get decent pictures. So before the game I got a seat in the corner, close to one of the goals and hoped for the best. It is frustrating to make the 5 hour drive into Texas to see your favorite team lose.

Dallas was playing their biggest rival, the hated Houston Dynamo.
FCD vs. Houston

My seat was a good one, with clear views of the field and the players as they worked their way towards goal.

Dallas vs. Houston

Houston forward (and former Dallas player) Dominic Oduro taking a shot - which missed, luckily. I liked that guy when he played for Dallas, so it kinda breaks my heart to see him playing for Houston.


Now I hate to post this next picture, taken in the 36th minute. This was taken right after Houston player Mike Chabala took a shot, which would go in for the first goal of the game.

But just a few minutes later Dallas would even the score with a goal from Atiba Harris. That goal happened on the other side of the field, so I didn't get a good shot of it. But here is a shot of Harris (#16), taken a few minutes later.

Soccer is perhaps one of the more difficult sports to get decent pictures of. The action is so spread-out over the course of the large field. It helps when the players decide to do something right in front of you. Dallas player David Ferreira fought to control the ball against two Houston players, just a few feet away from my seat.


In the middle of the second half, the Dallas bench players went by while they were warming up. This is Dallas midfielder Eric Avila, who would go into the game a sub about 15 minutes later.
The first 5000 fans at the game got a FC Dallas captain's armband. The friend I met at the game got there too late to get an armband, so I gave his young son my armband. After the game he got it autographed by Avila. I was jealous...

Dallas was getting more and more shots in the second half. Here is Jeff Cunningham, the league's top goal scorer last year and the person an Arkansas waterfall is named after, taking a shot (which missed, dangit Jeff!).


And a few more of Jeff Cunningham:

And just before taking another shot:
That one didn't go in, and the game would end in a 1-1 draw.


And one last shot from the game:

And the video highlights:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Union Station

I had several relatives come into town this weekend, so I spent my weekend acting like a tourist in Little Rock. We made two visits to the Historic Arkansas Museum to show off my photo show (which will only be up for a few more weeks). Then we visited the River Market and rode the trolley on a day when downtown was surprisingly busy.

On Saturday night I travelled out into a storm - the same one that was dumping several inches of snow in the Ozarks. It was just a cold rain in Little Rock, but I had my rickety but trustworthy umbrella with me. I ended up stopping at Union Station, the old train station downtown. The station was built in 1921, and at the time was the largest train station in the country that only served one rail carrier.

I really like the idea of rail travel, and wish we had a better rail system in this country. Right now, Amtrak is just too inefficient to actually be any good. You can still catch an Amtrak train at Union Station, heading off towards either Dallas or Chicago. To head down to Dallas, you have to be there at 3:10 am. And for Chicago, the stop is at 11:40 at night. Not all that convenient, is it?

The problem with Amtrak is that it is set up wrong. What we really need are shorter connections, between closer cities. How cool would it be to be able to take the train to Hot Springs for the day, or to Fayetteville for a football game? The closest major city to us is Memphis, and if you wanted to take a train there it would involve leaving Little Rock and travelling to Dallas, and then San Antonio. Then you go to Houston, then New Orleans, and then north to Memphis. A trip that takes maybe 2 hours by car would end up taking over 2 days by train.

To fix our rail system would take a lot of money and investment, and would be expensive. But then again so is the interstate highway system. It's not practical to take a trans-continental rail journey anymore, but shorter trips between cities would make more sense. I've given this a lot of thought actually, so if President Obama is reading this, please feel free to email me and ask me about my ideas - I'd be happy to help!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

I headed out after dusk tonight for a quick visit to the Big Dam Bridge. The lights on the bridge were green, in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Since the city isn't willing to dye the Arkansas River green, like they do in Chicago, I guess this is the next best thing.
Big Dam Go Bragh!

And here are a few random other shots, taken the past week or so. On Saturday, I wanted to go visit some sort of waterfall but didn't have much time. So instead I ended up driving around Lake Conway...
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And the other day I headed out after work for a quick visit to the Ouachita National Forest near Williams Junction. I had heard a few vague mentions of a waterfall out there, so I went to investigate. I never did find a waterfall, so the trip was a bit of a waste. But at least I did stop for some barn pictures...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Downtown on a stormy night

When I left work last night, a big dark cloud loomed off to the west. I began to rain some as I drove home, but I already had an idea in my head to go out to take pictures that night, so I tried to ignore it. I ran home and grabbed the new camera, and then headed to downtown Little Rock to take some pictures.

I parked the car and walked over to a bridge over I-630. It was a bit eerie out there since the tornado sirens were going off. I then realized that in my haste to leave home, I forgot my cellphone. I felt a bit disconnected, especially if there was a bad storm approaching. But downtown was quiet (except for the sirens), it wasn't even raining out there.

The sirens continued to wail as it got darker, but nary a drop of rain had fallen. I went over to the other side of the bridge for this shot of the freeway and the distant state capitol.

I got back to my car and found a local radio station that was broadcasting the weather from Channel 11. I heard about how bad the approaching storm really was - it had spawned a tornado that set down south of the city. Among the talk of "hook echos" and "wall clouds," the weather guy said that the storm that set off the tornado was now over west Little Rock. Actually it was just passing over the office where I work. Then it made its way north, and passed directly over my apartment. Luckily it wasn't bad there, just rain and hail. It made me glad I was downtown, where things were still calm.

I drove over the river to Riverfront Park in North Little Rock. I wanted to get better pictures of the new sculpture there. I took a few pictures as flashes of lightning brightened the sky. I quickly moved over in an attempt to get a picture of the lightning, with the sculpture serving as something interesting to sit in the foreground.

There was a lot of lightning that night. After many pictures where I missed lightning, this bolt dropped down just as the camera was in the process of taking a picture.
Electrical Storm

It was then that I realized that standing next to a tall metal sculpture is not the best place to be in a lightning storm, so I headed on home. The worst of the storm had passed, but waves of heavy rain and hail still passed through town for the next several hours. I freaked out when two hail storms came through, bombarding my apartment complex and my poor new car. Luckily it survived it without picking up any dents or dings...

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

New camera...

I got a new camera in the mail yesterday - an Olympus E-30. It's the fourth camera that I've owned. I started out with a Pentax P30T, which I bought way back in 1995. That was replaced by a Pentax ZX50 in 1999, and then the Olympus E-500 in 2006. I'm a bit confused by the new camera, since a lot of the buttons have changed. It'll take awhile to get used to...

But I took it out last night for some test shots. There was a light rain falling as I got this picture in downtown North Little Rock. This is in Riverfront Park, and is of a new sculpture called the "Beacon of Hope and Peace." Each of the lights on the 36-foot tall sculpture are meant to represent both hope and peace. But I think it looks more like a 1940's robot about to attack the city.....

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Richland Creek

I've ordered a new camera, which should be delivered tomorrow. So when it came to head out somewhere over the weekend, it seemed fitting for my old camera to visit the home of one of its most epic adventures: Richland Creek. The first time I went to Richland Creek, two years ago, I hiked from the campground in a failed attempt to reach Twin Falls. It was pouring down rain, and I had to turn back a half-mile from Twin Falls because the creek was running much to high to cross. I returned the next weekend and hiked down to Twin Falls from a different route, and finally made it. But I had never made it over to visit Richland Falls on either trip.

So I met up again with Matt Kennedy and Zack Andrews on Friday night, and we drove up to Russellville. Our first stop was an area overlooking Big Piney Creek. This spot is also where people set out to search for the legendary "Dover Lights," a mysterious light that zooms across the valley. The light is said to be from the ghost of a Spanish conquistador, searching for lost gold (or something like that).

Our plan was to get pictures of the stars, not Spanish ghosts. The sky was clear and there were plenty of stars out. There was also a thick layer of smoke in the valley below, the result of prescribed burns in the National Forest. As we were unloading the cameras, a Forest Service ranger drove up to see what we were doing. This overlook is popular for people who smoke stuff that is not in anyway connected to prescribed burns in the forest.

But none of the pictures really turned out, so we headed north and headed over to Richland Creek. Unfortunately, the campground there is still closed (the result of a landslide on a nearby road, which will maybe be fixed sometime this year). We found a place to camp, and then built a fire to help battle the cold night air (it probably got below freezing that night).

We woke up before sunrise, and quickly headed over to the creek. Richland Creek is really one of the more scenic places in the Ozarks. The clear water rushes over and past huge boulders, and is surrounded by tall forested hills.

The view from the hill, where a huge boulder sat overlooking everything...

And a view further downstream. This area is part of a protected wilderness area in the Ozark National Forest. It was quiet and peaceful there, and we only saw one other person out there all day.

The sun had risen now, and was casting a warm glow onto the side of the hills. So we headed back to our campsite and then over to start the hike towards Richland Falls. This trip was the exact opposite of when I hiked here two years ago. It was cold out, but it was dry and sunny. That was a nice change, except that sunlight is not helpful for waterfall pictures. The hope was that the falls were still in shadow by the time we hiked the two miles there.

The hike starts out by crossing (or wading) Falling Water Creek, just before the creek flows into Richland Creek. After that, there is a primitive trail that quickly runs right up a hillside. This scenery out there is amazing, but the trail is not an easy one. This wilderness area is unforgiving. There were pieces of pink tape hanging from trees along the way, put there last fall by a search and rescue team who had come in to pick up an injured photographer at Twin Falls who fell when the bluff he was standing on gave way.

The primitive trail runs next to the creek some, and then attempts to find the best way through the forest. At one point the trail skirts a narrow ledge, with just a few inches of space to make your way though. But after about two miles of hiking, we finally reached the spot where the river curves. From that spot, you can cross Richland Creek and hike about a half-mile to Twin Falls. Or you can make your way along the creek in a half-mile in the other direction and reach Richland Falls. Since I've been to Twin Falls already, I headed over to Richland Falls.

The sun was out and shining directly onto the hill above the falls. Most of the falls were still in shadow, but there wasn't much time before the sunlight would be hitting them. But it is a great waterfall, where the creek jumps over a rock shelf. The falls are probably about five-feet tall, and stretch across the entire length of the creek.

The light was too harsh to get a wide shot of the entire falls, so I had to zoom in on certain sections.


I wish the light was better, but those were really the only pictures that turned out. This trip was more of a hiking trip than a photo trip. Which just means that I'll have to head back out there again on a cloudy day. That will just have to be after my sore legs recover from this trip...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hwy. 5

After work on Tuesday, I headed out to watch another high school basketball game (which would ultimately be the last one). It was the district tournament, being held in the town of Jessieville. I drove south to Benton, and then cut over on Hwy. 5 heading west towards Hot Springs Village. I had never driven Hwy. 5 before and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a fun and curvy road (it wasn't that much fun when I was driving back home at 10:45 that night, especially with the random deer that had the nifty idea of just standing out in the middle of the road).

But there are several old barns and other assorted buildings along the road. I stopped at this one, when it was nearly dark outside. This old barn sat alone in a field, with just a few cows and hay bales for company.
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Monday, March 1, 2010

New York - February 2006 - Part 3

When we woke up the next morning, the weather had completely changed. Gone were the storms clouds; it was a bright and sunny day outside. It was still cold, though. This was the new view from the hotel room:
From the hotel room

This was our last day in New York, and we only had a few hours before we would need to be at the airport. But we just barely had time to try to squeeze in a visit to the Statue of Liberty. So we quickly walked over to Battery Park, and were amazingly some of the first people to join in the queue.
Battery Park

The plan was to try to get there early to beat the crowds, leaving plenty of time to sight-see at the Statue. That would have worked, except for the hours spent waiting in line to pass through security. We waited for maybe two hours, slowing inching our way forward. Finally we reached some x-ray machines, where everyone had to remove their coats, hats, gloves, scarves and any other feeble attempt to stay warm in the 25 degree weather. I placed several rolls of film on the tray and watched them get zapped, and hoped they would survive...

Then we got into another line for another security screening. After a bit more waiting, it came time to stand on some sort of platform that shot a jet of air up your clothes (an interesting experience). After all that, it was time to finally get onto the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island. A view of the skyline from the boat:
New York
The view of the city from there was awesome...

And of the approaching Statue of Liberty:
Statue of Liberty

And then a shot combining the two:
Statue of Liberty and Manhattan

The boat reached the island, but we were way behind. Our flight was leaving in just a few hours, and we would hardly have any time to see the Statue. So we rushed towards the entrance only to find yet another security line.

After another long wait, we were cleared and able to go into the Statue itself. We didn't stop to inspect any of the exhibits at the museum, and reached the elevators that take you up to the top of the pedestal. At that time, the crown of the Statue was closed to visitors, and this was as high as you could go. But they did let you see the spiral staircase that curls up to the top.
Inside the Statue of Liberty
I guess this was taken while looking up Lady Liberty's skirt.

The guide at the top noted that we got up there pretty fast, and said in a disapproving tone that we must have ran through the museum. Sorry buddy, we had a plane to catch! But this is the view of the city from the pedestal of the Statue. It was another great view.
New York, from the Statue of Liberty

New York

And then the view looking up:
Statue of Liberty

And then we headed back down to ground level and went to have a quick look around. Here's another view of the Statue (sorry there are so many).
Statue of Liberty

Being there did make me want to watch "Ghostbusters 2" again.
Statue of Liberty

One good thing about being on the first boat there was the we were able to see it before the snow got trampled...
New York

And one last picture of the Statue of Liberty. This seagull was flying low above us, and I tried to get a quick shot of it.
Statue of Liberty and seagull

The ferry then went over and visited Ellis Island. We stayed on the boat, since we had no time to tour the museum. We had already missed the check-out time at the hotel.
Ellis Island

Ellis Island

I wanted to use up the roll of film I had, so I stood out on the boat deck and got some more pictures of the skyline.
New York
Those new buildings on the right sure do stick out against the neater older skyscrapers...

Battery Park

And that was it - we checked out of the hotel and got to the airport about 45 minutes before the plane left. I ended up shooting 20 rolls of film, and was relieved to see that each one survived the wrath of the airport x-rays. But the cost of developing 20 rolls of film, and the constant worry about their surviving the trip, led me to buy a digital camera a few months later.

It was a good trip, albeit a short one. We didn't manage to see a lot of the sights up there - no Central Park or fancy museums. We didn't even manage to buy a knock-off rolex!