I made it in time for Christmas this year! Click here to read our annual family news update.
I’m typing this from Heathrow Airport on my way back to Austin after a lovely week in Scotland to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday. The week involved three parties, lots of catching up, visits with old friends and quite a lot of coffee drinking and shortbread eating. It was wonderful to see so many folks I’ve not seen in up to 20 years and also to have some more time with my British nephew and nieces.
Prior to my arrival, friends had organised a surprise party on the Saturday before Dad’s birthday. The surprises continued on Tuesday, his actual birthday, when I arrived, unannounced, at his front door and joined him and friends for his “official” birthday lunch at Ristorante La Vigna, our by-now-traditional venue for all major celebrations held in Lanark. On Saturday, brothers Ian and Alastair, along with their families, flew in for another lunch, this time at the Shieldhall Hotel near Biggar where we spent a very leisurely afternoon eating, drinking and making merry in the lovely country hotel.
I didn’t take too many pictures this week, but here are a few I did grab during the festivities.
MotoGP 2014 at Circuit of the Americas, Austin was a great event and MotoGP is fast becoming my favourite weekend at the now two-year-old track. Although the attendance and general atmosphere at Formula 1 in November is very significantly higher, the motorcycle events during Red Bull MotoGP Grand Prix of the Americas can’t be beaten from a photographic point-of-view. The dramatic way the riders lean their bikes into each corner and the fact that, in some cases, their faces are visible through the visors, makes for some really great picture opportunities.
This year, I was fortunate to be shooting from trackside but, due to the last minute nature of the access, I hadn’t rented a long lens. I shot everything you see here with one of my own cameras and lenses. The longest combination I own is a 70-200mm with 2x teleconverter on the crop-sensor Nikon D90 giving me a 600mm equivalent. Even trackside, this is about as short as you will want to go to get full frame shots of the bikes in most of the corners but, using the 2x teleconverter, the results I got were nothing like as sharp as the combination of rented 200-400mm and 1.4x teleconverter that I used during last year’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. For side-view, the 70-200mm on its own was fine from many locations because you are so much closer to the action.
Anyway, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite shots from the weekend. This represents a more-or-less random collection of images from the paddock, Moto2, Moto3 and MotoGP racing.
Tonight, Drew was awarded the “Arrow of Light” – the top achievement that you can earn as a Cub Scout in the USA. It doesn’t seem any time since I took Cameron to his first Tiger Cubs meeting 7 years ago. Since then, I’ve been a clueless hanger-on, an assistant Den Leader, a Den Leader and back to a mere cub parent. I saw Cameron and his den through their Arrow of Light a couple of years ago and now Drew has followed. Thinking back, it’s really scary just how quickly this chapter of our family life has flown by. Cub Scouts may be behind us, but I’m sure there are plenty of new adventures awaiting both Drew and me as he moves on to life as a fully fledged Boy Scout in a couple of weeks.
Yes, I know Christmas is long gone but it’s taken me a bit longer than usual to pull together this year’s annual family newsletter. You can find the scoop on most of the things that clan Wilson/Loftin got up to in 2013 if you click this link.
The time has come to let the cat out of the bag on the secret “5 Day Deal” I mentioned last week. “5 Day Deal” is a huge bundle of photography books, educational material, software, presets and discounts that is being offered for 5 days only, starting today. For the price of $89, you receive a bundle of products valued at over $1200 and a discount package worth an additional $400.
When I was first told about this, it felt too good to be true and I figured that it would be a bunch of material of very little interest but that’s not the case. The contributor list is fantastic and the books and videos are definitely top notch. The list includes the following which were highlights for me:
13 eBooks including
- “Photographing the 4th Dimension” by Jim Goldstein.
- “A Practical Guide to HDR Vertorama Photography” by Klaus Herrman.
- “Essential Light: Photography’s Life Blood” by Richard Bernabe.
- “I | We – Scenes From The Big Picture” by Karen Hutton.
12 Videos, courses and software packages including
- “HDR Photography Essentials pack” by Alex Koloskov.
- “Color Grading Tutorial” by Jaime Ibarra.
- “The Photographers’ Guide to Creating HD Video” by Rick Sammon and Juan Pons.
- “Edgy Photoshop Post Processing Techniques” by Joel Grimes.
- “Snapseed – The Definitive Guide” by my mate, Justin Balog.
12 preset, action and texture packages including
- “Creative Control Preset Pack” by Nicole S. Young.
- “MBP Fine Art Print Border Scripts” by Martin Bailey.
- “James B Lightroom Presets Bundle” by James Brandon.
Discounts on 11 products including
- $25 off Topaz Adjust from Topaz Labs.
- $30 off Perfect Photo Suite 8 from onOne Software.
- $10 off a Blurb book.
- $112 off Lindsay Adler’s “Designing an Image” class.
- $35 off “Mastering Star Trail Photography” by Jim Goldstein.
On top of this, 10% of the purchase price is being donated to charity. You can choose to split your charitable portion evenly between the 6 charities involved or specify a single one of them as the recipient.
The deal lasts until noon on January 10th and, once you have bought the bundle, you have a further two weeks to download the files. Head on over and check it out.
I’m usually rather opposed to promoting things before I’ve actually used them but I’m making an exception here after being clued-in on something rather exciting that’s going to be happening next week. I would offer a lot more information but I’m afraid it’s secret for a few more days so you’ll just have to take my word for it that you need to be on your toes on January 5th and remember to head on over to the 5 Day Deal site for the full details then. Suffice it to say that the event is definitely going to be interesting to any camera user out there. Take a look at the list of people involved in this secret endeavour and that should be enough to convince you it’s going to be something worth following up on.
As I said, the actual content of the event is still under wraps but I can tell you that it will definitely appeal to you if you are
- Interested in HDR photography,
- Interested in travel or fashion photography,
- Want to get better at food photography,
- Looking to start or grow a photography business, or
- Wanting to sell photography or photography related products on the internet
For a few more details and a list of the people involved, click the link below.
I’ve just realised that there’s no official announcement of my ongoing “Altered Perspectives” exhibition here on the blog! The show has been hanging in the Nancy Wilson Scanlan Gallery at the Helm Fine Arts Center in St. Stephen’s School since mid-November and will be there until December 20th. We’re having a reception at 2pm next Sunday (December 15th) so, if you are in the area, please drop by and have a look at the pictures.
For people who are unable to make it to Austin, here are the pictures that are hanging. The mix is about 2/3 canvas prints and 1/3 framed paper prints. The largest image is 44″x40″ and the smallest is 5″x7″ though the majority are 16″x20″ or larger.
Another year is nearly over and, with it, Austin’s second Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. From my perspective, this year’s event was every bit as much fun as the 2012 race. With a year of race weekends under their belt, the folks at Circuit of the Americas had ironed out the few kinks that marred last year’s event (and there really were very few considering that the newly built venue was only just usable by the time of the race) and put on a spectacular show – the beer selection was better, the number of food vendors and the variety of food on offer was very much improved and there was even decent cellular data coverage around the track. I was rather amazed to note that there was an AT&T WiFi hotspot up at Turn 11.
The crowds felt larger than last year but perhaps my memory was dulled by the very much smaller crowds for every other race I’ve been to at the track this year. The official gate count put Sunday’s attendance at about 4000 less than last year but, given the huge number of people involved, it certainly didn’t feel significantly less busy this year.
As before, the racing was great but the most spectacular thing about attending a Grand Prix is the amazing atmosphere. 120,000 friendly people gathering from all corners of the globe makes for quite a party.
I’ll be back again next year and will likely book another seat in the Turn 3 bleachers which gave such an excellent view of the S-curve section of the track with its great red, white and blue stripes. If you’re a racing fan and can make it down here, there’s no better place to be than Austin in mid-November!
If you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you will know that it’s not usual to find a restaurant review here (heck, it’s not usual to find a new post here at all these days, it seems). Let me start something new, therefore, and mention a restaurant that Nikki and I stumbled upon in Austin tonight while looking for a new Friday date night venue. Recently, we’ve been making a habit of trying new places and tonight’s choice, courtesy of Apple Maps and Yelp, was a small restaurant on South Lamar by the name of Barley Swine. The name may not be inspiring but the 380, overwhelmingly positive, reviews encouraged us to give it a try and we were most certainly not disappointed.
First off, if you are someone whose impression of a restaurant’s quality is based on the portion size, Barley Swine is probably not for you. This is not your “3 courses, soup, meat vegetable, dessert” kind of place. Individual dishes are small but guests are encouraged to order many and share. Think upscale tapas or the Japanese model.
If, however, you like new culinary experiences and expect a high quality dinner out to challenge your tastebuds and offer new flavour combinations that you’ve never imagined before, you’ll love Barley Swine. Food highlights for us included “Scrambled egg, shiitake dumplings, smoked roe, almond”, “Wagyu flank steak, piquillo pepper, potato, salsa verde” (shown in the photo below) and “Eggplant fritters, grilled okra, feta tofu, sesame, peanut salsa”. Each offered a remarkable texture and taste combination that neither of us had experienced before.
The wine and beer list also challenges convention. My first tipple, for example, seemed rather appropriate but tasted unlike any beer I’ve ever tried before. Excellent and strange:
As far as price goes, Barley Swine isn’t cheap – our bill came to about $100 for two – but it’s worth every penny for the fascinating diversity offered. If you have a fancy date planned, give this place a try.