Texas Road Art.

I love big open skies and sweeping overpasses. I like monumental architecture. I like concrete that soars up into the sky. And I like skies filled with every kind of cloud, from the little "puffies" to the stringy "sliders" that come racing through when the weather changes.

You'd think a self proclaimed portrait shooter would run screaming from an assignment that was all about spending quality time with no one but myself. Even more so when you realize that I've heard all my own tall tales any number of times. But there is something quite liberating about being handed a list of potential locations and a wide open schedule.

The client and I agreed about a fixed price for the project. I would get to choose the days, the times, the angles and the feel of the shots. As long as I understood the budget I was pretty much on my own. I could be early. I could be late. As long as I turned in the stuff they wanted everything was fine.

I shot for six days. I'd trek out in the morning and when I got to the location I'd look up at the clouds and try to divine whether they were about to break and let the blue sky through or whether they were fixin to well up and cry down on me. If the portents were good I'd start the search for the angles and the lay of the light I wanted.

My only nemesis was the heat. I did this project in August, just north of Austin, Texas. The sun beat down on me like a bad drummer from a 1980's metal band. But after a while you learn to wear floppy shirts and a big hat. You learn really quick to bring your sunglasses along. And I learned, after my first Photoshop review of the take, that you should always take a light tight loupe to evaluate your take on the rear LCD. No matter what the maker says, no screen is accurate when the sun is bouncing and banking all around you.

I liked the parts of the highway project that were new because commuters hadn't yet incorporated the route into their routines. That meant that three or four minutes would go by without any cars. In early afternoon the roads would be silent for even longer spells. But my favorite part of the project was crawling around and under the sweeping and majestic overpasses, trying to contain the mighty dynamic range of real life and slap it down to sensor manageable blends of photons. My biggest allies were my Polarizing filters. My most important technique: absolutely accurate exposure metering.

Nearly all of these images were done on either an Olympus e520 or an Olympus e1 and nearly all three thousand shots were done with two lenses: The 14-54 and the 11-22mm. Other indispensable equipment included my water bottle and my cheap Nevados brand cross trainer shoes from Costco.

It was a quiet and contemplative job that was full of straight ahead work and satisfaction. The kind of job everyone needs to wedge in the middle of a hectic schedule. And working in opposition to my typical ways made it all the more refreshing. I did another job like this for another client about a year ago and shot the whole thing on small cameras. G10's, SX10's and the like. The results were equally nice.

Not having the client there made me realize how far down the line of decisions the choice of the camera is. And how mightily we've tried to elevate it. The number one goal of this job was to create good images without succumbing to heat exhaustion........