In Dawn at Morro Bay, I captured a fleeting moment in time of surreal light. The effect lasted five minutes or less and then it was gone.

I was with James Brandon and some friends and we’d been spectacularly unsuccessful in capturing clouds at sunset along the mid-California coast. Perhaps the California weather is back to normal now after the recent years of drought but the drought was still very much in play when we visited.

Successive cloudless early mornings and late evenings had left us hungry for something, anything.

It was dark when we headed out from The Inn at the Cove in Pismo Beach. The Embarcadero in Morro Bay on that November Sunday morning was eerily quiet. There wasn’t a jogger or dog walker in sight as we unpacked the van and headed down to the docks.

You know how some things seem obvious in retrospect but never occur to you at the time? I had one of those moments before taking this shot.

To try and remove the foreground clutter of not-so-nice looking watercraft, I had gone down to the floating dock. I had gone to all the trouble of setting out my tripod and fixing my gear, ready for the long exposures the pre-sunrise lighting would require.

It was only after several frames that it occurred to me that it wasn’t only the boats that were moving, the dock was moving also! Now why that didn’t trigger in my mind as I was walking along the dock I just don’t know.

For this shot, I was back on terra firma. The cloud was starting to lift and James brought to my attention the purple hues that were spreading through the clouds. That was another important photography lesson, it’s not just the subject in front of your camera that is important.

While the photographer’s choice of framing, deciding what to leave in and what to leave out of the shot, is crucial to the composition what is happening outside that frame impacts what is happening within the frame.

A few frames after this and the light had gone. The sun was no longer below the cloud but climbing above it and a flat, grey, light spread across the scene.

We packed up our gear, climbed back in the van and drove north a few blocks to have breakfast at The Coffee Pot Restaurant. When we left, I wanted a coffee to go and paid a dollar for the logoed mug that I’ve used regularly since then and that reminds me of this shot and how lucky I felt to have captured this fleeting moment.

Dawn at Morro Bay, California.

Dawn at Morro Bay, California.

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What does a city do when a major manufacturer moves to a new location and their old factories become derelict?

If that city is Paris, France, and that manufacturer is Citroën, well, you turn it into a park of course – the Parc André Citroën.

For the two years I lived in Paris, the Parc André Citroën was my back yard. In the winter I could see the park from my kitchen and living room windows. In the summer, the foliage in our courtyard garden obscured the view.

Citroën built his factory here in 1915. Today we associate Citroën with cars but then he was making armaments for France during World War I. The region of Paris known as the 15th Arrondissement was only incorporated into the city in the 1860s so this would still have been on the outskirts of the city back then.

The factory site was built on the banks of the river Seine at the Quai de Javel, renamed the Quai André Citroën in 1958. Prior to being a factory, the site was a collection of market gardens growing produce for the people of Paris.

After the war, Citroën moved on to building cars with the Henry Ford ethos of affordable but quality cars. Citroën went on to be the first manufacturer to introduce front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension and the unitary body found in most cars today.

The factory, the first mass-production car plant in Europe, was the birthplace of the legendary 2CV and the DS.

But hard times were ahead, Citroën went bankrupt, merged with Peugeot and the last DS rolled off Paris factory line in 1975. The plant closed and was demolished between 1976 and 1984.

The park was designed in the early 1990s and opened in September 1992. What really struck me about the park was the absence of “Keep off the Grass” signs. A modern park with a large expanse of flat grass in the center, in the summer the park would fill with families having picnics. On weekdays you’d find toddlers running around, enjoying the wide open space.

On the southwest side of the park, there is a shallow canal and a walkway that passes through a series of seven granite towers. Between the towers, stairs rise up to a higher level where you find an elevated reflecting pool. Ramps are situated at either end for wheelchairs and strollers, but Paris isn’t the most wheelchair or stroller friendly city in the world.

This photo is a view southeast along the walkway that passes through the granite towers. I had waited a long time to get a view without people in it and I almost made it, but not quite. You might not see the person in this photo, but I can’t stop seeing him. I didn’t take this while I lived in Paris – my photos from then are on film. This was taken on a day when my wife and I took our kids to show them where we used to live.

The treatment here is a simple conversion to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 with a mask in Photoshop to allow the green bush to show through.

A portal formed by the granite towers on the south-western edge of the Parc André Citroën

A portal formed by the granite towers on the south-western edge of the Parc André Citroën

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When was the first time you tried the bumper cars at the fair or carnival?

I must have been around nine or ten years old when I first noticed them at one of the traveling carnivals that would stop by in Aldbourne twice a year in those days.

Back then the traveling bumper cars would use a conductive floor and ceiling with a separate polarity. As the cars would drive around I’d be fascinated by the sparks from the ceiling contacts as the brushes would sweep across the wire mesh grid.

Newer designs use alternating conductive strips on the floor, eliminating the ceiling grid and with it, the sparks that were, for me, always part of the experience.

Now many just run on batteries so don’t need a special floor at all.

For me, the fun was always in running into the other cars, particularly those driven by my friends or siblings. More recently it’s been crashing into the cars driven by my kids.

Of course, there remain the buzzkills out there who insist the idea is to process in circles and avoid crashing, playing on safety fears and the name of one of the leading US manufacturer of the cars, Dodgem. But where’s the fun in that?

The image below is clearly an abstract one. I took it using a Canon G10 point-and-shoot that I rarely use these days because the ISO range is so limited. I replaced it with a Canon Sureshot S120 but that broke recently so I’m considering another replacement. It seems that Canon and Nikon have surrendered their leads in this (shrinking) market segment to Sony.

A point-and-shoot in my opinion still beats the smartphone camera in terms of flexibility but they are getting harder to justify with each new generation of smartphone. If I were to be buying one new it would most likely be a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100V or if staying with Canon, the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II. I also like the more retro-looking Fujifilm X100F in silver (all links to B&H).

The G10 didn’t have the capability, due to the low ISO capability, to actually capture my kids in their bumper cars in this indoor play space.

I was never going to be able to hand-hold the camera for any form of regular picture so I started experimenting with moving the camera. For this particular image I simply rotated the camera with my wrist which generated the less than perfect circle in the image.

Image taken at an indoor bumper cars floor

Image taken at an indoor bumper cars floor

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I’ve often flown over the wind farms of the Texas panhandle. The other weekend I had an opportunity to drive through some of them.

I think the first wind turbine I recall was the one just off Junction 11 of the M4 in Reading, England. Since then, now many years ago, I’ve grown used to seeing these turbines sprouting from the tops of distant hills while driving in California and other US states.

Driving along I-20, I felt harried on the road. A constant stream of 18-wheeler trucks and cars, pressing on along the dual carriageway with nowhere really to pull over and stop. Why is it, when you are driving, that the best images are always on the other side of the road or behind you?

I was somewhat grateful when I peeled off I-20 onto US-84 just west of Sweetwater. The volume of traffic dropped considerably and I felt comfortable driving at my own pace and no longer having to drive at the pace of the pack.

I was driving to a schedule so I didn’t have much time to stop for photos. This was a shame as there was an embarrassment of opportunities all around me.

Maybe you’re not like me, but I find more photo opportunities when I’m traveling than when I stay close to home? Why is that? Is that the curse of familiarity? Maybe photographers that live in this part of Texas are done shooting wind farms and long for urban metropoles like Houston.

My eye spied the red barn away in the distance and the rows of stalks from some recently harvested crop. My first shots were from further south with the rows passing diagonally in the frame.

Since the traffic volume was now much less and the road had wide shoulders, I changed location to where the rows lead into the red barn.

To give some sense of the openness of the landscape in this part of Texas I decided to frame high and place the horizon low within the frame.

Although this was April the temperature was in the low 90’s Fahrenheit (34 Celcius). My Canon EF 28-300mm (B&H) was maxed out to 300mm and when viewed at 100%, the shimmer of the heat haze is clearly visible on the barns and turbines.

I’m about a mile from the red barn and the closest wind turbine is a mile beyond the red barn so two miles distant from me. These are not small machines and I suspect they’re quite a bit larger that that one near Junction 11.

But when you see these turbines in these large masses, its obvious why they are called wind farms.

Wind turbines in one of the wind farms off US 84 north of Sweetwater, TX.

Wind turbines in one of the wind farms off US 84 north of Sweetwater, TX.

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“Welcome to Katy” says the sign on the water tower in the background at right in this image of the UP 5950. The red logo on the side of the water tower is the logo of the Katy Tigers, eight-time winners of the state high school football championship.

In the foreground sits two Union Pacific locomotives, the UP 9590 and the UP 9698. Both are GE C44-9W model locos. The UP 9590 was built in June of 1994 while the UP 9698 was built in January 1994. I find it curious that the later built loco has the lower designation number. Part of me is wondering what happened there, but not wondering enough to dig deeper.

In days gone by these locos could have motored east to Houston and beyond but now the line dead-ends a little under a mile behind me at the Martin Marietta cement terminal. The sign on the water tower is now for people arriving by car. Except the people in cars are all local. The through traffic takes Interstate 10 about a half-mile to the south (left of frame) while Katy prospers now as a dormitory town for Houston.

Last weekend I drove to Lubbock in the Texas panhandle. I tried to avoid the Interstates as much as possible. I soon learned that those small towns that are not dormitories for larger nearby cities are not faring so well these days, with shuttered stores and rusted vehicles mere remnants of what used to be.

You get some idea of the scale of these locos from the door in the right-front panel. The design itself conveys the brute power of the 4,400 horsepower (3,281 kW) locomotive, necessary for hauling those long trains of cement and gravel across the country. With a 5,000 US gallon diesel tank and a typical range of 1,000 miles, one of these locomotives would typically get 5 miles to the gallon, give or take.

The website Railroad Picture Archives has pictures of both locomotives showing them from 2002 to present anywhere from New York to California and Illinois to Mississippi.

The image is an HDR blend. I liked the definition of the HDR – my standard of -2EV, 0, +2EV – of the train but not of the surroundings so I blended the HDR with the standard exposure image, masking out everything but the locos. I think it gives the loco more presence in the final image.

Union Pacific 5950 locomotive at Katy, TX.

Union Pacific 5950 locomotive at Katy, TX.

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