Friday, June 15, 2012

New blog home

After having a couple of issues with blogger and thinking about it for a while, I've decided to give wordpress a chance and I will be moving my blog and page there.

Also, in an effort to simplify this kind of transitions if (for whatever reason) I decide to change my web hosting service provider in the future, I've got myself a domain name where you should be able to find me from now on:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Published at last!

Forbidden love, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

I remember a couple of weeks ago I was contacted about giving some of my photos from the dress rehearsal of "Don Carlo" a performance of "Opera in the Heights" and I agreed hoping to be published at least electronically.

This past Monday and Tuesday, the dress rehearsals for the new performance from Opera in the Heights (The Pearl Fishers) took place, and one of my photos has already made it into a review of the Opera!

That reminded me of the photos I've sent for the soprano singer from Don Carlo (Emily Newton) so I went to her page and sure enough there are three of my photos published in her gallery along with the corresponding attributions so I couldn't be happier (well, probably I could be if I had made some money out of this but, this is happy enough for an amateur =D).

By the way, the opera "Pearl fishers" was really good. The opera by Georges Bizet, the great performances by the singers and the bright colors from the stage and the costumes all work together to make it a great season closer for Opera in the Heights.

If you are in Houston (or can get here before April 3rd) and like Opera -or at least are curious enough to try it for the first time- I would really recommend going to this show.

More information on tickets and performance times can be obtained at the Opera in the Heights website.

Just in case you missed the links above, here are the links to the pages I have photos published (they say if you're going to do flagrant self promotion you should do it right):

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Great concert... and camera

Linkin Park @ Houston, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

Last Thursday I had the chance to experience one of the best concerts I've ever been to thanks to Linkin Park (It was originally scheduled for Feb 15 but had to be rescheduled) and for me it worked perfectly!

I was bummed to hear that my Nikon D5000 wouldn't be able to join me for the concert and I didn't though a point and shoot camera would be able to do me much good (specially, since I was sitting in the nosebleed section) but luckily for me, I found the Nikon Coolpix S9100.

Now, I honestly don't get a cut from Nikon and I usually do not even mention the gear I use but I truly believe I wouldn't have been able to shoot this images nor the videos without this camera.

First of all, the "night landscape" mode it's great for dark places. It has two modes "handheld" and "tripod". In handheld mode, it'll try to raise the ISO (noise) and keep the shutter speed fast enough so it won't be such a blurry image and once it's shot it will do some in-camera post-processing to bring more light into the picture. In "tripod" mode, it will raise the shutter speed and AFIK it is not doing post-processing.

There is also a "night portrait" mode that uses the flash to light your subject and it also takes a few shots without flash to capture the bakground, then it mashes everything togheter in camera post-procesing and voilĂ  you get your image with a foreground and background as you see it, and not as the camera does.

One nice touch that I think it's worth mentioning is that the flash does not rise itself. Maybe some people won't like it, but for me is great because now I know exactly when the flash is going to shoot and when it won't.

Another thing worth mentioning, is the zoom. It has 18x optical zoom and it starts from a "wide" angle so you get the equivalent to 25-450mm zoom range in a traditional camera. You could see it best on this video, I believe at the end I do a zoom out but in the start you can really see the band in stage as if I was just a few yards away from them:

The video quality it's great (if I do say so myself) it records full HD 1080 video and it fits roughtly 30 mins on an 8Gb SD card and it also has very good stereo sound (I've had comments on the video mentioning the jealousy that my audio sounds better than other people also recording).

Unfortunately I had just bought it the day before so I didn't got a chance to read the manual and didn't know you could have autofocus during video as well, so I was forced to split my videos to have one part zoomed out and another with the full zoom, but now it's already enabled and ready for my next video ;)

The best part? That I was able to get it in the concert of course! It fits right in my pocket so I just took it out for the metal detectors and that's it, no need for a bag, special lenses, etc. I'm not saying this camera will replace my D5000 (though I think maybe in the specs my D5000 it's starting to lag behind) but there is just too much creative control you lose with the P&S. However, for those times you can't take a DSLR or you just wan't to capture something in a pinch, this is a very worthy backup.

I was lucky to find this camera at a local Best Buy for $329,99 since I believe the official release date is Mach 17 (here's the link to amazon ) but if you're in the market for a portable high quality camera and particularly if you take low light photos, in my humble opinion, this is the best there is currently in the market.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Surprising news

OH_Don_Carlo-1496, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

A few days ago, I was contacted by one of the lead singers of the Heights Opera Don Carlo about the possibility of adding some of my pictures to an online gallery in her website.

Obviously, I accepted! At this point this is nothing more than a hobby for me, but the fact that some of my pictures might be considered as material for an online gallery it's very flattering.

I am well aware that it's possible that I'm not the only photographer that was contacted about this, but still. Just the fact of being considered it's a huge step forward for me and I'll be getting public credit for it.

I'll try to update with a new post if/when I get a link to the online gallery when it will be official that I'll become a "published photographer" =D

Also, I believe the Opera in the Heights will be having a last show this season: Georges Bizet Pearl Fishers, on March 24, 25, 26 and 31 and April 1st and 2nd. I'm hoping they'll give us another chance to photograph the dress rehearsal once again.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where to now?

Where to now?, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

Boy, t feels like weeks since I last blogged... maybe because it's been. Work has been crazy lately, and I've been going out to shoot on weekends so no time for blogging... until now. This entry is about the last days of Forbidden Gardens.

The museum is already closed at this point, and last weekend they had a sale on the items from their exhibits. Pictured here is the almost empty pit from some of the terracota warriors that were for sale.

It was really a sight. People coming out of the museum carrying building replicas, huge soldiers, U-hauls being filled with multiple statues, and a waiting line so long it merit a panoramic made.

I got there early on Saturday to try to get a soldier for myself, and after about and hour and a half waiting in line and another hour to find the best pieces and pay; I ended up owner of two soldiers and two soldier heads as souvenirs.

On sunday, I made a last visit just to get a last look at how the place was and... for the hype and line I had to go through on Saturday, I was surprised there were so many soldiers still, though I believe many of them were stuck to the ground so they couldn't be moved.

What will happen with Forbidden Gardens and the leftovers now? I've no idea. There have been no announcements, and from what I could see, there are still plenty of items left with a deadline to get the place cleared just around the corner so I guess I'll find out later if it was bulldozed over or whatever happened.

For my part, I got a couple of keepsakes to remind me of the lost museum:
The spoils

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Moonrise, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

This is an old photo from my days in Southwest Florida.

It was starting to get to the time of year when the sun will set earlier and I wouldn't have enough time to go out to shoot in daylight and I was trying to plan a sunrise shot for the next morning using TPE when I noticed the moon would rise around 8:30 pm.

So, I got my gear ready and set out for Fort Myers beach pier (Lynn Hall Park), payed for my parking and ran off to the top of the bridge to make it on time.

Funny story though... I knew at what time the moon was supposed to rise, and I was trying to locate the exact point so I noticed a little glow in the horizon and I focused my gear and attention over there.

I pre-focused, took a couple of test shots and patiently waited... and waited... and... when at looked at my watch... the moonrise time was already gone... and still only glow and no moon... so I looked about 30 degrees to the right and there it was, already a little high in the sky: I had missed the moon rising! So, I aimed my camera and focused as fast as I could to take this shot!

All in all, it came out pretty nice, but I was hoping to get the moon lower in the horizon... so I guess I'll have to wait until the next chance I get to capture a moonrise (it's much easier near the coast to avoid running into problems with the skyline of the city or a tree line getting in the way)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Jade Dragon

Jade Dragon, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

This little dragon it's a little souvenir I picked up at Forbidden Gardens, a Chinese museum-attraction at Katy Texas that, amongst other things, includes a 1/3rd replica from the tomb of emperor Qin Shi Huang-di along with his terracota warriors and a 1/20th replica of the Forbidden city in Beijing. Unfortunately, this place is about to disappear.

It's a shame really how sometimes progress gets in the way of beautiful things, yet we see it ever day: parks transformed into stores, historic buildings turned into parking lots and in this case, museums turned into highways.

It is sad, but I also understand need for new developments (I think the people that are going to save hours of comute with the grand parkway expansion might not miss Forbidden Gardens all that much) and I understand that everything happens because there's a reason. It's justified, but sad nevertheless.

So, today I went to pay my respects and say my final goodbyes. It is only the second time I visit (I wanted to video record the great explanations from the tour guide) but already the place seemed so different: doors closed, items on sale, statues missing, etc.

The final date is set: February 18th 2011 will be the last "regular day" of operations, followed by a 3 day "giant garage sale" to get ready to leave the place.

I took a bunch of pics that I haven't had time to process so this won't be the last time I write about this place. It was something really unique that will be missed and at least I'll try to help keep the memory of some of it online.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The snow that never came

That explains the blackouts, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.
It was everywhere... in the forecast, the news, the clouds, the precautions taken by everyone... but it just never made it here. We were 24 hours under a Winter Storm Warning, I've even got to work from home today... but there was no snow.

Not here anyway... I believe Dallas did got some inches of snow today, not to mention other parts of the country, but here we had to settle with some icy rain, which made the roads hazardous, but without the added visual appeal that snow brings.

Regardless, I took a little tour of the nearby zone and did found a few frozen things: cars, signs, grass, plants, door knobs, even the floor! But this one caught particularly my eye. It seems to be a power generator with icicles growing out of it.

Luckily I didn't experienced the power outages firsthand, but I saw in the news that there were rolling blackouts scheduled to minimize the load on the power grid at a state level.

It was rather a disappointing morning (I actually woke up at the break of dawn just to go out to shoot some snow before work) but at least I found something to shoot at, because even the sunrise was out the question (too cloudy).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Heavenly temple, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

Yes, I’m well aware that we’re already a month into 2011, but that not the new year I’m talking about, I’m talking about the year of the rabbit, according to the Chinese calendar that just stated today (February 3rd 2011).

I’ve never really pay attention of when the Chinese New Year was. I’ve usually only found out right after it had passed (if ever) and... well, dismissed it just as easily since it was already too late to do anything about it, therefore I never noticed it’s not always on the same date.

According to wikipedia, the Chinese New Year may fall any day between January 21st and February 20th since it’s lunisolar based and it depends on both the winter solstice and the moon cycles; with the New Year usually being on the second new moon after the winter solstice (although it could be the third new moon on rare occasions).

Also notable is the fact that the celebration itself, which is referred to as the Spring Festival; lasts for 15 days (16 if you count New Years Eve) and has many different traditions for each day, ending with the Lantern Festival on the first full moon of the year. I wish I’ll be able to go there one of these days, on the meanwhile... I have to settle with the things I have nearby.

For instance, today’s image is courtesy of the China pavilion on Disney’s Epcot center in Orlando. It’s a replica of the Temple of Heaven, a Taoist temple in Beijing which represents the connection of Heaven and Earth. It’s not much, but it brings a little taste of the Chinese culture for those of us that cannot make it all the way there (just yet).

Here are some of the references I read in case you'd like to keep learning:
Wikipedia - Chinese New Year - Festivals
Wikipedia - Lantern Festival
Wikipedia - Temple of Heaven

Friday, January 28, 2011

Historic Houston Majesticity

Majesticity, originally uploaded by ZERO CEM.

The Majestic Metro. Currently, it's a venue for weddings, parties and corporate events; but long ago it was a silver screen era theater (and I believe it's the only one of it's kind still standing in Houston).

I was "on assignment" on downtown Houston exploring Main St (when I say "on assignment", I mean trying to get pics for one of my favorite flickr groups, Assignment Houston), when on my way back to the car I stopped at the Majestic and started shooting some pics. That's when the manager stepped out.

At first, I thought I was going to get the "sorry sir, no pictures please" but to my surprise he was a very nice person and actually allowed us to go inside to know the place and let us know some of the history of the place.

Unfortunately for me, I'm still working on my people skills... and I was too shy to ask for permission to take some pics of the inside (not to mention I was worried they wouldn't come out anyway because of the low light) so I know I miss a chance there, but is just one of those things I'll need to work on.

Still the outside was nice and I got a nice story out of it so all in all it was a good experience. I was going to elaborate on the history of the place but Cinema Houston has a very comprehensive history so I've better point you that way in case you're interested.