Here’s a couple photos, the first one taken last night a bit over a mile from our home in Taylor, and another from tonight, the sun going down over Coupland, a few miles south of us. We are blessed with good light on the Blackland Prairie.
We had a wonderful period of cooling, healing rain in Central Texas. As I left the grocery store tonight in Taylor, this was what completed the day.
On Sunday afternoon I spent a few pretty hot hours outside taking photos at Ladies Range Day, an event geared toward teaching interested women about firearms and, most important, their safe and responsible use. The day’s primary sponsor was Georgetown’s GTX Guns, Thrall Chief of Police Whitney Whitworth, Adore Botique and She Packs. Most of the guidance was provided by Chief Whitworth. Many of the attendees had never fired a gun of any sort before, but were interested in expanding their knowledge base. They got to fire a few smaller pistols, but could also try out an Uzi submachine gun or an M-4 machine gun. The majority of the group were probably interested in the smaller firearms with personal protection in mind, but they seemed to have fun trying out the big stuff, too! Except for the heat, I had a good time shooting the photos, The organizers, and the ladies, were gracious. While not personally a firearms owner (too expensive for a photographer!), I have few issues with those who do, assuming they’re responsible and menatally-healthy! These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
On the way home from the library Friday evening, I was passing by Bull Branch Park in Taylor, Texas. At the park’s pond were fisher-folks, tossing their lines into the water. From the car, I thought they were father and daughter. After parking and taking a closer look, the scene, already sweet, improved when I realized these were siblings having a special day of fishing with Nana. Slice-of-life scenes like those presented here are pretty much why I love community photojournalism. Most of these photos focus on grandma and granddaughter, but it’s all good family time, spent together outside, enjoying what nature provides. While not always the case, don’t you think today’s youngsters dwell far too much on high-tech electronic devices? I do. These photos, perhaps, drive home that point.
Tonight’s post is just a placeholder for another set of photos also taken at Bull Branch Park in Taylor, Texas, just a few images where the Texas sky is well-reflected in the park’s pond. Keep watching for something a bit more in line with community journalism, but not tonight.
This series of photos were taken on a hot August day, 1980, in Shreveport, Louisiana, during my very good years working for the Shreveport Journal. The boys, twins, found their family water hose to be a fine alternative to beat the heat. If memory serves, they were probably about 8 or 9 at the time. The thing I cut my teeth on in photojournalism were these slice-of-life moments of everyday people going about their lives. Most often, they were kids like this. For many years, beginning in the early 70s, candidly documenting these things was relatively stress-free. When I took photos back then, an element of trust existed. Sadly, that’s harder today, for a couple reasons. One is a continuing mistrust of the news media. Also, today’s parents are increasingly careful about allowing their kids’ names to appear in the newspaper, and online. I ran into this issue recently when I wanted to photograph a group of kids selling lemonade. The dad, while really nice, would only agree if we used just first names. Okay, I get a little of this … with the Internet, parents are concerned about their children’s identities becoming so public. One fact of life, too, is this: when I took the photos posted here, I was in my late-20s. Now, I’m nearing 65 and probably look a bit crusty. That I can’t help. I fear, however, that these small bits of community photojournalism are slipping away from newspapers, both large and small ones. While many of my fellow photographers seemed to find my style of coverage beneath them, I loved it. The passion is still there, but it’s challenging.
A Georgetown friend whose family has raised cotton for years, expects a good cotton crop this year, maybe one of the best in a while. I like hearing that. Even though the corn harvest continues on the Blackland Prairie in Texas, those nice little bolls are already showing up around here. This is what I saw last evening, just over a mile from our house.
Monday afternoon I had a fantastic time taking photos of kids getting to know some really cool exotic animals at the Go Wild Zoofari event held at Christ Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Texas. The hour-long session, hosted by Bridges to Growth, a part of the Georgetown Project. Among the animals were a lemur (Gizmo), an African Pygmy Hedgehog (Pepper), a wallaby (Zoe), a chinchilla (Prince Charming), an African Fennic fox (Miss Foxy) and my favorite, a big old playful cat, an African Serval (Khira). Khira was having a good time batting at my camera. She also wanted to tote away one of my fanny packs, but we put a stop to that. By the way, Zoe is wearing a diaper. It seems that this wallaby isn’t potty-trained. These photos were taken for my friends at the Williamson County Sun.
When not feeling like taking an extended drive, one of my go-to destinations is Taylor’s Bull Branch Park, a mere half-mile from home. It’s a sweet little park that I go through on most of my daily walks. While pretty in the middle of the day, it’s serene when the light begins to fade. There’s a gentle stream coursing through its boundaries, making its way through several cypress trees before feeding into a nice pond. Sometimes on the pond, and in the stream, you’ll see ducks and geese. One of the resident ducks was apparently giving herself a bath in the narrow water of the stream. At least I think that was her goal, with all that flapping. Around the pond are a number of sturdy reeds. The thinner reeds are a welcome sight to dragonflies. There’s nothing newsworthy in this post, just yours truly watching the light.
Throughout East Williamson County, Texas, the Blackland Prairie is covered with fields of corn. This year, farmers here planted approximately 104,000 acres of it. Again this year, I revisit Taylor-area farmer Larry Raesz, who just turned 65 in June. He’s still going strong, planting 1200 acres. Larry’s is a family-oriented operation, getting help from sons Bradley and Brandon, and plenty of support from his wife, Pat. During harvest season, the family comes together even more, working throughout long, hot days, well into the dark of night. Since there’s so much to be done, the Raesz clan have their suppers in the field. Pat pitches in, providing everyone with a good, hot meal set out on a fold-out table, adding chairs and blankets, too. The grandkids are often there, too, riding in the combine with Larry, or taking a seat in the tractor with dad, and when the grain trucks are filled and ready to go to Williamson County Grain in Taylor, a little one likes to ride along for that, too. I visited this same family at harvest time last season, but their bond is incredibly-inspiring. Larry’s younger brother, Arnold, 63, isn’t represented here. He’s just up the road from Larry’s home, but also runs his own farming operation with his kids and grandkids. Larry and Arnold grew up in the farming life: their father, Willie Raesz, Jr., who died in 2001, farmed all his life. Willie’s father, Willie Sr., farmed this land, too. That’s staying-power, friends. The latest USDA census figures give the average American farmer’s age at 58.3 years. I hope the Raesz family, and many others all over the country, keep it going.