A bit obligatory, but here is an Austin skyline. The skyline from this side of the river is a bit more expansive, but those buildings were full of cranes. What has been incredibly interesting about Austin is how this area is so empty at night when contrasted with the infamous 5th & 6th streets. Have a great weekend!


Hamilton Pool


Captured at Hamilton Pool, a natural pool and grotto located about 25 miles west of Austin. Despite striking scenery all around, it proved to be a difficult place to photo. For starters, the dynamic range is wide—from dark cave to the direction sunlight. I was able to grab it all with 3 stops down and 3 stops up.  The preserve doesn’t open until 9am so that added to the difficulty of a morning visit. I’m really looking forward to returning in the spring and summer to shoot again…and swim!

Wordless Wednesday

Amicalola Falls


Some story commentary for this one. A few months ago I was traveling on company business, and ended up with some extra time at the end of the week. I was around Jasper, Georgia–a small town maybe 30 minutes from the Tennessee border and near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  Surely there was a good photo spot near, so I hit my Google search and found a buzz about some nearby waterfalls. My navigator took me to someone’s house, who did not want unexpected company (there were some falls, but they were on his property). By that time, the evening light was slipping away so I drove feverishly through winding roads to Amicalola Falls, a road that led me to the top of the falls. I descended on a trail for about a half hour to get to the location shown in the above photograph. The late light allowed me to pull off a long exposure but then had to climb all the way back up in the dark (and a hot summer night).

And the best camera you can get is…

…still the one you have at the time.

You’ve heard it before, the old adage about cameras. It proved true for me recently. One evening after work I could sense a stunning sunset was setting up, and knew it was happening in the next few minutes. There was no time to go home and grab the tank. So I had my cell phone, a Motorola something. I chased the sun down on a farm road, and parked near a harvested cotton field, and grabbed the below. Right light, and right time still remain the thing.


I used the panoramic feature from Google Camera in the above.



Wordless Wednesday

Pedernales Falls



Now that we are mostly unpacked, and had good weather, I was able to get the kids out the house and to Pedernales Falls. As the area slowly recovers from drought, water rushing up and over the rocky riverbed has improved. Will be worth repeating. And only one kid fell in the water.

Wild Basin


Captured a few miles from the Austin 360 (Pennybacker) bridge in an area named “Wild Basin.” Apparently, exploring here with running water has been a rarity in the past with the “7yr drought.” The last two years of above average rain has poured life back into these places.

Fence Friday: Ellijay, Georgia


This is a Georgian photograph, and not Texan. I grabbed this one a few months previous near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains near a town named Ellijay (elah-jay). I put the pronunciation there because I mispronounced the town name 25x while there. For once I had something for “Fence Friday.”

The Return


It has definitely been a while since I have updated this blog, but for once, I have a pretty solid reason. In December I accepted a new job in Austin, Texas, and made the long move between Christmas and New Years (a timing I don’t advise). I had been eyeing the Austin area for some time, and thus far Austin has lived up to the hype. While Austin has quickly validated the culinary, artistic, and musical cultural nodes most referenced for, I didn’t realize how much scenery it had to offer until moving here—from the broad sweeping strokes to the nuances of nooks and crannies. Now that I have settled in a bit, I have begun new adventures that seemingly lack exhaustion. Of course, I am currently racking through the process of hitting the iconic places first to pay homage (also provoked by the wife wanting new print decorations for the house).

Photographed above is the Pennybacker Bridge (aka the 360 bridge), captured about forty-five minutes post sunrise. One interesting aspect of the bridge I noticed when photographing is that no part touches the lake. While I liked how the warm morning light poured in perpendicular to the bridge, I have already bookmarked this spot as a place to return in the evening, an outing that should render spectacular sunset and twilight photos.

With a fresh new canvas to explore, I really hope to return to regular posting here. Thanks to everyone who has dropped by and commented during my hiatus.

Texture Thursday

Flat Creek II

Below are two more from my brief stay in Jasper, Georgia. What I loved most about these photos is that they came at the end of a busy week. The technical “optimal” time to grab these photos had passed, but when I was there, it was all about working to slow it down…a nice contrast from the preceding activities. Hope you enjoy.



Wordless Wednesday

Flat Creek

Several weeks ago I was traveling on business in Georgia, specifically about two hours north of Atlanta. As the trip winded down, I found time to explore around a town named Jasper. With little extra time, I turned to Google for good photo spots that ended up leading me to someone’s house—who were not of course wanting a visitor interested in photographing an “alleged” waterfall on their property. Technology—it is awesome but can also make one look the dumbass, as my grandmother would say. No worries, though. About 5 miles away I came upon Flat Creek, a river that stems all the way down from the Appalachian mountains.




Zombie Up


Seasons’s greetings from the graveyard. We were a bit late to the event this year and missed out on the zombie costume competitions so disappointment was abound with my oldest daughter—all of which quickly disappeared when it was announced that zombies would be allowed to shuffle through Oakland Cemetery, a historical cemetery a few blocks from downtown. Hope everyone has a fun and safe Halloween this weekend.



Handwritten (Texture Thursday)


I was listening to a song a few days ago with a theme surrounding “handwritten” (unable to recall band, and too lazy to Google). The theme touched on the idea that handwritten words sequester a more emotive quality by default. It makes sense because with text, handwriting adds an extra layer—another subtext. Character can be imbued simply by how it appears on the paper. It adds a psychology that might be lost in word processing. But when thinking about this, and listening to the band, wouldn’t the same apply to musicians? Isn’t a good song bent along a stringed instrument—also handwritten?

Wordless Wednesday

Macro Monday – Moth


Above is a moth that was on the wall right outside my front door. I noticed one evening and came out with macro to get a closer look. This moth was big, maybe three to four inches at wingspan. I was using a wider angle, but was so close to the moth, I thought it would fly away. But it didn’t. When I took this one, the lens was nearly touching its thorax, leading me to the conclusion the moth was dead. Sure enough, though, as soon as it became dark the moth ventured off. From watching the other moths, I came to the conclusion that the reason why moths perch in a near death like state during the day when you find them…is solely due to their night time activity. It must be catastrophically exhausting to fly in such frenetic, random, and indiscriminate directions at night around the light bulbs. I have no science to back that up, but it has to be the reason. They are hungover during the day.

August Moon


There has been much hype around here about our August moon, another super moon, etcetera. I’m terrible at shooting the moon, finding it to be one of the more difficult subjects at night. The last time a “super” moon rose, I broke out the telescopic lens. While the moon was noticeably impressive, the photos I grabbed didn’t look any different than any other moon shot I had taken. For this one, I had pretty much blown off the event. But when hanging out after dark, some wonderful clouds moved in so I gave in and grabbed a pic.

Growing up jumpoline…

After posting the previous photo of one of my kids on the jumpoline  with the sprinkler under, I went to file the photo and noticed another jumpoline photo a year old, and nearly to the same date. And then I kept digging and found another, and again from the previous summer. I then realized how repeated this event had become, and I was unbeknownst holding a “growing up” sequence. Also, it’s better known as a trampoline, but they call it a jumpoline…and that term seems more befitting so I have adopted it.



(actually under the trampoline in above)






Beating the heat


We’ve been spared of the inappropriate heat that usually fills our summers, but this last week it has been trying to make up for lost time. But it isn’t anything a little sprinkler under a trampoline can not fix 😉

Texture Thursday

Where do you follow?

corn_rows-1 With the heat, I’ve been having a hard time taking photos when the sun it out, and have been slipping out only in twilight lately. I was driving down a highway when the afterglow of a suffocating hot & humid day winded down. The orange in the sky was awesomely bloated, so I pulled over to edge of cornfield.



In the late evenings, and usually driving, I find power wires against the sky to always be a bit melancholic. So when I saw the above scene with the little lonesome bird…well…I thought he sealed the deal.

Do you have a grungy portrait?

My oldest child recently picked up a talent agent. At least the everyday theatrics and drama is being fortified into something useful 🙂 This talent agency has actually done casting for the Walking Dead (I admitting have never seen the show), and the agent had asked if I had any or could produce any “grungy, dirty” portraits or “something that would fit in an apocalypse film.”  Well, for anyone that has visited my blog in the past knows the answer to that one. So with a quick knuckle crack, I composed the following. What do you think? Grungy?


Come at me, bro



come_at_me-1I took this while setting up for a twilight landscape. I know the reason this bird was posed like this, but he seemed like he  was mocking me.


A necessary reminder…

Daughter: Daddy, can we play in the backyard?

Father: No, it’s a hot mess out there. Been raining all week.

Daughter: I know, Dad.

Father: […]

Father: Knock yourself out.








Southern Comfort

I hope everyone enjoys the weekend.


Texture Thursday


I know many photography enthusiasts whose shutter-snapping origins reside in child photography. More specifically, they never picked up a camera in a more “serious” manner until they had children. I am one of those. But why is that? Why is it that a child, completely unaware of photography, often catalyzes this burning need in people?  I wouldn’t be surprised to find a DSLR camera on a baby registry these days. If I was to have another child, hell I might register for a nice 24mm prime lens. My only answer to that question is the propensity to preserve a memory which seems to burn the most with parents…i.e. forging a memory.

And the forging, the ability to freeze the moment—even if you are the only one who recalls the moment—it is I believe the root of the matter. While I can revere in the near cataclysmic awe of someone else’s photo—a gaped wonder of the Grand Canyons—and appreciate the beauty of the capture—I know that the exchange will always be a separate event for the photographer that nobody else can see. There is a memory of the event that enhances the photo that only they can see. But memories are rapid, evanescent images in the mind, and without immediate context, are hard to describe for another. The camera can fill in, but I like to explore the former more with the camera. Can you make an image look like a memory? This is something I always try to do in child photography. Make the photos “look” like a memory.


Wordless Wednesday

Mississippi River Moon


Over the weekend, I visited a small town bordering Mississippi and Louisiana for a family reunion. The hotel ended up having an amazing view over the Mississippi River. There was also a boardwalk running down the levee, and I ended up walking out to the spot pictured above. I had only brought my camera and a strap on the trip—so no tripod. But there was no way I could miss out on the bridge symmetry and full moon so I gathered up some rocks on the river bank, hoping to not find snakes sleeping in the dark. I already felt I had been pushing my luck since it was Friday the 13th on a warm summer night—and—at a remote area near water—and—a full moon—and—all alone. The makeshift rock prop worked out, and ended up with zero venomous bites or not being murdered by anyone wearing a hockey mask.

Texture Thursday

Off with the wild things. Hope everyone enjoys their weekend.



With my photo-blogging hiatus, I don’t think I have shown off the newest family member–Oreo–our half white lab, half pitt-terrier—aka a shelter rescue. With three girls, they bugged me about getting a dog for years, but I had staved them off until I ran out of reasons. When we got him from the shelter he was terribly skinny and skittish. He has nearly doubled his weight in the last four months, and is now attached to the hip of any of kid moving about.


Texture Thursday

Wordless Wednesday

Meet in the Sun


Most of the time it is like herding cats…getting three young children, especially girls, to stay focused and move from one place to another. But every now and then, you get to lag a bit behind…

Happy Mutter’s Day

So what is the golden hour



My oldest daughter was telling me about the times of the day—dawn, noon, evening, dusk, etc (because of course, as parents, we don’t know about these things they learn in their school. We missed out on all that stuff because we are grown-ups). She then asked about twilight, and I told her twilight was the glowing intermission before the sun rose or after it set, and then offhandedly mentioned it came after the golden hour at the end of the day. At the time, I didn’t think about how wonderful the concept of “the golden hour” must sound to a 7yo. So naturally, she was right on the heels with the question: “So what is the golden hour, Daddy?” I started to explain, but then had that glorious realization of having something amazing to reveal and all I had to do was go outside—and then act like I had orchestrated the whole bit.

We headed out. I brought my camera and told her the golden hour would splash out in all its tangerine splendor onto the land in a fleeting instance…and if she spotted it…to let me know and we would stop and take some snaps. We headed down a long highway and it wasn’t long until it was obvious the radiance of the setting sun was catching up in the high limbs of trees. We stopped at a boat dock, and headed towards an ATV trail where these were captured.

golden_hour-1 golden_hour-2 golden_hour-3 golden_hour-4 golden_hour-5 golden_hour-6

Texture Thursday

Time to knock the rust off


There is a stretch of land near my house that has recently—as in maybe five years—has been turned into a wildlife refuge. I’ve explored most of it via the few man made trails and many of the animal trails. I’ve realized most of the area must have been previously owned, and farmed. Quite often, I encounter completely abandoned farm equipment. Always makes me wonder what happened that day to make the machine stop, and moreso, what happened to make it never work again.

Early Fall Walk

Since I work in computers, the sedentary pace is a bit unsettling so I try to move more when I can. I’ve finally started subscribing to the regular path “photo walk,” a way to move around a bit more and carry the camera for more spice. On my latest walk, I decided to do a thing I’ve always thought about: one camera, one lens, and let the photos fall. On this trip, I simply brought my 85mm, and set it to f1.4 on aperture priority. Fall is just starting to really set in, so below are my snaps from with the above limitations on this little 5 mile wood walk.


Just some dead leaves here.

photo_walk-3Some wonderful seedpods dangling from a tree I can’t identify.

photo_walk-5 A change of light, and something that seems seasonal.


I love fall foliage, but agree it may be a bit overshot. But how can you blame anyone? So much serenity in the foliage this time of year. photo_walk-1

While I had my restriction to an 85mm, and one camera. I did bring a macro extension in the pocket. Used it here on these enormous ants.

Zombie Up


Happy World Zombie Day. My posting has been scant at best, but boy do I love this time of year. My 7yo daughter was ready to get zombied-up again this year. I’ve been doing it with her since she was 3, and every year we’ve managed to push it a bit further. This year she won Best Zombie Kid at the zombie gathering downtown, and she never thought she was cooler. My other two daughters–well–it’s more likely they will be the zombie hunter type as they are not impressed with any of the ghoulish season greetings.

Squares II









Thanks to those giving feedback on this series. After considering commentary mixed with my own critiques, here are four new and some slight revisions on last posted. Biggest revision is a shift away from pure monochrome. With some of these compositions, I felt that while a total monochrome process added greatly to the mood, it would sometimes diminish details. I noticed this mainly on the far sides of the exposure—highlights and shadows. In short, I slightly took down the color layer just enough to let the slightest color bleed back through. For example, on the first one, the monochrome overlay was dark orange, more befitting of the car rust, but I let a subtle amount of green back through on the grounds of the abandoned car lot and in the moss of the side mirror. In the second, the pink shoelace and shorts pointed me in the direction of a more magenta overlay, but I wanted to back off enough to let the sand browns, however subtle, back through.

The Dog Days

dog_days-1One of my kiddos trying to cool it down. 


Kaleidoscope in Squares

2013-1-5 2013-2-2 2013-3-2 2013-4

Time to switch gears from the landscapes. For a while I’ve had a project in my head to focus on something in photos that was “kaleidospopic.” I used the scare quotations there because that was the only word I could put on what I was thinking. The core concept was an exercise in color, but monochromic. I know, it sounds off, but bear with me. It would be an idea of a photo set covering the spectrum of color, but with each photo dominant in only one hue. As I started, I quickly realized there would need to be more connective tissue between the photos besides different colors exercised in monochromism. So for quite some time, I’ve been tagging photos as I take them to be candidates for this set. Since then I’ve placed more and more constraints on both how the initial compositions should be arranged, and how they would be processed. Tonight I’m throwing a few out there, and would love any feedback.

Wait For It

Smoky Mountains-3

This series was taken from a place in the Smoky Mountains named New Found Gap. These are a bit out of order by the time taken, but for a reason I hopefully explain. I was cruising the roads with my wife and family when I came across this spot. We were mapped to another area, but from the land layout and photo sense, I told her “wherever we go from here, we’ll be back here from sunset.” So we ventured on and up to Clingman’s Dome, the arguable top of the Smokies. While probably more photo-wise at the time, I still made the call to load up and return to New Found Gap. As I drive down the mountain, there is noticeable increase in traffic going up than going down—enough to definitely provoke second guessing.


We returned to the scene of the crime. I setup the gear and tripod, and was noticeably the lone photographer in the area. As I fussed with the tripod, the outlook began to fall loose (see the 2nd image). A soup of clouds stemming from a front began to sweep across the valley. But my luck had been good far, so I’m thinking maybe the tide will turn. After fifteen minutes, the temperature had dropped enough for the kids to migrate back to the vehicle and watch Despicable Me. Not long after, down stepped another photographer who setup to my right. I made an offhand comment about it being a mild evening, and he laughed, “Nah. The sun is going to burst right above that ridge line.” Ten more minutes passed and it still didn’t look promising. There was a nice orange glow on the horizon, so I zoomed in to grab it in case it was as good as it would get (3rd image). By that time there were 5-6 other photographers staked out. Like wolves following a scent. Some of them looked like they just woke up about 15 minutes prior, drove to this spot, and walked down the drive. Five minutes later, the clouds seemed to thin uncannily, and the sun caught fire. A machine gun fire of shutters. My kids were back out the car with their faces in the sun. Wait for it, and there it was.

Smoky Mountains-1-2 Smoky Mountains-2

Landscape of Repeating

clingman_dome-1 little_river -1 little_river -2

Well, for starters…Freshly Pressed…wow…and thanks to whoever decided to tab my blog as such.  Quite humbling. To be honest, I never had a real grasp of what “Freshly Pressed” meant. Sure, I check the Freshly Pressed page, but it usually because I know it’s a good starting place for great content leading down wonderfully ADD trails. I was never aware of the implications. This morning I opened my email and thought I had been hacked with an inbox showing over 500 emails! Then I understood. So thanks for everyone that has stopped by the last few days. It’s reminded me of why I carved out a space here originally. Again, humbling. But now my ADD has splintered again with so many new blogs to chase around.

Click HERE for post that was Freshly Pressed

Nature in black in white. It’s something I’ve always struggled with in photography. Too often, my nature photographs tend to be too busy to break down to a monotone, often lacking stark contrast to direct the eyes. More so, it’s hard to sap out all the vibrant color, especially when the end result isn’t more compelling. I still like to give it try, and that’s what the above are about. I never shoot in black in white nor do I pretend to plan a shot that I know beforehand will end up in black in white. I’m not that good, and kudos to who are. But when reeling through a carousel of images after a shoot, I do like to tab potentials “black and whites.” Later, providing the follow-thru, I will give them their day in the black and white court. The first was done in Photoshop, working in LAB color mode—my preference for doing B&W in Photoshop. In LAB mode, I delete every channel except for the Luminosity channel. Then I move forward with the usual levels and curve masks in Photoshop. I tried this one in Lightroom and Silver Efex, but for some reason, the sky rays were getting too much subdued in conversion. For the last two, these were both handled in Silver Efex. Enjoy! 🙂

More Little River




This little bubbling river turned out to be a family favorite. My girls weren’t quite ready for the heavier hikes, especially after falling on their faces in the first five minutes on a short walk up to one of the picnic grounds. To the top of a staircase has been their most uphill experience they’ve had as Louisiana natives. But they were able to get out to these areas and mess around in the water and climb on the rocks. The last one of this series was taken earlier in the day with a NDF filter, when the light was in a starker contrast. I ended up liking it a great deal with the skylight type of highlights falling on the water.


Little River


This is one from Little River in the Smokys. I remember its name well because about everywhere you went, you ran into it.


Setting Some Free




I planned on working through all my photos from my recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, process them tediously, and then post them. But that might take a long time, given my propensity to obsess. Processing is where I usually get lost in the weeds, and sometimes, it’s just a matter of setting them free—where they often don’t look much different from the originals once the five alternate versions are deleted.

This is—and this is what I’m terrible about—somewhere in the Smoky Mountains 🙂 Is that good? It was in the National Park in east Tennessee on the way to Cades Cove. The first was taken before dawn and with some NDFs as it was still pretty dark at that time. The second is obviously when the sun broke and the last is zoomed clip taken about 10 minutes after the sun broke. Enjoy, and will have some more up soon.


© 2014 Tom Coghill Photography, All Rights Reserved

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