Fun Friday Photos!
In just a few days my son, Roman, will be 16 months old. It’s an exciting time for my wife and me because he’s trying to talk a lot more and he runs everywhere that he goes. So we decided that now would be a good time for him to have swim lessons.
We placed him in a 4 week swim course given by Aqua-Tots and we’re pretty happy with our choice. Although Roman can’t yet swim by himself, he is certainly more comfortable in the water and learned important things like depth perception in the water and how to climb out of a pool.
My wife photographed him (with me assisting him) during his last swim lesson at an indoor pool in North Austin. He graduated with honors and next year will move on to the intermediate swim class. We’re so proud of him and love sharing photos of him.
In the past few years I’ve photographed lots of brides and engaged couples at Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas. Obviously I can’t share all the photos from these shoots, but I wanted to show off some of the variety of photographs that are possible when shooting at Zilker.
The park has to be one of the most popular places for photography of any kind in Austin. Not only is it a huge repository for plant life centered in Travis County (which is why people are drawn to it) but it’s also one of Austin’s little jewels that’s been around for many years. I’m pretty sure that the creators of Zilker never intended it to be one of the foremost popular venues for photography around Austin, but that’s what it’s become.
ZBG features many different plant species and specific garden areas that are dedicated to a particular theme or cultural plant cultivation, if you will. For example, one of the popular areas of Zilker is the Japanese Garden, which features Koi-filled fish ponds, stone trails leading around bamboo gardens and a structure made of stone and bamboo that only could fit into a Japanese garden . The entire area is shaded by trees and feels like being in another world.
Zilker also features a beautiful rose garden where weddings frequently occur. Colorful roses line the concrete paths that wind down the hill from the main entrance of the park. The Rose Garden area is very open, located at the edge of the tree line bordering the Japanese Garden. It also features a red and white gazebo next to fish ponds and a historic brick structure in the shape of a keyhole that has been apparently transplanted from historic downtown Austin.
Other areas featured at ZBG are the Prehistoric Gardens further down the hill from the main office, which feature “old world” plants, pools and even a beautiful, natural-looking water fall. Toward the front of the park is an area that contains historic Central Texas pioneer homes and work areas made of wood.
Ultimately there are many, many different areas of the Garden that offer photography opportunities for brides or couples. After visiting and photographing friends and family there for years I’ve grown to love and appreciate Zilker for the beautiful part of Austin that it has always been and hopefully will always be!
Things you’ll need to bring if you photograph a bride or couple at Zilker:
– Payment for photographing someone at ZBG
– Bug/Mosquito repellant
– Sun block
-Comfortable walking shoes (ZBG has lots of trails)
– Patience. If the park is busy, you may have to wait for that perfect shot!
Hints/Tips: Arrive early and check park closure times (which change with daylight savings time). Park staff require visitors to leave 30 minutes prior to gate closure.
Martin Whitton is a passionate wedding photojournalist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. Email your questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“From bluegrass to blues, country to punkgrass, jazz to what-the-f#@k? – American Graveyard is brewing a stew of American music served hot off the stove and backed up with a glass of moonshine.”
I like the music and the guys are super great people. Last time I saw them they opened up for Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears so they only could’ve gotten better. Like any a lot of other music, it’s best experienced live. In the meantime here’s there latest video. Go check these guys out at their next show! Great stuff…
Yesterday (July 23, 2010) legendary journalist Daniel Schorr died at age 93.
As someone who was born in the 1970s, I missed the majority of Schorr’s career as a journalist. I wasn’t around to see him report on the McCarthy 1950s or the raging 1960s. I wasn’t even alive to see him cover the Watergate Scandal that rocked the Nixon White House in the 1970s. My first memory of Schorr was when I watched the movie “The Game”, starring Michael Douglas. Schorr’s unforgettable, raspy voice is heard on the television speaking to Douglas’ character through a television in the movie. Later in life, while listening to NPR Radio, I regularly listened to Schorr’s news pieces given during my commute to and from work.
I came to really appreciate Schorr’s brutal honesty and integrity in the stories that he covered. This can be seen in his 60 years of journalism from when he was called before congress to answer about sources to when he was at the original CNN news desk. It was clear that he had a passion for news and that fairness and transparency were paramount in what he reported on.
He will be sorely missed by those who enjoyed listening to and reading his reports. It is also apparent that he will be missed by those who know the news business, considering his long tenure in reporting and the high regard that he had earned for such a distinguished career in news. The world has lost a great champion this year.
I wanted to take a moment to share information about our friends in Costa Rica who are promoting and supporting a sustainable coffee farming initiative. My wife and I met Ken Lander while staying in Monte Verde, Costa Rica earlier this year. He’s started a great organization (San Rafael Sustainable Coffee Initiative – SRSCI) which produces world-class coffee in a sustainable environment which supports local farmers and their families in Costa Rica. It seems like a win-win situation to me and my wife, which is why I’m sharing.
At the moment the SRSCI is asking for new members to join and help with making micro-loans to the farmers (as little as $35) in order to grow their operation and produce more sustainable coffee, which in turn helps their local economy. I love the idea and I must say that the coffee is some of the best I’ve ever had. If you join as a new member you also get fresh coffee mailed straight to your doorstep from their Costa Rican farms, which means great coffee, at a great price which helps local farmers and eliminates the corporate (for profit) middle man.
The power of the San Rafael Sustainable Coffee Initiative is that the coffee drinker has the opportunity for the first time to be involved in the production of his or her own cup. Obviously, purchasing coffee from the SRSCI is a wonderful way to support the SRSCI (and we welcome your continued orders for coffee!), but this year, the coffee lover has the opportunity to invest in the SRSCI directly. We are asking you to consider both ordering coffee and giving the SRSCI a one-time micro-loan to help capitalize this year’s 23 hectares and liberate farmers from the need to find capital through the current cooperative and old value chain that follows.
Your micro-loan will return 100% to you in the form of a $70.00 credit on your future order from next year’s crop. If 600 hands raise and join this effort, the SRSCI will generate $21,000.00 in capital just from the micro-loans alone. However, this is a relationship between you and the farmer, so the farmers of the SRSCI commit to contribute from the proceeds of the sale of coffee from this drive a matching $21,000.00 in capital from the profits of the sale of the coffee.
For months now my mind has been contemplating whether it is ok for me to drink tap water, i.e., the water that comes out of the faucet at my house. I’ve never liked the taste of the Central Texas tap water. I remember when I first moved to Austin about 10 years ago I complained to the City Of Austin about the taste, thinking that something was wrong with the water. The City dispatched an inspector who took water samples and sent them off to the lab for analysis. As I waited for the results to come back I remember wondering what kind of contaminants could be in the water. I had just graduated from college with an science degree and thought that surely I could figure out what was making the water taste so bad.
According to the City Of Austin Water FAQ website, the primary sources of water contamination in urban areas,
“is rainwater that flows into street catch basins (called urban runoff or storm water runoff). While the rainwater alone is not necessarily harmful, it frequently carries untreated waste products from our streets and yards directly to rivers, lakes, and streams – our drinking water sources.”
If you visit the City Of Austin’s website you can find a breakdown of some things that you might find in your tap water. The first four chemicals or elements that are listed are barium, fluoride, nitrate, simazine. Barium and fluoride are not big surprises; but, nitrate is a fertilizer and simazine is a herbicide (read: herb – “plant” and cide – “to kill”) – two things that I personally would not want in my body. There is a lot more information on their website as well that I’ll let you read for yourself.
So what would a chemist say? Are the chemicals in our water safe to drink? According to an article entitled, “Tap Water: Safe To Drink” by: Andrew Gaug,
“Everything we use every day, from your pharmaceuticals you take to your soap, it all goes down the drain. And most of that will end up in treatment facilities,” said David Alvarez, a research chemist for the U.S. Geological Survey. He is a St. Joseph [Missouri] native with a Ph.D. in environmental and analytical chemistry.
“The problem isn’t that huge doses of pharmaceuticals or soap are slipping past being treated, but that there isn’t a barometer for the miniscule amount that does get by.”
A drinking water sample has many chemicals in it. But they’re all likely to be at very, very low concentration,” he said. “Are they a problem to humans? I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
Final answer: “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” Hmm.. that doesn’t sound all that reassuring to me.
So what does the highest environmental organization in the land say about tap water safety? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website,
“the taste and quality of drinking water varies from place to place. Over 90 percent of water systems meet EPA’s standards for tap water quality.”
Over 90 percent is safe? So what about the other 10 percent? Is it not safe?
“Tap water is not without its problems. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2005 tested municipal water in 42 states and detected some 260 contaminants in public water supplies, 140 of which were unregulated chemicals, that is, chemicals for which public health officials have no safety standards for, much less methods for removing them.”
Again, not very convincing. In fact, I feel even less happy about drinking water out of the tap now. So what about bottled water? Perhaps it is better to drink than tap water.
In many ways bottled water is subject to less screening and testing than tap water. The EPA does not demand the rigorous testing and analytical methods for bottled water that it requires for tap water. And oddly enough, as much as a quarter or more of bottled water actually originates from tap water sources. So if you thought that the cool, glistening bottle of water with images of glaciers and mountains on the bottle label originated from some pristine underground aquifer or from an untouched mountain stream you may be mistaken. Had any Dasani or Aquafina bottled water lately? You’ll never guess where it comes from (hint: water does not come from a spring or glacier)!
Ultimately, I was told by the City Of Austin that my tap water was completely normal and they didn’t have an explanation for the bad taste I experienced. They assured me that the water I was drinking from the faucet was completely safe. And I’m sure it is. However, I only drink filtered or bottled water now. But that’s my choice I suppose.
Martin Whitton is a photographer and writer who lives and works in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.